This is an adapted version of a short story I wrote a long time ago. It’s a bit long for “flash fiction” but is as much as anyone would probably want to read on a blog. It’s still quite rough and ready, so please, feel free to let me know your thoughts!
He sits on the wall opposite the entrance to her building. It is cooler today than it has been all week. The breeze from the river shivers over his skin, ruffling it in waves of goose bumps. He looks into his camera at the picture he took yesterday. It’s definitely her. She’s let her hair grow and she’s dyed it black, but it’s definitely her – the straight nose, pale face, perfect red mouth can’t be disguised. It’s taken patience and skill to find her. Then he needed to get close enough to be sure. He couldn’t take action till he was sure. Now, looking at the image on his camera, comparing it to last year’s snapshot – he’s sure. Today, he will act.
He looks up at the building – fifteen storeys of grey concrete entombing the worker bees in their identikit offices. Advertising agencies, sales companies, paper distributors, all in the same neutrally coloured open-plans. Only the logos are different. He snorts, glad not to be one of the herd.
A cloud passes across the sky, casting shadows over the cars passing on their way to the car park where their passengers will disembark for drinks by the water, trips to the galleries, visits to the sick in the hospital down the road. He closes his eyes for a minute. A picture comes into his mind – a young girl lying on the ground. It is dark, except for the flash of a blade stabbing through the air towards her…
A screech of brakes jerks him out of his reverie. He opens his eyes to see a car coming to a halt in front of a pedestrian who shouts, wanker. The driver of the car beeps his horn and speeds off. The clock chimes five o’clock. It is nearly time.
The door of the office building opens. A couple emerge, arms entwined. They are excited, happy – ready for the weekend. He watches, and waits as others follow them. Tall people, small people, men, women, all colours all ages. This is it. His heart begins to pump faster. Come on. And then there she is, in a crowd of friends. She is carrying a large file, and she is laughing. Her hair flops over her eyes and she brushes it away. As she does so, she looks up across the road straight at him. Shit, she’s seen him. She says something to one of her friends, and they all look. No. it’s all right. The girls are looking behind him. He turns and sees a couple of guys on stilts wearing bill boards advertising a new restaurant. The sun has completely gone, now, the sky filled with black clouds. He looks back. She’s saying good-bye to her friends. This is it. She is walking towards him, to the river, alone.
He slides down from the wall, puts his camera into his bag and steps out in her direction. She reaches his side of the the road. He looks down as if noticing something on the floor. They cannon into each other. They fall to the ground and her file splits open, spilling its contents over the pavement. God, I’m sorry, he says, apologetic, chivalrous. It’s OK. Her voice is soft and soothing. Together, they start to pick up the sheets of paper before the wind blows them further down the street. They knock heads, and fumble with their hands, but they’re a team. You’re very kind, she says, giving him a miraculous smile that cuts right through him. Don’t mention it. He hands her one last piece of paper. She looks at it puzzled, then as he says her name, he watches the clouds passing over her face. Bastard, you bastard. He turns away – nothing left for him here.
He stumbles back to the tube station. He is shaking. He’d been so set on finding her, he hadn’t thought about this – her reaction to being found. To being summonsed to court. After all this time, she must have felt safe. From the darkness of that night – the initiation ceremony instigated by her boyfriend. The sluicing, the slit wrists, the boy who nearly drowned and the girl who died. No wonder, she ran away. And now he has found her. Now she will have testify. Shit. He really is a bastard. He stands on the escalator, trying to calm himself, to think of the next job, the next frightened witness. Today was the first cut, that’s all. Bound to hurt a bit. He’ll be over it tomorrow. Tomorrow, will be another day.