She was sure of it now, the girl was crying.
Laura watched from her balcony on the second floor. She saw the couple through the window of the café across the street and she thought at first she knew them, but she knew very few people, and none of them young. The boy and the girl exchanged words at long intervals, and Laura noted a shrug of the shoulders, a shake of the head, a long look downwards at the floor. They were together but they seemed to push apart, like magnets repelling each other.
The low sun pressing on the window made the boy squint. The girl was lit from behind. There was a sadness in the shape of her shoulders as she leaned forwards and the boy leaned away, his hand to his head, warding off the sunlight. Their outlines were in perfect parallel, infinitely separate. Laura thought she saw the girl’s shoulders heave a little. She was crying.
It was all quite clear to Laura. Her eyes were still good, she thought, and she’d always been observant, interested in things around her. Nosey, some said, and perhaps she was. She liked to sit here in the hours before dinner, sometimes reading, mostly watching. Taking in the things that changed. Marvelling at the things that never changed.
She’d lived here all her life. Not here, not in this building, this was a place where people came to die. But always in this part of town. The house where she was born had long ago been torn down, but the cottage she once shared with Jack was still there. She couldn’t bear to look at it now. The present owners had torn off the roof and built a second storey, all weatherboard and blue corrugated iron. Too many windows.
The boy in the café reminded her of Jack, the night he left. That look he’d had then of a shamed child. Fidgeting with his hat, avoiding her eyes. Pulling at his shirt collar like he couldn’t breathe. As though the air between them was poison. He’d put his hat on and he’d left her sitting at the kitchen table, leaning into a void where the angle of his body had once steadied her. He never came back.
That’s how it was. A void opened and she fell. Afterwards, children were raised, bills paid, life around her surged and fretted in her wake.
You never stop falling, Laura thought. And she watched herself then, tumbling slowly over, a smile on her lips, the world spread out below her like a many-coloured quilt. In its immensity she saw the shape that she’d been missing all these years. But even as she reached for it, the vision danced away beyond her grasp.
She shivered. The young couple in the café had gone. Around her the city was closing in, a yellow light gathering from the street lamps. Soon Maria would call them all to dinner, and afterwards there would be a game of cards, or perhaps some television before bedtime.