Unforgettable by Laura Tapper

“When somebody loves you, it’s no good unless he loves you...” Brian doffed his trilby at the lady as she passed him, where he was standing singing behind the escalators. He’d become a people watcher and she was one of the regulars, always dropping coins in the music case at his feet. Her face was lined with age but had a classic grace about it; a fineness in the bone structure and a gentleness in the expression that no amount of wrinkles could disguise. There was also a slight sadness which called to him and, for some reason, he thought more carefully about his song choices when he knew she was nearby. It could be his imagination, but in recent weeks it seemed that she arrived at the station earlier than had been her habit and had taken to sitting on the benches next to the escalator. It was almost as though she was there specifically to listen to his songs.

The coloured semi-circle on the floor and the badge clipped to his pocket declared him to be a busker who had been auditioned and licensed, but the paisley cravat set him apart from the other street performers. Yet, every Tuesday there he stood, singing swing classics to backing tracks his old pal Malcom had organized for him. He wasn’t the sight travelers expected on the concourse of Waterloo Station, but then life has a way of surprising you and this certainly wasn’t the retirement he and Beryl had planned. They should have been having adventures together but, almost as soon as they’d both finished working, he’d had to sit beside her, holding her hand, while she fought and lost the battle he couldn’t fight for her. Now he sang the songs she’d always loved and the smiles on people’s faces as they passed meant as much as the money chinking in the box on the floor, which he donated to charity in her memory each month.

“What a day this has been, what a rare mood I’m in...” He risked a sideways glance across to where the lady had sat down and, out of the corner of his eye, he caught the tapping of the toe of her navy-blue court shoe in time with the music. His shoulders began to sway as he relaxed into the song. Always one of Beryl’s favourites, they’d danced around the lounge to it when they’d saved up enough to buy their first record player.

“Fancy us having Nat King Cole singing like that in our own front room, whenever we want him!”

She’d smiled up at him as they’d twirled and laughed, as dizzily in love as they’d been when they were courting.

We’re sorry to announce that the ten-twenty-eight South Western Railway service to Windsor and Eton Riverside has been cancelled due to a fault on the line.

Brian felt the change in her, as she sat up stiffly, clearly listening. He continued with the song but risked looking towards her more openly to make sure she was okay. With a shrug, she gave him a shy smile and sat back on the bench seeming content to stay and listen some more. There and then, he made up his mind to sing one more and then be brave enough to ask her if she had any requests. He closed his eyes for a moment and thought about his beautiful Beryl. If she were here, which song would she ask for? Nodding his head, he searched with certainty on his MP3 player for the backing track and clicked play.

“The falling leaves drift by the window, the autumn leaves of red and gold...” As he sang, Brian became lost in the words and in his memories of his lost love. He could see the sun in her auburn hair and recall the warmth of her hand in his, as they tramped through the leaves on woodland walks in years gone by. When he came to the last line, his voice started to tremble and fail him.

“But I miss you most of all, my darling.” He opened his eyes, as a gentle voice joined his. “As autumn leaves start to fall.” The lady had come to stand near him and the support of her voice enabled him to finish the song. She put her hand in her pocket and drew out a white cotton handkerchief to offer him, gesturing to his cheeks, which bore tears he hadn’t noticed until then.

In turn, he proffered his own handkerchief, because her cheeks were moist, too, and they both laughed.

“I’m Brian. Thank you for your help. I couldn’t have finished that without you.”

“My name’s Pamela. I’m no singer, but I know how it is when the tears come from nowhere. It was my husband, Roger, who was the crooner. I’m a pianist.” There was a pause while the lady took a deep breath. “I can’t bear to play, now there’s no one to accompany me, but I love to hear the old songs. That’s why I’m so glad you’re here on Tuesdays, when I go to visit my sister. Mind you, it doesn’t sound like I’ll be seeing her today.”

Brian was quiet for a moment. Then he looked up with a twinkle in his eye. “Pamela, have you ever been to St Pancras?” She shook her head. “In that case, may I invite to accompany me, on the London Underground, to that illustrious station?”

Pamela’s fingers stroked the black and white keys, her foot pressing the pedal tentatively at first. She'd hardly played for years. To think that this beautiful instrument was donated by Elton John and left there for anyone to use. Seeing the reflections in the glossy black panel of the upright piano, her breath caught in her throat. For a moment she thought she saw...

“Unforgettable, that’s what you are...” Brian’s voice was soft beside her and the passers-by smiled at the sound of them reliving their past loves together.

Published in Issue #18

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