‘I come here every year on my birthday, without fail,’ she said. ‘I always see every gallery, if I can – it takes all day. It’s my special present to myself.’
He followed her from one painting to the next. She paused when he fell behind. They discovered a common love of the impressionists and the “old world”. He queued for their lunches in the cafeteria, while she saved a table. He listened attentively as she told him about her plans when she finished university, but she never once asked him what he “did”. He kept reminding himself to ask her for her phone number, but her smile made him forget.
When the closing bell sounded she excused herself to go to the ladies room, so he told her he’d wait at the main exit. When she failed to appear, the guard revealed there was another exit on the other side of the building. He circled its walls, from one exit to the other and back again, but she had vanished.
Every year, on her birthday, without fail, he would stand patiently by the entrance until noon, waiting for Sonia.
This story is complete fiction and has no relation to the person appearing in this photograph.