It was all so familiar: The luscious green foliage of the wisteria which entwined around the old post-box at the end of Tod Close. I touched it furtively with the tips of my fingers and felt it slip away like a snowflake evaporating in the sunlight. My heart raced as I spotted the weather-beaten thatch of the house nestled under the shadow of the resplendent oak tree. Acorns, cosy in their woollen hats, spied on me from their leathery lobed leaves. The roof of his car glinted in the sunshine; he was undoubtedly at home.
It was then that I saw my reflection for the first time after it had happened. My erstwhile brunette hair now looked grey and brittle, lifelessly hanging beneath my rib cage. I searched for my face, but saw only a blank canvass staring back at me. My piercing green eyes penetrated the depths of what was left of my soul. I stroked my left cheek, hoping it would be soft and plump, but instead, it was waxy and paper-thin. I longed for it to be an illusion, but alas, I knew – this was me now, nothing could change that, I just had to try to accept it. Hopefully he would too. My footsteps quickened as I neared the gravel pathway. Next to the doorway, an anaemic rose was yearning for existence, craving affection. I empathised with its solitude, for so was I.
I stealthily slipped through the doorway in search of him. Climbing the stairs ahead, I made straight for his office, expecting to find him perched at his desk just as he used to be. The stifled creak of the floorboards echoed unnervingly around the stairwell as I tried to move unnoticed. The door was slightly ajar, and I peered around looking for him; he was not there. Papers were strewn all over the desk and a half-finished cup of coffee was placed precariously on his bookshelf. The room looked dusty and unkempt. Frantically, I turned my back and retraced my steps to think again. Where would I find him? The door to the kitchen was closed. Surely, he had to be there.
I put my ear to the old, wooden door and I could hear faint movements inside. This was my moment. It had to be done. I gently tried to push the door open, but my hand glided through the solid frame like water through a sieve. There he was, his back turned against me. I felt a sudden rush of exhilaration, overwhelmed by the sensation of his being. I stared at him, paralysed with fear, but there was no turning back. I could feel those three words bubbling up in my chest, hotter and hotter, aching to get out and my hands were trembling and I had to clench my jaw to stop and say something and –
And then, astoundingly, I did. But nothing, not a single syllable came out. All I could see was cold air leaving my mouth.
Then he turned towards the doorway. Perhaps he had heard me after all? I stretched out my arms to him, craving his embrace, His pace quickened as he neared me. I savoured the anticipation of his presence and understood that this would be something etched deep in my heart forever. I counted down his steps, hoping he had forgiven me. Three. I held my breath. Two. I closed my eyes. One.
And just as Proust was transported back to Venice when he stumbled upon those uneven cobbles, I, too, was transported back to a summer’s day many years ago, where we lay in the garden, watching the clouds. I could almost hear him whining, “Mum, can we please go to the park now?”. I stood there, transfixed, feeling the old summer sun warm my pallid face, but I knew this was but some reverie, for he called me “Samantha” now, not “mum”. He strolled through my body like a stranger’s passing shadow, and in that instant, my dream had become a nightmare. He was gone.
Just as that bus had crushed my body, I felt my heart shatter. The truth bore down on me like the bonnet which reduced my bones to dust. Tears streamed down my face. They never seemed to stop, just like those murderous wheels. Oh, why did my life have to end like that?
Inconsolable, I shuffled out of the house. Even the clouds, warmly enveloping the sun, seemed to taunt me. A lonely rose petal lay on the ground, shrivelled, wasted, drained of its elixir. I went gentle into that good night.