Listen when I tell you this wasn’t personal, that I never intended for you to be involved, let alone get hurt. This is my fault and I take all responsibility. You are blameless.
I look at her and, no, I look into her. Her eyes, those endless pools of mud. I start falling. I stop myself. I’ve done that a few too many times. That’s how we got here. That’s how I got us here.
She stares at me, blank, tight lipped.
I say I’m sorry.
I’m not sure how to respond to that.
“You’re a real piece of work.”
She stands up. She leaves.
Mountain. Snow, climbing. Faster faster. Keep going keep moving. Alone. See the sky, clear blue, so pale, so thin almost white. Feet slip slide down, survive. Rest, just need to rest. Five minutes maybe. Look out across the valley. Lie back. Closed eyes.
“Come over here,” he says.
“I don’t want to.”
“Why not?” He stands on the firmer, darker sand. The water laps at his feet.
“I just don’t want to.” She shrugs. “My feet will get wet.”
“The water is cool. You’ll like it.”
She trudges over. He takes her sandals and throws them on to the softer sand.
“What are you doing?”
“Take my hands.” He holds his palms open, facing up.
She places hers onto his.
He steps sideways. She follows. Water over feet. Her head flicks back, she laughs.
Face the camera please.
A little to the left. Yes that’s fine.
Turn your head to one side.
Whichever way you want.
Okay… Now the other way. Thank you.
First line please.
I hadn’t expected you so soon.
I – I had it all worked out, everything I was going to say, why this can’t go on, why I can’t go on. It’s over, I’m sorry. You know I love you.
The last line.
I love you.
You know I love you.
Take your time.
I – You know. You know I love you.
Now, they sit in the back room, among the shelves of yellowing books and with the grandfather clock looming. He can’t hear much over the persistent ticking, except for the light tap of afternoon rain on the window.
Her tortoiseshell cat hops up onto the sill, sits, face close to the glass. There’s something he’s watching.
So you went with Archimedes then?
Yes. She clutches at the teacup, sitting upright, staring at the cat.
It’s a little…
It’s very you.
She smiles, looks right through him.
Have you been up to much lately.
Nothing of interest.
And the book?
He nods. Raises an eyebrow. I can leave if you want me to.
No. I mean – stay. Please. I want you here.
He nods again.
The cat licks a paw, stops, lifts its head. They hold their breath. Then it jumps down, darting off between the furniture, its collar offering up a gentle tinkle.
The clock chimes three times.
I think you’re done for tonight, Bill.
One more. He tapped the bar.
The landlord sighed. Same as before?
Moving up in the world, eh?
Bill smirked. One for the road.
That one. His finger pointed in the vague direction of some bottles.
This one? The landlord held his hand to a ten year.
One on the left.
An eyebrow raised. Don’t think many people would call that a Scotch.
It’ll do, Bill said.
Bill’s glass was washed out and filled up. He clasped it between his fingers and, starting slow, pressed it against his lips. As the glass emptied, his head tilted back. He paused there, waiting for more.
He placed the glass down on the bar.
A hand covered the glass. The landlord shook his head. No more.
Simon checked his watch again. A little over seventeen minutes, so far. He shifted on the seat, rolled his ankle to work the blood back into his leg.
Soft footsteps further up the corridor caught his attention. A squeak as rubber turned on polished floor. A flutter of white cotton.
He tapped his knee, picked up a magazine, same one as before. Opened it at the middle. Same article, same page. As before.
“Yes.” He looked up. “Is everything – is she okay?”
A gentle, sympathetic smile.
“She’s ready to see you now. “