“Why what?” Beth asked quietly.
Alex looked down at her. “Why are you scared of me?”
“I... I don’t know,” she breathed. “I don’t know.”
“I would never hurt you. Never,” he promised. He was angry with himself for saying it; he didn’t know if it was a promise he could keep.
It was quite for a minute, before Beth spoke. “I’m sorry for listening to your conversation. I didn’t mean to; I was going to ask you what was going on between us. I’m sorry.”
“There was no harm done,” he said, a small smile crossing his lips for only a fraction of a second.
Alex sat down beside Beth again, taking her hands in his. He realised that he hadn’t actually answered her original question, nor did he intend to. Not quite yet; he wasn’t ready, and neither was she. Not for one of his darkest secrets. If she asked again, however, and he still wasn’t ready to tell her, he would have to lie, or tell her. He could see in her eyes that she also knew he hadn’t answered it, but she wasn’t going to push it. Not now at least.
Alex was still on edge. He knew that nothing could relax him, except... No. He still wouldn’t think of that, not yet. Maybe later, when Beth had gone home. Even then, he might—no, he thought, reprimanding himself for even thinking about it.
Alex sighed, leaning his forehead on Beth’s. He closed his eyes, simply taking in the scent of her skin, the scent of her fading perfume, the scent of her hair. Then Beth leant forward and pressed her lips against his—the worst thing she could have done at that moment. Suddenly, Alex was faced with a problem with two possible solutions: move away, or do the unthinkable...
Catalin was walking through the forest, still wearing the clothes she’d worn to school. She hardly noticed the snow melting into the fabric and into her hair. The snow was still coming down heavily, but Catalin was mainly shielded from the worst of it by the dense trees.
Occasionally, she would see little animal tracks in the deep snow. She followed the tracks subconsciously. The hooves of deer, the small paw prints of a fox, or sometimes a badger, all desperate to find cover.
Catalin wandered into a small clearing. There was a tent in the centre and its owner seemed to be trying to take it down, an impossible job with the thick layer of snow that was still falling. The middle-aged woman seemed to be determined to get her tent down, and then it and herself into the Land Rover a few metres away.
“You okay there?” Catalin asked loudly, making the woman jump.
“Oh yes, fine, thank you.” She obviously wasn’t.
“Yes. My husband’s away on business and my daughter didn’t want to come; she’s at that age, you see.”
Catalin nodded as if she understood. Walking closer to the woman, Catalin began to think. There was no one else out here in the whole forest, except for this woman. She could do it easily. No one would know, not for a little while at least. Then suddenly she thought of Alex. It had been even longer for him. But he had Beth, if only he’d tell her.