They saw one another from across the park. Their eyes met briefly before she looked away again, happily chattering on the phone. A sudden shriek of laughter erupted from her lips, and he could have sworn that a flock of nearby birds took off into the grey sky as she did. Her cackle was almost as loud as her natural register as she spoke, and he wondered how someone could be so unaware of her volume control.
He wasn’t trying to listen in on her conversation; she was a good few yards away and yet he could still hear her. At this time of morning, all this spot in the park usually had to offer him was the whistle of wind in the trees, and the crunch of gravel as owners took their dogs on their first walk of the day. It was the perfect time to come and think about things, to reflect, to make big decisions.
He fiddled with the sheet of paper between his fingers. ‘Why now?’ He thought, ‘why today?’
“It was almost like… Oh, what’s the name of that dreadful film we saw on television last time you came to visit?” he saw her clutching at something around her neck, “Where the young people have all these visions and keep cheating death? Fatal Destination?”
He didn’t like to bring his headphones out on his morning walks. He didn’t like feeling disconnected from the world and it was a great way for him to think more clearly. But in this moment, as he heard the woman across the way deliberate with her conversational partner about whether the film in question was Fatal Destination, Last Call or Fatal Finale, he found himself wishing for the vice that would enable him to block out this particular exchange.
“Alright, sweetie, I’ll let you go,” her voice softened as she rubbed her face, “Thank you for calling. I love you.” She looked down at her phone after hanging up, smiling as she delicately swiped a finger across the screen.
He looked down at the sheet of paper in front of him, feeling a corner of his mouth curve up. Love always sounded the same: loud, quiet, spoken or written down.
He shoved the piece of paper in his pocket and got to his feet. As he strode past the woman, he leaned in and said, “The film is called Final Destination, by the way.”
She turned to look up at him, as if she had just been knocked out of a trance, “Excuse me?”
“From your conversation, earlier,” he scratched the back of his head, “The film with the premonitions? It’s called Final Destination.”
“Oh!” she chuckled, clutching to the pendant around her neck again, “Thank you. I’m terrible with the specifics.”
He nodded and started to walk away, but before he got too far, she called out, “I’m sorry if I was loud, I know it’s a bit early. I just get so excited when my kids call.”
He turned on his heel and looked at her for a moment. She shuffled in her seat, “They flee the nest and it’s almost like they forget you exist.”
He wouldn’t have pegged her for having kids, or at least, not adult ones. But the closer he looked at her, the more he saw it. The small smatterings of silver against jet black hair, the faint crows feet, the groves on the corners of her mouth from year of laughing.
“They always say,” she tilted her head back, laughing as if she was recalling a memory from only yesterday, “’Mum, you get so loud on the phone!’ But what can I say? I want the whole world to know how much I love them.”
He smiled at her, “Well, now one more person knows.”
Her whole face lit up, and nodded at him in acknowledgement.
As he walked on, feeling the folded corners of the letter in his pocket, he considered whether he could afford be louder with how he told people that he loved them.
This is part of my creative writing series, Shorts. This is another piece from the #SRSummerSchool: Don’t Be a Writer, Be a Storyteller. Find out more about the course on Laura’s website or sign up to alerts here.
And of course, to catch up on my previous shorts, click here.