The path

It was like every morning. The alarm clock next to his bed at the same spot his entire life. Folding up his puffy white duvet, which rustled with every movement. Raising himself up slowly. The back was not as flexible anymore as in his young years. Getting out of his bed, slipping his aching feet in his orderly arranged Felt slippers at the side of his bed. Taking a moment to catch his breath and then reaching for his red Robe with the paisley pattern on it on the foot of his bed. Of course also neatly folded. Life has to be in order. Geoffrey believed in order. His whole life.

Not for nothing he had made it from starving, painful times in 2nd World war to managing the great company in the City. He passed it on to his only son Paul. He was a bit of a nuisance Geoffrey thought but he had no other family left since his wife Clare died a few years ago.

Paul loved life, Geoffrey always described it. Went out to see friends after dark and slept long into the day. He worked here and there but nothing stable and secure as Geoffrey would have liked to see it. And raised him he thought. Not like him, every morning the same procedure,

7 o clock on the spot and no minute later. Either it was Monday, Wednesday or the weekend. He gave himself a bit of a leeway on Sunday. After all it was the day of the Lord and the earliest mass did not start until 9, so he gave himself another hour in this wonderful fragrant bed.

He had kept the same washing powder Clare had in her living years with him. To keep her memory. To keep her here.

Geoffrey was up, having tied his silky robe around him and shuffling into the big kitchen opposite the hallway. Even the feet didn't carry him as lightly anymore especially in these slippers and he did not like the shuffling sound on the shiny wooden floors. Opening the fridge door, getting the carton of milk out and putting it on the big brown table. Turning around to take the cup behind him out of the cupboard with the ornamented glass doors. Always the same cup. Pure white with the little roses and daisies and the curved small handle on it. And the matching saucer with it. Always on the right corner of the table. There was the matching plate with it placed carefully and beautifully next to the little cup. Matching butter dish and Tea pot already placed in the middle so he only had to put down the small metal leaver on the old fashioned water kettle on his gas cooker which had not been replaced since Clare and him had moved into that grand house on the leafy avenue close to the city. He always pretended that his wife was sitting next to him at the table with the white crochet tablecloth on it and he sometimes caught himself putting an extra setting on. Then he had to smile and scolded himself gently. Pouring himself the daily tea in his cup Geoffrey sat down to have his breakfast. It was Saturday. He knew that. He might not rush every day to the office anymore, but he still had a calendar at the wall to never forget the days. It was important. Sunday his son Paul usually called. But these young boys. You could not rely on them and Paul was not different. Geoffrey tried to convince himself that Paul tried, but then it was obvious that the calls ceased to come in regularly after he had taken on the company. Geoffrey didn't even know what happened to it. Did it flourish, did it go down? But he was not really bothered anymore. Too many years bowing and scraping to build the company up to be able to offer Clare and his son the best life as can be. And now with a substantial pension he received every month it was time to let go. It was quiet in the kitchen and only the loud ticking of the clock at the wall next to the Calendar kept Geoffrey company when he finished his regular toast with butter and Raspberry Jam. Always the same brand. Always two slices. Geoffrey did not like change. After having tipped with his fingers the last crumbs he placed the shiny knife on the plate. He took the last sip of his tea and got up. Geoffrey shuffled with the few things balancing on his hand to the sink and shortly after the dishes were washed, cleaned, dried and put back where they belonged. Time to dress. It was only Saturday and Geoffrey allowed himself to sit down at the breakfast table in his gown. Otherwise he did not like that and found it inappropriate. But it was weekend so he called Saturday his “sloppy day”. But when it was time to dress it was time. Geoffrey did not like to waste. If it was food, clothes or even time.

The hands on the clock showed already 7.45 so definitely it was time to start the day. Every day routine was essential for Geoffrey. It hurt. Every single time. When he opened the squeaky doors of the old fashioned wardrobe in his bedroom and saw Clare's fancy dresses hanging next to his spotless suits. He never got round to remove them. Or simply did not want to. They even still had this sweet scent of his beloved wife on it. Even after such long years he felt a tear making its way from his eyes to his wrinkly cheek directly into his heart. Saturday was also the day for the brown suit. The blue suit with the slight shine on it was for Sundays. For the church and exchanging a few friendly words with the local priest. He also had a special walking cane for that day. The one with the wooden head of a duck. It had a bit of glamour to it and he loved it. A present to their 40th wedding anniversary from his wife. He worshipped it and only came out for Sunday and special occasions. On regular days he had his standard brown one with the soft grip on top. So he took out his brown suit and placed it diligently on his bed. A matching shirt and tie was arranged and he started dressing. It was always a special procedure for Geoffrey. He loved standing in front of his tall mirror and taking off his pyjamas and dressing up to begin his day. The freshly pressed suit, the white shirt with the stiff collar, the matching tie with the paisley pattern and the jacket which fit like a glove on his slim body. He pulled down the jacket a little and felt satisfied with what he saw. On the way out he took his Fedora hat which had lost the shimmer slightly with the years and his every day walking stick. It was misty outside and Geoffrey decided to wear his light blue coat and pulled the door shut after him.

His daily morning walk was always the same. Out of the front door of his house and turning left towards the town park with the little pond in the middle. He loved leaving the road and entering the park with the tall trees and feeling the pebbles crunching under his feet. Geoffrey always slowed down then and took a deep breath. The fresh air, the smell of lush grass and the noise of people chattering. Usually they were in a hurry. Morning time and hurrying not to be late for work or wherever they had to be. Still there was always time for a smile and a slight lift of his hat back to them. Geoffrey loved that and it made him still feel important. They knew him in this neighbourhood for years, but families had come and gone and many new people had moved in. Still he felt that was his home. Even without Clare who loved the parks and their walks when time allowed it. And now he still always felt her presence sweep at his sleeve. Geoffrey wondered if that would ever stop.

Today was different. He left his house and took a right turn. He did not take the usual road and his pace was firm almost vigorous. It was chilly and faint wind took off and it shook him for a second. He stopped for a moment and zipped up his coat. Not long after he reached the train station and went into the huge glass building. A crowd of people were bustling around and it made Geoffrey uncomfortable. Him and Clare did not like travelling. They liked to spend their free time together and took their son when he was small, to parks or to Museums in the city. They never felt the need to change their environment. Why should they, when they had such a wonderful home and well groomed garden in front of their doorstep.

Geoffrey composed himself and went straight up to the ticket booth. “One ticket to Euston Station please!” he said to the clerk behind the glass window with the little speaker holes in it. “One way!” The clerk nestled with the small metal machine and with a short “5 pounds 30, sir please!” he handed him the ticket. He threw a smile to the smartly dressed man on the other side of the desk. “ Its chilly out today isn't it?” “Yes it is!” Geoffrey replied with no expression on his face while counting the money on the little table. He was surprised to notice that he forgot his wallet. Geoffrey was never surprised. He was always prepared. He took the change and with a short “Good day” in a slick London accent, he turned away. Geoffrey didn't hear the confused clerk whispering to his colleague: “ That was rude! Guess too early for friendliness!” he laughed and set out to deal with his next customer.

Geoffrey followed the signposts to the platform and was feeling almost irritated that he had to wait for more than 30 minutes for the train to arrive. As he hated waiting, he strode up and down the platform with an occasional raise of his hat towards people smiling at him. Finally the train arrived and he took a seat at the window for the short trip to Euston. When he arrived on his stop to continue his journey the weather had deteriorated. He felt the soft rain stinging his face and he hurried to the ticket booth to purchase his next ticket to Manchester. Return. It was quite a journey. Geoffrey did not like journeys, especially since Claire had died. But this one was different. He knew. And that gave him consolation. He looked around in the carriage and was amazed how many different kind of people were travelling with him. He felt silly, having really lost touch with people in his big house, his daily walk in the park and back home. There was a young man sitting in front of him, earbuds in his ear and moving his head silently in the rhythm of the unheard music. He looked up for a second and gave Geoffrey a swift smile. Geoffrey pretended to lift his hat and bowed his head slightly. Manners were always very important to him.

When he finally got off the train, the sun had completely disappeared and dark clouds hung on the heavy sky. He shivered for a moment and he was not sure if it was of the damp air creeping into every fibre of his body or that he knew. He had a look around and a deep feeling of almost complete comfort overcame him. He closed his eyes for a moment and took a deep breath. The cold air entered his lungs and he felt at ease. One single tear affirmed him that he was nearly there. So he pulled the coat tight around him and started walking.

After a while Geoffrey decided just to make sure that he would not get lost and entered the pub with the huge golden Letters THE CLARENCE PUB which were almost flaking off the red brick wall. He just wanted to make sure. Even this wisdom was with him all the way. But Geoffrey just liked security which gave him the peace of mind he needed in his life. Only a few people were scattered in the dark smoky room with the heavy wooden furniture. It was around midday and Geoffrey preferred less people in the moment anyway. He was not interested in a conversation. “Hey there mate!” the landlord greeted him in the typical bar slang. Geoffrey was not able to spot him first as the young man was hidden behind the many beer taps. He approached the bar where a big grin welcomed him. :” Hello there, dreadful out there today isn't it? Good idea to get in here mate! How are you? We have not seen you here before, fancy a pint?” And with that he offered him a foamy freshly brewed dark glass. Geoffrey lifted his hat as a greeting and refused politely the drink: ‘“ Hello, my name is Geoffrey Wilkins and all I wanted to know is, if I am on the right way to the peak of the Indian Head!” He wondered if the barman was able to hear him as he felt the words did not come easy for him. The wide open eyes of the landlord made clear that his question reached him alright. “The Indian head peak?” In a split second the whole pub fell silent. Obviously taken completely by surprise he put the pint back on the bar and replied:” What do you want on the peak with this weather?” He pointed with his hand out of the window as if Geoffrey did not realise that this weather was not made for climbing a mountain. How could the barman know that he actually thought that this weather suited his intentions. Then the young man looked up and down on Geoffrey. “ And look at your outfit - I don't think it suits that adventure either!” The barman lifted once again the pint glass which by now had lost its fresh foam on top and offered it to Geoffrey: ” Come on mate, leave it for another day, take off your coat and have a drink with us. Its warm and cozy here and we can tell you some stories about the mountain if you like!” He laughed and mumbling out of the background agreed:” “Yea Mate have a seat and we pass this miserable day with stories and a few drinks, could be worse right?” Laughter in the back. Geoffrey's face turned serious and he cleared his throat:” I don’t want a pint I said, no thanks! “ And he stared into the landlords eyes. “All I want is directions to the peak of the mountain, thank you!” The young man took a step back. :” Yea yea its ok mate! You don't need to let the goat out here..” And the landlord leaned over the counter and repeated his words distinctly:” Just saying mate, its miserable out there, your not dressed properly and the path up to the peak will NOT be pleasant!” Then he turned back and lifted his hands:” Well I warned ya! Do what you want! Just go out turn left and up the road. After about 100 yards you see a sign to your left. It will lead you off the main road to the path up to the mountain. But I must tell you, with this weather it might take you well,” he looked on his wristwatch and hesitated for a moment calculating,”.. mmmm two or even three hours!” He looked at Geoffrey with the last hope this elderly man with the strong northern accent would change his mind. But Geoffrey once again stroke his hand across the front rim of his hat and with a “Thank you very much. That’s all what I needed. Have a good day!” he marched out of the warm pub into the cold.

With the chilly air now also a strong breeze had come up and when Geoffrey looked up the mountain, mist had filled the peak and the view had worsened. A strong gust of wind hit Geoffrey full front and almost made him loose his stand. His hat could not withstand the push of the wind and flew off. Geoffrey did not mind. He set off for what he came for and followed the small road until he spotted the weathered wooden sign with the letters: INDIAN HEAD PEAK and he turned into a small gravel path. Almost immediately the path ascended and Geoffrey started to pant. He chuckled to himself ” Well 70 is not 20!” And he took all his strength together when the path turned into a dirty narrow track with several snowy patches.

He had to be careful to not loose his step and slip. The air sharpened and Geoffrey now regretted the choice of the light blue coat. Also the slippers he had decided on started to loose the grip constantly now. Only the awareness of his intentions and the deep warm emotions in him carried him on. The snow got deeper and the view had gotten even worse. He had not met anybody for a while now and it was still around him. The cold wind and the snow under his feet scrunching was the only noise. Then even the wind stopped howling and the rain began lashing down. After a short time his coat and feet were completely soaked. Geoffrey stopped for a moment and looked up. The mist had cleared a little and the dark sky appeared. He stared into the clouds and he smiled. There it was.

His emotions ran high and took over. Tears ran down his wrinkled cheeks and he could feel it. The calming of the sadness which he had carried in his heart for such a long time. He took the hands out of his pockets and he folded them in front of his face. It was not the wind which picked up again but the soft calming sound of a voice. Tears now blinded Geoffrey's sight and he decided to sit down in the rain on a wet snow covered rock at the side of the path.

“Geoffrey my darling, don't worry, your home!” was the last thing he heard before he surrendered himself in the embrace of the only love he had ever known.