- Vol. 04
- Chapter 10
The shutter seemed to be an inscrutable face this morning. Laurence slumped against the wall; it was closed. He wondered, could he linger? He bent forward, slowly, retied his shoe lace methodically, and with care. Still bent forward, he pondered for a minute, then switched feet, retying the other lace with similarly geographic sluggishness.
He stared at the cracked pavement, pushed into ripples by the biological imperative of a nearby tree, convinced that if he took long enough, if he didn’t peep, then she would be there – at last, better late than never – framed in the open window, when he straightened.
The bow on the second shoe lace was symmetrical, but the first had uneven loops, and it sat to the side of his shoe. Would it be cheating to retie it again? He didn’t think so. He grasped the ends, pulling the sturdy laces loose, and with deliberation tied them together. He crossed them over, formed a loop, pulled it through. Tightened it, making sure the loops were even and the bow centred over the gap between the uppers. Yes. That was done. He took a ragged breath, then another, trying to calm his heartbeat. She wouldn’t be there if he was flustered, only if he was steady, apparently uncaring. Or so superstition said.
Finally, he drew a breath that didn’t catch and flutter in his chest, and knew that he must stand up now – any more prevarication would be cheating and she wouldn’t be there if he cheated.
He gathered himself and pushed himself to a standing position. Before he could look, his eyes snapped shut, and he remembered.
He had seen her for the first time just two weeks ago. He had strolled past, talking on his phone, laughing loudly and ignoring the glances and frowns of those around him. Then, as he glanced unseeing around him, he had noticed the shutter. It was precisely symmetrical on a vertical axis, patterned black and white in a pattern that whispered tribal to his almost unconscious mind. His eyes had lingered on it as he had laughed again, and as he watched, it was flung open.
She was perfection. Long black hair, a smiling mouth. Eyes that promised the world. His conversation had dried up and his throat clenched with her beauty. He had switched off his phone without another word, not hearing it when it began to ring a few seconds later. He had stood and stared up at her, fixed in place, still oblivious to the crowds that jostled around him.
That day, he had stood for fifteen minutes, just staring, only moving when a throng of people had pushed him almost into the road and a public bus had belched past, choking him with its fumes.
He had returned every day, but had never seen her again. Would today be that day? Would that unresponsive black and white face swing out to reveal heaven once more?
He opened his eyes.