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Jenny’s Bench

Sad-eyed and elegant, they were grouped around a fallen trunk, every muscular inch like a Stubbs tableau but for the occasional spasm of flank and flick of tail.

There was a solitary bench under another tree, a simple affair made from a single plank resting on two stumps. On that plank sat a girl, her hands tucked inwards under her thighs, head leaning forwards, face hidden behind a curtain of hair. Isambard stopped at a respectful distance and dropped his flank, waiting to be summoned. Jenny looked up, dazzled by the low sun, a little bewildered. She lowered her earphones, and he edged forwards, a paw-width at a time.

Jane borrows Jenny's Bench

“Mind if we join you?” I enquired, coming to a halt behind Isambard. “The old legs aren’t what they were.”

We sat in silence, Jenny offering no explanation for her absence. Eventually I levered myself to standing and announced, “There’s a pint waiting for me at the George IV.” It hadn’t been my intention, the bench being far enough for my ancient bones, but I needed an excuse.

“It’s my mother’s anniversary,” Jenny looked up, squinting through the sun’s rays that had filtered through the leaves. “She liked coming here.”

The ravenous crow

Now she decides she wants to talk! I thought. Hands on thighs, I sat back down: “I must say, it’s a fine view.”

A fine view

The steeple of St James’s rose over the treetops and, as we sat, there was a ripple of church bells; a false start, like the rewinding of a tape before the full sequence played out.

“There’s a wedding,” Jenny ventured.

“Then we’re well out of it. The square will be heaving.”

She turned her head in my direction and scooped back the hair that had fallen forwards behind her shoulders. “Ask me, I dare you.”

a solitary bench under a tree

“Ask you what?”

“How I’m feeling.” Disappointment contorted her features and she turned away. “You can’t do it, can you?”

“It’s not that I can’t,” I insisted. “It’s just that it’s…unnecessary.”

“Unnecessary?” Her voice was dull-edged.

“You’ve come here to remember your mother on her anniversary, ergo…”

“Ergo?” The word was said with distain.

Sad eyed and elegant

“You think I have no empathy because I don’t ask how you’re feeling?” I heard myself snap. “Just because I don’t talk about emotions doesn’t mean I’m completely devoid of them.”

“How come this is about you all of a sudden?” she retaliated. “I needed you to ask. Did you think about that?”

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