‘So, do you have any hobbies?’ Nina could hear the desperation in her voice and tried to soften it with a smile.
‘Yeah. I guess so. Everyone does.’
Nina raised her chin, trying to capture Andy’s attention, but his eyes seemed to be focused on something just over her shoulder. She shifted around in her chair, catching a glimpse of the beach behind her. The sun had come out after days of rain and there were people everywhere. Family groups and mobs of kids, and lots of couples walking along the esplanade, holding hands. Nina sighed.
‘Look, Andy, if there’s somewhere else you’d rather be, how about we just call it a day.’ She reached down for her handbag, trying to remember if the cafe allowed for split bills. Hell, she’d pay the whole thing just to be somewhere else.
Nina looked up in surprise. There was an edge to Andy’s voice and for the first time since they’d sat down, he was actually looking at her face. He reached out a hand towards her but let it fall on the table. Nina saw a scar looped between his thumb and finger, a dull red crescent.
‘Sorry if this has been, well, awkward.’
Nina waited. She’d been on lots of dates but this one was more like pulling teeth than any she could remember. They’d met briefly at a barbecue and somehow Nina’s friend, Sarah, had the notion that they’d get along and should meet up for coffee. Nina had struggled to recall anything tangible about Andy, but Sarah had hinted that it would be good for him to get out a bit more.
‘It’s just, well, I’m not used to this sort of thing. It’s been a while.’
Nina relaxed a little. At least he was talking.
‘And seeing everyone out there on the water,’ he nodded out to the beach and the pier, ‘it just makes me think of her. She loved the sea.’
Nina reached out and took Andy’s hand in hers, a gesture of comfort. His hand curled for a moment before Nina felt it soften into hers.
‘Would you, I mean, do you have time to go for a walk along the beach?’
Nina nodded. ’Sure, that would be nice.’
Andy grinned and for a moment Nina could see a glimpse of the man he might have been before a moment changed everything in his world. She knew how that felt, and how there was no guidebook to grief, or how many tiny steps were needed before even any sense of normality came back into your life.
Minutes later they were part of the ebb and flow of the Sunday afternoon crowd, walking along the beach, holding hands, watching people swim and splash as they followed the curve of the shoreline.
Inspired by Discover Prompts – April writing prompts
[Photo: kite surfers at St Kilda, Melbourne]