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Second Class Return to Brighton

He’s here, before me. That’s a first. Usually, I get here early and walk along the promenade, never straying far from the beach hut. The same woman with the same terrier always walks past twice. Going, coming. The first time, she smiled. And the second. The third time, a small nod. Last week it rained, and I hadn’t thought to wear a hat or carry an umbrella. The dog barked and snarled, straining to jump at me. She hurried it along, slapping its hind with the leash.

Others are on their morning stroll. Brazen, aggressive. They slow when they see I’m alone. They make assumptions. Wrong assumptions. I speed up, walk past, eyes low. These types get photographed by the News of the World. Jean’s mother reads the News of the World. Mister Pottinger, too. The mimeograph men joke about it during tea breaks at work. Loudly. Vicars and tarts. Queers in tears. People laugh. I laugh.

He’s smoking, looking around, always away from me. On my last visit, I watched to see if he ever looked at my face. He didn’t. He hasn’t ever since he asked for a couple of pounds for his train fare. Last time it was five pounds. Jean noticed.

I stop. I want to run back to the station. Run anywhere. Find a room. Breathe, think. He pulls the key from his pocket and walks towards the hut, out of my sight. I turn my wedding ring. I hear the hut’s door creak open.

Flash Fiction by Alex Cox
Picture: hut by Tim Simpson under CC BY-SA 2.0

Published in Summer 2017


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