Late night city streets were the perfect backdrop for the game that was about to begin. A recent downpour of heavy rain had left pavements glistening and sparkling in the shadowy lamplight and the few passing vehicles threw up splashes of muddy water from roadside puddles which swam over the pavements, only to drain back into the same puddles lining the gutters of King Street for hundreds of yards.

Maurice had spent many hours on this street; many hours and as many years. Indeed, from the age of 35 he had dreamed of finding the woman who appeared to him in wild and vivid fantasies; fantasies which filled all his sleepless nights and most of his waking moments. Her name was Scarlett. She had long, flowing red hair, red high heeled shoes and a long black coat and, wrapped loosely around her neck and shoulders, a long shiny red scarf which floated in the wind. He could always hear her shiny red stilettos click sharply along the glistening wet pavement. Maurice knew she would be there one day, and he knew in his heart she would run to meet him, throw her arms around him and cry on his shoulder in ecstasy and relief, because she too had waited so long for this night, for this meeting; for this very moment.

Last night it hadn’t rained; it had been dry all day, and all day Maurice had watched the street from the dirty window of his dingy bedsit, but the white fluffy clouds had scudded past the bright sun high in the sky, and even when the skies darkened, the moon was bright and full and looked down on his street with a face that was laughing at him. But tonight Maurice laughed at the moon as it hid behind the black clouds. Tonight the weather was perfect for Maurice’s little game.

He pictured Scarlett, as he had in his countless dreams, hurriedly walking along the wet street ahead of him; just far enough ahead for Maurice to recognise that it really was her. The sound of her clicking heels excited him, made his heart race and his palms sweat, and he would wipe them dry down the legs of his trousers. The trainers he always wore meant that, while he followed her, she would be unaware that he was there. This was what Maurice liked; his total anonymity and her total oblivion.

He visualised himself gradually closing in, his strides slowly increasing, almost catching up with her, but only almost, whilst getting so close to her that he could smell her perfume on the night air. The click of her stilettos would echo seductively in the empty street ahead of him and her long red scarf would float out behind her, almost touching his hand as he reached out towards her. He could feel the slippery fabric of her scarf slip through his hot hands and the wind whip it up into the air above their heads. His imagination ran riot and his body became tense in anticipation of his fantasy finally becoming reality.

But the game Maurice played would stay exactly that; a game where, year in, year out, he would hang around the corners of King Street looking and watching for this red-haired siren who dominated his thoughts on rainy nights and took over his imagination. It was what kept him alive for, without this vision, this woman named Scarlett, what else did he have? And so, Maurice told himself, at least he had her, if only in his dreams. And the people would see him and pass him by as they went about their business along King Street.

“Hello there, Maurice.” they would call out, “How are you today? Still waiting for Scarlett?”

*

 

Val Chapman

 

Another story by Val Chapman: The Vessel

Two poems by Val Chapman

 

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