August... The middle of August, to be more exact… threeweeks after mine and Ben’s argument, fall out, break up, whatever you wanted to call it. Either way, I hadn’t spoken to him; I was far too upset to confront him… the person I thought I loved.
For the first few days he’d stayed as a guest in the McFarlow home trying persistently to clear his name and beg for forgiveness, only to be ignored by myself. Yes, I felt awful about it but he’d hurt me so much and I wanted him to know how much it had affected me.
After the numerous failed attempts, he soon got the picture and packed his bags. Mum had told me he’d booked into the little Bed and Breakfast in the village, in case I needed to see him anytime soon. She also said he’d left me a letter but I’d refused to take it. I didn’t want to hear his petty cries of forgiveness out loud, let alone in writing. Heck, I’d already received hundreds of text messages from him that were instantly deleted after being skim read first.
I’d spent the majority of the past weeks either in my bedroom with James or in the garden by myself. I’d made Mum swear that she wouldn’t let anyone try to talk me out of my decision – not even her – as I was fully decided to the point where any brash, sudden change of mind would cause disastrous results for both I and others around me.
On one particular cloudy morning, I found myself sat on the black painted, rusty metal bench on the patio, starring out onto the landscape around me. I’d seen it in better light – better weather – but it looked different… colder…
My life had become much frostier than it had previously been and I hated it. I despised having to put on a brave, smiling face whenever I was with James. I hated how he was the spitting image of his father. Every time I looked at him I saw Ben and every time I thought of Ben I wanted to scream and cry.
I wiped away the escaped tear drop from my cheek and took a deep breath in. The air was cold and the whistle of the wind whirled around my ears singing a sad little song as it did so.
Light footsteps broke the silent song of the wind as someone approached me from the house behind me. I didn’t turn to see who it was… I already knew.
He sat down beside me, in his worn jeans and burgundy knitted jumper, and looked out at the picture before us. He said nothing to me; he knew that it was the last thing I wanted at that given moment. He knew that he’d hurt me and he knew that there was nothing he could do to change it. He knew that he was to blame.
His presence was both appreciated and unwanted, though I knew that I needed him there beside me purely to keep me sane… to remind me that it had happened and that my recovery would be slow and sometimes emotionally painful. He understood this and wanted it to be as painless as possible. He was sorry for what he’d done and wanted to make things better.
“It’s cold.” I murmured, hugging my body tighter in my arms. He turned to face me and sighed. My gaze remained upon the hills but I knew that he was concerned for me… longing for me to return to my old self.
“Yeah, it’s worse in the winter,” he replied, “I remember someone saying once that their heating stopped working one time and they had to wrap up in near enough ten layers to keep warm… poor souls.”
“I’d hate to live up here all the time. I don’t like being cold. I like to be warm.” I answered. I’d questioned whether I was truly meant to live in a country far away from the equator… away from the heat. I’d always loved being in the Sun and thrived on holidays abroad as a child with Mum. Jamaica, Greece, Australia, America, anywhere that was hot all year round, I wanted to be there… live there!
“Maybe you should go inside then? Or wrap a cardigan around your shoulders? You’re wearing barely anything.” He answered, pointing out the obvious. I’d chosen to dress myself in a pair of denim shorts, a thin vest top and strappy sandals; not particularly the most sensible of choices for this particular day. I didn’t respond to his suggestion and he didn’t expect me to reply. He’d studied me intensely and could read me like a book: he knew me far too well.
A tickle ran across my shoulders as the touch of itchy wool covered them. He’d taken the option of sacrificing his own warmth because he couldn’t bear to see me suffering against the mild, Scottish climate. I pulled the sleeves around me tightly and breathed in the dusty smell it held. The corners of my mouth twitched, and a smile briefly emerged on my face.
“Thank you,” I murmured, closing my eyes and listening to the world around me. He needn’t reply, for both he and I knew that I was appreciative for this kind gesture. The proximity between the two of us had grown smaller as his body weight had made an impact on the bench seat. We were close beside each other with his body heat adding extra warmth; this was enough to show that he was welcome.
The dense fog filled my nostrils as it entwined itself around the sweet pollen of wildflowers and the crisp scent of oak, maple and fern leaves. There’s one thing I did envy about this place and it was its surroundings. To be surrounded by nature near enough all of the time was a blessing that I wished I could experience more when I was at home.
I removed my right hand from the tight grasp around the entwined sleeves of the jumper wrapped around my shoulders and placed it to the seat of the bench. My palm was facing downwards, making the tips of my fingers tingle against the metal seat. His touch sent electricity surging up my arm when his hand cupped mine. He fit his fingers in the spaces between mine – a perfect fit – and held onto me tight, not wanting to let go.
The sky had turned grey, sure signs of rain, and the silence had grown into angry ripples of thunder in the distance.
“It’s going to rain.” I said matter-of-factly, stating the obvious and not removing my gaze from the landscape in front of me.
“Yes, you should probably come inside,” He suggested, standing to his feet with my hand still in his. I let it drop back to my lap. He sighed, placing his hands in his pockets, “you’ll get wet.” I didn’t reply.
I felt the splash of water on the tip of my nose and smiled weakly. The clouds had broken and they were sharing my sorrows and weeping across the Scottish hills. The rain began to fall fast. I watched as the denim on my shorts magically turned from a light of blue to a slightly darker, sludgy blue. I was soaked within minutes of the rain fall, as was he.
“You’re going to get ill if you stay out here. Please, come inside with me where it’s warm. You’re freezing,” he urged, noticing the shivers running across my shoulders and down my spine, “please, don’t make me force you inside.” I didn’t reply. He sighed, annoyed, and took his hands out of his pocket, pulling me up to my feet by the hand on my lap.
Our eyes met for the first time since he’d come outside to join me. They were sad and yearning for me. I sighed and looked away from him, staring down at my feet.
“I’m sorry. I’ve been awful.” I murmured, attempting to move away from him but being held in the place I stood by the firm clasp of his hands in mine.
“You’ve not been awful you’re just suffering from a broken-heart. I don’t blame you for acting this way. It’s my fault you’re feeling like this and I hate myself for putting you through it. I wish I could have changed things… made sure it didn’t happen… I can’t bear to see you hurt.” He placed his hand gently under my chin and lifted it up so that I was, once again, looking directly into his eyes. He loved me and I could honestly say, from the bottom of my heart, that I would be lying if I said I didn’t love him back. I reached up towards him and kissed him hard, yearning for the taste of his lips as he yearned for my touch. He responded how I expected, wrapping his arms around my torso and taking me off my feet. I held onto him around his neck and never wanted to let go. I love him… I loved him.
The rain poured hard down on us and we were both soaked to the bone. One of us was bound to become ill but neither of us cared, so long as we were together. Through the heavy rain a woman’s voice could be heard crying over the gushes of water, calling out to us. We parted lips and he turned to face them.
“Is it time?” I asked him, unlocking my arms from his neck and removing myself from his hold, “Are you going back?” he looked down to the ground and nodded. I sighed, tucking a thick clump of wet hair behind my ear and crossing my arms.
“I’ll call you when I get there, I promise.” He told me, placing a hand on my shoulder and looking me in the eye again; they were full of sadness again. I nodded as I felt my eyes well up. He leaned down towards me and kissed me softly for the last time before turning back towards the house.
I stood still for a few moments before reacting to the call of my name from the house. I looked up and saw Teresa’s figure in the doorway, ushering me to come inside with her hand. I didn’t resist and obeyed her command, like a dog. I plodded across the slippery, wet patio to be greeted with her stern expression.
“You’re wet through, Casey,” she moaned, tutting to herself at my idiocy, “you’re bound to catch a cold now!”
“I’m sorry,” I replied, stepping inside the cottage and moving towards the far side of the small corridor, which lead to the kitchen, “I was… a bit preoccupied.”
“Yes, I could see that,” she mentioned under her breath, shutting the back door behind her and locking it shut, “I didn’t even think you liked him.” She passed by me down the corridor and into the kitchen, muttering silly nothings under her breath. I smiled to myself at the humour behind the feelings I now felt for her son... feelings that had once been very opposite to how I felt about him now. I loved him.