'The Widow' by Gillian Brown

Jenna spent hours meditating, practising complex yoga positions and repeating mantras. She spoke to God. She spoke to the bottom of her wine glass. She poured her heart onto the page. She ran, climbed mountains, scrubbed the house, re-arranged the furniture. But all around her – in the hollow of a cushion, in a fingerprint on the window, or where her arm lay on the far side of the bed – he was there. She would see his face behind her, reflected in the bathroom mirror. If she turned around or blinked he was gone, leaving an even emptier space than was there before. It had been well over a year now, yet nothing could fill the void.

‘Come on,’ Alice said. ‘Stop that!’

The two women had been friends all their lives and were often mistaken for sisters. Alice could finish off Jenna’s sentences, and vice versa. But it was always Alice who had the big ideas. For Jenna they were no more than foolish dreams. Until now.

With saddlebags bulging on their specially-adapted motorbikes, they caught the ferry. The first stop was Calais, then Marseilles, then Tangiers. The greens and greys of England soon morphed into pinks, crimsons and ochres. Unfamiliar sights and sounds widened Jenna’s eyes and filled her ears. Her veins coursed as if with new blood, tingling and fresh. It was a five senses explosion.

They’d now left the bustling cities and kasbahs behind. The only signs of life were the Berber nomads, clad in cobalt blue, huddled around the oases. They showed Jenna and Alice no surprise, only stares, and the camels gave them nothing more than a disdainful glance.

‘We’ve a long way to go,’ Alice said, pointing at the camel track ahead, which weaved its way around the dunes.

Jenna accelerated. The bike throbbed beneath her. Her hair escaped its intricately-tied turban, flying behind her as if unable to keep up. She felt the void shrinking inside her as her negative emotions tumbled like grains of sand into the desert. Sheer joy settled in their place.

She opened her mouth and hurled a primal scream into the empty Sahara. Alice joined in.

 ‘I don’t care if the Berbers think we’re mad!’ Jenna’s voice trailed behind her, the words written in the wind. ‘This is just the start, we’ve another five continents to go!’

Then it happened. She felt him slide onto the back of the motorbike seat. For an instant, her muscles tightened, then his lips brushed the back of her neck. She let out a long slow breath. It didn’t matter. Nothing mattered. Why had she sought escape? He would always be there and that was a fact.

As Jenna’s thoughts slowed her down, Alice drew her bike alongside. They shared a smile and rode on in silence.


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