The Empty Bench
She shuffles down to the harbour at the same time in the morning. She nods to the same people. She walks to the bench: the bench with a view of the boats coming into the harbour; with the view of the people disembarking from the ferry.
When the midday ferry has disembarked she takes the lunchbox from her bag.
Always the same: bean salad.
The bookseller is a busy body, always shuffling his books when she shuffles past. Like he is poking fun at her showing her how he is the bookseller, not her. laughing at how badly things have turned out for her since he fired her. Stupid old man, he was never even half the bookseller she was.
When it rains she wears a raincoat, a yellow one like sailors wear. When it rains she sets off just in time for the ferry. It is the thing she does, her daily task, her daily routine, her purpose.
Once she likened herself to Boo in To Kill a Mockingbird: often laughed at but ultimately the hero even if no one knew, except Scout.
That was the moment I fell in love with her, and the moment I realised I would not be able to declare my love until she had completed her task, until she had found her purpose, until she had discharged her heroic act.
So every day I let her go back to her cottage alone with no more than a memory of pleasant chatter.
A picture of an odd couple eating their dinner quietly.
Her father bought the cottage for her. Just one bedroom, he stays at the hotel on his annual visit. One week in the spring.
They sit on the bench together for their lunch.
They dine in the hotel. Vegans. Both of them.
The barman is a friend of mine, he says they are quiet at their meals. Quiet conversation punctuated by comfortable silences.
Sitting at the table by the window it would be easy to mistake them for a couple. He looks barely older than her because the accident aged her before her time.