An aeroplane slowly tore away at a strip of white in the sky, ripping between the blue either side. Somehow we’d got on to the topic of moths. “Like the one on my leg the other day,” I said.
“What?” he asked.
“I was just lying on the park and I felt an itch on my leg. I reached round, thinking it’d be like an ant or something, and there was this big moth. Just chilling in the sun. Happy as anything.”
“Did it fly out yer wallet?” he replied, and we had a good laugh. I didn’t see it coming.
I often dismissed him as being somewhat dim, with the way he would act at times, but here he was, lightning fast wit. My sometimes witty, mostly useless father. It took a sort of doublethink to hold the concept of him in your mind. I looked up. No sign of that plane. Just a now-smudged white strip in the sky, bleeding like ink into the page.
The hotel gardens were quiet considering the beautiful weather: aside from a cheery waiter, we’d seen only a few people all morning. Once in a while, I could hear the sound of footsteps crunching on the gravel path which lined the flower beds, however I paid them no attention, reading my book and enjoying the warmth from the sun overhead. The snippets of conversation with my dad brought me out of the narrative every few minutes, but for once I didn’t mind. I was oddly tranquil, at ease, until I heard a voice which sent me right back through time, “Hey party people.” I turned. Across the small sea of vibrant flowers, in mustard dungarees cut off mid-thigh, stood my first girlfriend, Jenny. Memories of my first year in sixth-form flooded my mind. Her lips parted slightly as she listened to her friends; they parted further when she noticed me. I gave an awkward wave. She was the only brunette in a group of blonde women. She circumnavigated the flower bed to approach our table, “Well, hello there, Jordan,” she said.
“Jennifer,” I replied, still twisted around the back of the chair, suddenly lightheaded from the heavy dose of nostalgia which had been added to the buzz from my glass of red wine. “You’re here,” I offered, fumbling for coherence, “I mean, nice to see you.” It really was nice in a way, but more than anything it was confusing. Contorted around that chair, I must’ve looked like a sloth, with its long claws wrapped around a branch. It suddenly dawned on me that I hadn’t trimmed my fingernails in a few weeks, and instinctively my fingers folded, the shell-like dull nail edges digging into my palms.
My dad didn’t seem to recognise or remember Jennifer, “Hello, young lady. What’s your name?” I suppose I could forgive his lacking recollection, it had been eleven years since she disappeared from my life without saying a word.
“Hi Richard, it’s Jenny,” she replied, smiling.
“My reputation precedes me!”
“No, it doesn’t, Dad,” I said, maybe a little too quickly, “You met her when we dated.”
Jennifer squinted, “Do I look that different? How long has it been, Jordan? Eight, nine years?” She held up both palms, wiggling her fingers.
“Eleven,” I replied. I instantly regretted correcting her, but coolness didn’t come easily too me.
“Wow. So there’s over a decade between us. That’s quite the chunk of time.”
My dad interjected, “Did you know… erm, what was your name?”
“Jennifer, did you know, moths have three pairs of legs?”
“Yeah. Six legs, like an insect,” she replied coolly, “Because moths are insects.”
I shook my head, and stood up, “Jenny, do you fancy a walk?”
My dad spoke before she could reply, “But three pairs. Imagine if people had three pairs of legs. We’d need so many pairs of pants. Socks too. I hadn’t even thought about socks.”
“A walk sounds great,” she said to me, before turning to my dad, “Nice to see you again, Richard.”
“Nice to meet you,” he replied, and opened the tabloid laying upon the table. He became immediately engrossed.
As we walked, I didn’t know what to do with my hands. Suddenly thankful for the existence of pockets, I slid my fingers into those in my jeans, leaving my thumbs out. It’d have to do. I broke the silence, “Will your friends not miss you?”
“They can live without me for half an hour. Anyway, I can’t believe your dad couldn’t remember me. I spent most of my seventeenth year at his house. Granted, I rarely came out of your bedroom, but still.”
I laughed, “He’s been pretty distracted since the divorce.”
“Your parents are divorced? Shit, sorry.”
“Don’t be. It’s the best thing that’s happened to either of them in probably twenty years. Should’ve happened a long time ago.”
She looked at me, and we slowed to let an elderly couple pass by. She spoke, “I’m sorry I didn’t say goodbye.”
My heart missed a few beats, and my eyes grew damp, “I’m sorry I didn’t try to find you.” She hugged me, and while we were pressed together I remembered how much I’d missed her when she left. It took me a while to say it, but finally I did, “I’m also sorry I never told you how much I loved you.” She pressed away from me gently, and we stood looking at each other, tears streaming down each of our faces.
“Fucking hell, Jordan,” she said quietly, “don’t tell me stuff like that. I’ve lived an entire life since I last saw you.”
“It’s just strange to see you,” I said, wiping my eyes with the flesh of my hand, “It’s bringing up some stuff I guess.”
“Strange to see you too,” she replied, “You look good with a beard, you know.”
I smiled, “Thanks. I’m sure you would too.”
Jennifer laughed, “Oh, I know I would.” A thousand lost images came back to me. We laughed often in that other life. I didn’t tell her that she still took my breath away. “We have a lot to catch up on,” she said, taking my hand and dragging me along. I was stunned to feel the touch of her skin after all those years, “how long do you have?”
Goosebumps peppered my arms. Had she noticed? I glanced at the clear blue above us; it was completely unbroken, a vivid, constant swatch, devoid of gradients or exhaust fumes. For the first time in a while, the sky was not torn.