A wind blows in London, easterly, chilly. But the clouds part and the sun peeks through and the wind swirls down the street unperturbed. It swirls around ankles and picks up the hems of skirts and jackets. Men hold their hats on their heads, ladies curl scarves over their hair. And then just as suddenly as it comes, it dies away.
In a little ramshackle alley, a woman lands, her shoes making no sound as she alights down. She straightens both her hat and her back, raises her chin to give a definitive nod of thanks and small pride.
Crimson lips curve into a slight smile and she closes her eyes for just a moment, sunlight dancing across her face. Taking a deep breath, she strides forward. Her steps are efficient, quick and long. In her hand, a shabby parrot-handled umbrella, on her head a stylish hat decorated with flowers. She stops at the window of a small deli, smiling at her reflection and tucking the wisp of silver hair at her temple away from her face before continuing on her way.
She walks through the city, past St. Paul's Cathedral. The birds are still there, and rather fat, but their caretaker hasn't been there in several years. She bends and leaves a tuppence on the steps, knowing it will be picked up. Still, the offering seems right.
Turning down another narrow alley, she knocks on a weathered door. Her eyes light up as the door opens and a weathered old man to match the door opens it.
"Uncle Albert," says Mary Poppins, with a great deal of fondness.
"Mary, my dear!" he exclaims, shuffling to the side. "Come in, come in, my dear! You must be chilled!"
Uncle Albert looks smaller than she remembers, but then, she isn't exactly the same either. The newspaper on the end table reads November 23, 1954.
"It's quite lovely outside, actually. I was wondering if you might escort me on a walk."
He agrees instantly. It's been so long since one of his "episodes," since the beginning of the war. How much has changed.
They walk together, quite a ways. In fact, through no conscious though, their feet seem to lead them down the streets, until they find the park that is bordered by Cherry Tree Lane. It seems smaller too and the streetlights are beginning to light. No need for lamplighters anymore.
Couples stroll past them, entwined and whispering secrets and sweet nothings. A young woman laughs as a man over-gallantly offers his arm. There's a soft scent of roses in the air and a breeze picks up a loose lock of Mary's hair. She doesn't tear her eyes from the laughing girl and her beau. They're so young and full of the future. She remembers that.
Albert squeezes her hand, surely thinking the same. Perhaps thinking of his own loves lost, though Mary knows none of them. But when she looks over at him, he's smiling at her, softly, almost with pity, and she knows he's not thinking of his lost love.
But Mary smiles back; she doesn't want pity or comfort. There's no need. She feels no real sadness, not anymore. Or perhaps the profound sadness has woven its way so ineffably into her being that she feels it too acutely to know.
The young woman wobbles, her kitten heel caught on a paver. The man steadies her, hand on her waist and gripping her forearm. They laugh as if they're the only two people in the whole entire world, as if only the stars can hear. Mary once laughed like that.
She knows this couple. Oh, they're strangers to her, but she knows them. Knows them unknowably well. They're in the first flush of love, that heart-achingly sweet moment, when everything is exciting and hilarious and unique. When the world is so beautiful and kind, when there can be no bad, not when the stars have aligned and brought them together.
He'll walk her home at the end of the evening, kiss her on the stoop, and they won't want to part. They'll cling to each other for a moment, breathing and wrapped up in each other. He'll say good night, but they won't let go and he'll kiss her head, push her hair away from her face. She'll look younger, more enchanting in the golden lamplight, and she'll smile. When they finally do manage to part ways, she'll watch him go from window; he'll walk backwards and blow her a kiss as he turns a corner, big and silly as he is. It will feel like the most wonderful luck in the world to her. Her dreams will be sweet and in the morning they will see each other again.
Mary Poppins knows this as truly and surely as she would if she were a clairvoyant. She knows it in her bones.
The couple passes them and the young woman meets Mary's eyes. Mary Poppins smiles. She smiles back and Mary wishes them well in her head. She wishes them bravery and strength and every possible good thing in this world; she wishes them a lifetime of laughter and few troubles. She wishes them a lifetime of happiness.
They continue out of sight and Mary and Albert walk back to his home. The stars are out when they return and Mary sees him inside.
He implores her to stay, but she must be on her way. He insists on at least a cup of tea and she agrees, on the condition that he not set the table.
It's true night when she emerges into the air. London smells at it always has, but she's always loved the smell of London at night, soot and damp and crisp night air.
Mary Poppins looks up at the sky once more, up at the heavens; just a few stars manage to break through the lights of London, but she smiles anyway, smiles up at them with a wide grin.
She brings her hands to her lips and kisses her palm, eyes closing until she blows the kiss upwards towards those very same stars.
Her eyes glisten in the dim light. So does the wedding ring she still wears.
"Goodnight, Bert," she whispers, as she does every night. "I do love you so."
They'll meet again someday, up in the heavens, she hopes. She knows. With a swift nod, Mary Poppins raises her umbrella and continues on.