The neon glow enveloped the city built by and for corporations. The streets looked soul-less, though crowded with bodies walking in black coats, past glaring lamp-posts.
Roy stepped out of the shadows. Then he froze.
All eyes were on him. The neon lights seemed to gather together to reflect his name. The voices from the bodies rose as one – a chant as deep as a bottomless pit and as empty as the yawning mouth of a deep hole —
Cynthia sighed with relief as she closed the backdoor behind her. In front of her lay the narrow mud path that led to her favourite spot in the whole world. Clutching the little cloth bag that hung against her knobbly knees, she scampered along the path and up to the base of an umbrella tree, its branches spread so wide that they appeared to shelter from wind, hale and rain.
Cynthia gazed in silence at the roughly hewn wooden base of a swing, dangling from sturdy ropes tied to a low branch of the tree. She reached out a seeking hand, and curled it round a rope. Soft tears dangled upon her lashes. Her father had built it for her, so that ‘his little princess’ would have her very own secret place where she might hide from the world.
Cynthia was hiding now. Hiding from the solemn voices, and the keening tears. Out here, under her little umbrella tree, she was alone with her father.
The wind picked up, scattering the dried leaves all over the yard and into the road. Faye pushed the hair out of her eyes and gazed unseeingly into the distance as though suddenly rendered atemporal. The rounded handle of the broom lay forgotten in her hands. It was the sound of a locomotive that was responsible for her inertia.
Memories flooded her mind — of the day her marriage fell apart; her husband had boarded the last train out that evening. It had been his opinion that she loved her job better than she did him.
And perhaps she had. A screenwriter lived in a world of imagination, married to writing, to work. But his absence in her life these many months brought home, more and more, how misguided she had been in assuming her work was all she needed. Without him, she had no more imagination, just a gnawing pain in her heart — an emptiness, a sadness that lost itself in mundane routine. Her lopsided views and her dogged stance of her rights had drained out all the vitality in a marriage that had begun with so much promise. She spent each day sweeping up her yard, drinking coffee, barely eating, and staring blankly at a typewriter, and in her head she lived her days with her husband now gone.
Faye sighed, and moved to sweep up the leaves in her yard. She had messed up, but she would try her best to put herself together. Perhaps, she wondered not for the first time, she ought to go and find him. Apologise. And this time around she would work hard at her marriage; revitalise it. Maybe he would forgive her…would he?
The creaking of the gate caught her attention. Faye turned around and her eyes widened.