by Lucy Goodwill
She watches him, as he moves up to the stand with that distinctive demi-swagger that has always amused her but she has never cared to mention. She sees him speaking to the vendor, leaning closer as he talks to feign an all too persuasive intimacy. She knows this particular trick well.
He turns now and she can no longer see his face. Instead she sees his shoulders shake a little, beneath the thin jacket he still insists on wearing through the winter, and (whilst it could easily be a shiver) she imagines instead that he is laughing. She sees the creases forming around his eyes, escaping slightly from the edges of his glasses, so slight that you could miss them had he not moved closer yet again.
She sees him smiling at the stall holder, his smile from across the gallery, his eyes lighting up from the pillow next to hers, his happiness fading on the picnic blanket. She sees his smile, that look, a thousand times through years of memories and in that moment she is awestruck by how differently she sees him now.
She looks up at the twinkling lights set out in fairytale arches above their heads and notes the romance of one hundred tiny spotlights over a winding corridor of trees. She runs her fingers over pine needles and enjoys the sensation of the tingling in her palm, the feeling of the cool branches against her even colder skin. She finds herself lost for a moment in her hand on his chest, his palm on her knee, her skin cold from the sadness of it all, her heart rebelling against the confines of her ribcage.
Each and every moment falls so vividly before her eyes and yet somehow it all feels so distant from her now. She can hardly comprehend how she can be with him and feel at peace; to be in this setting and not be captivated by the thought of what was, or what could have been, but instead to reflect on the slowly emerging feeling of being enough all by herself.
She checks back over her shoulder and sees him still standing in the exact same place; he hasn’t realised she has gone. She continues making her way along the path towards the market’s glowing centrepiece, a towering star-topped tree. Around the other side is a group of carol singers and she smiles at their harmonious tones forming the backdrop for his shameless bargaining. She hears the soft rounding of his vowels and the coarse deepness of his voice, remembers tuning into his accent as they first met outside the station, of delighting in his whispers in the middle of vast crowds. She replays the muffled honest words he had once murmured while he was sleeping and thinks of the long and painful silence that created the space to find her voice.
How incredible, she thinks, that they have managed to make it here. To have been through so much and to have felt so deeply, but to have grown instead of falling apart; using hope to fill in the empty spaces left by the departure of their heartbreak. As she looks up at the golden star, where they had stood together so many years ago, all she feels now is a simple sense of calm.
She hears his footsteps before she sees him. She hears his voice before she turns.
‘I thought I’d lost you for a moment.’
‘Never,’ she replies.
Lucy Goodwill | @lucygoodwill
Lucy Goodwill is a writer and charity worker, based in North East London. An avid reader and literature graduate, her work primarily consists of poetry and flash fiction.