Short Story prompt- Just Visiting
Hi, this is a short story in response to the picture prompt below, entitled on the prompt site as ‘Just Visiting’. Picture taken from here. All other images from Pixabay.
The woman stands at the window, wearing the coral blouse and cardigan that always reminds her of her mother. A small smile graces her features. Could he finally be here, after all these years? After she had almost given up hope that he would come?
It is typical that he would only find her now, she thinks, here in this place that was at the very edge of the world, right on the brink between reality and fantasy.
Silver smoke unfurls from the chimney, softly fading into the billowing blue clouds. It is a few shades darker than the soft turquoise twilight, the remnants of day soon to ebb away. Her cosy cabin, with its warm red-panelled walls and flooded with light from within, contrasts starkly with the cool of the ever-approaching night.
Nearby jaunty lampposts shine amber hues onto the neat cobbles. A hedge of slate cubes make up the wall that embraces her home. Softly illuminated, by whatever remains of the daylight, is the backdrop of the vast city beyond.
The lines of tall houses and buildings stacked neatly together are from a different world, a different time. The woman knows it is her destiny to cross into that other world, but not yet. Not without him. Indeed, that is why they let her build this place, almost two years ago now.
This house keeps a roof over her head while she waits for him, the one she should have married all those years ago. The man she has been hoping will appear on the horizon. After all, it might be time for her to make the journey to the realm beyond her house, but that doesn’t mean she has to make that final walk alone.
Slowly dusk fades and turns to darkness. The moon rises, yet still she stands there. Her feet are tired from the waiting, but she doesn’t move. Not now he is about to appear.
For the last day she has sensed he is near, a resonating within her soul that she cannot explain. The joy alights and crinkles around her eyes as at last she sees a figure in the distance. He is only barely visible from slivers of moonlight, that filter softly through the dense avenue of trees to dapple on the dirt path at his feet.
The resonating within her increases. Though he is nothing more than a blurred movement in the darkness, she knows, unmistakably, that it is him. She watches, waiting, as he approaches. Minutes pass. Her breath hitches as he leaves the trees behind him, the moonlight now showing his features.
His gait is a slow shuffle and she can see age in the lines in his face. Apprehension lies thick in his brow. At the sight of him growing ever closer, butterflies start a dance in her stomach, long ago feelings starting to buzz.
Decades ago, she told herself she had moved on from him, after scolding herself that she couldn’t just sit around, waiting for something that was obviously never to be. Now, though, she realises her love for him had never quite died, regardless of how hard she had tried to bury it. No, her heart is still for him, thudding and pumping so much more than mere blood.
He finally looks up, coming to a stop a few metres away from her house. She is instantly lost as he sees her with those same eyes, the little quirk in his mouth as he smiled. It is same way he always used to smile at her and nobody else. Not even the woman who became his wife, instead of her.
Just like that, the years fall away from him. She knows it is him, the same young chap she met bobbing apples with him at the summer fair. She fell in love with the way he laughed before she even realised the feeling. Vividly she remembers giggling, her mouth half full with the soft, crisp tang of rosy red apples. She had made sure to win, even though later her mother deemed it most undignified and ‘unladylike’.
Suddenly, she knows she cannot stand there simply watching him. She rushes outside as swiftly as her weary frame will allow. She’s out of breath by the time she has skirted around the slate hedge and reached the cobbles, but it’s worth it to be that much closer to him.
“Hello, Deidre,” he murmurs softly. “I thought I’d…” he breaks off, swallowing. “I was just visiting,” he tries again. “Just on the off chance.” Then he smiles again, but uncertainty fills his eyes as well as happiness. It’s clear he doesn’t quite know how to bridge the final gap between them.
Deidre swallows hard. She knows why there is such hesitation in his features. She wants to speak, just a little of what in her heart, but her throat is too tight. So, she stands there, paralysed between his last words and his next.
“I’m sorry, Deidre,” he says now. She hears the broken edge of his words. “I’m sorry it took so long to come to your door.” He sighs, his eyes shining with love and regret.
Watching him, she is undone. Her breath quickens and her heart pounds, but she doesn’t feel bitter. Her life apart from him has not been a waste. Her own journey has still been filled with meaning.
“It’s alright, Harold,” Deidre murmurs, at last managing those few words. “You came back to me, like I always knew you would.”
Then Deidre steps forward. All these years she has been waiting for him to come to her, but it is she who crosses the space between them. Their foreheads rest together briefly. She smiles, tears beginning a slow trail down her cheeks.
“You’re here now, Harold. That’s all that matters.” She steps back from him, their hands joining. “It’s time.”
“I love you,” Harold whispers. The words she has spent most of her life waiting to her again, since those few weeks that summer, almost sixty years ago.
“I know.” Her smile broadens, then fades as he leans forward. Their mouths meet in a sweet, tender kiss, just like the ones she remembers he used to give her.
Deidre turns away from him slightly, to see her house stands in darkness. Hand in hand, she walks past her house, no longer needed. They go together to the ancient city, no longer afraid. With her Harold by her side once more, Deidre smiles. He wasn’t ‘just visiting’ at all. They make their last journey through life together.
Thank you for reading! Like my writing? Then please do check out my first historical fiction novel, ‘The Boy from the Snow’
Till next time,