Watching and waiting
A Friday during the preceding April
Watching and waiting
The man stood and watched. And waited. He looked across the quiet, unobtrusive cobbled square that proudly stretched out in front of the steps leading to the majestic Cathedral.
There were just a few youngsters visible at this early evening hour. Dwarfed beneath the two awesome west towers, they were waiting, too. He imagined it was a rendezvous point for others to join them before making their midweek pilgrimage to Club X, or whatever name it was known by.
He approached them, now huddled together like timid sheep. There were three girls and two boys, all, he guessed, under the age of sixteen, although the girls tried, and succeeded, in looking older. The boys with their tatty jeans and excited chatter, as always trying to impress the girls, acted much the younger.
From the top pocket of his jacket he took out a pile of cards, each the size of a bank credit card, and he gave one to each of them. One of the girls actually said `thank you`, and she looked at it for immeasurably longer than a split second. The others ignored what was in their hands, without even a mere glance at them.
With a parting smile, he walked back to where he had been standing, returning the remaining cards into the safety of his pocket.
Do you think that will do any good? came the expected question from a familiar voice, within.
`Not exactly,` was his terse reply, aggravated by the intrusion.
They`re only interested in a good time. Look at them running off, the dark voice continued.
Indeed, they were soon gone from sight, running along one of the many alleys or narrow streets that made the city so attractive.
He stealthily walked back to where the youngsters had been and looked down at the hallowed ground on which they had stood.
The cards were there; just dropped; discarded; of no interest. See, came the judicial voice of reason, I told you. You`re wasting your time.
He picked up the cards, two of which were crumpled beyond further use; the other two could be recycled on another day, he thought. Four cards. There were only four cards. He walked the route the young people had run. The fifth could not be found.
This time another voice sounded. It was just a whisper beneath the planting of doubt and despair. She may have kept it, you know. It could be in her purse or pocket by now.
`Yes,` the man said eagerly, `I may have finally reached her.`
Club X was dimly lit, crowded with young, sweaty bodies, echoing with thumping drums and screeching guitars, and screams of good humour. Thankfully, it was not a place that attracted trouble. It was well policed by security guards, and sold nothing more intoxicating than cans of Coke.
And yet, it was a real club and a cool place to go, receiving a tick of acceptance by the young people`s peer groups. At least for now, it was an `in` place. But, who knows what next week would bring.
The three girls pushed their way to the toilets, cramming themselves into a single cubicle.
`I`ll go first,` announced Trisha, the most vivacious of the trio; a dark haired, pretty girl, tarnished only by her fondness for black lipstick and over-zealous mascara.
`Well … I`ll go last, if you don`t mind,` insisted Jayne. `I`d rather …`
`Oh, listen to her,` interrupted Milly, with a hint of ridicule, `she needs her privacy!`
`Maybe I do,` Jayne objected, blushing as the truth was revealed; but not exactly the whole truth.
Soon Trisha and Milly – tall, blonde and elegant – had left the cubicle to beautify themselves at the washroom`s full length mirror. Jayne closed and locked the door behind them. Immediately, she rustled through her blue, velvet shoulder bag and carefully removed the card that had been discreetly hidden within. “Be who you are; for it is you who is treasured so much,” its message proclaimed in a font she did not recognise.
She read the words again; stopped to let them seep into her consciousness. I am treasured, she whispered. She couldn`t remember when she had ever felt treasured. It was a good feeling.
In an instant of unguarded emotion, which even surprised herself, she kissed the card before replacing it in the safety of her bag.
She flushed the WC, unlocked the cubicle door and rejoined her two friends.
Outside it was a mild, April evening with the sun beginning to set. He had returned to stand in his accustomed place, occasionally handing cards to anyone who happened to pass by. Two policemen, on their evening beat, came near. They pretended to be moving him on.
`I see you`re `ere again, young man; I think we must arrest you for … er … loitering with intent,` said the burly officer in a theatrical, stereo-typical policeman`s voice.
The `young man` was flattered; he would have been at least 30 years older than both the officers.
`Intent `yes`; loitering `no`,` he laughed, handing them each a card.
The less burly policeman gave his back, immediately. `No, thanks,` he said with a shake of his head. The other, PC Jeremy Hughes, read his card and slipped it into his jacket pocket.
`Thanks,` he said. Then, with a wink of an eye, continued, `don`t worry Nick`ll keep one, one of these days, you`ll see.`
`Don`t hold your breath,` PC Nicholas responded seriously, showing little interest in his colleague`s brand of amusement.
`Well, I`ll keep offering them,` the man sighed as the policemen moved away.
He was then completely alone again; waiting; but it was still early.
Just a few streets away, the plush concert hall was full to capacity. The rock band – their famous faces glowing with exertion from the first half – waved to the appreciative audience as they exited for a well-earned interval.
A casually dressed woman, in her mid-thirties, peered down, two rows in front of her, to the backs of assorted heads, and to a neat, dark brown one, in particular. She had noticed this handsome-looking man taking his seat, just before the start. He was unaccompanied; as she was.
He stood up to take an interval walk, and she examined his well-shaven face; yes, she did know him. Could it really be him? After all these years? He looked no different than he did those 15 years ago when last she saw him; when last he kissed her.
She followed him to the bar. He ordered a half pint bitter shandy – she remembered he was always modest in what he bought for himself, and yet so generous with all other things. She waited for him to turn, whereupon their eyes would meet. He turned. She smiled and he responded.
At first, he was visibly shaken to see her, but then the unspoken words `I still love you` filled his honest face.