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Photographic Memories

‘Just a minute!’ Harold tossed the towel onto the floor behind the door and dragged on a pair of jeans. The doorbell rang a second time. ‘Coming!’ Almost tripping over the piles of discarded clothes from the week before, he lurched from his bedroom towards the front door. He made a quick movement with his hand to ensure that his fly was zipped and then dragged his fingers through his damp hair.

He could see the shape of a woman silhouetted through the frosted glass as he turned the handle and then the shock slammed into him. ‘Jane!’

‘Hello, Harold,’ she said softly, and he saw her eyes flicker over his bare chest, slide lower, then beat a hasty retreat back to his face.

A thousand thoughts swarmed like bees in his head. She looks just the same. How does a woman do that? Why the hell hadn’t he put a shirt on before opening the door? The place was a pigsty. Was it really six years since she had walked out on him? Why had she left him? He still couldn’t figure it out. She’d gone back to live with her mother, he knew that much. She’d sent him a redirection notice for her mail. But, what did she want now?

Harold found himself sucking in his stomach and folding his arms, and he wasn’t sure if it was from some modest attempt to protect himself from her eyes, or if he suddenly felt cold. He wished he hadn’t dismissed the thought of shaving earlier. Jane wore an elegant coat and gloves that matched. She looked as immaculate as he remembered and for some reason it annoyed him. It also annoyed him when his mouth involuntarily squeaked a repetition of her name, like some pathetic idiot, struck with calf love and unable to breathe.

He was definitely not still in love with his ex-wife. As he inhaled, he reminded himself he had been over her for years.

‘How are you, Harold?’

She looks a bit nervous. Her cheeks are pink. Good! I bet she’s feeling ashamed of herself. And so she should be. Walking out without a word. She’s probably had a miserable time these past years and it serves her right.

Harold took another breath and this time his voice behaved itself. ‘Fine . . . great actually!’ He made himself smile just so she would see that he was definitely doing okay without her. ‘And you . . . ?’

Jane nodded slowly. ‘Fine too.’ She fiddled with the strap on her handbag and her eyes flickered to the side. He knew that look. It meant she was lying and suddenly Harold started to feel much better. He let himself stare at her face and he realised she didn’t look exactly the same after all. There were tiny lines fanning out from her eyes and around her mouth that hadn’t been there six years ago. The discovery added to his feeling of satisfaction. For a moment the silence stretched between them awkwardly.

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