“Can’t you just taste the possibilities?” May said, cocking an arm above one bony hip. “I’m thinking high end restaurant; lamb chops smeared with mint jelly.”
“You’ve quite lost your mind this time,” Russell said. The hall was a mess of mortar dust and broken glass. A grand piano lay overturned at one end.
“Oh, Russell, you always say that at first.” May patted his arm and bustled into the ruin.
Russell looked up, as much to avoid what he’d already seen as to see something new. The ceiling retained some of its original majesty, sweeping panels tapered to a domed center and borders of high-relief cornice. A proud place, resolute, clinging to the essence of what it once was. That must be what drew May.
She would see potential in a board slanting from asphalt. London hadn’t been much more than that, an empty lot overgrown with weeds, one upright pillar and a portion of brick wall. Do you see it, Russell? A skating rink. There’s the center. Can’t you just hear the children whizzing past, round and round, laughing, the clump of skate wheels on a wooden floor?
A crash brought Russell back to his present circumstance. May had heaved a broken sconce onto a pile of similar refuse.
“Here,” Russell said, reaching for his pocket. “I’ve got a match. We’ll kabob lamb over the blaze.”
May’s laughter swirled through the hall like birds swooping. “Six months, Russell, give me six months and you’ll never recognize the place.”
A knot twisted Russell’s throat. Six months, twice as long as the doctors gave her. He’d brought her to Greece hoping to spend their last days in peaceful reflection, sunsets from the beach, the taste of olives on their tongues.
She was watching him, one foot on the rubble pile like a hunter posing with her kill. Her gaze was steady, expression flat. She waited for him to make up his mind; would it be a pile of tears or a stiff upper lip?
“One more?” she said, tentative for her, assertive from anyone else.
Russell wiped his eyes with a sleeve. He nodded. One more.
“Where do we begin?” he croaked into the echoing room.
Stephen V. Ramey has been published on Strange Horizons and PodCastle as well as in Triangulation: Taking Flight. He lives and writes in New Castle, PA USA, where he regularly visits the odd ducks that live along the river.