From this side of the fence

Annoyed with her own, stupid, endless cycles of thoughtless defeat, Susie stood, gazed out of the window and thought, “I must look like one of these mad women who stare out at the world…” Abruptly she turned aside, stalked into the high hallway and pulled her thin gaberdine from its peg, slipping the sleeves along her arms, buttoning, then unbuttoning across her middle, “Fiddle! Get a move on!” Such hostility in her own voice – to herself! – filled her with exasperated sorrow, then betrayed itself as reluctance to move.

            “Well, I’m going out, and I’ll be fine, so there!”

She was fine, see? It was lovely to be outside, watching from this side of the fence, instead of up there. It was great to look at boys playing football, and to cheerfully fend off the affection of puppies out for their walks. Somehow, everything felt easier at ground level, and it all made more sense when she was walking about in the midst of it.

Her eye was drawn to a mother, bending down to wipe tears from the face of a little girl, no scolding, just a lift and a hug, while the girl nodded and then smiled. “I don’t know why we complain, these days,” she thought, “People seem much nicer to each other than… than in my day.” Memories of cold meals, chilly dining rooms and enforced politeness with the warmth of an arctic summer… The proper cutlery, table manners, but no warmth to speak of, no unguarded comments.

Susie wandered to the nearest shop and bought herself – an ice-cream! It seemed so decadent, almost indecent to eat it outside, in the eye of the public gaze where everyone could see, but then, who was watching? Susie tore at the clinging, sticky paper wrap, lifted off the top of her cornetto and sipped at the pink goo. She carefully, almost tenderly, licked the ice-cream cone until it had shrunk into a soggy paper mess, then tiptoed over to the nearest bin and gingerly tipped in the waste. No-one watched her or had a view about that. And she thought, “Why would they?” saddened by the countless occasions her own judgements had kept her indoors.

So she was wobbly on her feet, she might fall and she might make a nuisance of herself. But anyone might. She glanced up at a youngish man who’d taken a seat beside her on the bench. “Nice day, isn’t it?” he murmured, and smiled.

            “Yes, a lovely day.”

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