He vanishes from her life, like a book missing its last page.
The coffee is black and bitter but she’s still smiling. He asks if she has been to Europe. She swallows (She wants to say yes, but she doesn’t want to lie to him) yes, I mean no, but I would love to. He laughs and tells her about Venice and Rome and Paris, those mythical places from her dreams.
She wonders if this is a prologue. In her mind love is the continent she has always dreamed of visiting but can never afford the ride.
She tries to write him a poem but stops after two lines (You, the comet blazing past/ And I, the darkness between the stars). Instead, she gazes at his handwriting (on a folded sheet of paper, surreptitiously saved).She pretends he’s written a secret in the white spaces between the black curlicues. Her fingers trace them as if his words are his skin.
The long-awaited coffee-dates end too soon. The waiting is forever. In between she pays her bills, smells the roses, reads Jane Eyre and calls herself the lonely half of a hyphenated word.
They are walking down the street in the rain. Streetlamps shimmer, their golden glow dances in the water. There’s no kiss, their fingers don’t entwine, but it’s a good enough dream, nevertheless.
When he leaves, her last words read, it was the last page of a novel that shouldn’t have ended. There is no epilogue.
(This previously won the first-place in a national-level flash fiction contest and was published in the Tata Literature Live! Brochure 2014. The photograph was previously published in t2,the Telegraph)