night

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New Year’s Eve

Published December 31, 2016 by Naomi Rettig

‘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.’

‘Harsh.’

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.

Wrong Turn

Published January 15, 2015 by Naomi Rettig

The Southbank at dusk was a magical sight. Twinkling lights on trees lining the Thames like stars descending from the inky night sky, the London Eye drawing the crowds with its luminous blue hue monopolising the skyline. There were so many tourists still lining up for the Eye to view the cities illuminations, taking their photos in turn, and smiling happily. Natalie took her photos, arty shots at different angles, wishing her camera took better images in low light. A new camera went on her mental Christmas list.
Having taken enough photos of the Eye and Houses of Parliament across the Thames Natalie decided to walk back to her hotel along the river instead of jumping on the tube. It was a nice night for a walk, just the right temperature, cool enough not to overheat with brisk walking, plus the thought of trying to cope with Waterloo station was too much for her. It wasn’t the enclosed space of the underground that freaked her out but the escalators as her fear of heights would send her into a jumble of nerves and sweat when using one and the drop and depth of the Waterloo escalator was the worst one.
Walking along the Southbank she carried on taking a few more photographs passing by the eateries where ‘around the world’ aromas filled the night air, the Mexican burritos smelled divine and she was very tempted to pause and eat except the customers at the outdoor tables were all in couples or cosy groups of friends and she felt slightly self-conscious on her own. She decided to stick with her plan of buying snacks from the little shop next to her hotel.
Walking away from the hustle and bustle of the nightlife Natalie strolled further along the riverbank taking more photos, she really wanted to capture St Paul’s Cathedral lit up at night and it certainly was a beautiful night sky tonight for that. The chatter of pedestrians had petered out now and there was just an occasional couple hand in hand and a few fellow photographers milling about, all trying to capture that perfect photo. Taking her last snaps of St Paul’s across the Thames she tucked her camera away in her bag, glancing around to make sure no one was watching her.
Natalie noticed that her feet were really starting to hurt now, a full day walking on them was now telling. She weighed up in her mind the prospect of the long walk further ahead to the hotel or the quick walk back to Waterloo to brave the escalator and be back at the hotel much sooner. Her feet said tube so she went with that decision, having a quick spray of rescue remedy in preparation. Rather than retrace her route back along the river and then up to Waterloo she thought she’d cut through the streets in a more diagonal line to the station to save time and some steps for her feet. Not exactly how a crow flies but more the route of a cat walk.
A few streets in and Natalie was playing back the day in her mind, thinking of all the shots she would edit when she got home. She was suddenly aware how eerily quiet the streets were and how dark it was away from the riverbank’s illuminations and how nervous her stomach had just become.
‘Get a grip’, she told herself, ‘you’re nearly there now, it must be the next left’.
She took the next left but still felt uneasy as she couldn’t see anyone else around or signs of movement at the end of the street. Her walk picked up pace and her eyes were in overdrive scanning all around her like a malfunctioning robot. She was about halfway along the street and could see a few cars travelling past the end of it so her shoulders started to relax and she felt silly for having felt a little scared, it was then that she heard footsteps behind her.
Automatically glancing around while picking up her pace she saw a man about twelve foot behind her in jeans and a lightweight jacket, average height, average build, average attacker? Natalie’s shoulders had retreated once again to a hunched tense position and she was walking so fast her lungs felt like they would burst at any minute yet the man behind her was still keeping up with her, she chided herself for not being fitter and put ‘more fitness’ on her mental to do list.
His footsteps were matching hers and he must be taking bigger strides she thought as the sound of them was getting louder, her mind had started to panic, should she pull out her phone and call the police? No, that might slow her down or even if he wasn’t going to mug her seeing her phone might tempt him to. What was in her other pocket? Rescue remedy, great, she could calm her attacker with that. She’d just keep walking with intent, she was nearly at the end of the street now and she could hear a vehicle nearby, her heart was beating faster, his footsteps were getting louder, he was getting so close behind her, she swallowed – clearing her throat ready to scream and had her hands ready to dig nails into where needed. He was next to her, she held her breath, he overtook her, and she still held her breath. They were at the end of the street, he wasn’t going to attack her. She breathed out. A screech of tyres from an oncoming van that pulled up in front of both of them made Natalie and the man stop in their tracks for a split second. A lot happened in the few seconds that followed, the side door to the van slid open and two men with balaclavas jumped out holding guns and shouting at the man to get in. He did after having one of the guns thrust in his face.
‘And your girlfriend too,’ said one of the thugs as he pointed his gun at Natalie.
‘No, I’m not his girlfriend! I’m not with him!’
‘Get in’, said the thug.