Squinting in the bright sunlight and trying to shade his eyes with his one free hand, David wished that he hadn’t left his sunglasses at home. Too much to think about. It had been a rush to get out of the house this morning – everything seemed to take twice as long as it should have done and the internet wasn’t working again. He knew that he should have replied to that e-mail last night, but he’d been tired lately, and had opted for an extra half an hour in bed.
Tiredness seemed to be the order of the day; the tiny hand clasped in his own was not straining to break away as it usually did, wanting to stroke every dog that walked past, or chase after the squirrels playing their own games across the trunks and branches of the trees. Even though he didn’t have time, David had slowed as they walked hand in hand through the park. They both loved it here in the sunlight; he and little William. The grass seemed greener, the birds sang louder, and everyone was enjoying the weather. Other children ran after footballs that came up to their knees, clumsily attempted to catch Frisbees, or sat with melting ice cream running over their hands. It brought a smile to David’s face. And not just his – everyone seemed much happier when the sun was out. He was glad the rain had finally been banished if only for that reason – they could all do with a little extra happiness.
A young girl went by desperately clinging on to five different coloured leads as five different coloured dogs pulled her in five different directions, all exploring the scents strewn across the path. David imagined they were all chasing the same squirrel that had deliberately crossed itself time and again to confuse them. William said nothing, which was more unusual than him clinging to David’s side.
“Are you alright, Will?” he asked, “you’re very quiet.”
“ ‘es,” came the reply, barely audible over the noise of those playing games on the grass beside the path.
“Did you see the dogs?” David asked, though it would have been impossible for Will not to have seen them; their backs were almost at his eye level after all.
“ ‘es,” William said again and David frowned.
“What’s the matter?”
“I’m scared,” the boy replied, his voice no more than a whisper.
David stopped walking and knelt so that he could look his son in the eye. Taking by the hands he asked him what he was scared about.
“I’m scared you’re going to leave me.”
“I’m never going to leave you, William.”
The boy’s eyes were blue, like his mother’s; bright blue. They shone in the sunlight and David wiped away the beginnings of a tear from them.
“I promise you, okay?”
“ ‘kay,” William said finally, and then he smiled. David loved to see that smile. Just like the sun, it never failed to make him happy.
“I think it’s time for a ride on the rocket ship, don’t you?”
William nodded and reached his arms out.
“Count with me then – 3…2…1…Blast off!”
And with those words, David grabbed William by the armpits and picked him up, throwing him a little way into the air and catching him. The little boy laughed loudly; he always loved to play rocket ship.
David looked across the park as he set William down and caught sight of her, watching them, leaning against the trunk of a tree. Her dark hair was loose, falling about her shoulders, windswept and yet perfect. Her dress was flimsy, exactly the sort of dress for a summer’s day in the park. It left her arms and legs bare and he admired her before taking William’s hand again and walking towards her.
“Late again,” she said playfully, peering over her sunglasses to turn those blue eyes on him. Such blue eyes.
“I know,” he mumbled and she laughed at him.
“Come on then, let’s not waste any more time. You can buy me an ice cream.”
She gave him a dazzling smile.
“Okay then,” he said, but the smile he gave her was forced. He was trying to hide the stab of pain as she took the hand that William had been holding only moments before. Don’t leave me, Will. Promise?