35.1

Written by Bobartles

N.B. The title refers to the writer’s core body temperature at the time of writing.

Hammersmith Bridge, London: I hear her footsteps tap across the bridge…
Image Courtesy of Reddit

“You’re cold,” she says.

I shift my hands in my pockets as she appears at my side, not taking my eyes off the shifting lights of the motorway beneath us. She crosses her arms and leans back on the railing. I feel her eyes on me.

“I’m fine,” I lie.

She keeps staring at me, brown-blonde hair catching the feeble rays from above and shining as bright as the headlamps far below. I don’t meet her gaze.

“No,” she murmurs after a moment. “You’re not. You’re really not.”

I don’t reply.

“Are you going to the funeral?” she asks quietly.

“Maybe.” The words haven’t even registered. Somewhere in the back of my mind, a little voice starts screaming something. I ignore it.

“That’s it?” She’s staring at me even harder now. I avoid looking at her face, but I can imagine the look of shock.

Silence, besides the rumbling below. She turns away.

“I know what happened,” she looks down at the road, her tone raising slightly. “I know what you’ve been through. God, I do.” She brings her fist down on the rails with a clang. I close my eyes for a moment.

She shakes her head and stares at the dancing lights. An eternity passes by.

“How long is it, now?” her voice is more hesitant. “Since… since you…”

“A year,” I say. “More or less.” The screaming gets louder. I shut it out.

“That’s a long time to hide behind a wall,” she whispers.

“Not if it’s a good wall.” I take my hands out of my pockets and rub them together before putting them back.

“I know what you’re trying to do,” she says, turning back, her voice weak. “And it’s not good for you. Blocking out everything like this… you can’t do it to yourself.”

“It’s better than the alternative,” I reply.

“The alternative is actually living,” she shoots back.

“Exactly.”

There’s no response for several long, terrible seconds. Then she draws closer, out of sight, and puts an arm around me. I feel the soft warmth, and nothing else. I don’t move a muscle as she presses herself into my side and feels for my hand.

“Do you really think that?” she murmurs in my ear. I catch a glimpse of her hair by my shoulder, reflecting the meagre sunlight like a wall of purest gold.

I say nothing. My hand stays in my pocket.

She sighs and pulls herself away with a sudden, angry movement. I can imagine the tears forming in her eyes as she tries to blink them away. I realise that I simply don’t care.

“You really are cold,” she says, and walks away.

I hear her footsteps tap across the bridge for a few seconds, then slow for a moment and stop. I picture her glancing around, pleading silently for me to turn and face her.

I don’t look back. As the muted sob and the sound of running feet reach my ears, I watch my breath fog in the air. It turns the headlights on the motorway into tiny, glistening stars.

It’s cold. I don’t notice.

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