The Wait

On the stroke of midnight she is waiting for him beneath the clock, where they shared their first kiss. She totters in her heels on cobbled ground, feeling the effects of the hastily downed wine to steady her nerves. In the middle distance the sound of sirens rings out. A group of boys walk past, their expressions glassy. One makes a lewd gesture and she turns away, rolling her eyes. They leave a trail of marijuana vapour in their wake.

She glances at her watch, five past. No need to worry, at least not yet. Her skin bristles with the cold. She shivers and pulls her leather jacket tighter. The seconds tick by in stereo, her own watch echoing the steady beat of the clock over her head. She fishes in her bag and pulls out a battered packet of cigarettes, freeing one to place between her carefully painted lips. A dishevelled stranger offers her a light and she leans into the flame, feeling its heat against her forehead. The stranger walks on.

She drags deeply on the cigarette and exhales, the smoke rising into the crisp night air, signalling her presence. Her legs are blocks of ice, exposed to the elements. She tugs at her skirt in a vain attempt to cover them, and in doing so breaks a nail. She curses, flicks the cigarette onto the cobbles and stubs it out with her heel.

Ten past twelve. The seed of doubt that has implanted itself in her mind begins to flourish and grow. She slides her makeup compact from her pocket, clicks it open and observes her face in what little street light is available. Her skin is sallow and lined, her eyes are sunken. No amount of makeup can disguise her age, especially not this gauche red lipstick. What had she been thinking?

Quarter past twelve. He is not coming. She should have known despite his fancy clothes and charming manner he’d be just like the rest. She should have known he’d never see anything in a washed up divorcee like her. Fairy tales only happen to the young. He was too good to be true. He is not coming.

She sighs and turns away from the clock. Each tick and tock drive daggers into her heart.

Something – a noise? She can’t be sure – makes her stop. Her heart rate quickens.

She turns.

He is there.

It begins to snow.

Image

I came across this beautiful old girl at Singapore Zoo towards the end of my travels last year, and she stopped me in my tracks. It makes me sad to think her kind will probably not exist a few years from now.

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