A gentle breeze sways the long grass in the meadow around the middle aged man's thighs. His oversized loose white t-shirt floats easily in the wind and hangs over his faded blue jeans. It's the hottest day of the year in England, reaching the low thirties; a rare phenomenon. The sun blazes down on the overgrown grass, scenting the air with a dry and dusty smell. Among the grass, tiny wild purple flowers grow together in clumps and are frequently visited by bees and other small flying insects. A warm hum and buzz of their tiny wings fills the air.
The man raises a hand to his brow to shield his eyes from the sun to take in the extraordinary view; nothing but acres of greenery in every direction. He lets out a sigh of relaxation as he absorbs its breath-taking beauty, but he is uncertain whether this sigh is for the scenery or the woman who stands before him.
The breeze picks up again and ruffles his hair, teasing him. He smiles at her and she smiles back at him. She is beautiful and young, her skin is flawless and her eyes are only a few shades darker than her mousy brown hair. He longs to reach out to touch her yet he finds himself entranced and held firmly by her tender smile. That smile; it is so precious and delicate. He worries that if he touches her, she'll break and fall apart in his hands. Or maybe she already has.
The sound of children laughing behind her perks his ears up and he tilts his head to see a young boy chasing his sister with a worm as she screams and runs away. The little boy is only six; his sister is barely a year younger than him. Even at this early age, they already wreak havoc. He knew instantly as he watched his children run care-free through this beautiful place that he would defend them with his life.
His smile falters slightly. "She's not yours" a voice echoes in the back of his mind. His smile fades to a hard line and despite saying that she will always be his; he cannot help but feel a pang of anger at the small girl who has done nothing to deserve his hate. If anything, it should be directed at the woman who betrayed his trust and broke his heart; the woman who stands before him. But how can he hate the woman he still loves?
He turns his sad gaze back at her but she is no longer beautiful. Something in her has changed; her eyes seem angrier and he doesn't know what has made her suddenly convert from the loving woman that he once knew, to the scary lady that stands in the way of his children. He swallows.
"Rose?" He whispers quietly but she doesn't reply. She is both familiar and unfamiliar simultaneously; the woman he once married and the woman she has become. He doesn't understand the transformation. When did they lose their burning desire and love for one another? He had always thought that they were so right for each other, that they would grow old together... Forever and ever, they promised… "Honey?" He reaches out to touch her, but the moment is gone and she takes a step backwards out of his reach.
The corners of his lips pull downwards as his chin wobbles uneasily. He is filled with regret. Regret that he hadn't held her in his arms earlier when he had the chance. Regret that he hadn't forgiven her and saved his marriage. Regret that he signed the divorce papers as a last resort when their relationship grew cold and bitter.
His mind is racing. He never heard the children silence, but watched them mutely join their mother; placing their hand in hers. It is clear which parent they favour and which parent they prefer to the other.
He is clearly "the other".
Rose holds their hands and stares at him blankly, without a change of expression. "We're leaving." She says flatly in a matter of fact way. He knows this is his last chance, his cue to throw himself in front of her to try and persuade her to change her mind and convince her to stay with him. But he can't bring himself to do it. He can't bring himself to move.
His mind is swarming with a mixture of memories; Rose in her wedding dress on their wedding day, her grin with her white coveralls covered in paint when they were redecorating their house, the look on her face when she held their son, Callum, for the first time… All the happy moments that they had shared together for numerous years before the pressure from looming overdue bills and threats from debt collectors had turned their relationship sour. But underneath all the arguments, the nights spent on the couch downstairs and the endless amount of tears from the bedroom, he still loved her very much. Deep down, his only true regret was that he never let her know.
He now understood why she had seen this new stranger so welcoming, friendly and attractive; he was making her feel loved again. The stranger, who would soon be the father to her daughter, was making her feel loved in a way that her husband was no longer making her feel. And yet, deep down, he still wants her; with the same passion and desire that they had shared when they first met.
He knows what he has to do. He wants to stop her and tell her how much he loves her; but when he finally does move, it's too late. She's passed him; they've already gone and once again, he stands alone.