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Fiction

Gold Pendant
Edward Gifford

︎A long marble counter curved lazily, stalked by high, spinning stools, minty green with cream accents, like a meandering river shadowed by its fauna; forked by a gleaming, refrigerated ice cream cabinet’ homemade flavours set like harboured ships, a riot of colour and taste. Behind, a few staff in pressed whites, breasted with curious silver instruments, attended the few seated up top.

Into this indulgent arena stepped a young lady, brown haired, with striking eyes, jade-green, lively against the dimmed walls. A young man sidled behind at an exaggerated distance, red having just trod on her heel; both the wrong side of twenty.
    Seated now, his navy greatcoat draped on the high stool, flush he busied himself behind an overly ornate menu, hiding his embarrassment. She, neat and unconsciously efficient, had decided what she would have a week earlier, when he had asked. Impatiently then, but not obviously, she waited for him to say something. 

Feverishly alert, like all young men on a first date, he felt the weight of their silence. He looked at her; her sleek black turtleneck, softened by a tartan skirt and a delicate gold chain clasped around her slender neck.
    He ordered tea, toast and ice cream for both and gazed at her pendant as Carter had at a golden speck in the black void. An Eastern symbol of Love, it had puzzled him first at that choral service; at the right time he would unearth tentatively its meaning to her, brush by brush as an archaeologist might.

Tentatively broaching their hush, ’When did you join the choir?’
‘First year, but I come back each Christmas for carols; beautiful, aren’t they?’
Oh, he agreed; how enchanting she had looked in choir silks, gently making down the nave; mellifluous chords sailing on the air.
    Swivelling in her chair; tantalised by the brush of her deniered knee; they caught one another’s eye. From then, conversation flowed and trickled naturally as the tearoom emptied.

Silence, encroaching steadily, made itself known as polite cough from the Maître’d; a rare intrusion from an otherwise discrete host, clearly meant to clear stragglers and allow the staff rest before evening duties.
    Breaking off, turning her head back, then down to check the slim watch poking out from a black cuff; an island of polished enamel buoyant on her athletic wrist. 

‘…I…er, we best make a move; I didn’t realise the time.’

He wanted to say something bold, witty. ‘Time in your company is never a drag’ pulsated across his mind. Instead, a disconsolate assent was offered which rather than dispersing their unease, strained it – not what she had expected to hear. Overcoats in arm, he strode off first. He was not going to clip her heel again. They came out by the side street, opened with a knowing smile by the cloaked doorman.
Waiting under the heavy awning, rain pattering gently on the canvas, the breeze swirled around them and a city pigeon wheeled by. The rasp of leather soles, the click of heels roused his senses again. He took a deep breath, clearing the lethargy of that blasted tearoom.

She stood just in front of him, gazing across at the portico of the Royal Academy recalling a recent visit. He picked up the odd phrase but his mind was elsewhere, tripping over itself to think of a bar with blue notes. A drink too, a real one; tea and toast was fine for a Sunday but not when those eyes struck back at his ironic barb about out-of-town boyfriends. ‘How stupid,’ he thought, ‘to spend our little time in such sultry stuffiness.’

Mullioned windows, neatly lining the faces of the buildings running away from the Circus, began to ripple with phosphorous tints from passing cars; the oranges, reds and yellows briefly playing across each pane like a violent sunset.

Realizing that she had been talking to no-one, she spun around, playfully cocking her head, as if to chastise his inattention, doubting he had heard a word of the wonderful exhibition – ‘No’ he had been emphatically otherwise absorbed. But his eyes sweeping the street, came to rest. He looked at her. Drawing her eyes down she ran them up his sleeve, all the time attentive to his gaze; wondering if it would move.
    Decided now and beginning to feel the nip of the night air she closed the space between them. Consciously pressing up against the warm folds of his greatcoat but not quite daring to lace her chilled fingers in his.
    He did not protest and she noticed he had turned, imperceptibly to any onlooker, to meet her.
    He was looking down at her and as her cheeks gently coloured and eyes flashed, he reassuringly held her waist. She pressed in and swept back the auburn strands behind her ear. Paused, one to the other, waiting for the other’s better judgement, the crashing motions of a taxi plying for custom broke their peace.

Sat at his desk now, reflecting on how peculiarly delicate that night had been, Charles wondered if she thought of him; cloistered under the Elder, in that quiet spot of the garden she had described, quiet enough for… for that time to come to her, a pang of something unfulfilled. Or does that salted sea-breeze, wafting in from beyond the fields and grassy dunes where the Cavalry decamps for summer, carry away with it all thoughts of tall, darked haired young men met in Town? Would she ponder on him over her book, waiting for dinner to be called.
    Yes, he thought, the latter was probably, cursedly, more likely – ‘but what did I fail to do? The invite I gave, firmly and without second hopeful thought. And she came, she assented readily to come down. Oh, the trodden heel; no, that wasn’t much but maybe it had given her an inkling.’
  Charles  often second guessed himself, uncomfortable to leave a memory intact rather liking to toy with them insufferably. ‘Next time then, knowing that the energy of a moment defies logic I must just act - to, oh, kiss the damn girl’︎



Chargé D'affaires - Depuis 2020