There was a variant of brilliance that fitted her perfectly, he thought. She was a dream; an absolute wonder of a dream, and he knew these light, typewriter-click steps approaching were hers. They had to be. He thought he would not be able to bear it if they were not.
He waited for her at the corner of Bond Street, pressing the tip of his shoe into the fractures of gum-covered concrete that zigzagged from the foot of the cafe. The shoes were Special Occasion Wear, given to him by his father on the eve of his 20th birthday, and kept in their original paper and box at the back of his half of the wardrobe. There was a cataclysmic family argument on that occasion, he remembered, picturing the twitch in his mother's look of disdain as she realised his father's present was going to be received one year too early. They had saved up for decades, she had whined, her tongue running tributaries to bypass the complex syllables of a language she did not yet fully understand, as she pulled hopelessly at the sleeve on his father’s shirt. She was pleading with him, begging for his outstretched arm to relinquish its tension and return the box to an unknown hiding place for another year – but he would not waver. He did not let his arm fall until his beloved second child had in his hand those treasured leather puppies; forbidding any recovery of them by her sharp fingers.
It was the penultimate time he had seen his father’s forearm collapse like that.
He stopped scraping the sole of the shoe for a brief moment. The brogues, his parents’ precious talisman, had retained their captive status ever since he had first cradled them in immature fingers. They had been blinded to the world outside their cardboard box until a potent enough light could burn through the sheets and erupt them out into the glory of liberty.
Just like him.
He pressed one foot down on the other, hard, and winced with the dullness of the pain. He was not a brogue. In any case, they had each other. He was an abandoned frayed carcass of a shoe, lost in the gutter, hoping beyond hope that one day his partner would sail through the current of dirtied rain to his side.
A gentle breeze tousled the top of his fringe as he watched her emerge from the corner by the station. She had a look of his mother about her.
By Guest Author Juliette Jacenty