MalcolmMalcolm heard the door open behind him. The caress of expensive, flowery perfume soothed stale air as a smartly-dressed woman brushed past, then sat on a chair on the other side of the desk. Malcolm saw metal bars on the windows beyond. I’m in a nut-house, he thought.

Moments later, this impression was reinforced when the woman rose from the chair, marched over to where Malcolm sat, hitched up her dress and pulled down her panties. Then she peed in the bucket.

Malcolm looked first at her face, then at her stoop. Steam wafted out from the gap between white, stocking-topped thighs, and the bucket. Then he heard urine rattling around inside and saw it dribble out through tiny holes in its base.

The door opened and Doctor Kumar entered. “Come, Judy. That’s not a nice way to welcome Malcolm now, is it?” he said. Judy sniffed, finished what she was doing, pulled up her panties then strode out as if counting the cracks on the ceiling.

The doctor offered Malcolm his hand. “Doctor Kumar. That was Judy, a patient,” said Dr Kumar, deadpan.

Definitely a nut house, thought Malcolm…

Malcolm sat, but did not eat any of his food. He was not left alone for long. A student nurse, instructed to keep an eye on him, sat beside him. “You okay?” she said.

Malcolm turned away and looked through the bars. He saw a garden and an oak bench on the other side.

The nurse took Malcolm’s hand as tears streamed down his face. In his mind, he was seeing his beloved Paula sitting on the bench. She laughed. He did, now, and recalled the moment he knew that he loved her…

It was summer. Paula was reclining in a hammock in Malcolm’s back garden. Her white cotton, gypsy-style skirt hung down from one side, brushing the ground. The hammock swung lazily in a balmy June breeze. She hummed her favourite tune while reading a book.

Entranced by the sight, Malcolm watched from an upstairs window for a while, then he pursed his lips and blew a soft kiss in Paula’s direction. She looked up, and said, “Hi.”

The sun lit Paula’s face from behind as her floppy summer hat tilted his way.

This was, for Malcolm, a moment of sublime purity; the moment he knew he loved this woman more than anything.

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