Down By the River – Writing Prompt

The first night they came Charlotte whispered for me to come to the window. She and I crouched in the darkness behind the curtain looking down to the street below. On the sidewalk across from the house, at the bench overlooking the river, first one then the other arrived. They embraced under the streetlight.

Days later we recognized a pattern to their meetings. They arrived at the same time every night. The woman came from the same direction. She came from the Plaza de la National winding her way down toward the quay. She stopped at the bench across from our house and waited, looking into the darkness. She wore a long tweed coat pulled tight against her thin shoulders and a dark cloche hat. We imagined we could hear her shoes on the paving stones as she walked. The man came up the stairs leading from the river in a dock worker’s coat that, even at our distance, seemed too small for the labor he did. His watch man’s cap pulled close around his head made him look bigger. We called them The Lovers and giggled.

“Who are they?” Charlotte whispered.

“I don’t know,” I said.

We watched them for a long time that first night. They held each other but did not move. River fog wrapped around them. Only once did we see him kiss her then push her head beneath his chin. He rocked her. She buried her face in his shoulder. They stood in the dim light pressed together for more than an hour. Charlotte and I watched. When I heard the church bells from Saint Stephens strike one, I turned to Charlotte, but she had already fallen asleep. I was alone at the curtain. The last thing I remember thinking before yawning and turning away from the window was secrets do not keep. In bed I thought of my Latin exam in the morning. I thought of Etienne sitting at the desk beside me looking a my exam paper before we both moved on to the next question.

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