From where I sat on the isolated bench on the top of the cliff, I overlooked the beach, and the harbour with the pretty little seaside village only a few minutes’ walk away. I sighed & inhaled a deep breath of the salty air around me. The sun began to slip behind the horizon, tainting the duck egg blue sky with streaks of cerise, heliotrope and rose. A brilliant orange sun cast a warming glow across everything in its path, staining the whitewashed walls of the houses in the village peach and the boats in the harbour coral. The once snow white clouds in the sky were now the colour of an aubergine, a deep yet beautiful colour. I had always thought this particular shade of purple was very regal, the sort of colour you would expect a king to have his cape made of. The sun was slipping deeper into the far away depths of the ocean, turning the light streaks in the sky darker with each passing second. The sound of people in the village pub began to reach my ears, mixing with the rushing sound of the waves below and the squawking of the seagulls that kept me company. I sighed again. I could vividly remember the last time I watched the sunset from this bench. A sudden cool breeze began to blow around me, just as it had done all those years ago. I pulled my parka closer to my body, trying to shut out the memories that I knew would inevitably come to haunt me in my dreams that night. The salty air caressed my face, brushing what was left of my hair off my forehead, just as her hand had done. I shook myself. I couldn’t let myself start grieving again, the time for that had been and passed.
Fifty years ago, on a summer’s night very much like the one I was watching disappear around me, I had sat on this very same bench on the cliff top with the most beautiful woman in the world. I couldn’t believe my luck, she was the most sought after woman in the whole of the county; plenty of rich suitors had tried to win her hand, yet she had still picked the baker’s son out of the crowd of gold merchants and actors. She leaned against my arm, I pulled her close and began to play with her hair and we sat for many hours on that old wooden bench on the cliff top. We would watch the children playing on the beach, the happy teenagers riding the donkeys, the happily married couples walking hand in hand along the water front. We often said that one day that would be us, walking slowly in the very shallow water with our children in front of us running ahead with our dog we planned to have. It was on that night that I had planned to propose to her, to present her with a ring that she would wear with pride on her finger and show off to her friends and family.
The sun had just started to set, the sun sending the familiar cerise, heliotrope and rose streaks through the sky, the cool breeze began to creep towards our bench and the sun bathed us in a golden glow. I turned around to look her straight in the eyes and began to tell her how much I loved her, and how I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her and would she do me the honour of becoming my wife, when she threw her arms around my neck and whispered in my ear that yes she would and she’d been wondering when exactly I was going to ask her. It was a very romantic scene; the two of us huddled together against the wind and the sun setting deeper into the ocean. The sun had nearly set, sending deep purple and blues into the sky, the clouds were indistinguishable from the sky. Even with the clouds, the stars still shone brightly through the blackness. But the sky didn’t seem quite right; there was a strange red and blue tinge to it, similar to the colour of the police sirens in the big city from which I’d moved a few years back. My heart stopped when the wailing of the sirens reached my ears, I knew why they were there even if my beautiful fiancée didn’t. I grabbed her hand, and promised her that everything would be fine and that they wouldn’t and couldn’t convict her of anything. I intertwined our fingers for what I knew would be the last time, even in the darkness her pale skin shone brightly next to my dark skin. I gave her one last kiss, and told her to run. But she got as far as the back of the bench, and at that moment my heart sank. The police broke through the trees behind us just at that instance and shot at us both, killing her in a second and only injuring me. They left after the shooting.
Since that day, I’d never sat to watch a sunset. As stunning as they are, they held too many excruciating memories; ones that I knew would haunt me forever. But I knew that tonight my time had come, I was going to join my beautiful girl where ever you went when you die. As the sun sunk lower in the sky, it sent out a colour I’d never seen in a sunset before, a radiant shade of red matching exactly the colour of lipstick that she’d worn that night and the colour of her blood as it tricked down her chalky cheek. I couldn’t look at the sunset in the same way, I had realised that every sunset led me closer to my own personal sunset, the one which marked the end of my life. I was just glad that I had managed to watch one more from our special place on the cliff top. I settled myself back into the bench and waited for the sun to set on my life.
© Copyright 2016 A E Fenton. All rights reserved.