1932. Louis marveled at the coin. The one-pence piece was from 1932, which meant that not only was he holding (with great delicacy) a coin that had survived since before his grandfather was born, but now his collection was complete. He'd been collecting since his mother died, picking up where she left off.
So, really, it was her collection. Louis smiled to himself, his mind swelling with sudden importance. He was going to help her finish it. If she were alive, she would be so proud.
Because he was focusing his time and effort on important things. Not frivolous things, like being a good citizen or convincing his boss that he was, in fact, worthwhile. Coin-collecting.
In his defence, most people just stepped on these things, having absolutely no appreciation for the finest things in life. They stepped on things like memories and history every day—a ripped-up newspaper from last week, containing the obituaries of one of Westerharrow's most famous writers, Carl Harpton, and of Mrs Salisbury, the old cat lady next door; coins from 1932 completing the legacy of a mother to her firstborn son; a rag from the homeless man down the street whom Louis was fairly sure had been there since around 1932, as well.
"Where did you get that?" demanded a sharp, familiar voice.
Louis looked up; his mouth melted into a grin. "Hana!"
"It's from 1932, you know." She sat down matter-of-factly next to him. There were not many other passengers on the Tube at this time of day; the seats were mostly empty, as it was so early in the morning. She could have gotten on any car, found a seat next to any young man sipping a paper cup of coffee as he fought the morning drudgery of a new eight-hour shift.
(Louis might have lost some of his optimism from his younger days. At least he had never lost his fascination with coins.)
"I'm aware. Where have you been?"
Hana smoothed out her skirt.
"I got married," she said primly.
Louis' face fell. "Oh."
He should have suspected as much, and now he chastised himself for never having thought of it. Of course, when she'd disappeared to the States for three years, she would meet the man of her dreams and find a house with a white picket fence and live that "American Dream" that citizens of the States liked to concern themselves with so much. Of course, she probably had a daughter right now that had the same pretty slanted eyes that she had and was a two-year-old version of herself and the mystery man who had claimed her heart. Of course, some man—probably some sodding git who didn't know the difference between a Cornish pasty and spotted dick—would seduce her with his American accent and his artistic nature and they would make a nice happy family together and raise their three children in that damn house with that damn picket fence—
And then a slap hit him squarely in the face. "You didn't even check my left hand for a ring."
Ow. That hurt. Louis scrunched up his nose from the pain, entirely confused.
"I came back for you, you wanker."
Louis' heart jumped. He looked at her hand.
There was no picket fence. There was no man, no American accent, no daughter sharing Hana's half-Japanese, half-Korean eyes, no artistic nature. She'd come back for him, for his failing skill with paints and his job in a cubicle writing greeting cards (personally, he'd thought "happy birthday" was a brilliant message to send a person on his birthday—there was a reason things were cliché, and Louis liked to keep them that way—why ruin something already perfect?).
Any thoughts about 1932 by that point were out the window. 1932 could go sod itself. Hana Jarkeni had returned for him.