She turned the corner and there he was: lying on the path, a filthy blanket covering the length of him. Only his boots poked out and his messy, uncut dark hair.
She dropped the pint of milk she had walked to the village for and started forward. “Oh, God!” It came out as a soft wail: a prayer.
Before she reached him, reason flooded in behind the panic. “Idiot!” she murmured, picking up the carton of milk, noting gratefully it had dented but hadn’t ruptured. To get to the house, she would have to pass him, step over his outstretched arm. She saw now his hand was uncovered too. It lay, palm up, curling inwards, soft and relaxed. His nails needed cut—and scrubbed. She guessed he’d not showered in days.
With slow, careful steps, she passed the length of his body, was halfway down the length of his thigh when she felt his hand lightly grip her ankle.
“Wait!” he said, his voice soft, no hint of urgency. “Please?”
“I thought you were dead!”
His hand released her ankle but she didn’t move, allowing the caress to move against her bare calf, the outside of her knee, her thigh. She closed her eyes and embraced the delicious shiver.
“The house,” he said, sitting, his face in the folds of her dress, kissing the sensitive skin at the back of her knee with light, firefly kisses. “It looks so cold.”
She looked at the dark, empty windows.
He let his hand trail slowly down her leg under her skirt. “Okay?” he asked. “We’re okay? Yes?”
“Three weeks, Jason! Three sodding weeks without a word!” She stepped free of his hand and walked to the house.
He didn’t follow right away but sat with his head in his hands.
She watched from the kitchen window as he lay back down, smiling, his hands entwined behind his head, in sunbathing posture, soaking up the weak, early morning sun. She turned away.
Searching through the drawer, her fingers found the big, brass key she seldom used.
She turned it in the lock of back door before she put the kettle on for her morning cuppa.