Varsha (Monsoon) 2021 Stories - Laurence Stevens


Before You Know It
By Laurence Stevens


“Beautiful flowers,” said the taxi driver.

John Steinman pulled theflaps of his jacket tautand closed the car door.He leaned back in his seat and faced the driver, a wrinkled man with a bald head and kind green eyes.

“For my wife,” he said.“It’s her birthday.”

“I guessed as much. And wine, too. I can see you’re in for a pleasant evening.”

“She doesn’t drink,actually. It’s my bad habit, thoughonly occasionally.”

“Well, I’m sure you’ll have a wonderful evening. Where can I take you?”

“Rose Street, please, up on Crosby Hill.”

“I know it.”

The driver turned, started the engine, and nudged the car into the flow of afternoon traffic. Steinman placed the flowers and wine on the adjacent seat and gazed out the window. Looking at the trafficstreaming by, hewasrelievedto have left work early. He was sure to miss the rush hour and could spend more time with his wife, Clara.

“I buy flowers for my wifeevery year on her birthday. And the Raffaello chocolates, of course. Couldn’t forget them,” said the driver. “They’re her favourite.”

“How long have you been married?” said Steinman.

“50 years, said the driver, peering at Steinman in the rear-view mirror.

“Which anniversary is that? Gold?” said Steinman.

“Spot on. 18 when we married. Want to hear my number one secret for keeping a happy marriage?”

“Sure,” said Steinman.

“Put your wife first, in everything you do, and love her with everything you have.”

Steinman smiled in the rear-view mirror and looked at the taxi floor.

“It’s not rocket science, but it’s true. I took a fayre the other day. You’ll never guess what they asked me?” said the driver.


The taxi driverpausedhis story andslowed at the junction to turn left onto Stansdale Drive. Steinman noted thesmell of breath mints and leatheron the air as the car fan began circulating a warm breeze.

“We were chatting, just like you and me are now, and they asked what I’d choose for myfinal meal,money no object. Can you believe it?” said the driver with a laugh.

“Why do you find it so unbelievable?”

“Because it misses the point, doesn’t it?”


“At that stage, it doesn’t matter what you eat, it’s about who you’re eating with. Give me a cheese roll and a cup of tea for all I care. All I want’s is my wife, my family.”

Steinman gazed out the window.The procession of cars grew thinner as they approached the edge of town, replaced by trees and houses with neat gardens and driveways.They sat in silence for the next mile, watching the suburbsfly by, though Steinman saw little past his reflection in the car window.

“Do you tell her you love her?” said the driver.

“Not as often as I’d like to,”said Steinman, still staring.

“You do love her though; I can see in your eyes. I have a sixth sense for these things.”

“More than anything,” said Steinman, turning to the driver.

“Like I said, old Winston knows these things,” said the driver, tapping his nose.

“I’ll stop here, please.”

The driver slowed the car and stopped on a quiet street next to the entrance of a park. The road was quiet and lined on both sides with bungalow houses fronted by ornate bushes and colourful flowers.

“Is here ok?” said the driver, turning to face Steinman.

“Perfect, thank you.”

“Lovely area, this. That’ll be five pounds, please.”

Steinman handed the driver a 10-pound note.

“Keep the change.”

“Thank you.And happy birthday to your wife. Remember what I said. Life goes fast. Before you know it, you’ll be old like me.Make sure you make the most of it.”

“Thank you,” said Steinman.

Steinman exited the car and walked into the park. A fresh, astringent smell filled his nostrils as green clumps of mown grass littered the park.At the end of the park, Steinman walked into a narrow alley, emerging on the other side to afield ringed by thick bushes and accessed via a wooden gate. By the side of the gate hung a black sign. Steinman entered the gate, walked up a gentle hill and took a left at a row of graves covered in gold script, every name and date burned into his memory.

“Happy birthday, my darling,” said Steinman, leaning down and placing the flowers on Clara’s grave. “I met a lovely man on the way here. You would’ve liked him.”



Laurence Stevens is a UK-based writer and marketing professional. He has previously worked as a copywriter and an associate editor at a national daily newspaper and has been writing professionally for more than seven years. A booklet he wrote was selected for publication by Kingston University Press to raise funds for the Iris Murdoch Archive and he has written creatively for brands like LG, Hilton Hotels, Amazon, and many more.


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