He had walked into the room late and sat down almost opposite her wearing the most awful brown jacket that Laura had ever seen in her life. He hadn’t even looked at her, but she had known straight away that everything had changed- she must have done because that moment was still etched on her brain. A flashbulb memory. Great bone structure, shiny dark hair in desperate need of a good cut, a careless way of throwing down his glasses on the table as he sat down, and no apology for being late. All things which would become very familiar, things that now only existed as the distant tremor of an earthquake. Remnants of a life that were still waiting to be rebuilt, while she carried on searching among the rubble. There was a village in France somewhere which had been left just as it was, bombed out in the war, as a memorial. Her memories of Sam were like that. Somewhere that she could visit, wander round, pick up fragments and examine them, put them in her pocket and carry them around for a while before she placed them carefully back where she had found them. She could no longer remember the sound of his voice so they were like fragments of a grainy, black and white, silent film, emotions and gestures exaggerated by time and wishful thinking into something that never was.
The voice spun her back into the present. After a last reluctant glance back she allowed herself to stay there.
She wasn’t of course. People who say that rarely are.
The girl at the checkout held out two receipts.
“You’ve saved seventeen pence on your next shop.”
Sam would have teased her about that. She took the pieces of paper, smiled thinly and walked away.
Sam busy and distracted. She spends several minutes just watching him reading, enjoying the momentary feelings playing across his face and the light shimmering in his hair. He glances up, puts his head on one side and says, “What?” She just smiles and says nothing and he smiles back.
At the fruit and veg stall on the market she picked up an avocado and turned it around in her hand, wondering if it were ripe, before putting it down again and buying russet apples instead.
Sam moving gracefully across a long row of park benches, face mock serious, arms outstretched, in full view of the sequence dancers inside the posh hotel who he was imitating.
She took the long way home, across the park. The leaves were just beginning to turn and the scent of wood smoke hung in the air. Soon the clocks would be going back.
Sam running his index finger slowly and gently around the edge of her lips.
A small white dog raced across the grass and started throwing himself at the base of an oak tree, barking wildly, after a squirrel clinging to an upper branch. It’s owner ran towards it shouting, “leave it! leave it!”
Sam, leaning on a bus stop at the side of the road, waiting for her car to slow down, stick thin, fringe flopped over his eyes, his electric guitar and amp by his side. A careless wave of a hand.
It was too cold to sit down, too cold to stay in one place. The bag which she was carrying was too heavy, weighing her down. She changed it to her other hand and walked the last few yards of the path to her front door.
“I suppose I just said it because I knew it was what you wanted to hear.”
Sitting on the kitchen floor, back against one of the units, sobbing. The sound of a taxi moving away in the dark.
The flowers which she had watched being visited by peacock and red admiral butterflies a few short weeks before were withered and brown now, dried husks of their former selves. Somewhere, hidden away the pupae were waiting to begin again.
Love is not enough.
When she reached home John, the father of her children, the solid foundation on which she had built her new life, had already set the table. He looked up at her anxiously as she came through the kitchen door. She went over to him and kissed him gently on the cheek.
“Sorry- I’ve been ages. You hungry?”
“Tea won’t be long.”