Lingering by Poppy Gardner

If he wanted it enough, he’d find me here.

This is what she thought as she sat alone on a numbingly cold day in April. The sky was that kind of pewter shade that promises snow, and the moss covered bench she sat on was slowly numbing her thighs.

She took another drag on her cigarette. She didn’t know why she was smoking. She felt that it was probably because she only smoked when she was with him, and she expected him to arrive. Somehow she felt that if this whole thing were fated that he would work it out, his senses would direct him. She felt this despite the fact that she claimed not to believe in fate.

Her name was Deanna Stevens, and she was pretty in the kind of way that only showed itself in certain lights or when she inclined her head a certain way. She had thick, angular eyebrows, and fierce golden eyes surrounded by lustrous dark eyelashes. Her hair was chestnut but in the summer months lightened to a warm auburn, and when she was nervous she had a habit of twirling it round and round her index finger, as she was doing now.

This was her favourite place. It was also her secret place. It was the place that she had always thought that if there was ever a point in her life where it would be poignant to go and sit alone enigmatically, awaiting someone, a lover perhaps, it would be here. The blossom was falling softly and soundlessly and creating petal piles at her feet, and the concrete paths were slowly becoming obscured by pale pink ovals. As all this happened, she sat, and waited. It was where she had come for walks as a child, but it was, after all, a cemetery. She adored the irony of it being the most beautiful place she could think of, yet being so full of death. She was filled with a quiet respect for the past, and the millions of lives that had been led, just like hers, as she sat there re-living them.

As her watch caught a ray of sunlight, the glare from the face caught her unawares and she found herself noticing the time. Three o’clock. Three is the magic number. Third time lucky. Thrice as nice. Would this be the hour that he arrived to take her away from everything? She exhaled, watching her breath hesitate in the air, then disappear to nothingness. She began to wonder if she had overestimated his importance in her life. He was this quixotic figure to her, and to let her down here, now, at the most cinematic of moments would mean the end, the end of everything. A lonely lover, alone in a cemetery, waiting for a happening.

She stood up. Her hands were red raw with the cold. She almost left, but couldn’t. She had to wait, she knew she had to wait. At that moment, Deanna Stevens looked at herself, and realised she wasn’t a strong enough person to leave now and never know the consequences. Everything is timing, her father used to say. So surely if one gives oneself all the time in the world, it’s impossible to miss an opportunity. But timing is not individual, of course. Everyone’s own sense of time runs on parallel lines, and occasionally distort so that they intersect, or most surprisingly, crash right into each other. She closed her eyes and waited for the crash that she so desired.

Instead, she felt two familiar palms across her folded eyes, and heard a voice she knew too well to describe.

“I could not love you. I should not love you. I must not love you. I had not loved you. I love you.”

Illustration by Lucinda Wherrett

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