The Wanderer (II)

In an extraordinary moment of boldness he leaned on her and whispered in her ears: ‘Would you kiss me?’ As he did so the boat tipped lightly, creating playful waves on the pond’s surface, disturbing the lilies. The image of those flowers tumbling like paper boats in their grimy ocean was never to leave him. A long time later, when his ears had grown tired of hearing that faithful question—which at that time felt like an invitation she waited for him to utter—and the answers which were always false, he had only to close his eyes to conjure again from the depths of memory those tiny white petals (how placid they seem now in retrospect) tossed to and fro by the ripples in the water. Tears no longer followed those images; gone was the nauseating restlessness of being set adrift among ever more turbulent waters, kissed by the waves, lost.
He had pronounced each word with deliberate slowness, waiting to realise its effect on her and on him who said it. He inched closer. She moved back, rocking the boat, alarming both of them momentarily. He repeated the words, intoxicated by how pleasant they sounded to him; but she was not pleased. He looked at her and knew that he failed. With her eyes she commanded him—half in awe of his newfound boldness, half in indignation—to row the boat ashore. Once on land she immediately disembarked, still graceful; then fetching her basket and putting on her hat she ran. Lara was running away from him, escaping lest he should see her blushing face. Yet after only a few paces she halted and turned around and spoke one last word—‘No!’ She dashed homewards until her white hat with the pink flowers she picked that morning carefully tucked was indistinguishable from the manycoloured rows of rosebushes between which she passed.
He should have followed her that day. It could have changed everything.


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