I wander down the pitted tarmac road, bordered by the forest, like a disilusioned hitchhiker.
I know what I'm here for.
I find the spot easily enough, the two close-growing trees with entwined branches that mark the spot where you have to duck off the road and enter the woods. I run my fingers over the rough bark like a caress, feeling the grooves of carved graffiti. It's too worn to read now, but I'm sure I can remember what it says. We put it there, so long ago.
Past the trees, down the steep embankment strewn with the fallen autumn leaves and tangles of thorns. The logs across the narrow creek have been moved, one fallen into the water, the other half-dragged back onto this bank. I cross and scarmble up the other, waiting... my heart feels like it is jumping into my throat, thrumming so hard it hurts. Anticipation and fear, sweet adrenaline.
Relief, as I clear the top and gaze down at the hollow under the opposite hill. It's in shadow, but I can see that it's still there. Of course there is no welcoming light in the window; not after all these years, after what happened.
I start slowly down the steep decline, wondering for the first time since I set out what I am doing here. I have denied my mind from answering this question, because I'm afraid of what my reason might be.
After what seems like an age, I am stood just metres away from the little house. The windows gaze back at me sadly, two forlorn black eyes in the crumbling face. The dark wooden door is closed tight, not open like I always remember it was.
I reach for the handle, and a gust of wind breezes through the hollow like a sigh. You're back, it said to me. We always knew you'd come back.
Yes. I suppose I did too.
I leave my arm suspended, fingers reaching. The breeze chilled me; I can remember it all too well now. The cold, empty feeling is so familiar. The memory of the loneliness that first brought me here.