They walked awkwardly along the towpath
bumping together, because his arm
was round her shoulder. He was saying:
I shall always remember this walk.
I’ll never forget last night.
I’ll never forget you. Oh God.
After a pause, she made a short
non-committal noise. The morning had turned
wet and dark. She felt dilapidated by the rain
and of course had forgotten her umbrella
due to the unexpected turn of events.
Trust me, he said, you will, won’t you?
Trust him to what, she wondered.
Which men could one trust? Any man
carrying a musical instrument, perhaps?
Any man walking along reading a book?
Most doctors – with reservations about those
wearing bow ties. Trust you to what? she asked.
To never let you down, he said,
splitting the infinitive, crushing her
against his wet tweeds. She fought
for breath as he loomed over her.
Little one, I can’t let you go.
I’ll be back on Thursday. Expect me.
So many imperatives. The situation
had become unwieldy. She longed
for buttered toast, looked furtively
at her watch. I know, I know, we have
so little time. The suffocating squeeze
into the spongy lapels.
I’ve enver felt like this before.
Have you ever felt like this before?
Fatigue and embarrassment were
all too familiar to her. She stirred the leaves
with the toe of her boot. No, she said
politely. Not exactly like this.
first published in Chooosing to be a Swan (Bloodaxe, 1994), © Connie Bensley 1994, from Finding a Leg to Stand On (Bloodaxe, 2012), used by permission of the author and the publisher.