The man with the fluted nose

(A short story, by Claire van Ryn)

“Happy friendversary!” is the pronouncement when I tap the little blue square with the white ‘F’ on my phone. I stir sugar into my Twinings. Tinkle-tinkle. Delightful sound. Stainless steel on Wedgewood.

Lit up on the screen is a photograph of a blue-eyed man, not unattractive, his arm slung around my shoulders. Well, it looks like me, but in all likelihood it is not. Because I certainly don’t recognise the aforementioned gentleman.

The woman — possibly me — has on large, bug-eyed sunglasses and a summer dress that covers very little of her pert decolletage. The photograph is much older than the date it was shared. A pleasingly lean figure too. It is me. Yes. I’m sure of it now.

So who could this fellow be? A decent-looking caucasion male, mid height and girth, consorting with me in a most familial way. And we’ve been friends in this blue and scrolly online world for… let’s see… ten years!

Probably just a work colleague. At the beach? Must have bumped into each other. Who took the photo? Some passerby, or his wife perhaps.

I press a finger against his name and find more of him. Photos with children; in a suit shaking hands with another man in another suit; and amidst a flock of black graduation cloaks. There are years between posts. He’s not a frequenter to the blue square.

Perhaps it’s one of those spams, that’s what they call it, isn’t it? Where they steal your identity.

The liquid in my teacup is jittering, my reflection a sepia Monet. I deposit it firmly on the table, spread my palms on the tops of my legs. Bother. I’ve let this fiasco get to me. I’m as anxious as a foaling mare. Look at my hands!

There’s something about his nose. I squint at the photo. An angular nose, fluted like Grecian columns. I can see he would have robust nasal passages, no breathing difficulties on account of that snout. I snort-laugh! How unseemly. But I have the strangest sense of deja vu. Yes, I see you again Mr… where is his name… Mr. George Kent. A college beau perhaps? Pity he didn’t stick around, I could look into that face more often.

I let the screen drop into my lap and take a long draught of my tea. Cold. I sigh.

The door is opening, the one to the front of the house connected to the long skinny room. The fall? Rustling of bags. Footsteps. Someone is coming. What should I do? Run! But my hands are quavering again and I don’t trust my legs. I will sit here, very still.

Breath on my cheek, the smell of cinnamon scrolls and coffee. Bristles. A kiss. I turn and look into blue eyes, fluted nostrils, buttery skin. That face.

“You!” I’ve startled him. “You’re my friend off the blue square!”

His face softens.

“Hello Mary, my love, it’s your husband, George.”

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