Lucy was tired. ‘Guys, I’ll see you Friday,’ she shouted into the empty corridor.
The door behind her had already clicked its hinges. No care for a response. When she scanned her card over the sensor and entered into the reception area, she was always surprised at how much more artificial the lights seemed to be in the stomach of the building. Often, she wondered if it was to keep the staff upright and alert in the unsociable hours. She paused, adjusting the strap of her satchel. It was always too full with things that she didn’t need, and when she tried to go anywhere in a hurry it would pull heavily on her loose, wiry hair.
‘Goodbye, Steven,’ she smiled, always giving him eye contact and a passing wave.
‘Goodnight, Lucy. I have eaten my sweets. I will see you Friday. Okay, thank you,’ he called.
Broken English. Smiling. Always welcoming the effort. She moved slowly, shoulder first against the revolving door and emerged seconds later into the clutches of February. Ray was parked outside of the barriers, ready to take her home.
‘You don’t have to run away you know.’
He came from the wooded area. The little hair that he had left stood at odd angles, like it was trying to shed itself from the head that it was rooted in…from the thoughts that lay beneath it. He was smiling.
‘Can I hold you?’
He stood in front of her, close enough to share breath. She had missed the steps that he’d taken in the past five seconds.
‘No,’ she whispered, eyes downward. ‘You need to go.’
And just as he came, he left. Back into the darkness, smiling, one hand deep in each trinket-filled pocket. His sickness was calm. She knew that he wouldn’t harm her, that he’d sit, nervously turning the piece of weather-washed glass in his pocket until she left. Weeping, perhaps. Always gently. She walked away slowly enough to not panic him. When she opened the car door she thought, if only for a moment, that she heard the words ‘I love you’ travel through the darkness.
The journey home was filled with deceitful memory. She felt him in the air vents, forcing himself into the space between her and Ray. When he had asked her if she was okay, she had smiled, ‘I’m fine.’ Ray was quiet. He had always been too in tune with her movements to be fooled by a conciliatory response. When he stood beside her to brush his teeth, he rested his palm into her back and asked again if something was the matter. She set her toothbrush aside and rested her head upon his chest. He held her. Solid and dependable. The tuft of misplaced growth on the top of his arm tickled her nose.
‘Will you tell me one day?’ he asked.
‘Yes,’ she responded.
Afraid of when.