'Wiped' by Rob Walton


Raj watched her.  Crouched next to the shallow end, she talked to the toddlers from the Splash! course.  Some saw it as an instruction.  Water splashed! on her face.  She wiped it away without looking, all the time talking to the children, giving advice, encouragement.  Raj admired her.  He smiled at her gentle voice and the gentle way her gentle hand moved across her cheek.
Raj thought about her that night on the cross trainer in the gym.  He was trying to build himself up.  He looked at the TV screens.  MTV, Sky Sports, BBC News.  None appealed.  He was happy to play the mental recording he had of her kindness, her gentle hands.
The following week he plucked up the courage to ask her out. 
The sun was shining in the beer garden.  She wore a floppy cream hat with appliquéd red roses.  The hot weather hadn’t affected the menu – she had vegetable stroganoff, he had lasagne.  She had a gin and tonic.  He had Guinness.
The flies arrived with the food.  Her gentle hands wiped them away without taking her eyes off him.  He saw it as a good sign, encouragement.
After the second drink, after questions about sorbets or ice cream, he gained courage. He wanted to jump in the deep end, he felt exhilarated, wanted to be out of his depth. He leant over and kissed her. 
She wiped it away without looking as she stood up, put her gentle hand on his, and said goodbye.

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