You awake beside him. Watch him sleep. His closed eyelids flicker and you rest a hand on his cheek. He doesn’t wake. You know already that it is too late for the both of you. Get up, and put on your shoes. Put on the black ones with the thick soles, the ones that water wouldn’t dare penetrate. You’re already dressed. Take your bag, but don’t turn around to look at him as you leave. If you’re going to leave, you’ve got to do it with your whole heart. You mustn’t look to him anymore. He doesn’t stir. Close the door behind you quietly.
It’s cold outside. Autumn is growing frosty; you can see your breath hover before your face. Think back to him; remember the way that he used to use the winter air as a fake cigarette, and how you never laughed. Now try to forget it. Walk toward the station. Pull your collar about your face and wish that you’d brought a scarf out with you. Wish that you owned a scarf. You can always buy one. Maybe she could knit you one. Outside the darkness holds a glimmer of light, the way that it does when the moon is so big and bright that it acts as a street lamp. You look for the moon, but you can’t find it among the houses and trees. It’s silent. There is nobody around and you don’t need to feel frightened. You feel so anyway. You think of ghosts and of strange men that could follow you.
You’ve been walking for five minutes. You know that this means there are only another five minutes to go if you take the normal route, through the high street. You weigh up the pros and cons. You decide that you’d rather not deal with the drunken cries of youths as they get kicked out of nightclubs. You’ll take the shortcut instead, which you never normally do. It’s simply a path under a bridge; it’s nothing to worry about. This is what you tell yourself, and yet, as you walk, you can’t help but remember that story about the boy that fell in the canal whilst he was drunk. Try to push it out of your mind. As you pass under the bridge and focus on your steps upon the gravelly path, the light of the moon cuts out. You reach for your phone and try to use its glow as a torch, but you find that it makes the air around you all the darker. It seems to creep around your shoulders and pull at your shoes, trying to trip you, trying to trick you. You can see the end of the passage up ahead, the station lights flicker above the sign. Keep moving your feet along the path, make your strides long and purposeful, but don’t run. People get into trouble when they run, and anyway, you don’t have anything to run away from.
As you step out of the darkness, take a deep breath in and realise that the air no longer smells like dank and stale water. The moon welcomes you to your destination, the bulb above the station sign stops faltering as if to comfort you. Stand below it and wait. You only have to wait for a minute. There she is, climbing out of a taxi before you. She smiles a big smile and rushes over to hold you. You bury your face into her scarf and smell the mixture of perfume and something else, something that belongs to her only. She squeezes your hand and kisses you gently on the lips.
“Are you ready?” she asks. Nod to her. You’re ready.
Rachel Grosvenor is a writer from Birmingham, currently finishing an MA in Creative Writing. She spends her days drinking good coffee, hanging around Oxfam, and trying to squeeze witticisms into 140 characters.