On this chilly January day, he’s enjoying his moment in the flicker of flash photography, the clamour of people seeking his views; it’s been a long time.
He turns his head this way and that, as though each posture has been rehearsed carefully before a triple-view mirror. There’s an almost languorous air to every movement; even his eyelids droop slowly with every well-choreographed blink, opening just as slowly to reveal ice-blue eyes that have mesmerised men and women alike over the years.
His wife is a study in contrasts. Her movements are jerky, almost bird-like, her glittering eyes constantly surveying the crowd. That perfectly reconstructed jaw is clenched, and a tiny pulse flickers beneath her ear. She stands erect, proud and clad, probably on his advice, in faux fur. He has an instinct for the ebb and flow of public opinion, a talent that’s served them both well over recent weeks.
“Could you tell us how you feel, now it’s all over,” calls a television reporter, as fur-muffled microphones are thrust forward.
He pauses for effect.
“I feel…” There is a long pause. I wonder whether some of the journalists aren’t shifting impatiently, glancing towards the doors of the courthouse, looking for other, speedier fish to fry.
“…. exonerated, saddened…”
He pauses again, and a journalist, impatient for a sound-byte, prompts him.
I see the flash of irritation, just as quickly concealed.
“Relieved? I was innocent, so I feel no relief… only total vindication, and a sense that justice has prevailed.”
For a moment, it seems he might not be asked to elaborate on these sentiments, yet I know he’ll do so, even if some gullible acolyte does not oblige.
He takes a deep breath. “There are no victors, in these cases. Everyone, young or old, rich or poor, is a victim.”
He glances towards a taxi which has just pulled up, and into which the three hunched and snivelling prosecution witnesses are being ushered, all trembling lips and trickling mascara. His mood switches rapidly and he pulls his shoulders back; he always had a low threshold for martyrdom.
“It’s been a witch-hunt, unreliable witnesses… all of them, just as the judge said. Foolish women who…”
I see, though I doubt others will, the light pressure his wife’s hand exerts on his elbow, and the slight shifting of her position.
“… unfortunate women who…”
I take one step forward from the crowd and he stops, mid-oratory. His wife looks puzzled.
His eyes meet mine, and the snap of recognition is instantaneous.
I hadn’t intended to do this. Indeed, I’ve been resolute in the face of pleas, persuasion, coercion and appeals to a better nature I no longer possess.
I may regret this tomorrow, but at this moment, as eloquence deserts him, I feel the deepest thrill of satisfaction.
Because suddenly he’s old, so very, very old.
And I was so young; so impossibly young back then.
Winning a competition in a national writing magazine is a terrific feeling; you know that you’ve been judged against others and not found wanting. Disappointingly however, my name was consistently mis-spelt throughout the attributions to the story in the magazine. Kinda took the buzz out of it… 😦