He walked around, hurried, his voice pacing fast. A phone was pressed to his ears, his words short, as if each one was another life lost. His mind was rapt in the voices coming from his mouth and the receiver's. He didn't notice the watching girl.
She had started staring out of sheer boredom, as she waited impatiently for the bus. He had been moving already, and as the seconds ticked by, she leant her ears towards him. Her mind was clueless at this moment, having not heard of anything from the other end.
"Bye." He clicked his phone off. She fought the temptation to turn as he came and placed himself beside her. Head buried in his hand she could hear is deep breaths coming slowly.
Being able to stare over his visible features she decided on his ruffling hair being brown, not blonde as she had thought in the light. A light layer of stubble guided to his ears, and presumably down his chin. Twenty-eight she concluded, he was twenty-eight. Which would make him ten years older than her. His face was still in his hands, but hid breathing was no longer noticeable. Even she couldn't hear it as she strained to listen.
He didn't contemplate the girl that sat beside him, barely noticed that he was there. His mind was turned to the conversation just passed. A conversation he dreaded to recall.
"Excuse me." He heard the light voice slip into his ears. It was a voice that fell through the fears that riddled his mind, like an angel almost. He looked up.
She saw him glance, and in it saw something that she could not recognise. "The bus is here."
He looked to where she was nodding and he saw the bus pulled into the curb. He mumbled a thanks and rose. He was already seated when he realised she wasn't getting on the bus. He moved across the aisle, coming to sit by the window directly from her. "You not coming?" He asked loudly out of the window.
She shook her head. "I'm catching the next one."
As the bus shifted away he caught glances of her face. That soft cream face. Her light brown hair was pulled into a wispy ponytail, thin shreds framing her face. Her eyes, what colour were her eyes? He couldn't tell. They may be blue, but easily they may be another colour.
She was also considering his eyes. They had been strong, but there was something in them, desperation. For what? She believed them brown, but easily they may be another colour. Her bus pulled in and she was soon watching the trees swipe by.
It was dark when he got off the bus, the streets lights guiding his way home. She was waiting. As soon as she opened the door he noticed her usually neat black hair swept into a whirlwind of clothes.
"Leigh." She was in his arms, shaking her head. He could feel the motion against his back. "He's dead Leigh, dead." Her voice cracked, croaked.
He took his arms from around her, she wasn't wearing her wedding ring. "Where is it Rose?" He was holding her hand tight in his. An indented circle rested around one finger.
She was shaking her head again. "I'm not married anymore Leigh." She said his name, as if it was a comfort to know he was still there. At least one of them was.
"It don't mean you ain't married Rose."
"Do you know what he made me promise, do you know?"
"What was it?"
"That if something ever happened to him, I would move on. That was last week. He was planning this Leigh, planning this!" Exasperation flew into her voice and he grabbed her in his arms so as not to let her flail against the wall.
"It wasn't him though, it wasn't him." She was rambling, her words turning into slur. "That's what they said, they said it wasn't him. But he wanted it, he wanted it I know he wanted it. But it wasn't him. Someone else, they did it. He could never have put that shot, neve, they said that too. Someone else did it. Who was it Leigh? Please, tell me who it was."
But he didn't know, and so remained silent.
He didn't ask Rose if she wanted to stay there that night, just pulled blankets from the cupboard she he could sleep on the couch. He crept in, hearing her soft breathing announce her sleep. What was she dreaming now? How peaceful she looked in that other world, where she knew not of the treacheries that awaited her out here. How beautiful a thing it would be to capture her there. But as the thought slipt to his mind he dismissed it, an idle thought, not to be acted on impulse. He couldn't do it anyway.
So how could someone else do it?
The next day arose and he took Rose to their parents. She would stare there that day, he had things to do. He didn't want to leave her there, for me to come and pay their respects. She didn't want it no matter how much she said it would be comforting. He dared not leave her on her own.
He caught the bus to the church after calling the pastor and was shown into his office with a wave.
"I am very sorry for you loss Leigh, please pay my condolences to Rose."
"Mark was a great man, it is a sorry thing indeed that this misfortune befell him. We are praying for him." His face remained grave, serious in all. "We pray that it will be found the person that did this to him."
"You think someone did it to him?"
"That is what we heard. Is that not right? The reports said it was… murder." He shifted, seeming uncomfortable.
"Yeah, yeah, that's what happened, that's what's they said."
The pastor didn't pick up on his technicality. "Your hear to talk to me about Mark's ceremony?"
"Yes. Rose asked if it could be you that did it. Thought it would be appropriate."
"Of course, is there anything special that is wanted of me to say?" His expression hadn't changed; still grave, still serious.
"Here." Leigh handed across a piece of paper, with words Rose had already written on.
The pastor flipped it open for a moment, a quick scan. "Of course."
"Thanks. It'll mean a lot to Rose."
The pastor paused a moment, an almost curious expression coming across his face. "I understand he'll be buried between his parents."
"Yeah, that's right."
The pastor nodded, that was all he had to say. He rose, extending his hand. "Till Thursday."
Leigh exited the room, walking through the corridor into the church. It had always been a simple church, spindly greens chair put out on a Sunday morning, plain wood walls with a map of the world and pictures made by the children. It had always been that type of church; one where no one would ever feel they weren't in the right place.
"Oh." He had bumped into someone.
"I'm terribly sorry," she was saying. He looked. It was the girl he had seen yesterday.
"Sorry, should've been looking," he apologised.
"We both should have I guessed." She laughed. It was an easy laugh, high that rebounded around the room.
He didn't laugh back. He didn't know how to at the moment.
"I'm sorry about what happened to Mark."
"You knew him?" He was surprised; it was evident in his speech.
"He came to Church. It was a terrible thing, really. A great shock. You don't expect it to happen till…" She said no more. Why, he did not know.
"To terrible, makes you wonder who had it in for him."
She enjoyed listening to his speech, the brashness that surrounded it so different to her own. Rugged, that would be the way to describe him, rugged.
He had a different word for her, beautiful.
"I'm sure that whoever did it had their best interests at heart." She looked down, anything to get away from his eyes. Those deep green eyes.
"How could killin someone have their best interests at heart. It's murdering, no one should be able to do it, no matter what the reason."
"It is a sin, but maybe, it was for the good."
"Who's good?" He found his voice demanding, as if his girl could answer his question.
"Evelyn." The rung out, echoing through the room.
"Yes Dad." She was looking back, and he followed her gaze. The pastor stood in the doorway. "Could I have your hand for a minute." He looked over at Leigh, a disapproving gaze it seemed to him.
"Yes Dad," she repeated. "It was nice meeting you…"
"It was nice meeting you Leigh." She smiled, touching her eyes. Her deep brown eyes, with a hint of something else, something he couldn't quite place.
"You to." He mumbled as she walked off. He made his own way out. He sat at the stop where he had sat the day before, except no one sat beside him. Time after time his mind returned to the girl. Evelyn. He turned the name over his tongue, rolling it out. Evelyn. A truly beautiful name he decided, fit for angel. She almost could be as the Pastor's daughter.
"Leigh." He was sitting on the couch back at his house, eating a microwave dinner. He had attempted to cook, but Rose had just laughed and headed to the freezer. It was good to hear her laugh.
"What's up sis?"
"No one will believe me, if I tell them he wanted to die."
"I believe you." He was honest, and he hoped she could tell.
"I know I'm right. He made me promise, just a week ago. And then…"
"What Rose?" Leigh shifted closer to her, putting his hand on hers where he hid the imprint on her hand.
"He left early for work that morning, not a goodbye said. Just a note that said gone to work. Why couldn't he say goodbye?"
He didn't know, so he remained silent.
Thursday came, and he drove Rose to the church early in the morning. He didn't usually drive, but he had to. Shaking came to his hand as he held the wheel tight. Their parent's meet them there soon after, and slowly people began to file in. Just before the service was due to begin he went to wait outside, wishing for the air to take his worries away.
"May I sit there?" He started at the sound, turning first one way, then the other as he found it was the wrong.
"Course." He motioned for Evelyn to sit down.
She didn't know why she had come to talk to him, nor what she intended to say. She just felt that she needed to come talk to this man she barely knew, but felt so attached to.
"Funerals are never fun," she started, taking the first thing that came to mind.
He looked down on her. She was dressed in a black skirt to her knees, an emerald shirt covering her shoulders. Brown hair flowed loosely down her back. Beautiful, he thought again.
"They're meant to be a celebration they say. Bit hard to celebrate with everyone crying."
"It's a sad thing, but Mark wouldn't have wanted us to be sad." She looked down, and with a careful movement placed her hand on his.
"Mark ain't here to tell us what to do. We say he wanted this, wanted that. We don't know if he wanted any of that. Don't even know if he wanted to live." The last part was said softly, to himself, but he wanted her to hear.
"Leigh." She took his face in her hand, turned her eyes towards him.
And he couldn't help but fall into those beautiful depths, just as she fell into his. Together they leaned forward. Together their lips met, and a parade of love descended upon them.
She broke away first, hesitantly, longingly. She met the eyes of this man, and saw everything she had ever desired. His ruggedness, so imperfect, so different to herself.
He paused in her breath, gazing to meet the eyes of this girl, and he saw everything he had ever desired. Her, so perfect, so different to himself.
Together, perfect and imperfect, there was nothing more either of them could need.
"Mark." She had taken away her gaze, voice sad now but not from the day. "We- You're ten years older than me." She was wringing her hands.
"No one needs to know." He reached out, but she moved her hands away.
"People will find out. I'm the pastor's daughter, everyone will talk. My dad. He'll never speak to me again."
"Just because I'm older. It's no sin."
"When was the last time you went to church Leigh? When was the last time you prayed? When was the last time you actually considered what was up there?" He voice was rising, not in noise though.
"I can change, it's just that I've never tried before."
"I'm sorry Leigh." She rose, not glancing at him, leaving the man sitting on the ledge.
The service passed quickly, mixed with tears and clenched hands. They had driven to the grave-yard, buried the body. It was a simple act, to watch dirt cover the one that people so beloved. He had made sure he was holding on to Rose the whole time; just so she could remember there was someone there that loved her. They progressed to Leigh's parents' house, people gathering to share food and talk.
Rose chatted easily amongst the people, knowing that she must. Leigh would come up to her at times, just to remind her again that he was there. Come, slip into the conversation, leave just as easily. He could hear Rose laughing, small laughter but still, and he knew it was safe to leave her for a while and find Evelyn. She was sitting on the grass in the sun, a baby in her arms. Soon the mother came and retrieved the child, and he took his chance.
"Nice sun, aye,' he said as he plonked himself down.
"Odd to think were commemorating such a sad thing." She made no move to rise. Her face glowed in the sun.
She glanced at his three-day stubble, he had forgotten to shave.
"I'm not going to change my mind Leigh." They were out of range of prying ears.
"I can try can't I?"
"What do you see when you look at me Leigh, what really do you see?" She wasn't looking at him.
He could only say the honest. "I see an angel."
A tear fell down her face. "Do you love me?"
"You wouldn't say those things if you knew what I'd done."
"Tell me what you've done and we can see." He fought the urge to reach out to her, to take her in his grasp.
She was shaking her hand. "I can't tell you."
"Then I'll always love you." He took her hand, not caring for another prying eyes. "I don't care about your past Evelyn, only about your future. Even if you don't accept me I'll always care."
Her voice was soft when she spoke, barely audible to the one that listened. "I killed him."
He didn't move, not even blinked, just sat there with his hand in hers.
"He told me that he couldn't do it himself, but he wanted it so much. He wanted it to escape his sins, what he had done and what he would do. He needn't tell me about her." She was talking now, not even pausing, just letting the words flow from her mouth as her eyes looked away. "He needn't tell me about this other woman, I already knew her. He told me that it would be the only way he could escape his sin, that if he stayed Rose she would find out. He loved Rose, he couldn't bear to break her heart. He's choose Rose's though, not the other girl's. He would abandon hers. He asked me to do it, told me that I had to, for both our souls. Not his though, nor Rose's, but someone else's, two other people, one was me. It's so easy to pull trigger when tears are flowing down. You can't see what you're aiming for." She said no more.
Leigh hadn't been looking at her, but at Rose, and the small bump already formed around her stomach. He looked back to Evelyn, and saw she had taken her hand from this and had them lain around her own stomach. She rose her head, then back down to look at her hands.
"It would've ruined us all."
He knew not what to say.
For anyone who happened to glance their way, they would've seen the pastor's daughter, crying with tears for what had to be the lost man. They would see the older man, the wife's brother, comforting her. They would see nothing between them, but a necessary comforting out of chance. And none would think any more of it, as it passed for their minds with a turn to conversation.
But for them, as he stared into her eyes, and she reached up to stare at his, they each saw everything they desired, in both their lives.
And when he spoke, their hearts met. "Every child should have a father.' Forever.