It’s the first warm evening of the year. Caroline is putting out her rubbish when she notices him standing near the edge of the headland, observing the sky. When he turns to leave, she sees from his unsteady gait that he must be as old as her.
“I’d forgotten how many stars you can see from here,” he says as he passes her garden. His accent could be local, but the vowels have been softened from living elsewhere. He scrutinises the old schoolhouse. “You wouldn’t be a Chisholm, by any chance?”
She laughs. “I am. Caroline. Still in the same house after all these years. And you are?”
“Bill Main. I was in the year above you at school.”
“You’re thinking of my sister. I was two years below you.”
She puts down her rubbish bag. “So what brings you back to St. Aethans?”
“When you get to my age, you want to revisit your old haunts. My wife died last year so I’m on my own.”
“What about you? Any family?”
“No. I never married.”
They stand there in silence, looking up at the thousand motes of light. The cool breeze grazes Caroline’s face. It carries the acrid smell of peat smoke, which seems strange since she didn’t think anyone in the village still burned it.
“I remember coming to a party here one Easter just before I left,” Bill says. “You and I stood out here and looked at the stars. Or was that your sister too?”
She smiles, remembering how Bill slipped his arm around her waist and made her a promise. A promise he didn’t keep. “No, that was me.”
“Well, I shouldn’t keep you out here chatting. It’s getting chilly.”
She thinks about inviting him in for a cup of tea. But instead of saying anything, she listens to the water crashing on the rocks below and imagines the languid swell, heaving and dipping in time with her breath.
Daniel Addercouth grew up on a remote farm in the north of Scotland but now lives in Berlin, Germany. His stories have appeared in over a dozen publications, including Seaborne Magazine, National Flash Fiction Day’s FlashFlood, Duck Duck Mongoose, and Mid-Level Management. Find him on Twitter at @RuralUnease
Photo by Sylee Gore
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