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“WELL, did you have a good time?” he asked.
“The old movies are always the best,” she said.
Earlier in the evening a gentle misty drizzle had dampened the brickwork of the city hall and now the reflection of streetlights glistened off the walls. Church Street was quiet. The shops were shut. Here and there the occasional individual moved past the shutters on their way elsewhere.
They walked on the pavement with their hands in their pockets. Their fingers were pushed deep against the material, but at least they were secure and there was no touching or sign of vulnerability. A falling star far above burned a trail across the sky.
“I’m going to be busy tomorrow,” he said.
“Yeah, sure,” she muttered.
After a while she stopped next to a shop window. He stopped a little ahead and then walked back to her.
“Wow. I really love those earrings,” she said.
They weren’t his scene and he felt a little distanced from her. She didn’t need earrings because he thought her more attractive, just plain her. She was the most beautiful when he visited her unexpectedly, when she was just her. But he couldn’t tell her even though he wished he could.
“I’ve got to say something which is quite important,” he said.
There was a silence between them.
She inquired, but he found he couldn’t say what it was.
He rubbed his chin, feeling a day of stubble against his thumb skin and then he shoved his hands firmly back in his pockets. She watched, for any sign. And then she tentatively tugged at her earlobe and he watched her from the corner of his eye.
They came to a main road and he looked to the right and looked just a little too long. She thought he was looking at her.
“Let’s sit down here. I need to say something,” he said as they sat down on the edge of the pavement on a small stone wall, in the dark night under an open sky.
“I’m cold,” she said.
He waited, unsure and then took his coat off and put it round her shoulders. No touching. The stars shone bright.
“Okay, this isn’t easy to say.” The pause ran long. “I’ve never said this before.” The pause ran longer and they both leaned back and looked up at the stars.
His breath drifted out visibly from his mouth.
“I’ve been visiting you a lot lately, and … I want to know if I’m doing the right thing.”
He almost asked it as a question.
The condensation slowly evaporated into the dark.
She wanted something more definite before she would talk and so she waited.
He said: “I’ve been to see you four times in the last week … and … I want to know that … this is okay with you.”
She looked at him and said: “Yes.”
“Do you want me to keep visiting you?” he asked, “because I want to visit you.”
“I need a friend,” she said, “I need someone to talk to and you’re so good at lifting me up when I’m feeling bad. If I’m feeling down, you make me laugh with your jokes.”
“So, it’s okay?” he asked.
“Yes,” she answered. “It’s okay.”
• The winners of the True Stories competition have been announced (see www.witness.co.za for name if you missed this). Over the next few months we will be publishing the remainder of the semi-finalists’ stories.
About the author
SIMON Crane is an English teacher at Michaelhouse and is passionate about his job. His hobbies include fiction-writing, mountain-biking, his motorbike, visual literacy and popular culture. “I try to incorporate many of these interests in my classroom teaching. I am married to Marianne and we have two children.”