Hand to Mouth – A London Story

Another Flash Fiction piece….. this is about trying to read, and others things.

*

He had been fine where he was. In a little park, just off the beaten track, one that was always deserted at this time of the day. After work.

The squawking was getting closer. Antipodean, harsh, the uplift. It was all there. Would she would pass him by? It really was a torrent. Unrelenting. He tried to get back into his book. It had just been taking him. That delicious falling away when the flow is joined. Somehow like falling asleep.

‘Yeah my jazz teacher, yeah he’s great.’

No it was impossible. She was upon him. She sat down on the other end of the bench and it was like he wasn’t there.

‘My jazz teacher, yeah. He is such a laugh. We’ll all have to go out some night soon.’

He turned and looked at her as she harried the phone into the crook of her neck and swung her bag over her shoulder at the same time. It was a practised but not especially deft movement. Cheerfully he would have strangled her then.

She was plump and loud, he supposed. That was what they would have said. The cruel but honest. There was a gap then. No response and then, something.

‘Ok, my jazz dance teacher. Yeah.’

Then, a rapid prattle of yeahs that gradually deflated in enthusiasm. This continued for a while, the length between each elongating. The conversation thinning to a stop.

‘Well we should go out.’

Silence. He was now listening very closely. Waiting, as she was for a sound.

‘Well listen, I have Pilates, so I got to go.’

It sounded like she was disappointing the person on the other end. But it was most obvious she was not.

She ended the call and immediately he knew that she would speak to him. The air around them heaved with the words already. They pressed into the space between them. And then just before she spoke he felt it; a pang of something more than mere curiosity.

‘Good book?’

‘Ah, yeah.’

‘What is it?’

She watched him slip a book mark between the pages and turn to face her. He was good looking alright, nice suit, maybe a lawyer. And he sounded keen.

‘It’s called WutheringHeights.’

‘I’ve heard of it.’

He smiled at her. A wide thin Cheshire cat smile, without the teeth. ‘Yeah, it’s a classic.’

High and dry, they waited at this junction.

She wondered why she’d said Pilates? Probably because Jen had been at lunch. The girl who sat opposite her. She was really nice. A pity she lived so far out. This guy seemed nice. Reading a book. Intellectual. Bit old. But better than young, in her experience.

‘You work round here?’ she asked him, setting her bag down.

‘I do.’

‘Me too. So where do you work?’

‘Oh, nearby. Towards the tube there.’

‘You want a nut?’

She held out a small bag, towards him. She bought nuts and ate them in large quantities, and often.

‘Ah no, but thanks.’

‘So any plans for tonight?’

‘Yes.’

‘Right.’

‘Look, I got to get back.’

He stood up to go but stopped, turned and with a smile said with something more than just politeness, ‘Enjoy your Pilates.’

He looked back just before turning the corner (as he told himself he wouldn’t and knew that he would). She was looking vaguely in his direction, eating her nuts steadily, like a habit, hand to mouth, fixedly, blandly and with an air of indifference that seemed to him then to be the most remarkable thing about her.

He headed for the tube, he’d get another twenty minutes there. Almost twenty minutes.

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Filed under London Posts, Short Stories

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