by Francis Hayes
First time I saw her, she’s stood in the middle of Prescott Park looking up at the streetlight as if she sees the Virgin Mary appearing out of the mist.
I was wearing trainers and dressed in black. She never noticed me sidle up closer and set myself down on the bench just by her. I had this feeling that if I’d spoken, even coughed, she’d start, shy and take right off, like when you step on a twig near a doe you’ve been edging closer and closer to in the forest. Try as I might I couldn’t work out what she saw or thought she saw up there that was so absorbing.
At last she looked down. Her eye line followed the the column of the post. The light danced on the sheen of her black hair as her head fell. At last she shook her head and that black hair just fanned out round her. Then she saw me.
‘Oh,’ she said, like an indrawn breath. I saw her leg tense.
‘Hi,’ I said. ‘What did you see there?’
‘Nothing really. I guess I thought I saw something, maybe sort of ghostly, maybe an owl, in the mist. There was nothing there.’ She hesitated then added, ‘I think.’
I nodded. I didn’t want to break the spell. Not for me. Not for her.
She was looking at me now with the same intensity I’d seen before.
‘How long were you there?’
‘Not too long. I’d just barely sat down.’
She took in my clothes, the two plastic bags. ‘You’re going to sleep here?’
‘Isn’t it scary?’
‘It’s OK. Not too many folk come by at this time of year. Not before sunrise. That’s when I wake and then I’ll move on.’
‘Till tomorrow night?’
‘Till tomorrow night,’ I said, wondering if she’d asked a question or made a promise.