Ben sat on the bench overlooking the swing. A young girl - maybe four years old - ran up to the swing, clumsily through the sand. Her hair was blonde, and long. Ben imagined that hair so clearly, that for a moment he could actually smell it - in his mind, like a memory - and the smell made his heart race.
The girl mounted the swing, eventually, with her back towards Ben. She began to shake the suspension chains back and forward, willing the swing to work.
Ben smiled. He resisted the impulse to run down and give her a push; to share the joy of an innocent child, squealing in delight.
"Daddy," the girl called out, in the petulant voice that young girls have, "give me a push!"
The girl's father was on the bench on the other side of the park, engrossed in his newspaper. He didn't seem to hear his precious girl, calling out for his attention.
Ben looked at the girl, and felt a pang in his chest. If I were your daddy, I'd give you a push. I would love you.
Ben knew he should stop coming to the park, to look at the children. The warmth it brought to his heart for a moment always seemed to be overpowered by the long cold ache of loneliness, and the loathing. He loathed the mums and dads that didn't love and nurture and protect their children, but left them to roam the park like those who let their dog off the leash to scamper around for a while.
How easy it would be, to just take a child from here... if you were so inclined. Ben got up from the bench, and walked away. He knew he couldn't come back now. He knew he couldn't keep thinking like this, about other peoples children. He knew he needed to abandon all hope of finding comfort in the joy of other people's children, and confine himself to his memories, and to his photo album of Sarah. Poor little, innocent Sarah. She had done nothing wrong to be in the car with her mother that night. She didn't deserve to have a drunk driver smash into the side of the car, killing them both instantly.
Ben's loathing turned back onto himself as he walked home, realising what he had become; that he now felt more pity for himself, than for the wife and daughter he had lost in an instant. He spat into the gutter and tucked his head down as he continued on, willing himself to change, for their sakes.