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Moving On (runner-up)

He hadn’t seen her for over twenty years.

From a distance he wouldn’t have known her, but close up he knew; that smile could still hold him. He didn’t know the man she was with, but why should he. Maybe it was her husband, the one after him, they looked like a long time married couple, comfortable without saying too much.

It was twenty years since he had left Laura, and life would have moved on. That was what you had to do these days, move on, get over it. Trouble was, moving on didn’t always get you somewhere you wanted to be.

She was two tables away and hadn’t recognised him. It seemed life had been kinder to her, she was little changed. He knew he wanted to speak to her, but didn’t know what to say. It had all ended in anger and bitterness.

His second marriage had not lasted, he had walked out on Lynn just as he had Laura. Fidelity was not his thing. The third marriage had been his last, this time it was Jeanette who had walked, and since then there had been few relationships. The gaps between them increased with the years. Now he was alone in this restaurant, waiting to meet someone he had met over the internet. Book the small table by the window she had said, as if meeting first dates at this particular place was something she did often. He was not optimistic. He had a photo by which to recognise her, as she had for him. He hoped she wasn’t disappointed, the photo was not recent.

Laura and her man were finishing, the waiter was at the table with the bill. She looked over at Desmond and caught something in his look. She looked puzzled, as if asking herself a question she did not want to answer. He looked down, not wanting to be recognised.

The man rose and moved towards the door. ‘Ready love,’ the man called back. She glanced at Desmond once more, and seemed to smile to herself.

She moved away. Time for moving on.

This runner-up entry toTime & Leisure’s Short Story competition was written by Martin Goss