Henry's book

by Jenny

As starry eyed teenagers Henry’s dreamy, far away look had been mysterious. Romantic. He had drawn her in, an oasis of calm in her chaotic world. They had been happy together, for a time.

But whimsy and daydreams don’t put bread on the table or pay the mortgage. Someone had to pull them through the real world somehow. Clara had led and Henry, blinking and dazed, had reluctantly followed.

He was always writing in his secret little books or staring distractedly into space. When he was talking to her, he seemed like he was half listening to a story only he could hear.

If he ever caught her trying to read what he wrote in his book, he’d gently close it, shoot her a sad, reproachful look and tuck it safely away.

For 40 years Clara believed that if she could only read his writing, she would finally understand the man. But he always gave her the same answer; she could read it when he wasn’t around anymore. Until then she’d have to make do with the real thing, and wasn’t that better than paper and ink?

At first he’d laugh as he spoke, drawing her in for a kiss. But she grew tired of evasiveness and soon found ways to pull away.

And so the resentment grew and by the night of the crash they had barely spoken to one another for years. Clara wondered if Henry even noticed.

They crashed on a tiny country road with no streetlights, because Henry had been distracted by a falling star. Clara hadn't really been listening. He was always rambling about something. They were both alright, but the car was totalled, their map useless.

With nothing to point the way, she picked a direction and started to walk, Henry trailing behind, pointing out constellations and interesting leaves until, finally, Clara snapped.

“I don’t care about leaves Henry. I don’t know where we are. I’m cold, I’m scared and I just want everything to be alright.”

He smiled at her then, like he used to, calm, reassuring. He moved towards her and told her that of course everything was alright. Everything was always alright.

But she threw his arms off and walked on, furiously brushing at tears.

Ten minutes later, when Clara had found herself in a small village with a tiny inn, glowing with rosy, welcoming light, she realised Henry hadn’t followed her after all.

Well it would serve him right to spend the night in the cold on his own. He was daft but not stupid. He’d find her here before the night was out.

But Clara woke up to find herself alone for the first time in forty years. She got up. She rolled her eyes in exasperation, but secretly the first pricklings of fear had begun in her gut. She dressed and retraced her steps until she found the spot they had argued. Where she had left him.

On the floor, Clara spotted Henry’s secret little book, abandoned. She bent to pick it up, slowly, nerves thrilling with fear and anticipation. For the first time she finally had her chance - she was alone with the paper and ink that would finally give her the key to unlock the man, to understand him at last.

But the man was gone.