Always Beside You
It was the first snowfall of winter. George was lost in memories of a time when he and his beautiful wife shared this walk together when they were both young. They had chased one another through the winter trees, carefree and sure footed as they danced over the frosty carpet that gathered on dead leaves and twigs. The dark branches had slowly become dusted with snow and their world had been black and white. There was no sound and they had been the only people in it.
George held himself more upright, tilting his walking stick at a jaunty angle so that it looked part of his accessories and not a necessary aid for helping him keep his balance. He put his face up to feel the snowflakes tickle his cheeks, trying to recapture the moments when Jane had called out to him to hurry up. They were playing hide and seek, and she was getting cold waiting for him. Of course, he had pretended he couldn’t find her and she, in turn, had pretended that she couldn’t be seen. He imagined he could hear her calling “Cooee..can’t catch me..”
Concentrate, George told himself, pull yourself together or you’ll be falling flat on your face. There is no-one around so you could be lying in need of help for a very long time. Even speaking sharply to himself didn’t quite overcome the sadness and sense of loneliness that he felt.
The snow was falling faster and settling deeper on the forest floor. It was time to turn back; he couldn’t walk any further. Jane wouldn’t want him to be sad, so to cheer himself up he decided to retrace his footprints in the snow as they had once done together, pushing and shoving each other. As he looked down concentrating on putting his feet in the right place, he noticed another set of footsteps beside his own. They were smaller, daintier, closer together. How curious, George thought, looking around. There hasn’t been anyone else here.
A gust of wind unsettled the trees and flakes of snow caressed his shoulders. Did he hear a little laugh or was it a trick from the winter sounds of the forest? George really couldn’t be sure, but he felt warm and comforted as he followed two sets of footprints on his way home.