By Jo Dearden
Crisp sun, clear skies. Leaves crunching underfoot. A myriad of oranges, reds and yellows. A bright autumn day. That was then. Now, the leaves seem muted and the sky is leaden with a dreary greyness. Trees are being stripped, their bareness a painful reality like mine. I am no longer wanted.
We are walking in the woods above Acorn Hill. Thick bracken clings to my muddy boots making me stumble. Brambles entangle themselves in my hair and graze my coat as I blindly follow Nick. Fallen twigs crackle, disturbing the suffocating silence that has descended upon us like a thick fog.
Nick is slightly ahead of me, shoulders hunched, hands thrust into his pockets. He looks as though he would rather be anywhere else than here with me. I had no idea that anything was wrong. I suppose I should have seen it coming, but love is blind. I still love him. I think I always will. I can feel the rain falling softly on to my tear-stained face as we walk like strangers through the shadowy woods.
Dusk is rapidly approaching. A cold wind rustles the remaining leaves on the half-naked trees. Branches above my head have formed a hostile canopy. The rain is more persistent, echoing our escalating misery. My boots sink deeper into the mud. Nick trudges on ahead of me. He seems to be oblivious of the pervading gloom.
‘I think we should go back now before it gets dark,’ I call feebly, but he doesn’t seem to hear me. After a few moments he turns around and walks towards me.
‘Look Jen, I’m really sorry. I’m not sure what I want yet. I just need some space’. His words pierce like a sword into my soul. Nick and I have loved each other for what seems forever. We met at Edinburgh University, both reading English. We clicked from the start and it wasn’t long before we were living together. Our friends said we were made for each other. Anna said she expected to be a bridesmaid. But now the dream is over, dashed to pieces by a few painful words.
The woods appear much darker than before. The twilight envelops us like a shroud. A twig snaps loudly making me jump. It is only a rabbit, but in the gloom my imagination is running riot.
‘You’re right, we’d better get back. I really want us to stay friends’, Nick says. We both know that will be impossible, too painful after all we’ve been through together. It is raining heavily now. Dead leaves swirl at my feet. Everything seems dead. My new jeans are spattered with mud. I feel cold and tired.
We emerge from the oppressive woods into a large open field. The hills on the horizon merge with the colourless sky. Below is a tiny hamlet. Smoke is curling from some of the cottage chimneys. We stop for a moment catching our breath.
‘We’ll be ok Jen,’ Nick says squeezing my hand. A last ray of sun appears in the watery sky.
About the author
Jo Dearden trained as a journalist with the Oxford Mail and Times. She did a degree in English Literature with creative writing as a mature student. She co-edited her local village newsletter for about ten years. She also worked for a number of years for the Citizens’ Advice Bureau. She is currently attending a creative writing class, which is stimulating her writing again. Jo lives in Suffolk.