The cold is vengeful. It’s bitter. It carries a mace, and its teeth are long and sharp and pointy. Its breath is a painful gale, the winds of which find their way up sleeves, through cuffs, goosebumps all along arms and legs. They make necks shiver. Hair stand on end, eyes water, noses drip… fingers turn to steel.
There is blossom on trees but frost pushes its way out of the earth in place of pale seedlings. Daffodils nodding in the sun but every breath you exhale is a puff of frothing cloud.
When she finally saw him walking along the road, striding confidently through the crowd, she noticed the smile on his face. Satisfied, self assured, sun in his eyes, walking on a cloud.
She drew back immediately.
She didn’t know what she was expecting. A sombre face? In one of the biggest cities on earth? Sunshine, after months of grey – was she expecting to see him depressed?
My spirits are low, Laura. He had written. Low, down to the ground. The men tread on them with their freshly shined boots, the women trip over them in their finery, the children yank at them, but they do not rise.
And she was here, his saviour, she had thought, but no. He was jauntily walking through this town. His town. What could she possibly bring from the muddy, countryside that could outshine the triumph of this place?
She slid backwards, further into the shadows, while he walked through the sunshine. The cold brick wall behind her seemed to seep into her coat, her back prickled and an icy pain took hold of her.
I have had a blow, Laura. I often stop myself from reaching out to you when I feel this way. To hear your words of wisdom – always wisdom, solace, calmness, joy, even. Joyful naivety, I call it. But one needs that in a pressing world where one’s thoughts threaten to drown a fellow.
So she came. She packed her carpetbag, she caught the train, in her drab red coat and her best hat – which, here, among the fine women of the big city, looked akin to something the dog had been chewing on.
She is nothing special. Nothing real. Nothing.
She turned, and fled.