by Denis Doran
Standing together, but not touching. He has his back to the sea. She leans against the promenade railings staring down at the silent carousel, at the deserted boardwalk, hears snatches of a song she hasn’t thought about in years…the painted ponies go round and round…her mother singing, the caravan door open, herself sitting on the steps.
He looks at her, ‘You ok?’
‘Are you ok?’
‘Funny how the time goes.’
‘It’s ok. It’ll pass.’
‘Sure? These things take time you know.’
‘I know. I’m fine, promise.’
He says, ‘Fancy a drink. What about the Black Lion?’
‘That’d be lovely. You go, I’ll catch you up.’
‘Yes. Go on. I want to walk that’s all.’
‘Go on, I’m not going to be long, promise.’
‘Don’t mind. And try exercising some restraint.’
‘I will, but don’t be long.’
‘I won’t, promise. And we can’t afford two bottles, so behave yourself.’
With her mother’s voice fading, she walks, if only for a little while, maybe as far as the lawns. Knows he’ll be waiting, wondering, worrying, will probably drink most of the bottle and then be apologetic.
She passes a shelter where three young women sit eating chips and chatting: boys, that sort of thing. They laugh, joke. She listens to them falling in and out of love between mouthfuls.
Decides to turn back, still thinking about the letter; the creased and stained envelope, her mothers handwriting, her father’s name, no address. No stamp.
I thought that we could fill the space between our separate lives. But that didn’t happen, did it?
I watched you slip away, lost in your own uncertainty, your own insecurity. I can’t stay, not like this. Maybe some day you’ll understand.
But we did share something, didn’t we? Of that I’m certain, and she should know, I will tell her, but not just now, not yet. When she’s older. Then I hope she will understand too.’
One letter, a few souvenirs: pebbles, shells, precious little to show for a life. Even the letter might have been lost. Was it right to sell the caravan? Hears her mother, ‘How do you know when something’s right, when it’s not? Is it only ever in hindsight? It’s done. No tears, no regrets sweetie.’
Standing staring out across a darkened sea, she listens to her mother.
‘Never take the same steps twice, never the same path back. Just coming at things from a different direction, that’s all. Another way to look at the world. Never know what you’ll see, who you’ll meet along the way.’