The mood was altered, not only for me but also for my sweetheart. After hanging up the receiver we stumbled into silence.
After a while I offered to escort her to Mrs. Babcock’s home, but Natasha refused. She kissed me goodbye, a bit hurriedly, and said that a long walk, by herself, would do her good.
I watched her walking away from me, her figure shrinking into the distance under the London Plane trees. Stiff-textured leaves were swirling in the evening breeze. One of them, lobed like the palm of a hand, landed on my shoulder as if to say, don’t take it to heart. This had been a long day. Things were bound to look brighter, come next morning.
Yes, I said to myself. Natasha must have been exhausted now, and so was I. What’s more, her Ma was an expert in taking control of the conversation, which was why it took the wind out of both of us But tomorrow, she would come back for me, really she would.
I took a stroll in the opposite direction, then stood a long time by the fountain, watching other couples coming by, walking hand-in-hand.
A street performer tried, several times, to gather some of them into an audience, all in vain. No one paid attention to him. Perhaps it was too late. The sky was getting darker. Time to go home.
He stopped by my side, perhaps sensing my sadness, and sang, in the softest voice,
When we kissed goodbye in Mayfair
Forever I’ll recall
Chill trembling in the air
Summer turning to fall
When you left—I may be wrong—
But it was too hard to bear
A nightingale stopped in the middle of a song
Silence lingering over Berkeley square.
Lenny in Dancing with Air
I go into a meticulous research to study the time and place of my novel, but when I start writing in earnest, I set all that aside, and let the details come in naturally, as my character goes through the experience of sensing the moment. Planted at regular intervals in Berkeley Square, London Place Trees do have stiff-textured leaves that look like the palm of a hand, and I used this information to set up the mood of autumn for this passage.
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