In the space beside Mary

She heard his voice even before he entered the room. He was speaking to the nice man in white clothes and shoes.  The corridor outside smelt of Wednesday - posh coffee, muffins and newspapers.  The air wafted in as he opened the door.

Her eyes lit as if with recognition, and she smiled up at him, pleased. “John,” she said.

It was his father’s name.  “Hi, Mum,” he said a little unevenly, “it’s William.”

The lady squeezed his hand gently, looked puzzled, and tried again. “William...”

An idea struck her. “I know a song about William,” she said, and hummed a little tune, off-key, in a sweetly faded contralto. It was a song about how William had a wave that would roll across the sand to where his toes were always waiting to be tickled.  He hummed along with her, and she was thrilled that he knew the words.

Of course he knew the words. She had made them up for him when he was very little. But she didn’t remember that now. He used to sing it to his children, though these days he only sang it to himself, say when he was doing the dishes. Somehow he felt betrayed, as if she had gone off far away and left him, clutching a make-do soft toy, waiting for her to come back.

After the song, they chatted about inconsequentials, and the afternoon passed peaceably enough, beside the side table with the mug, the photo album that he helped her refer to sometimes, and the small statuette of the figure in blue after whom his mother was named, gazing coyly, polymer-resin and placid.

The End

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