David strode through the woods, hoping that he might glimpse her at any moment. This was where he had first seen her, this was where she had danced before him. But the woods were empty. The only sounds were the crunch of his feet crushing that year’s fallen leaves, the soft call of pigeons and the occasional screech of a pheasant.
He had to see her. She had not answered his calls and he had not been able to see her for over a month. He had thought about her of course, and dreamt of her. But he needed to see her. Caroline was filling the house with people he didn’t care about for her marathon New Year dinner when the only person he wanted to see and talk to was Mary.
He wanted to stare into those cool, deep blue eyes and see that she approved of all he had done. It had been so hard at first, enduring the criticism of his colleagues and the aggression of the whips, but he was beginning to understand now how satisfying it was to live by the rule of conscience and not convention. Slowly, eventually, pure honest principles would surely win, even in politics.
As he neared the cottage, he expected to smell the sweet mossy wood smoke, but the air was clean and clear. He slowed down for the last few yards until he reached the final fringe of trees, then stopped, hoping to see her fetching wood from the shed, calling to her dog or feeding the hens. It was utterly silent and although it was a cold day there was not even the thinnest stream of smoke from the chimney. His heart stilled. He had been so sure she would be here. He walked at speed through the gate then saw that the hen run was quiet and empty. Perhaps they had finally been taken by the fox.
He knocked on the front door, then, when there was no answer, ran round to the door at the back of the house, the one she used the most. Rattling the knocker, the sound echoed inside and he knew she had gone. He stood back for a moment, then put his hand to the latch. It lifted and as the kitchen door opened, a few dried leaves blew across the quarry tiled floor. For a second he was unsure whether he should enter, he even wondered what he might find within. Perhaps she had suffered an accident or was seriously ill and unable to reach him.
to be continued January 28