'He and She' by Ros Ballinger


He tends to her hands as if he thinks they might disappear. He delicately, tenderly, runs his fingertips over the peaks and troughs of her knuckles, across the milk-pale smoothness of her skin. Her hand turned over, he explores her palm. If you look closely, really lean in, you can catch his smile, soft and indulgent as he keeps moving his fingers. A smile meant just for her, one that could light up a room.

The corners of her mouth lift, as if pulled up by invisible hooks.

She sits and lets him lavish attention. She’s stock still save for the motion of the bus which sways her gently left and right, occasionally jolted upwards when they drive over a bump in the road. He’s oblivious; to your close gaze on the both of them, of their company of passengers – of her silence, blank and endless. Look at him, he’s delighted. He’s expansive, gesturing wildly with his free hand as he talks away. She nods at this, shrugs at that, barely looks at him. Tight.Tense.

God, such love in him; like he’s been submerged in it, that sheen still gleaming on his face, in his eyes, his hands.  She is the focal point, the pole star, the reason his pupils are so wide and dark. When the bus jolts to a stop, tearing himself away from her is a struggle. One kiss. Two. The quickest of pecks and he’s gone. Outside, looking through the window he presses his hands over his heart then holds them out to her; that grin undiminished, like the brightest beacon.

She waves, reluctantly. The bus pulls off.

Alone she is almost no different from before. 

After a minute or so, she starts to move again, delving into a purse at her side and bringing out a diary, pristine and leather-bound. The week’s page is folded at the corner and she flicks back a week, two weeks, three weeks, four, running the edge of a fingernail across dates and days. Abandoning the diary she counts on one hand, then the other, mouth mumbling silent words to herself. She counts, and she thinks. Another minute and she gives up, leaning her elbow upon the lip of the bus window while her other hand, still winter-white, comes to rest lightly on her stomach.

She bites her lip and wonders.

Her journey has miles left to go.

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