[...] she remembered hurrying along here with her mother’s lightweight jacket held over her head, trying to ward off raindrops the size of golf balls.
She parked in the same place they always had, a little square of gravel surrounded by tall plain trees. The hike into the village centre was a hot slog along shimmering asphalt. It hadn’t always been this hot. Coming in the spring had always meant playing dice with the weather: she remembered hurrying along here with her mother’s lightweight jacket held over her head, trying to ward off raindrops the size of golf balls.
The little Lebanese restaurant was still open, its sign looking a little worse for wear. They’d always intended to try it one year and never had. She considered it for a second, then hurried on. It wasn’t time for lunch just yet.
One of the bakeries had closed and become a fancy homewares shop. The bright casserole dishes were pretty in their way, but nothing to the layered cakes and slabs of nougat that used to reside behind that window. The café with the green awning was still there and the site of the tables outside made a phantom taste of vanilla ice-cream dance across her tongue. That had always been her reward for good behaviour on the long drive down south.
She peered through one of the dusty side windows of what had once been a church. From the looks of the rickety stands and information boards inside, the little town museum was still in business. Rounding the corner of the building, she experienced a tiny thrill when she noticed that the sign was actually turned to ‘open’. She couldn’t remember a time when that had happened. She paused on the threshold but couldn’t quite bring herself to go in. It would ruin the magic of many years to finally solve the mystery of what was inside.
Walking on, she found herself in the square. Water splashed up from the fountain and cascaded back down over the back of the statue in the centre. She went over and peered in. People still dropped coins in it, despite the notice nearby pleading with them not to. She reached mischievously for the loose change in her pocket but the memory of what her dad would have said stopped her in time. She let the fountain mist her face for a second, listening to the distant hum of traffic and the sound of chatter from one of the café terraces. She let time collapse in on itself, spring after spring overlapping and merging into one past present. Then she straightened. As lovely as it was to dwell amongst the ghosts of happy times that inhabited this place for her, there was lunch to eat and still a long way to drive. She set off across the square, enjoying the feel of the sun and the moment.