The women were the last to leave. Monica, Luella, Jodie, Siobhan. Lottie and Tin Ribs. They left the simple room in ones and twos, led by the redhead with wet, brown eyes and lace up shoes. She held her tiny chin an inch inclined. She appeared to him no older than when they had last met. Which was when? He wished that he could kiss her mouth again.
Behind her, Luella. Thin, kohl’d hollows. She glanced as she passed; fleet doubt, sickly; something else. She had dressed as if for another occasion altogether, and possibly she would not look out of place at a coach station with no interest in departures or arrivals. She ruffled her crop, sniffed once, and left.
Then, the two he’d known out west. He marveled anew at the slighter one’s quiet, otherworldly beauty. She carried a clutch of gerbera. Her skin held the trophies of summer. He saddened a little seeing that the other, still as pretty, still as proud, did not wear her ring. He wondered when this had become her preference. She appeared smaller than he recalled, and it was as if he saw her from across a distant meadow, out of earshot. He tussled briefly with these fading words and pictures.
Finally, together, two tall women moved toward the door. He noticed that they appeared, suddenly, possibly related. Until this moment he had never seen them together (they had never met). Their smiles held a resignation and something akin to surprise and sadness rivered their brows. Their dark hair, flat and cut bluntly at the jawbone, pendulumed. They were boyish in stature, penciled. Their skin (seen here as wrists, clavicles, throats), their delicately chalked faces, was of a tone that leant itself to the latter mornings and evenings of late October, early November hours. They wore dark, knitted jackets, throat-buttoned and darted at the small of the back. Their skirts were black. Their skirts coalesced. These last two, at each other’s elbow, at each other’s ear, spoke low words back and forth as they followed, their eyes collecting, evaluating everything. They left and their footsteps, a series of frail and fading clicks on parquet, echoing, were the last to recede down the corridor until, finally, silence.
A long avenue of late afternoon sunlight reached through the coloured glass, revealing the air to be a finely moted galaxy. It stretched across the worn stone floor, the narrow, austere furniture. He stood for awhile in its peace and then he stood at the window. The glass offered him no heat. A bird, there on the sill just beyond, keen-eyed, grey and with quite beautiful tiny flecks of petrol blue at her throat, ignored him. He wondered the presence of his own band. The collared bird lifted and blurred into the air with a series of cut-out shudders. A door, far away, closed and he was, at once, bereft.