Most of you will know why I wasn’t expecting to be there, nor was expected to be there. All that was a long time ago. I’m sure you understand. When the car stopped, that night, I thought I could leave it, walk to the village and get it picked up in the morning. The snow had eased, and it wasn’t deep. I had stout shoes, my Cashmere overcoat with my woollen scarf, and my Homburg. But God, it was cold. I got to a fork in the path and wasn’t sure which track to take. What made me take that one? I don’t know. How do we ever know? It led me through the snow-dusted trees to an open glade, and there was the house, my old home, Kingsthorpe, a substantial house, brick, three stories. We were substantial people.
The house now looked empty, deserted. I wondered what had become of them all. I stood in front of it, outside the gate. Three crows landed beside me, dark rags on the pristine surface. Their cawing loud and raucous in the white stillness of the night. A light came on in an upstairs room. I saw a figure, a woman, Cissie. More lights came on from the other windows, flooding the glade with warmth and welcome. And more people. There was Angela, and Kate. I could see Ron and Arthur. The rooms were decorated with bunting and coloured lights. There was dancing, and music. Food and festivity. And there she was, Margaret, still lovely as ever. I didn’t understand. How could she be there? How could any of them be there?
I took a step forward. And another, and another until I was outside the window. I could see them all. I tapped on the glass, but no-one noticed, no-one looked towards me, outside the window, in the snow, my shadow long behind me. The party continued, fun and laughter, the dancers whirling, there, without me. I tried the front door, desperate now I banged on the old knocker, but no-one came. No-one heard. I had no part in this scene.
I ached with loss and longing. Again outside, again excluded, never invited. I walked back to the gate then turned, I had to look. The lights began to extinguish, room by room, until the house was dark and empty again, apart from the light in the upstairs room. Cissie was still there. Was she looking towards me? Could she see me, silhouetted against the snow? What did she know? Then that light extinguished too. My feet cold and wet. My breath steaming in the icy air. The crows cawed again and I shrivelled some more at their cruel laughter. How ridiculous I am, to think I could begin again, to do it differently this time, to think maybe there was a chance of being able to change things. Of course not. What is done is done. No comfort or redemption now on this cold night, alone in the glade, surrounded by the purity of snow, three crows and an empty house.
My nose was running and my eyes watered in the freezing air. No, it wasn’t the air. I was weeping. I wept like a child. No comfort. How could there be? What is done is done. I walked back to the fork, took the other path to the village. Found a room. Found a whisky. A tap on the window pane. I pulled back the curtain. A crow on the window sill, then another. Across the square a light went out.