The Girl, a short story by Jackie Harvey at

The Girl

The Girl

written by: Jackie Harvey


The girl happened long ago but remained clear in his memory despite other events and people slipping away. At almost eighty-three years old his past grows longer as his future, especially since his terminal diagnosis, grows shorter.

Much had occurred in his life. Some things were good, some bad and some, perhaps most, quickly forgotten. But he never forgot her. He wondered about her – what did she do with her life? Did she ever think of him and if so, how? With regret for what might have been or, perhaps, indifference? He hoped it wasn’t indifference. Even hate would be better than that. Hate is a powerful emotion; hate shows an impression – an impact – even if bad, has been made. Hatred would be preferable to that or forgetting him altogether.

She crept into his thoughts periodically. Memories of what they had would be triggered; sometimes by a song, a picture, a place or a fleeting aroma that touched him and brought her flooding back. Though brief, he never found their intense connection again – even with his wife of forty-five years. Recently his wife had died. His children and grandchildren lived far away so he saw them little. Much time was spent alone with his thoughts.

He remembered their meeting at the National Gallery. She belonged there – a student of art. He was killing time – a salesman in London for a month on business. They were both looking at the same picture – the sea in turmoil; a floundering ship. She studied it and he, a few years older with a fiancée at home, pretended to study it too. She remarked how beautiful yet poignant it was. He was stunned by how beautiful she was and felt, like the ship, he too was floundering. Amazingly, something wonderful started. A spark became, almost instantly, a flame. The contrast between her and his west country bride-to-be was startling. With this girl he felt so much more than a boring salesman – he felt truly alive.

She asked him what he did, what was his job? He told her a lie – the biggest he had ever told in his life and one he knew, even as he spoke, could not be maintained. But for the glorious weeks that followed he somehow managed to. She believed he was working on something secret; something important he could not share.

They would meet whenever his ‘job’ allowed. He wished the impossible – that they could last forever. He was torn; couldn’t possibly tell her the truth. He must return to his rural life – his dull rural life. For a wonderful while, though, he felt like James Bond.

Another meeting was arranged but he knew, as he did so, that he wouldn’t keep it. He left without explanation, knowing she would be waiting in vain at their rendezvous. What had happened? Surely, she had wondered – just as he did about her life.

Now he had only a matter of weeks remaining and he felt his life had made little worthwhile impression on the world. He wished he could have told her the truth but it was better to believe his covert role made the sudden disappearance an unfortunate necessity. He hoped that she too remembered their assignations fondly; with love or maybe even hate for the way he suddenly left but never, please, with indifference.

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