They walked along the river, the sounds of the city’s nightlife bouncing off the hard surfaces of the surrounding tall buildings. To Stella it felt as if the city was talking to her, urging caution and every warning horn from the auto-taxis seemed to be saying ‘beware’, ‘beware’ to her personally, instead of warning other cars that their proximity was dangerously close.
He slid his hand around hers, his grasp soft and warm, a comfort to her jangled nerves. She couldn’t pull her hand away. That would be rude. Not that she wanted to release his grasp. The smell of his after-shave tickled her nose, pleasant and sharp, a clean aroma that reminded her of the gum tree plantation she’d visited with her father last year.
On the other side of the river, standing under a streetlight she noted the figure of a man, watching. His shape and profile seemed familiar. Surely not Grandad? Would he really be there, checking on her safety? She’d stopped walking, her concentration on the figure’s outline had halted her steps. Could it be a security agent from the Nursery? No, Granddad has said none of the family was on the observation schedule for the coming week. The figure moved, walking away and from his gait she was sure it was her grandfather. She signed, more with acceptance of his concern than from frustration at his lack of trust. Perhaps it was Matt he didn’t trust? Not her.
“Let’s sit for a while.” Matt’s pressure on her back guided her to a long seat, nearby. This one had a back, not like the ones they’d walked past, all square with edges that cut the night, the giant’s toy blocks. The seat’s curved back fitted nicely when she leaned back to look at the stars. “There’s a falling star,” Matt said. “Make a wish.”
Closing her eyes tight she wished she could love this man unfettered by her genes and when she opened her eyes his face blotted out the stars above her. His lips closed gently over hers, soft and giving, while the trembling in his embrace spoke silently to her of his passion as he held her against his chest.
Several long moments later she gently pulled back, to take a deep breath. She’d forgotten to breathe! His eyes reflected the lamp behind them and his dark hair fell over his forehead, tickling her face. She stroked the hair out of his eyes, her gaze devoured his features, memorising them, printing them indelibly into her memory, because this could be the last time she saw him.