"What time will you be home?" I call out.
I usually ask him this before he leaves the flat. I go inside and close the door, worrying if the neighbours have overheard. If they have overheard, they will think I am treating him like a child. I take the key from my pocket and double-lock the door.
I can still taste his kiss in my mouth. Underneath the sweet bitterness of the orange there is something cold and flat. Something metallic. I shiver though it is warm. "S.L." I imagine she is blonde. Silvery ash-blonde and petite. "S.L." has a silveriness about it. Ivan's hair is also blond. He has started to go grey at the temples. They must have made a perfect couple to look at. I bet her shoulder tucked neatly into the pit of his arm when they walked side by side. His arm draped across the back of her neck, his large hand protectively enclosing her other shoulder. I bet he would turn from time to time and nuzzle his nose into her sweet-smelling hair. Breathe into it. I have never walked down a street with Ivan. I don't know how we would fit walking side by side in the street. If he prefers to walk on the inside or on the outside of the pavement. If he has a tendency to lean into me or me into him. If he veers to the right or the left or walks straight ahead.
Ivan is gone but his presence lingers. It is like that every day after he leaves. Bits of him still here waiting to catch him up. It will last until twelve o'clock and then I will begin to miss him.
I move down the passageway to the treatment room and fill a glass with water and rinse my mouth three times.
From Yellow by Janni Visman, pages 3-15. Copyright Janni Visman 2005. All rights reserved. Reproduced with the permission of Viking USA.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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