It was 2am-ish, Sunday December 5th 2010. The place was Thames Bank, Mortlake - north side lip of the River Thames.
It was icy and crisp after a recent freeze, pancakes of ice scattering the pavement at the river side as if the Thames had sneezed. The river itself was titan - at eye level a vast and endless wash of inky black water that gave no clue to its presence, save for the chill off the water and the twinkle of reflected lights from the bridge above. The sky was starchy.
They sat close to the river, outside the pub, called The Ship.
They sat on two opposing tree stumps, on the other side of the narrow road from the pub, him with his back to the river - her facing him. The pub was still alive - embers of a Christmas party dying away to the drunken strains of "Sweet Caroline" on the karaoke. There were no faces at the window though the lights were on, the voices inside impressing that maybe the pub itself was singing - emoting through its gabled and jaded windows, staggering out the last few strains of the second chorus via the crack in the slightly ajar door, then fading to sleep where it sits - lights off, slumbering away another bitter Christmas shindig.
None of this seemed to detach them, they shouldn't have been there. They looked cold. To the absolute core. The vapour of their breath rose up and haloed them - their eyes locked, but the gaze was not adoring - instead tense, heart wrenching to brutality. They did not move, save for their lips. Some geese flew over the river, north to south, gaggling.
He leaned forward, buried his face into the girl's chest, and she cradled his head by holding his neck. His shoulders were slouched and tired, but they began to tense, rise and shudder rhythmically as the tears came.
What use is a heart that's broken? What if your heart was born broken and you never knew it 'til now?
She tried to give comfort, solace - she failed. Her eyes were as black as the river and as quiet as the pub behind her, she did not understand. How could she? She wanted to try, once. Now after so many years of confusion and scratching through the dirt she perhaps didn't want to admit, now and right here, that she never could. My life is everything that no one understands. I wasn't meant for this, and I don't belong.
She still could not understand the words. His shoulders raged against her, and the tears fell so deeply. A car passed on the narrow road behind them, the driver slowing to rubberneck them. The glare from the headlights caught him full in the face as he lifted his head. His face was marbled white, the eyes - almost the same colour behind the blue. The headlights swooped round the corner - and were gone.
He took her hand and opened it, leaning his face into her palm. Take these, they will keep you strong.
The tears stung. They burrowed into the skin of her palm, hot needles piercing before a respite. He closed her hand around them into a clasp. This time her head dropped and it was her turn to sob.
He put his hand on her shoulder, as he did - she raised her gaze again and opened her eyes. He was gone. Twisting and surprised, she looked through 360 degrees for him. No sound or ripple from the river, no mark of a footprint in the crushed ice before her. No vapour of a breath, or a scent from any direction. He was gone.
The snow began to fall again. As it chilled the back of her neck, she swept the overlong fringe of her bob over her ear and opened her still clasped hand. Nestled in the crick of her palm were four small white feathers. Undisturbed by the breeze, they sat patiently in her hand - waiting. Snow flakes rested alongside them on her palm, and again she began to weep.
How long she sat there, I don't know.