“In The Park” by Ailsa Abraham

We’d like to present a new Feature Story here at Metro Fiction. Please check the Welcome page for more information about us. This week, a young police officer’s observations of a middle-aged couple lead to a bittersweet end.

Please enjoy our Feature Story: “In The Park” by Ailsa Abraham:

I wasn’t particularly watching them. I just seemed to keep coming across them on my rounds in the park that Saturday afternoon. They were just an ordinary middle-aged couple, casually dressed, not striking in any way. I suppose the thing that hit me was how much in love they seemed to be, like teenagers. There was a radiance of contentment about them that almost shone.

It’s my job to be observant. I’m a police officer and while I’m normally on the lookout for trouble in the park they were anything but that. I first saw them by the lake, throwing bread for the ducks and the woman was very animated, grabbing the man’s arm and asking him to throw it further because the “little one at the back” wasn’t getting any. It was quite cute. He walked down the railings a little way to attract the “little one” to him and made sure that it got some bread too. She hugged him tightly, laughing up into his face. I couldn’t see his face but I could imagine the expression because I have felt like that once.

I next saw them walking hand in hand near the bandstand. It isn’t so often there is a band these days, but during the summer on weekends, the local town silver ensemble arrive and play for a few hours. When the band struck up with The Blue Danube they seemed to just melt into each other’s arms and start dancing, with everyone looking at them, giggling to each other, oblivious of everyone else. I suppose I was a bit jealous. There they were, at their age, totally engrossed in each other, having fun and me, well… it’s not like that for us anymore.

The old-fashioned carousel in the center of the park, I could have put money on the fact that I’d see them there. And I was right. Side by side on the painted horses, going round and round, holding hands, rising and falling out of synch and still laughing. Her horse went up as his descended but their hands never parted. Then they pretended they were on racehorses and finishing the Derby, her giggling and pretending to stand in her stirrups and whip her horse. “Come on Sparkle!” she was calling out. I remember when we used to be like that, but Alice and I were kids then.

I moved a few hoodies on, warned off some kids that were hanging about swigging cheap cider from tins and then continued my beat. It was quiet for a weekend. I had heard there was something going down in the town center later so my afternoon should be calm.

I was making bets with myself by the time they crossed my path again. I was absolutely convinced that the ice cream van would be a certainty. Sure enough. There they were, her almost pulling him by the arm, making for the van, chattering as he smiled and laughed at her eagerness to get there. It’s not a good idea to run backwards while not paying attention and she went down like a ton of bricks, landing on her backside with both hands at her sides, trying to break her fall.

It was like someone had thrown a switch. He crouched down beside her, picking up her hands to see if she had grazed them, her eyes were turned up to him, like a child, hurt, wanting comfort and he held her head to his chest, rocking her slightly, like a father. Even her face had changed, from the attractive sassy 50-something to a little girl, lower lip stuck out quivering. I made my way over and also crouched down because you don’t tower over members of the public unless you want to intimidate them.

“Is the lady alright, Sir? Do you need any assistance?” It’s the standard phrase but I felt like an intruder. These two didn’t need anything but each other. Her head was cradled against his chest and he was stroking her hair, muttering softly at her and helping her up, gently, gallantly, a cross between her knight errant and her father. He dusted her down with no sign of embarrassment and turned to smile at me over his shoulder.

“No. Thank you very much, officer, but I think we’ll manage. Eh? Won’t we? Mmm?”

The woman turned a face to me that was half child, half adult and rubbed her hand under her nose, a touching gesture she would have made when she was a kid, trying to regain her composure, leaning on the man as she struggled to her feet.

“Thank you. I’m fine. Hurt my bottom.”

That one phrase hit me in the stomach like a brick. It is the sort of thing our Alex would have said. Our little boy.

“Nothing an ice cream won’t make better, eh?” the man shook her gently by the shoulders.

“Can I have sprinkles?” she sniffed, rubbing her hands against her hips.

“Oh, any excuse, yes of course you can have sprinkles, sweetheart, and sauce too, if you want. Thank you, officer, we’re fine but, thanks anyway.”

He helped her away towards the ice cream van, her limping slightly and leaning against his arm and they didn’t see me turn away to hide the fact that my eyes were filling up.

Yes, that is exactly how our little Alex would have reacted. I miss him so badly since she left. This wasn’t one of my contact weekends, and every one of those hurts like hell. They were so lucky. So very, very lucky to have each other and be so in love.

Ailsa Abraham is of Scottish/Irish descent but has lived in France for the last 22 years. Since retiring early from teaching she has been able to devote herself to her two passions: writing and motorbikes, both of which she has been doing all her life. Metro Fiction published her first professional short story. She has subsequently published four novels in two genres under two names. Her pagan fantasy romance “Shaman’s Drum” was released in January 2013. Her web page contains more information and free short stories in her pagan-based genre.

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