- Vol. 09
- Chapter 02
Shortly after we had woken you persuaded me to head to the woods, the early dawn light a cheap draw. That morning the air was wet, the open bedroom window had let slip that the rain had been steady all night. The damp gravel underfoot deadened the sound of our steps out of the house. Let’s go through the cemetery, you had suggested, choosing the shorter path; it took us through a kissing gate. I went first, you followed; you stopped though, I heard you, to catch whether I might linger in the hinged enclosure, to make something of the moment. I sashayed through determinedly, keeping my back to you. A wall.
The nettles, abundant irritations, were unforgiving. We took the muddied trail, a meagre clearing, that offered some respite. The woods came into view quickly, on the turn of a corner, in some ways too soon, so I decided we should take the longer route. Besides the path ahead was reassuringly even, reason enough for me to scupper your plans. Let’s turn off here, I suggested — precisely as I did so. Now we passed the stables, crossed a courtyard of worn paviors and cobbles. Workman’s tools, hoe, shovel, rake, were tidily stacked in a wheelbarrow parked against a low tower of bricks. A slim fault in the earth and we had made it to the field, our detour to the copse.
It wasn’t September yet but there was the trick of colour. The bronze fringe along each serrated edge of the hornbeam’s fall distracted me as I scuffed through the grass; long, arching blades. We avoided cobwebs, horizontal lattice pads, shyly translucent under the brief sun. There was a wooden fence marking a paddock. I looked across, spotting an Oldenburg.
Your strides were larger than mine. Generously you stopped ahead to wait for me. You extended your arm to offer your hand as I approached you. I took it; also, I curled my fingers through yours so that there was nothing left between our two palms. You looked at the ground as we ambled on. A shadow trailed your right side. For no reason, I thought about what you would be like in old age. Your prime etched into the grooves of our time together.