Early morning and mist is wrapped around the tops of the mountains. Down here it is lifting slowly like a reluctant child leaving her warm sleep. I walk through fields of shiny wet grass and pick out diamonds in the dew. I have come early and parked the car further away than I needed to so that I have time to think and to find the right words.
Now that I'm here I am not so sure and think about turning back and leaving. I could put it off for another time. Another day, another week -- what difference would it make?
I am out of the fields now and on the very edge of the village. And then just as I think about bolting like some scared rabbit he is there. He has seen me from the window and he's calling my name. I run to him. I like being in his arms. I love his love. He is the father I never had, the father I longed for as a child.
When Vincent first took me to meet him he opened his arms then. There was no formal handshake, none of the usual politeness or caution of strangers. Later I asked Vincent if his dad was like that with all his girlfriends.
"I've never taken any of them home before." he said. And although he laughed his dark eyes locked with mine and in that moment he told me that he loved me and that I was special. I looked right back at him to let him know that I felt the same.
We went together just months later to tell his dad that we had plans to marry, that we wanted to be married in the village where Vincent and his brother had grown up. His dad brought them up on his own above a coffee shop. His sons left to live and work in the town but his dad stayed. He still has the shop and it is busy all year round. In the summer, tourists come and in the winter the locals come as much for his conversation as his good coffee.
Vincent pulled him away from his customers that day and told him we were getting married. He didn't say anything for a long moment, just kept his head down, then he
looked up and nodded, but his dark eyes were shiny and I knew how happy we had made him.
As we go into the coffee shop now, that moment is with me again. It was a moment of pure joy, a floating moment. He brings me in now and sits me down in front of the fire and brings over two mugs full of steaming mocha coffee. He goes and gets some cream and swirls it on the top.
"So, it's been ages, how have you been?" He is looking at the flames in the fire and I know that there is no reproach in his words. He is not telling me off for not coming to see him. He is very straight, what you see is what you get. That's why I had to come and see him, to tell him what is happening and to hope he will understand.
He pulls on his coat and we go out for a walk. Slowly the mist is leaving the mountains although the tops are still shrouded in swirls. We talk about this and that but I'm struggling. There's a tension in me that spills over into the conversation so it feels forced and unnatural.
All the way down here, I thought about what I would say and how I would say it but now words fail me. Silence falls between us. We are by the church now where Vincent and I had planned to marry. It is a tiny church just big enough for the village and late creamy roses are still in bloom around the entrance.
"Do you want to go in?" I ask him. He shakes his head and relief washes over me. He tells me that he doesn't go often, " I did at first, not now."
We walk on past whitewashed cottages and ancient trees just holding on to the last of their leaves. We're thinking about Vincent and remembering.
"I knew you were the one, I saw how Vincent looked at you and I was so happy for both of you. To love someone and be loved back, it's everything."
I slip my hand in his and hold on tight. Vincent died riding his bike too fast, always in a hurry, too busy even to live. I miss him.
Now I say out loud, " I miss him," and this is the right time to tell the truth. To tell Vincent's father that I have found someone else.
The right words I had practised are all but gone and everything comes out in a rush, tumbling words with no sense. I am jumping and mixing up the time sequence I know, so I backtrack to emphasise how it has happened suddenly, over weeks really, although the friendship was there for months, longer.
"I don't want you to think I am some sort of merry widow. Vincent hasn't been dead two years. I worry that people will think it's too soon."
This is where he interrupts me, after saying nothing at all. His voice is quick and angry.
"You're not to worry about what people think. It's what's in your heart that's important. You cannot have your life ruled by what other people think. One year, two years -- who cares? Love isn't something you order after five years of mourning. You love this man, he loves you. It's natural you should be together." He lets his breath out and I do the same.
"There's more," I say. He is looking away from me when I tell him that it is his older son that I love. Vincent's brother, Joseph. He turns to me slowly and his face is just a smile, a huge smile. He holds out his arms and I move close. The wind whispers around us, a gentle wind that feels like a blessing.