A duffle bag by her side.
I’d tell you what she looked like, but it’s difficult to describe. She had eyes for seeing; a mouth for talking; ears custom made for the wireless, white headphones that hid them from view, like two doves protecting their eggs.
It was the sadness that got me – something warm seen through frosted glass. A fire with its contours blurred.
Outside, the city was black.
I was drinking coffee: a drop of milk, no sugar. Hers was something caramel– coloured, which she was holding in both hands, and sipping through a straw.
Runaway; sleepover; environmentalist; just-finished-the-gym.
Wherever the sadness was coming from it wasn’t in her eyes. It was the trace of a trace that began somewhere around her mouth, before extending – by way her of neck – to the narrow shoulders she was dabbing clean with a serviette.
As she looked up,
I looked down.
The papers in front of me bore illegible traces, too. The words had begun swimming in the white space surrounding them.
The place was closing. We were both asked to leave.
I downed my coffee and packed away my things, whilst she just swung the duffle bag over her shoulder, and took the remains of her drink with her.
Homeless; accessory; on a pilgrimage; lost her job.
I thought she’d be gone already, but she was outside waiting for a lighter.
‘I’m sorry’, I said, ‘but I gave up six months ago.’
She smiled and thanked me anyway, which I didn’t understand, then turned and crossed the road; her headphones back where they belonged.
At first I didn’t see the building, but then, I did.
The doorway was lit
the colour of cherry blossom,
and I craved the taste of caramel more than a thousand lonely cigarettes.
Josh is a twenty four year old writer from Caldicot, South Wales, who is currently working as an English teacher in Spain. He was recently long-listed for the Bath Flash Fiction Award for his piece, Fugue, which will be published in the forthcoming 2017 anthology.