The Other Side of the Bridge
by Jennifer Walmsley
Standing on the foot bridge, as he has done so every morning for many years, between the hours of 8.30am and 10.00am, Ken watches the world beneath him. Today, it is his fortieth birthday and in celebration, he raises his head, looks across many roofs to see a chimney stack in the distance from where, a week ago, smoke belched out; smoke from the cremation of his mother.
Now, for the first time in his life, he is free from her demands. Free from her sarcasm. Free from tending her ulcerated legs, and with those thoughts, Ken smiles but that smile soon collapses when his jacket, draped over the rail, is snatched up and thrown over the side where it floats downwards to the pavement, below.
Ken leans over the rail, avoiding eye contact with the young bully who has appeared beside him. Bullies terrify him. 'Weirdo,' the chubby lad sneers.
'Fetch!' his pal sniggers as if Ken is a dog.
Anger rises up but, as always, smothered and Ken moves away, hearing the lads taunts and their laughter following him. Slowly, he makes his way down the steps to the pavement and, on reaching the bottom, hears a soft voice ask, 'Is this your jacket?'
Shyly, Ken nods to the young woman he's been secretly watching from his vantage point these past twelve months. April, he's mentally named her, works in Apples And Pears green grocers where his mother used to buy their weekly fruit and vegetables. But his mother, after a while, realised that her son's involuntary blushing was due to Ken's attraction to the pretty shop assistant so took her custom elsewhere.
'It's a bit wet,' April now says, handing him his bedraggled jacket. Ken, normally hating dirt, smiles and his cheeks grow hot. Then her hand touches his wrist. 'Are you all right?' There is genuine concern in her tone which surprises him.
He looks at her and is further suprised to see that her green eyes regard him with compassion. Blushing, he manages to mumble that he's fine, longing to add, 'I've always wanted someone to ask me that.' But of course, he doesn't. Instead, he enquires about the current price of this season's fresh strawberries.
Born, brought up and still living in Wales, I've had short stories published in women's magazines and Welsh literary. Since joining a writer's forum last autumn and, with the help and support of fellow writers, I've had flash ficiton published in Bewildering Stories, Micro Horror, Short Story.us.com and Backhand Stories. There is a novel and novella still waiting in a drawer. Contact Jennifer.