By Neil Beynon
The rain fell in syncopated rhythm on the uneven shingle shore and hammered mercilessly into the water of the river as the man watched. His hair hung in long dark wet strands around his face and neck, his face a mask oblivious to the storm about him as he bent slowly to drop the flower on the edge of the river.
The rose hung for a moment on the surface as if contemplating the man as he straightened, then finding nothing of interest it shot into the centre of the river, the current carrying it past a piece of rusting scaffolding. The man’s eyes remained on the rusting pipe-work whilst the flower rushed onwards towards the ocean.
“Hey!” yelled a woman from the nearby wooden bridge. She was dressed in a slick navy raincoat, as she came down the side of the bridge onto the bank, a radio in her hand, the man noted the word on the back of her jacket: Police.
“What the hell are you doing?” she asked over the noise of the rain.
The man was silent, the twitch of his eyes in her direction were the only acknowledgment.
“Damn it,” she grabbed him by his arm and spun him around. His face was streaming with rainwater, his eyes were red with it and she was grateful for the hat that kept the worst of it off her. “That looked like a rose to me?”
The man turned his eyes on her. They were such a dark shade of brown they were nearly black save for the red rims and bloodshot whites. It gave her pause.
“A rose was stolen from the botanic dome? Last one in the UK. You wouldn’t know anything about that would you?”
“Alright, well the dumping of destroyed plant matter is enough to hold you, Jesus man, plants dying all over the place and you’re chucking them in the frigging river,” she said.
He allowed himself; she was in no doubt he could take her down easily enough if he wanted; to be taken up to the bridge. He resisted briefly at the top of the bridge, she tugged on his arm but he simply wanted to take one last look at the river bend.
“People dying as well,” he said. “Can’t recall much being done about that?”
The woman saw the look in his eyes, her hand fell to the truncheon at her side but he did not go for her as expected; instead he walked to the car. There he waited whilst she stared at the river bend, its familiar latticework of rusting scaffolding crystallising the echo in her head. Understanding blossoming in her mind, tears sprung and lost forever in the rain.