The book does not know I have left the house without it. Though it is sunny and warm I have donned wellies and a bobble hat. I have a faint idea that I might look a tad ridiculous, but no matter. The main thing is to be out on this glorious day of sharp shadows and scudding clouds.
Out, without the book.
Partly it is the weather and partly it is me. Or rather, us. Last night words were spoken, some harsh, some impolite, nearly all of them unfriendly. We did not part on good terms, and this morning it was nowhere to be seen. Not at the desk, not in the kitchen, not on the way to work.
The walk is a familiar one around the neighbourhood, downhill for the first bit, then to the river and canal, then uphill again. The perfect loop. Half an hour on a good day, without the wind.
It’s the walk I’ve always used in emergencies: when the children were little and stir crazy; when I was recovering from cancer; when I was depressed at work. It has never let me down. ‘The bouncy bridge, the bouncy bridge!’ they used to yell, giggling. But today there is just me and one solitary dog walker, a woman in her sixties with a well-behaved terrier.
I pause, like I always do, in the middle, where there is a good view of the weir. The day began with scraggy clouds and more than a hint of mist, but now it has cleared up beautifully, as it so often does in this town at this time of day. The late afternoon sunshine casts long shadows across the riverside park, where some youths sit in a circle, their bikes collapsed on the grass. Soon, I find myself thinking, it will be the cricket season. Hope.
Without knowing it, I realise I have let the book go. This is not the same as finishing it, or knowing where or how it will end. But I know that it is no longer mine. That it will be -in fact has already become- what it wants to be, and that I am powerless to stop it. My job now, I suddenly understand, is to get out of its way.
It is a feeling of great sadness and excitement: I want to run home in my wellies and bobble hat to let the book know my discovery. But I do not move. Instead I savour the sunshine and listen to the roar of the weir, even as the bridge starts to tremble in the freshening breeze.