Out There Waiting For You: Part Two.
Lena Ravencraft’s day started early.
As the years had rolled by she needed less and less sleep.
There are those who would stay awake all day and all night if they could but Lena was not one of those people. Sleep had always been a release for her, and now more than ever she needed that release.
She and Michael had been together all their adult lives and when he slipped away quietly one night she was alone for the first time.
Alone is good when you know it will end when that amazing person steps through the door, but alone without that person is a certain kind of hell.
The best part of Lena’s day was walking to the park and spending as much time as her ancient body would allow.
With only one person in the house, it took about half an hour to tidy up.
A cup of coffee followed by a read of the paper and it was time to head to the park.
It was only a short walk, but it was part of the experience and she looked forward to it almost as much as the park itself.
If she timed it just right she would pass by number eighteen as the young man was leaving for work. He always looked ‘nicely scrubbed’ and it reminded her of seeing Michael off every morning for all those years.
He always turned and kissed his wife before finally walking down the steps and along the road towards the train station. Lena loved to see the young wife watch her man until he was out of sight.
until he was out of sight.
They had it all to come and Lena wondered what was in store for them; she hoped there would be more delight than sorrow.
She had to turn right into Erin Street to reach the park and this was her favourite way to go because it took her past two houses with dogs in their front yards. The dogs seemed to know she was coming a long time before she got to them. Tails wagging and little yelps of delight, they competed for her affection. She didn’t play favourites, she took it in turns to visit with them each day and she always had something special in her pocket just for them. It wasn’t just the treats, they loved her. Dogs know good people when they see them.
Ears were scratched, hands were licked and time went by.
It was hard to leave but the park beckoned.
A little dog saliva never killed anyone but she wiped it off anyway as she walked towards her objective. A little further and she could see leafy green mixed with white gravel paths and beautiful stone walls. Little red flowers dotted the garden beds. Lena didn’t know what they were called but a name would not have made them more beautiful.
Her favourite bench was about a third of the way across the park.
It was a big old park with huge ancient trees and it had probably been there since the city was founded. She always said a silent thank you to the person who put this land aside so that multiple generations could enjoy it the way she was enjoying it.
Today was sunny but the weather did not deter Lena, she loved this place in all weathers. Actually, she preferred it in winter as she often had the park to herself.
The sun was warm but not overbearing. She unpacked her bag: a sandwich, a flask of coffee, a small cake and a napkin hand embroidered. No paper napkins for her. She loved the feeling of cotton, and besides, it was a bit of elegance, even if she was the only one who noticed.
Today was Thursday and she was hoping that her young couple would show up. They usually did on a Thursday. The bench she liked to sit on was just a little way along from their favourite bench but she thought that it would not matter how close she was to this young couple. They didn’t seem to be aware of anyone else.
She watched as the young woman arrived. She seemed a little earlier than usual.
Time passed but the young man did not appear.
At first, Lena did not think that anything was wrong, she was caught up in her own thoughts.
She was remembering the first time she saw Michael. They were both in this park and he was larking about with his school mates. The boys were aware that the girls were watching them so they did what all young blokes do under such circumstances, they were showing off.
Michael was climbing a large oak tree and hanging by one arm to show the girls how strong he was.
He fell and hit the ground awkwardly.
His mates laughed but Lena held her breath and waited to see if he got up unharmed.
He did, he was fine. He limped a bit but tried not to show it.
He was some distance away but Lena thought she saw his cheeks turn red.
The memory drifted away and Lena looked and saw the young woman still sitting there alone. She had been there a long time and was looking anxious.
After what seemed like a very long time the young woman stood up, paused for a moment, looked in Lena’s direction, and slowly walked away towards the main entrance.
Lena thought she looked sad. But maybe that was just because of the mood Lena was in. In any case, she hoped that the young man was alright.
Why hadn’t he come?
Lena could not remember a time when she hadn’t seen them together on a Thursday.
A feeling came over Lena; she had lived a long time and she knew how tenuous life could be. It was silly but she wanted this anonymous couple to be happy, it was important to her; they were a part of her life.
In a little while, she would have to pack up her stuff and head for home. Her bones were stiff from sitting for so long but she knew that she could sit in front of the fire when she got home.
It was a long time ‘til next Thursday.
She hoped that her imaginings were all wrong and she would turn up next week and see her second favourite young couple deep in conversation on their favourite bench, but she also knew that it was all in the lap of the gods.
Which particular gods, she wondered, look after young people on park benches?