The End of Winter
By Anne Brooke
Rain tumbles down. Every drop scars his skin but he pays it no heed. It’s irrelevant. Because he’s waiting for her. He’ll go on waiting for her for as long as it takes. Behind him, the wall he’s leaning on feels like the only support he has. There’s nobody around and he’s glad of it.
It’s midnight. February. The end of winter. The house he’s gazing at – her house – is dark. Nobody at home. He doesn’t know where she is. Maybe out with friends or something. She always was a people person. Still is, he imagines. Not that he really knows what a “people person” is. Whatever, he doesn’t think he’s ever been one.
Nothing to do but wait.
Reaching into his pocket, he takes out his cigarette packet and then his lighter. The flame is a small welcoming beacon in the darkness immediately around him. He wishes he was warm but the smoke gives him a hint of the comfort he once possessed. A memory of her. While he’s smoking, a car drives past, doesn’t slow down. He hunches himself further into his jacket and feels the rain ease down his neck. When he’s finished the cigarette, he crushes the stub out on the pavement with his boot.
Nothing else to do now.
He shuts his eyes. In the fragile barrier he’s created between himself and the rest of the world, he remembers.
The soft touch of her skin, the mole at the top of her leg, the way her eyes crinkled at the edges when she laughed. He’d always loved her laughter. It took him out of himself, made him think there might be more to life than anything he knew. She made him dream. He liked that.
He’d never dreamt she might leave him. He’d always feared it.
When he opens his eyes, for a moment his vision is blurred. But blinking restores the clarity.
Nothing has changed. He should go home. He’s being crazy, and he doesn’t like the way that makes him feel.
He’s just propelled himself away from the wall and has taken the first few steps of the long walk home when lights flash at the corner of the road. A moment later, her car draws up opposite him.
She gets out.
He waits again.
Finally, she walks across to him. Under the street light, her fair hair glistens in the rain. She’s wearing a green coat. He hasn’t seen it before.
As he stares down at her, he knows she’s remembering too. He has no idea what he came here for or what he’s going to do now. Maybe seeing her once more is enough. He doesn’t know.
Before he is aware of the movement, her hand is stroking his face. Her fingers feel cold. He wants to touch her but understands he no longer has the right. He should leave. He will soon.
‘Go home, Jack,’ she whispers. ‘Go home. It’s the end of winter.’