Firstly, going out was a mistake. I did it because Ann asked, but I should really have trusted my instincts and stayed at home. Then the wine was a bigger mistake. I only had a glass and a bit, because I was driving, but that was enough. I don’t remember ever being steeped in misery quite as quickly as that in my life; it was as if something came and took me over, and I was helpless to resist. Rather sad, but true. So when the pool party started up, I really couldn’t stand it, and I went out for a walk, up the high street.
It was actually quite a pleasant walk, all alone in the wind and rain, the streets completely deserted. When I got up to HSBC I figured I might as well pop in for a little cash, seeing as I had run low. Just as I got up to the glass doors, I noticed that there were four people – three men and a woman – sitting on the floor, and one of them got up to ask me for a light. Something in the way he asked set off an alarm bell in my head, and when I said no, I didn’t have a light he held the door open and invited me into the ATM. That was when the alarm got really loud. Step into a closed space with three scruffy looking characters, pull out my bank cards, and draw cash from the ATM? No thanks. That was exactly what I said to him, and walked away – somewhat more swiftly than I had walked there. I did glance over my shoulder once or twice, but that was just paranoia. I’m pretty sure nothing would have happened, but the way the warning tingled down my spine, I think it’s better not to have taken chances. Close? Maybe, maybe not. But as Hil pointed out, I’m not really a risk taker. I think there’s sensible risk and completely idiotic risk, and this fell into the second category.
I walked back past the cathedral, all sombre and silent in the floodlights, the rain streaming steadily off the eaves and gargoyles as it has for centuries past, and then along the river, watching the swans apparently swimming in their sleep to stay in one place, and ended up at the Abbey mill, where I perched on the courtyard between the pillars, listening to the water sluicing over the stones and rushing away into the darkness under my feet, feeling quite utterly sorry for myself. Self-pity is a dangerously seductive morass; getting in is trivial, getting out quite different. Somewhere, there’s always a little voice in my head laughing at the idiocy of it all, but yesterday it was drowned by the fury of the flood; remembering the letter, the walks, the laughter, sitting in the sunshine on the bench not ten steps from where I was standing.
Then, of course, Val had to go and ruin it all by calling and coming out after me – all I wanted to do was be left alone, and I would have worked through it. I always do. I’m just glad he didn’t find me until a few minutes before we left, and Arne turning up was a lucky coincidence; saved me from having to talk and explain things.