The Handkerchief

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Submitted: March 25, 2020

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Submitted: March 25, 2020

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“Oh, excuse me, sir?”

The man stopped in his tracks and turned around at the sound of the voice. It belonged to an old woman, quite shorter than himself, who was shuffling towards him slowly, holding out what he recognized to be his handkerchief. He guessed that it had fallen out of his pocket when he was hurrying across the train station.

“Thank you,” he said breathily, stepping towards the woman. He held out his hand as he stopped in front of her, but she didn’t hand him the handkerchief right away. She clutched it in between her hands, rubbing her thumb over the soft fabric. There was a wistful look in her eye as she gazed at the cloth.

The man glanced up at the huge clock on one of the walls of the station: it was a few minutes past three, but more importantly, only a few minutes until his train left. He didn’t want to be rude by either snatching the handkerchief out of her hands, but he really did not want to miss this train. Could he handle it if he did miss it, sure, but it would be an inconvenience to add to an already frustrating day.

The old woman looked up at the man, a faint smile playing on her thin lips.

“I apologize, but this looks exactly like a handkerchief my late husband owned. You look like you are in a hurry, and I don’t want to make you miss your train.” She held out the handkerchief.

The man’s expression softened from his previous look of annoyance.

“Well,” he said as he took the handkerchief, “I’ve had it my entire life. I was raised in an orphanage, and I’ve never met my parents, so this is all I’ve had that connects me to them. I really appreciate you getting my attention.” He gave the woman a tight-lipped smile.

The woman returned the smile, yet it didn’t quite reach her eyes as she watched the man stuff the handkerchief back into his pocket. He glanced up at the clock yet again and decided that even if he wanted to stay and talk to this woman more, he just couldn’t afford to.

“I’m very sorry, but I have to go,” he said, backing away a few steps, “Thank you again.”

As he turned his back on the woman, ready to jog to his train, he heard her voice once again, and what she said made him freeze in place.

“John?”

Now, he knew he hadn’t given her his name, because he had never gotten hers. And his name hadn’t been on the handkerchief.

He faced her, and even though he was now a few feet away, he could see the tears welling in her eyes.

“That’s me,” he said quietly, walking towards her once again, hearing his train pull away behind him, but not caring.

She smiled, her lip quivering, and it reached her tear-filled eyes this time.

“I think I’m your mother.”


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