The not-in-service train ran past, almost sucking her in its trail. As she steadied herself, she heard a familiar voice.
She turned to look at the young woman who had gently put a hand on her shoulder. The woman was different from how she remembered her. She wondered whether she could pretend not to recognise her, but then something made her say:
Sarah? Is that you?
And before Sarah could point out she had been much, much too close to the track, or worse
still ask her why she was standing there at all, she invited her daughter’s best friend for tea, –
I live only a couple of stops from here now, – and offered her cake.
She watched Sarah, now a young woman, eat with the greed of a hungry child. She was
thinner than she remembered her. She looked aged, rather than grown. She had read
somewhere that ageing is like a staircase: there are times when you tend to remain on the
same step, and times when you fall down a whole flight. She knew what marked her falls so
far, she could only imagine one of Sarah’s, though.
What are you up to these days? she asked the young woman.
Looking for a job. I've been for a while, in fact. But I have an interview this afternoon – Sarah’s smile was hopeful.
Mrs Gardner took in the worn blazer, the creased shirt.
Stay for lunch too, then. You should always do interviews on a full stomach.
Then she hesitated, afraid Sarah would find her intrusive or even clingy. But Sarah smiled
again, and it reminded her of when she came round the first time, how polite she had been
even then. Even at fifteen.
Just wait a second, Mrs Gardner said.
She went upstairs, walked into her daughter’s bedroom. She called it like that, her daughter’s
bedroom, even though her daughter had never used it. But all her clothes were there, in the
wardrobe she had carefully organised herself. She chose something suitable for an interview.
Perhaps, while she cooked lunch, Sarah could try it on.
Only if you feel like it, though.
I’m sorry I didn’t come to the funeral, Mrs Gardner, she said as they parted.
Mrs Gardner shook her head.
That’s alright. Just let me know how the interview goes.
Slawka G. Scarso has published several books on wine in Italy and works as a copywriter and translator. Her short fiction has appeared in Mslexia, Ellipsis Zine, Firewords, Bending Genres and others. She is based between Rome and Milan. She tweets as @nanopausa. More of her words on www.nanopausa.com