Third place, Autumn 2022
Picture by Austin Neill on Unsplash
So at about five in the morning, Jack set off from his and picked everyone up one by one. Harry first, then Sophie. Then they stopped by mine. And he drove all the way to South Point with the sun breaking over the motorway.
Mostly in silence, even Harry. Not even any music, until there was about half an hour left and then the playlist went on.
I forgot to say there was also a tea and a buttie break, and a little stretch of the legs.
‘You look like death,’ I told Harry in the queue.
‘I’m hanging,’ he said. ‘But don’t tell Jack. I know we weren’t supposed to go out last night but I couldn’t help it. I knew you wouldn’t care, anyway.’
It helped explain how he’d managed to keep so quiet though.
It was about seven by the time the car had pulled up, the sun risen and a beautiful blue sky. A glorious view of the water. Salty, sea air that hit you like a brick and ‘Miss You,’ on the stereo. You couldn’t have wrote it better.
‘Anyone fancy chips?’ asked Harry.
‘Don’t be stupid,’ said Jack. ‘They won’t be open at this time. And we’re not there yet anyway.’
And everyone reached for their sweaters and jackets and trudged down to the sand and along the seafront, still in silence until –
‘I can’t do it,’ Sophie said.
‘But we agreed,’ said Jack. ‘And we’ve come all this way.’
‘I know, I know. I’ve tried, I’ve really tried. And I so want to do it for him, you know I do. But I just can’t.’
Jack was trying to be nice about it, but he also wanted it done with before it got too much for him. So he said ‘Give it here then. We’ll meet you back at the car if you like.’
‘You know I love you,’ I told her.
‘I love you too,’ she said,
And she passed Jack her letter and they carried on. Just him and Harry now. Along the tide, onto the rocks, and then the clifftop. The wind was blowing like mad up there, cutting into their faces and it was dead loud, but they wrapped their jackets around them and kept on going.
‘When do we stop?’ shouted Harry.
‘You know when,’ said Jack.
‘Here’s fine lads,’ I told them. ‘Don’t kill yourselves on my behalf for god’s sake.’
But they couldn’t hear me and so they kept on going. Until they reached the very top.
Harry was crying by now. And I thought it was just the hangover but then Jack wiped away a tear and all.
‘Come on lads,’ I told them.
‘We wanted to do this for you, mate,’ Jack said. ‘We love you; we miss you, we’re sorry.’
‘You’ve got nothing to be sorry about, you daft sod.’
‘Do we read the letters now?’ Harry said.
‘Just give them here,’ I told them.
And they watched them blow into the wind.