Carol glanced nervously out of the café window. The late afternoon sun was just about to disappear behind the rooftops on the far side of the square, but the orange rays still streamed in through the glass; the teapot, cups, cruet set and vase with its solitary, wilting flower projecting strange, elongated shadows onto the white tablecloth. Carol squinted into the brilliance, scrutinising the passersby, especially concentrating her attention on any young men that came into view.
He was out there somewhere, she just knew it; watching her, awaiting his chance to get reacquainted after a year’s interlude. Would he reveal his presence in public? Or wait until she was on her own? Whatever the case, Carol had no doubt in her mind that he knew exactly where she was right now, and was biding his time until he felt the moment was right to strike.
The sun finally dipped behind the town hall roof, plunging the square into a twilight world. Carol shivered, although she wasn’t sure if this was a consequence of the dip in temperature, or whether this harbinger of approaching darkness was stirring memories from a year ago; deep, semi-repressed and conflicting emotions that she was keen to both bury and embrace at the same time. All she knew for certain was that it was happening again...and the feeling that she was powerless to avoid the inevitable - even if she’d wanted to - threatened to overwhelm her.
People continued to stream past her window on the world; children recently out of school; business men and women in their suits and holding briefcases or laptop carriers; older couples struggling under the weight of shopping bags; a woman with a pram; a group of youths, pushing, jostling and horsing around. But there seemed to be nobody of the right age, height and build to match the individual she was on the lookout for.
“Anything else Madam?”
The voice of the waitress brought Carol out of her reverie. Looking around, she realised that she was now the only remaining customer in the teashop, and that the staff were eager for her to leave so that they could close up for the day. Swiftly paying her bill, Carol slipped her coat on and headed for the door.
Outside it was cold; the last remnants of winter still lingering in the late March evening air. Pulling her scarf around her neck, Carol crossed the main square and began making her way - as if on auto-pilot - in the direction of the spot where her ordeal had all begun, a year ago to the day.
And that day would forever be indelibly etched in Carol’s brain.