She didn’t recognise me. My Sophie didn’t know me. I don’t know whether to be relieved, shocked or distressed. Yet, how could she know me? I must appear to be in my sixties; younger than I was, but still so much older than my Sophie, who looks to be barely thirty. Why would she know me? I knew her as soon as I set foot on the bridge. Her lack of recognition stabs at me. I felt her fear as I passed her; it seemed prudent to keep walking, to let them alone. I don’t know why they are here, on the day that I have made this journey. I continue slowly along the path, toward the trees and the flower gardens. I am determined that I will not look back.

Then I hear Clara speak to her mother, her high, clear voice taking me back thirty years. I wish I had spent more time with them. I wish I didn’t have these regrets. I wish I could have my life over. It would be different. I would love Sophie endlessly, completely, hopelessly. I would make sure she never doubted it. And the children … they would never come to this park without me. Not ever.

Pain crushes my chest and I wonder if my heart has given up on me. Then I realise that it is emotion: loss and grief and recrimination. I would do anything to have Sophie and the children back. Seeing them here has not healed my pain; it has reminded me, with perfect clarity and in full, glorious colour, just what I lost thirty years ago.

I want to go home. I want to forget. I keep walking.


I feel sorry for the man. Now that he has left the bridge, now those strange sensations have faded, I seem to sense a pain from him, and some part of me feels it with him. I don’t understand it at all. I am drawn to him, as though he is important to me, as though I might love him. I catch myself, wondering what strange charm has overtaken me, and shake my head to clear it. Harry and Clara are chattering in their own language, and I am excluded. Longing fills me and I look after the man in the coat, feeling a hunger, a need for something, although I know not what.

Clara tears her hand from mine and Harry races her to the far side of the bridge. I want to call them back, but I can see that they are safe. Harry starts to clamber onto the pier at the end of the bridge, and falls onto the grass beyond. I run toward him, but he is not crying, and is already halfway up the stone for another attempt.

“Harry, no! Get down!” I say crossly as I reach him. He has no fear; he is just like his father. But I can see possible danger, now; I am his mother and I can see danger for Harry.


This comprises the third part of a new serialisation of one of the short stories from our “Dark Perfume” collection.

You can read Part 1 here.

You can read Part 2 here.

You can read Part 4 here.

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