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by Theodore K. Nasos
2015-10-13 12:05:45
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Sir John moved slowly from the desk to the bookcase on his left - next to the French windows - and picked a think book with leather red cover from one of the middle shelf. He always knew exactly where the book he was looking for was. How, I never understood. His bookcases covered every single inch of the walls in the room; well leaving enough space only for the door and the French windows. Books were piling in every single shelf. Still, when he wanted a book, a certain book, he knew exactly where to find it. Even when it was hidden under or behind a pile of other books.

jon01_400He opened the book and started turning the pages fast. He looked at me, just for a brief second and then again back to his book. One page, then stopped again, read something and then to the next page. Then he walked slowly back to his desk, he checked his pocket watch, murmured something I didn’t hear and leaving the book open on his desk he left the room with fast strides.

I didn’t say anything, I was used with those sudden changes in the mood and action. I just sat there, glass of cold water in hand, waiting for Sir John to return. For a bit nothing happened, then I heard some kind of talking outside the room and then quiet again.

“Lad, time has come for a small walk in the park.” The same sudden way he had left the room, the same sudden way Sir John was back; full dressed with a heavy dark green coat carrying an umbrella and my coat. Autumn had hit early this year and temperatures were flirting with under zero all the time. There was no snow or ice yet but rain was something daily and days seemed so small with all the grey clouds ruling the skies.

Outside the house a taxi was already waiting for us with a driver looking anxious in front the open door. We entered inside and the man closed fast the door behind us in a rush to keep all the cold outside.

“Where to?” I dared ask. Sir John didn’t turn to my direction, he kept looking outside the dirty window into the dark. “To the park, lad; to the park.”  

There was nothing moving in Vauxhall. Two yellowish lights in a distance showing another car moving the same direction with us and the shadow of a man in the corner with Moreton, the only sign of life so late in the evening. The taxi driver was in a hurry; obviously the end of his sift and a nice hot drink waiting for him at home. So after two fast turns we left Vauxhall and we were definitely in Eaton. And while I was trying to understand where in Eaton exactly we were, the taxi stopped, Sir John gave a note to the driver and I was pushed outside in the cold.

A few seconds later we found ourselves walking on a worn away and wet grass. There was a path somewhere but with the lack of any kind of light I was just following Sir John. Sir John for his part seemed somehow familiar with the grounds, avoiding shattered rocks, pebbles and rainwater holes.

“Are you okay, lad?” he asked without expecting any answer. “Don’t worry, we are not far.”

No, we were not. In a sudden flash of a mysterious light I saw her. She was standing there waiting for us, not moving, not saying anything. Just standing. “It can’t be true,” I thought, but Sir John was walking her way so he knew that she was going to be here.

We got closer and while Sir John had stopped I moved to walk around her, but as I did, the woman extended her arm and stopped me. Her hand was cold and I could feel it beyond my heavy winter coat, my jacket and my cotton shirt.

“Good evening,” Sir John said slowly looking at her. She didn’t answer. She just pulled her hand away from my arm and started wringing it with the other hand. Sir John smiled at her, I could still feel the cold of her fingers around my arm.

jon02_400“I lost her,” she said after a little with a cracking and dusty voice. “She should be here and I lost her.”

“Have you lost your little girl?” Sir John asked. The woman looked at me and said again, “I lost her…”

I looked at her eyes, her pupils were enormous all black. Then the woman turned suddenly and looked at the buildings behind her. It was a strange move, not just her head, not just her upper body; it was her whole body that turned in one move. The she lifted he arms and with both hands she pointed somewhere in the houses cross the street.

“She was coming from there and I lost her.”

I heard a car somewhere in distance and a door closing somewhere closer but otherwise it was just the three of us, the dark park and the sound of the wind. She turned again towards me and this time she was smiling. A thin sad smile. “I lost again.”

Somewhere, with a move from nowhere, I never saw, she picked a folded piece of paper from her pocket. She hold it for a bit so tightly that I could see her knuckles glowing white under the pressure. The chill had reached my soul.

“What’s that?” Sit John asked moving slowly towards the woman’s hand. The woman didn’t say anything, she just opened her fist letting Sir John to take the piece of paper.

“I’ve been waiting for her for so long.”

“I know, I know,” Sir John said. “Why don’t we walk together? Let’s go somewhere away from the rain.”

Was it raining? I hadn’t understand anything.

“She never…” she murmured to the rain. “I know, I know,” it was the only thing Sir John said.


A glass of strong bourbon had replaced my ice cold water and I was sitting in exactly the same comfortable chair I was sitting before in Sir John’s study. This time with my heavy coat still on and my soul still feeling the chill of her hand. Sir John was standing in front the French windows looking at the dark and slowly smoking his cigar.

“Why the red book? What was inside it?”

“Absolutely nothing lad, something I wanted to check for tomorrow. Social anthropology, you will not understand.”

“And what about the woman?”

“Old age lad, old age and good neighbourly feeling. It was her daughter who had lost her and I knew where to find her!”

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