Saturday, 21 June 2014

'Girlfriends' by Jo Bromilow


He is crossing the road when she catches his eye. He is so busy in the daze of Friday night, the battle-weary walk of the long week that, were it not for the momentary pause the traffic causes him to take, he would have missed her. 

She stands on the opposite side of the street and as he looks up she catches his eye. In the split second before his foot hits the pavement and he is returned to solid, reassuring ground, he thinks he knows her. 

Leila. He can tell by the way she tucks her long hair behind her ear and the way that her fingernails, while painted a deep red, are bitten. He remembered telling her to stop it repeatedly as she shredded the manicures she so dotingly gave herself to pieces with her teeth. The same teeth nip her bottom lip as her mouth slowly opens to smile. 

No, it's Sarah that he's looking at. Sarah who used to have a charming pixie cut that she loved, but he secretly hated, longing for the luxuriant wave of hair she had in childhood photos. He can tell it’s her by her smile. One corner of her mouth rising first, like the Jack in a pack of cards, only letting one half of the world in on the joke.

But as he takes another step forward he realises it's not Sarah. It's Lauren. Sarah always wore heels and this girl is wearing flat brown lace-ups that smack simultaneously of school teacher and head girl, painfully sensible, but better equipped for trekking through the long grasses in the park to find the perfect picnic spot. Feeding him samples of cheese and meats from the local farmers' market. 

Suzi never ate meat, or cheese. And yet as he takes another step and the sunlight temporarily appears from behind the cloudbank the light catches the fine cheekbones and the delicate slope of Suzi's neck. Her summer dress is unbuttoned a touch too low at the front and he can just glimpse the top of a bra which, with a jolt, he realises is part of a set she wore for him.

But of course, he remembers as he closes the final distance between them, this is Jane's neighbourhood, and indeed it is her standing before him, with her laptop bag hanging off one shoulder and her giant handbag hanging off the other. A book, or possibly two, and her diary that he teased her mercilessly about until he realised it was full of all the dates that were made to avoid making them with him. 

Her eyes continue to hold his as he stops to stand before her. His heart is bubbling in his chest as his mind frantically shutters through the pictures in his mind, the revolving door still spinning, the faces still rolling in a carousel before his eyes. As the carousel slows to a stop, she opens her mouth. 

'Excuse me, sir, do you have a light?'

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