In continuing with the Friday Fictography Flash Fiction feature, our photograph this week comes from a fellow blogger and current student, Kristin Baione. Taken last year when a group of our students went to London as part of an Intercultural class, Kristin shot this photo of Tower Bridge. Here is the fictional story I wrote to go along with this lovely shot Kristin took. Thank you, Kristin, for participating. Incidentally, you can read some of Kristin’s work at The Faithful Elephant by clicking here.
Muriel found the bench she’d been sitting on alone for the past five years. It had become her Friday ritual, one that she looked forward to the way she supposed young people looked forward to going for a walk or a run with those tiny speakers shoved into their ears. They certainly can’t be comfortable, she thought, forcing plastic into the ear cavity. Not to mention you can lose your hearing by playing the music too loudly. And yet those ear pods, as the youngsters called them, must bring some sort of happiness to them, for she often saw them smiling, singing, or banging their heads to the music whilst they went upon their merry way.
What a feeling that must be, she thought, to feel merry.
Her 65th birthday was next week, and the thought of celebrating another one alone nearly killed her with each passing year. This would be the sixth birthday—since she was 21—without Gregory. Her son, Alexander, was in Austrailia, and her daughter married an American and was living in New York. Her daughter had begged her to come to America—come back to America—for Muriel was born and raised in the States, and didn’t step foot on English soil until she was 21. Her trip had been a graduation present from her parents. Little did they expect she would never return from it.
Gregory had been the first boy she’d talked to in London, right at the foot of Tower Bridge. She liked seeing it from this vantage point, and for some reason the grey sky felt depressingly appropriate. If she counted how many grey skies there had been on her Friday visits, she was sure they outnumbered the sunny days by a mile.
She opened up her lunch bag and proceeded to take out her cucumber sandwich and her napkin, which she placed across her lap. It wasn’t much, but it did the trick with her bottle of water.
“Excuse me,” said a woman who looked equal in age to Muriel. “May I sit here with you?”
“Of course,” Muriel said, moving her pocketbook.
“So gloomy, eh?” said the woman.
“Ah, yes, rather grey indeed,” Muriel replied.
“I’ve seen you here before, I think,” said the woman. She dusted off an apple with a napkin she produced from her coat pocket, which she then put to use after taking her first bite, as she delicately wiped away the dripping apple juice from her mouth.
“Yes, you do look familiar.”
“And you look quite sad,” said the woman.
“Is that so?” Muriel asked. “Why is that?”
“Ah, my dear, only you know the answer to that. I can only say what I see.”
It made Muriel unhappy to know that she looked glum to other people. Two women forty years their junior jogged by, laughing, as they prepared to stick the tiny earphones into their ears. Muriel looked around, not knowing how to respond to the woman.
“I’m Kate,” said the woman to Muriel. “And I think you need a friend.”
“It’s not a bad idea,” said Muriel.
“Do you enjoy coffee?” Kate asked.
“My daughter and son-in-law own a coffee shop not too far from here. When you’re through with your sandwich, we can take a walk over, and I’ll treat you to a cup.”
Muriel thought this was a very kind offer, albeit somewhat peculiar. However, she acknowledged that sometimes the best of friends are made when we least expect it. As well, sometimes we meet the loves of our life when we least expect it. Like when she met Gregory.
“Are you lost, Miss?” he had said to her at the foot of Tower Bridge, dressed impeccably in his police uniform.
“I just may be,” she said back, smiling at Gregory, his hazel eyes shimmering from the sunlight bouncing off the water.
“Would you like to become unlost, then?”
Unlost. A funny, clever, non-existent word, and yet, from that point on, she became unlost with Gregory for thirty-nine blissful years.
“Come along, now,” Kate was saying to Muriel as they began to walk away from the bench. “They brew a scrumptious pot of Hazelnut. Do you fancy Hazelnut?”