It was early and still dark. The house was cold and his bed was warm, but David slid out from the covers and crept across the room to find his dressing gown and slippers. He would have liked to feel for Caroline the way they used to in their early years together, but she had been frosty last night and was never at her best or at her most sensuous in the morning nowadays. In fact she didn’t often exude sensuality at all.
Treading softly, he went to the window and parted the curtains. A little light was just beginning to turn the black night into a grey dawn, with waves of mist rolling in from the surrounding fields. David gazed at the emerging scene, then walked quietly into the dressing room to collect warm clothes. He splashed his face with cold water in the bathroom, quickly brushed his teeth, then walked downstairs, carefully avoiding the middle step with the loud creak. After drinking a mug of hot tea, he found his green waxed jacket and Hunter wellington boots, then unlocked the back door.
The sky was starting to turn yellow in streaks and birds were rousing. A blackbird suddenly flew away squawking as he walked down the garden path to the gate which led onto the bridlepath. It was hardly ever opened. In fact Caroline was unhappy that there even was a gate at the bottom of the garden, fretting that the children might slip out unnoticed or strangers might creep in unobserved to lurk in the evergreen shrubs. The bolts were stiff with lack of use, but after jiggling and finally forcing them, they scraped open and he edged out into the nettle-bound track which ran between the garden and the field then onto the woods. It was an unseen way to the woods. Hardly anyone would be around at such an early hour on a Sunday morning.
The rustle of his heavy jacket and the scrape of his boots on the hard frosted ruts, jarred in the still morning air. So he slowed his pace till all he could hear were the birds, an occasional car and the distant rumbling of the railway. It was at least four miles away, but he always noticed the trains, reminding him of London and responsibilities.
The woods were thick with fallen leaves, although the oaks were still clad. His feet scuffed the soft carpet and he smelt a sweetness mixed with the mushroom scent of leaf mould from the generations of leaves that lay beneath him. It was even quieter here, the woodland floor protecting him from the sounds of the world.
A fallen trunk gave him a seat on which to pause and rest, leaning back against the remains of the beech tree. He sighed and looked upwards through the branches at the brightening sky. Sometimes he longed to get off this trundling train, this inexorable parade of events, people, issues, decisions. He had been idealistic once, but now it seemed like a play in which although he could deliver his lines unprompted, he could no longer speak them with passion. And he no longer felt any excitement when speaking in the House or when the rallying cries went up. In fact he hardly ever felt excited about anything nowadays, not his work, his home or his family. And he suddenly just felt the urge to scream and cry out, releasing his frustration and boredom.
He grabbed a fallen branch and began using it to strike the piles of leaves, as if he was out on the cricket field trying for a six. And then he threw the branch as far as he could and began running across the clearing, finally falling down on a thick carpet of leaves and rolling from side to side, then kicking his legs and throwing showers of leaves over himself with his hands.
to be continued Dec 21