Part 1.7

I see her the next day, the young woman from upstairs, as I let the cat out.  She is hurrying, but has to slow because the cat, which I've named Harry, leaps in front of her down the stairwell.  She stops hurriedly and watches his retreating form.
“Do you happen to know whose cat that is?” I ask.
She turns to face me, but shakes her head furtively, clearly unsure of me.
I put on my friendliest smile.  “He just appeared on my window ledge the other day, mewing his little heart out, and has stayed every since.”
She stands still, not saying anything.
“You  okay?” I ask.
She nods and then gives me a shy smile before carrying on down the stairs.  I watch as she leaves. She is pretty, despite a large, ugly bruise on her cheek, and I reckon she must be in her late twenties, a similar age to my Liesel. 
The sun peers brightly over the nearby line of grey buildings, and I resolve to walk to the playground again, hoping to make up for the failings of my previous visit.  I need to wait until lunchtime, however, for that’s when the woman is most likely to be there. I spend the morning tidying up and reading the paper, which, as usual, is full of misery.  Clearly there is business to be made out of bad news, or else newspapers wouldn’t sell.  I wonder why there isn’t more good news; is the world that bad?  Or do people just not care about good news?  Perhaps the implicit good news in the papers is that there are others worse off than the readers.  What a nice race we are.
Noon comes and, with some trepidation, I hurry off along the canal to the playground, but to my dismay she is not there.  Undecided, and a bit out of breath, I sit down and wait, anxiously looking at anyone who approaches.  I notice some concerned looks from the mothers, so decide to head home.
I get up to leave, but suddenly she appears, walking towards her usual bench.  I unintentionally block her way and mumble apologies before stepping to one side.  She smiles at me and takes a seat.  I stand looking around, unwilling to leave, yet feeling awkward and uncertain of what to do next.  Then she speaks with a soft, husky voice: “Would you like to join me?”
I look down at her, and see that she is smiling, clearly enjoying my embarrassment.  I sit down next to her and exerting all my will, extend my hand.  “Aaron,” I mumble, and then with more effort, “My name is Aaron.”
She laughs, and takes my hand in hers – it’s delicate and cool to the touch, contrasting against the coarseness of mine.  “Elsbeth.  Very nice to meet you, at last.” 
We sit quietly for a moment, and then she asks me if I would like to help feed the pigeons. I would prefer to wring their bloody necks, little winged rats that they are, but I nod lamely, and soon I have a gathering of the pests around my feet.  One adventurous little sod leaps up on to the bench, but catches the glint in my eye and scarpers.
Elsbeth and I talk about this and that for a while, but then she says she has to go back to work.  I don’t know what to say, but then she continues, “See you tomorrow, perhaps?”  I mumble an affirmative and watch her as she turns and walks off, her compact frame full of purpose.
I honestly can’t remember what happened after that, but I end up at the shops again, deciding that it is the night for a decent spot of cooking.  I consider buying some wine, but thankfully don’t.

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