Battered by the elements he soldiered on.
The years had taken their toll on him, more so than the landscape around him. The erosion of the rocks and gnarling of the trees happened incrementally, while his own physical degradation had hit him in the blink of an eye.
He tramped over the fields and through the woods he knew so well from his youth. The years spent away from his childhood home had failed to erase the memories of playing here with his brother and sister. It felt empty without their laughter to accompany the swaying branches. and trampled damp ground.
He arrived at the upstanding rock in the clearing. With his fingers he traced the cracks and fissures in the surface. He scraped away green, fresh moss and uncovered the writing scratched into the surface.
‘Harry + Arrabelle’
Still here, long after that dream had faded. Those timeless days when they had been school sweethearts. How would his life had turned out of she had only said ‘yes.’
But she hadn’t, and her parents had insisted on involving the police. Statutory rape was the charge. He was 17, she was 15. He had never recovered from that first visit to prison. A life of petty crime, drug addiction and frequent visits at Her Majesty’s Pleasure had followed.
He’d never touched another woman, never known that feeling of love or carnal lust. Never would now. He coughed. Red-tinged mucus spattered across the damp rock. He wiped his face. His breathing was shallow, he could hear the wheeze of his chest as it struggled to gather air.
This seemed as good a place as any. He sat down beneath the rock, sheltered from the breeze, underneath the scratched words that marked the day his life took a different course.
That final timeless moment before darkness descended.