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The Park Bench

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The two of them sit on the park bench, keeping half an eye on a girl of nine or ten as she swings energetically on a swing. One has blonde hair, her roots just starting to show brown. The other has silver grey hair. They’re sitting side by side, not touching apart from their little fingers, which are curled together between their bodies. They’re deep in conversation, their upper bodies turned towards each other, and the expressions on their faces are tender, intimate even. I feel a little bit like a voyeur, watching them, even though I’m in plain sight and not really trying to hide the fact that I’m watching them. Actually, I’ll be honest, I’m sketching them, my pencil moving rapidly across the blank page as I try to capture the essentials of the scene before me before they leave.

It’s a Spring day, warm enough to not need a coat, and I make quick notes on a separate notepad of the clothes they’re wearing, intending to fill in the specifics when I turn the sketch into a water colour. The blonde is in skinny black jeans; a forest green long sleeve shirt, although the sleeves are pushed up to her elbows; a white vest top is just visible beneath the shirt, her top buttons open far enough to reveal both the top and her collarbones, not to mention the hollow of her throat; the silver-haired woman is wearing blue jeans that aren’t as tight as the blonde’s; a cobalt blue silk blouse; a black vest top beneath the blouse. She has a pendant at the hollow of her own throat, although she’s a little too far away for me to make out its details.

“Auntie Bunny!” cries out the small girl on the swing. “Higher!”

The blonde chuckles and gets to her feet. Her movements are a little stiff as she starts towards the swings, but by the time she reaches them her body’s loosened up and she fairly strides across the grass.

“What’s the magic word, Guin?” calls the silver-haired woman.

“Please, Bunny, push me higher,” calls the girl, Guin. Guinevere, I wonder.

“Alright, alright, hold your horses little one,” says the blonde. I can’t help feeling curious about the nickname: Bunny is a bit of an odd one. The woman doesn’t look remotely rabbity, being tall and slim – she makes me think of a greyhound or a gazelle.

Eventually the silver-haired woman goes to join ‘Bunny’ and Guin, and I continue my sketch, having sufficiently committed them to memory to be able to continue adding details without them being in front of me.

“You’re very talented,” observes a quiet voice, and I cannot help letting out a startled yelp. “I apologise for startling you.”

I look up to see the blonde looming over me. “Can you wear louder shoes, next time please?” I demand, which the blonde seems to find hilarious for reasons I cannot begin to fathom. “What?”

Her chuckles quieten down. “That’s almost the exact words Serena said to me once,” the woman says. “Sorry, I know it wasn’t that funny, really.”

“Well, I suppose it was for you.” I look back at my sketch of Serena and ‘Bunny’, which is almost complete, and feel glad that I hadn’t had my pencil on the page when I was startled. “And thanks. I’m at the Glasgow School of Art.”

“Home for the Easter break?” I nod. The woman crouches down, wincing audibly, but quietly, at the move. “Do you take commissions? I’d pay you, of course.”

“What’s the commission?”

“A portrait of Serena and Guin – Guinevere, my great niece.”

“I could do that. Will they be sitting for me, or is it a surprise?”

“A surprise. It’s our anniversary in a few weeks and I’d like to give her something she’ll treasure.”

“Okay. I could do that. You’d have to send me some photos.” I tear a page from my notebook and write my name and email address on it. “Email me and we’ll discuss details. I’ll need you to send me four to six photos of them to work from.”

“Thanks.” The blonde stands up, with another audible wince, then holds out a hand. “Bernie Wolfe. Pleased to meet you, Rachel.”

“Nice to meet you, too.” I nod at my drawing of them. “You don’t mind, do you?”

Bernie grins. “I’m very flattered, actually. And I’m sure Serena would be, too.”

“Cool. I’ll talk to you later, then.”

Bernie nods, then turns and strides back to Serena and Guinevere, and a few minutes later they leave. I gather my supplies together, packing them into a battered leather satchel, then grab my bike from where I’d left it leaning against the tree. A few minutes later I leave too, my head full of ideas.