‘Wow it’s cold,’ says Patrick, stepping outside and closing the door. He puts his gloves on, and a icy mist escapes from between his lips.
Ruth raises her eyebrows. ‘Well it is winter.’
‘Funny girl.’ He crinkles his nose up at her. ‘You never did feel the cold.’
‘I’m Welsh, we’re tough and hardy.’ She dazzles him with a wide smile.
Patrick laughs, exhaling more frosty clouds. ‘I won’t argue with that.’
Ruth adjusts her woolen hat, tucking her fringe up into it. ‘Ready to go?’
‘Yep.’ Patrick holds his hand out and Ruth’s hand slides into his with ease.
They walk in comfortable silence, just the sound of shoes crunching onto snow soundtracks the short walk from Patrick’s parents’ house to the town square. A few people are hurrying from The Golden Lion across to The Three Witches, trying not to get slapped by Jack Frost. Ruth always wanted someone to open a pub in town with the word wardrobe in the name, just so a pub crawl could involve going to The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. Patrick loved her so much that, if he’d won the lottery, he would’ve bought a pub and called it The Wonky Wardrobe, just to make her laugh.
They wander towards The Lion and stand just back from the window, looking in on a busy party scene. The sounds of music, laughter, and cheering, all leak out from the windows, and burst through the door when someone braves the outdoors.
Patrick squeezes Ruth’s hand. ‘There’s Rob and Danny, I think they’re trying to outdo each other in the most embarrassing Christmas jumpers.’
‘You want to go in and have a drink?’
‘No.’ He watches them downing their pints. ‘I said my Happy New Year to them earlier.’
Ruth glances to Patrick. ‘Oh yes, good time?’
‘Yep, Rob got his promotion, which is about time as he deserves it. Danny, well, Danny’s Danny. He couldn’t decide which girlfriend to go out with tonight so that’s why he’s out with Rob.’
Patrick shrugs. ‘Rob doesn’t mind.’
‘I meant for the girlfriends,’ says Ruth, shaking her head.
‘Oh. Yes, it is I guess. They don’t know about each other. Yet.’
They both carry on observing through the window. It must be warm in the pub as Danny is taking his jumper off. He reveals a t-shirt with the slogan ‘babe magnet’ printed on it, much to Rob’s amusement. Rob keeps his reindeer jumper on, it’s quite impressive as the reindeer’s nose flashes red.
‘Silly question, but why doesn’t he just choose one?’ asks Ruth.
‘He can’t decide. He likes them all but isn’t in love with any of them.’ Patrick removes his stare from Rob’s flashing jumper and turns his head to Ruth. ‘He’s not as lucky as me finding you.’
Ruth turns to return his gaze. ‘I love you.’
‘I love you too, for eternity.’ Patrick feels tears gathering up as he looks deep into Ruth’s eyes.
‘Are you sure you want to come away with me? I can wait if you want to stay here longer.’
Patrick swallows down his tears. ‘Don’t be silly, I want to come with you. What have I got here without you?’
‘Err, family friends, work.’ She raises her eyebrows.
‘You’re all the family I need, I won’t be missed by the rest of my family, and I can pop in at any moment to see them. My friends will be sad when they find out I’ve gone without saying a proper goodbye, I couldn’t though as they would’ve tried to talk me out of it.’ Patrick looks back into the pub. ‘Not that they don’t want me to be with you, but because they’d think it was better if I stayed.’ He looks back to Ruth, who is studying his face. ‘But when they find out, they’ll know I’ve followed my heart and done the right thing for me. And as for work, I only work to pay the bills, I will not miss unblocking toilets and examining u-bends.’
Ruth does mock shock. ‘Really?’
‘Yes really, come on, before they spot me.’ Patrick takes Ruth’s hand and leads her away from the pub.
As they walk through the square, Mrs. Timpson from the Post Office is coming out of The Three Witches, carrying a bottle of wine.
Patrick whispers to Ruth. ‘Appropriate.’
‘Shh,’ says Ruth. ‘She’ll hear you.’
Mrs. Timpson keeps her judging eyes on Patrick as she walks past, her face all lemon pinched and sour. ‘Evening Patrick.’
Patrick stops. ‘Happy new year.’
Mrs. Timpson just grunts as she carries on walking away.
‘She never liked me,’ says Ruth, pulling him back into motion. ‘Come on.’
They walk out of town and along an overgrown footpath towards the river. The noise of the town dissolves behind them and the crunch from underfoot soothes once again. They reach the stone bridge, it’s high up over the river and the ice on the water far below sparkles in the moonlight like angel’s tears.
‘Our spot,’ says Ruth.
‘Yes, our spot.’ Patrick squeezes Ruth’s hand. ‘When I proposed to you here last New Year’s Eve, I didn’t think it’d be our last time here.’
‘It’s not the last time, we can come back whenever we want.’ Ruth sits on the stone wall of the bridge, pulling Patrick towards her. ‘And if you want to stay here now, you don’t have to come with me, I’ll understand, and I’ll wait for you, for eternity.’
Patrick moves closer. He closes his eyes and he can feel an icy breath on him. ‘I’m not having second thoughts at all, I’ve never felt so right about something.’
‘No one ever thinks,’ says Ruth, so quietly it’s barely a whisper.
Patrick opens his eyes. ‘What do you mean?’
Ruth smiles gently. ‘Oh, I mean, no one ever thinks things will happen to them, do they. Danny never thought he’d be stuck in a love quadrangle, Rob never thought he’d have to wait five long years for that promotion, and I never thought I’d die in a car accident.’ She sighs. ‘And the woman who caused the crash didn’t think she’d cause a multiple pile up by having a heart attack that morning.’
‘And I didn’t think I’d meet the love of my life but I did. I’m the luckiest man in the world.’ Patrick climbs up onto the wall. He balances on the edge.
Ruth stands up next to him. ‘Would you like me to hold your hand?’
Patrick takes a last look down at the twinkling icy water, far below. Even in the moonlight he can see the rocks poking out from the shallow water, like mini icebergs. At this distance, he will easily break his neck. ‘Yes.’
Ruth’s fingers entwine his and she squeezes tight.
‘Don’t let go.’ Patrick closes his eyes.
‘I won’t,’ whispers Ruth.
Patrick steps forward.