Mrs. Gale knew her name and knew the people who called her by that name. Her husband Derrick and her daughter Sophia were all her family comprised of. They were her world. She was not known to be unsociable but the society never came to her and she was not particularly inclined to go to it. She was never comfortable in a gathering. She felt she was speaking to the deaf.
She had decided to go for a walk this evening. Not in the street but by the river side where she could hear the birds and feel the water of the stream. A few times she used to sprinkle some water on her face and fancy herself all drenched in rain, the way she could in her childhood. It never felt exactly the same.
When she was about to step out of her house, her old time school friend Francesca arrived and was about to knock when the door opened. She had a small luggage bag with her. She had come to stay. “Julianne, how good to see you. Is Derrick at home?” “He’ll be back soon. Your room is ready.” Saying this Mrs. Gale left the house. Francesca was her husband’s assistant in his publishing firm. Mrs. Gale had spoken highly of her merits to her husband. She usually stayed on for days on end but this never seemed to interrupt the household. Francesca was almost like a mother to Sophia who returned the love in fullest measure. She usually took her dresses to Francesca for inspection.
Hardly ten yards away from the door Mrs. Gale was accosted by a gentleman who was asking the whereabouts of the Gale residence. She pointed to the door and moved on her way. The man hesitated but asked “Pardon me, but are you Mrs. Gale by any chance, or I believe I must be confused? Mrs. Gale replied “I think you’re mistaken.” and tried to hurry away. She walked more briskly until she was far enough to look back and not find the man.
She did not go to the river bank. She took a different way instead.
She was on the tenth street. Looking about in the haze of London she seemed to the passers by, an odd woman. She just stood there on the pavement staring at the traffic, when across the road she noticed Sophia with her friend Josh, moving hand in hand. Sophia’s gait was joyous and she smiled continually. Mrs. Gale stole a glance of the fine man walking with her. He seemed to like her daughter and was caressing her red locks. Mrs. Gale unwound her hair and started looking at her reflection in the glass case of a street shop. The sheen of her eyes could not be traced through the narrow slits.
She had bought a new dress and had decided that the first one to see her in it would be Richard. Noticing for the first time in the day that it was the very dress she was wearing presently, she decided to meet him. A slim slab of stone with the epitaph “Richard Manchester 1945 – 1969” greeted her. She smiled back. Taking a yellow rose from her pocket, she kept it on the marble. “I hope you like this one Richard. The rest of them were gone before an hour could end.” Saying this Mrs. Gale got up, looked at the grave and slowly walked out of the cemetery.
She was back at her home within an hour. Derrick had come and was in his office room with Francesca. She could hear them talk. Sophia was still out. Mrs. Gale entered the living room and started arranging the flower vases on the mantle. It was not until he made an audible remark that she noticed the man sitting on the divan. A cup of tea and a cigar case was kept on the table in front of him. His hair bore a tinge of grey and he had a handsome wrinkled face. “So I wasn’t wrong? Was I Mrs. Gale?” “No not at all.” she replied after an initial alarm. “You must be here to meet Mr. Gale. I would send him in” Saying this Mrs. Gale began to leave the room. “I’m here to meet you. Your husband told me to wait for you over here. He said you would be back before another hour passes.” Mrs. Gale much surprised to meet a man not known to her husband managed to stammer “Oh I’m sorry. I wouldn’t have if I’d known. You are?” “Mr. Henry Williams, Richard’s friend at college.” “Oh.” There was a silent minute which passed by. Mrs. Gale gazed at the man endlessly. Her mind was crowded with thoughts. “Friend of Richard’s…Richard…it’s been twenty one years since I saw him last though I just met him. He died in my arms. You were on your way to a new world.” “It’s been a year since I’m back. I had been trying to get your address. Richard used to talk a lot about you. He…” “Well the last word he spoke to me was ‘Henry’” The man stood up. “I could never understand.” Mrs. Gale replied “Neither could I.”
The man left Mrs. Gale standing alone in the living room. She was twisting her hand around the neck of a flower vase till the man’s footsteps had wholly faded. Eventually she picked out a daisy and rushed to the graveyard.
It was almost dark by then. When she reached Richard’s grave, all she could notice in the dim evening light was the yellow rose she had given him. It was still with him. Mrs. Gale smiled and touched the slab of stone before she left for her home. Mr. Gale must be waiting.
On her way she dropped the daisy.