UNTITLED (388 words)
You weren’t coming back. I see that now. But had it really taken a pre-dawn walk on Christmas morning to untangle my thoughts and clear my clouded vision?
Yes, should the truth be told. It had.
I had lain awake for hours – body tired, mind agitated, and senses heightened in the dark. Aware of the warmth of my breath in the chill of the room. Aware of the empty space in the bed beside me. Aware of the faint scent of you on the pillow-case that I hadn’t changed since you left. Or did I imagine the trace of your after-shave, like I imagined there was substance in your vague promises of coming home when you’d ‘got your head on straight’?
When? When had it seemed like a good idea to swing my legs out of bed, pull jeans and a jumper over my pyjamas and go downstairs? Thrust sockless feet into fleece-lined boots and cocoon the rest of me until only dark-circled eyes remained visible? And then to head outside, into a world that stole my breath away.
Dark, clear and crystalline. Beautiful and scary.
My feet chose their own direction, boots crunching in the snow, and somehow I found myself at the children’s play area. I lay on the frosted bench and stared upwards, at knots of silver starlight embroidering a petrol-blue vapour sky, while air weighted with ice crystals scoured my lungs as I breathed. My mind stilled. I closed my eyes and relaxed… just for a moment…
Car tyres swished. Not slowing. Not belonging. But dragging me out of my refuge, nonetheless.
I walked back the other way, past Christmas decorations of a different kind. A bottle wrapped in tinsel tucked carefully into the corner of a window ledge. A lettuce and tomato garnish in the snow at the side of the road.
I passed Shaheed’s still shuttered doorway and stopped at the sound of a soft mewl. A scrawny black cat, little more than a kitten, spat at me as I reached towards her, a weak, half-hearted defence. I snatched her up and my heart contracted. She was frozen, almost weightless. Your allergy to cats had never allowed it, but since that no longer mattered, I tucked her inside my jacket, into the curve of my swollen belly and took her home.