“Are you coming tonight?” Mark asked. Jack screwed his face up and looked at the telephone, glad that Mark was not here in person to witness his expression.
“Sorry mate, not tonight” Jack sighed. He just couldn’t face it at the moment.
“Come on Jack, you need to get out. The gang would love to see you; we will have a right laugh”.
Jack couldn’t remember the last time he had laughed. He knew being out with a group of friends, all laughing and joking would just make him more miserable.
“Maybe next time” he lied.
“If you change your mind give me a ring”. Mark ended the call.
“Was that Mark?”
Jack turned around quickly; he had not noticed his mother hovering by the door.
“Yes” he mumbled, hoping he wouldn’t have to have another I`m worried about you conversation with his mum.
“Did he want you to go out? To meet up?”
Too late. Jack sighed “Yes but I didn’t fancy it tonight. I`m a bit tired” He faked a yawn to emphasise his point.
“Maybe you would feel a bit better if you went out” his mother started tentatively “Perhaps if you went out for an hour?” she suggested hopefully.
“Leave it mum. I`m not going. I`m going to bed” he answered sharply and walked upstairs leaving his mother sighing despairingly.
Jack tossed and turned, he couldn’t get to sleep. He had made up his mind. He got dressed as quietly as he could, put a few things in his rucksack and left the house.
The full moon lit up the black night, like the sun shimmering on the sea. Jack shivered, yet felt no cold. He walked briskly. He knew where he was headed, he knew it was time. The last few months he had been bombarded with constant images he couldn’t stop. Tonight he was going to find some peace.
A lone cloud skimmed passed the moon momentarily dimming its brilliance, hiding its beauty. The effect seemed to make Jack seem more alone, a ghost of a figure against the backdrop of the dark night.
The path became narrower; the only audible sounds were the crunching of twigs under his feet and the scrabbling of insects burrowing under the fallen leaves. The night breeze stirred the branches of the trees; the leaves whispered the secrets of his cluttered mind. Deep into the woods Jack finally comes to a stop, leaning back against the thick, ridged trunk of an old oak tree, he placed his rucksack on the floor and sat on it. The futility of his actions not lost on him. He sighed deeply watching his breath travel from his mouth in a vapoured mist.
“I guess this is it”. He mumbled to himself fumbling in his backpack. “Hello” a voice scared Jack witless; he placed his hand on his rapidly beating heart.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you”. A blond-haired woman in her early twenties stepped into his view.
“I didn’t hear you, what are you doing out in the woods at this time?” Jack questioned, surely it wasn’t safe for a young woman to be out alone at this hour. She waved her hand dismissively, “I often walk through these woods to clear my head”.
“Yeah that’s why I am here” Jack lied.
“That’s not strictly true is it?” the woman said quietly staring at him with eyes that seem to pierce his soul.
“I’m Lucy, I`ve been where you are, it`s not the answer I promise you”. She sat down next to him pulling her coat tighter.
“I don’t know what you mean”. Jack started to protest.
“Yes you do” she interrupted “I saw the rope in your bag” Jack hung his head; he couldn’t even get this right.
“What’s going on? I won’t judge, like I said I’ve been there myself” she placed her hand on his arm.
“My wife has left me, I`ve lost my job, I`m in debt and at thirty years old I am back at home being a burden to my parents, just when they should be enjoying life. Nobody cares about me”. The last sentence sounded indulgent and petulant even to him.
“Things will get better I promise, I thought I wouldn’t be missed, that everyone would be better off without me, you don’t realise how much your family love you until it`s too late”.
Lucy snuggled into him shivering slightly; he put an arm around her shoulder and held her close. He felt a strange peace, a calm he hadn’t felt in months, sitting in the silence. Time passed, he didn’t know how long they had sat there.
“Do you feel a bit better now?” she enquired.
“I think I do”. He smiled and helped Lucy up. They walked together to the edge of the woods, she pointed to the cottages. “This is where I live, goodnight” She kissed him briefly on the cheek and waved goodbye.
Jack woke to the sound of clinking and the smell of bacon. He inhaled deeply as he walked into the kitchen. “Smells great” he smiled at his mum, before sitting at the table.
“Oh Jack, it`s so nice to see you smile again, I`ve been so worried. When you went out last night, I lay in bed awake until I heard your key in the door.”
He saw how much she loved him and felt instant guilt at what it would have done to her if he had ended his life last night.
“I met someone last night mum” he ventured. “Her name is Lucy, she lives in a cottage by the woods, I am going to see her today, take some flowers”.
His mother frowned “There is no Lucy living in the cottages, there used to be a Lucy, Gill Barnes`s daughter. Beautiful girl she was, blonde hair, lovely smile.” His mother lowered her voice. “She took her own life a few years ago, hung herself”.
Jacks mug slipped from his hand and smashed loudly on the kitchen floor.