It wasn’t supposed to be permanent. The injury. The injury was supposed to heal, to mend, to become a thing distantly remembered and the scar discussed at a roundtable of drunkards a la Jaws. But it didn’t. Heal, that is. The injury didn’t heal.
People had rather gotten used to the young woman limping to and from town every few days. Always the same route: post office, library, market. Those who saw her insisted she ought to have a bicycle, a wagon, a horse, something they’d say as they watched her pass. No one ever asked if she wanted a lift to wherever she was going when she left town. No one. Not after the first week of watching her routine, nor after the first year. What could possibly be so intimidating about a young woman with a limp?
He watched her limping towards him. It would be 10 am on the dot when she arrived. Always was. Just as he was finishing up the post office boxes and preparing the outgoing mail. He’d taken to checking that his watch was accurate by her arrival, checking that the old clock kept on the wall didn’t need new batteries.
The first time she came he’d noticed the similarity in her gait, the hitch in her giddyup as he thought of it. So familiar, like watching himself approach, if you didn’t notice the long light dress or the long bundled hair, which he did. How could he not. His first thought was that he’d finally found her, the perfect woman, the one who’d understand. His second thought was that she was much too young to settle for the likes of him, not once she knew…though maybe she’d be just as relieved to find herself in him. No, he shook his head, dismissed the thought, she was too young.
She never noticed the weather much, a heavier coat or a lighter one, waterproof boots or trainers. Weather was nothing more than a fact, and could easily be ignored, her life revolving as it did around supposition.
Suppose instead of going to the post office, the library, and the market, she went instead to a beach somewhere. Surely there’d be all the same necessaries, but perhaps with a better view. Not a beach though, her leg would stick out like…well, anyway. Perhaps a city, a major one, where the library would have multiple levels and ladders that rolled along walls. But no, that would all require more strength than she felt she had, despite walking the mile in and out of town every few days. No. She was where she belonged, even if she didn’t yet feel settled. Known.
And how was a body supposed to be known anyway when that body never made the necessary overtures.
Perhaps now that she was well and truly decided upon staying, perhaps now that a year had passed and her routine had settled, although who was she kidding, perhaps…
“I wonder if you know a good place to eat?” she asked.
He blinked twice, trying not to appear ruffled. This being the first personal question she’d ever asked him. Although what was so personal about it really? A place to eat. Not what deodorant he wore or which side of the bed he slept upon. Food. Simple. He blinked twice more in quick succession, and tried to reply without a stammer, not wanting to be taken as slow.
“The market there has take away items, if you’re in a hurry,” he knew she’d be heading out of town and on her way to wherever she went in an hours time, but realizing that perhaps he oughtn’t know her schedule or exactly where she went every time she came to town, he rushed ahead, “there’s also the little cafe round the corner there, a bit french if you like that sort of lighter lunch with a bit of wine?”
She smiled at his pronunciation of cafe as though it were a baby cow, a light lunch of veal, she pictured herself a fork in one hand, steak knife in the other, a big eyed snotty calf standing docilely before her.
This post was written as a thirty minute writing exercise, no editing, no stopping and was inspired from a writing prompt in Bryan Collins’ “Yes, You Can Write!” book available here.