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She vanished, just disappeared. I thought she was inside the café but maybe she was outside. One minute she was reading the paper beside me and the next - gone. All I could see was a man strolling down the street. Did he feel her drift past him? Or did he think it was a little gust of wind.
Memories are like that. You can’t really hold onto them, they just drift by. I sit here at this red laminate, two-person table, every morning at 7am exactly. We used to sit here together. It was 187 days ago, just over 6 months, we first came here, an almost hidden side street café walking distance from my work. It was place we could be together as a couple and no-one minded. I thought. Then it started - snide comments, physical confrontations, threats… I wanted to hold on to what we had, she said she couldn’t. I pleaded with her to be strong, she simply stared down at her coffee.
And then one morning she wasn’t there. Or the next and the next. She didn’t answer her phone. I couldn’t go to her house. A couple of weeks ago, 15 days to be precise, I read in the paper that a prominent judges’ daughter had been found dead in her room. They didn’t know what had happened. Of course the paper was very circumspect given who it was. They did hint at a relationship gone wrong, mentioned her fragile mental state, the death of her mother at a young age, her sudden departure from a fancy private girls’ school less than a year ago. But no-one knows.
I know. It would have been her father. He would have placed her in front of him across that huge wooden desk you see in the photographs of him ‘at home’. He would have reminded her of her duty - to the memory of her poor dear dead mother, to her famous family, to him. If she tried to speak, to explain, he would have told her it was unthinkable, no-one in this family ever - etc etc. He would have told her she was a child and didn’t know her own mind, let alone love. He would have forbidden her to see me.
And I couldn’t help her. So, I sit here for an hour each morning, amidst the smells of cinnamon rolls and coffee, cocooned in the soft white-noise voices of the café-people. After scanning the paper, I look through the reflections to the real world beyond the one I hold in my heart. And every day she vanishes into those reflections, through the glass. The people out there don’t even feel her go by.
Then I pick up my hand-bag, slip on my heels on and go to work. The students need me. I understand love and loss, dreams denied and lives on hold. Isn’t that how all teenagers feel? I can help them, even if it is just one at a time.
(2010) my response to the prompt ‘reflections’. It seems very relevant today…
Photo: V.P on Pexels
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