“You have to go now, Danny,” Claudia said quietly, as we stood beside her car in the low dusk light. The sound of lapping waves against the seawall drowned out the hum of the town, whilst seagulls called from the deep-blue skies above. “You’ll miss the ferry.”
“I know,” I replied. Several of the streetlamps along the Dover waterfront were beginning to flicker on, illuminating the benches that sat lonely beneath them. Dog walkers and evening strollers stepped slowly by, whilst somewhere out to sea, hidden behind the hazed horizon, the muted sound of a ship’s horn rung out. Despite being May, the night was cold and our breaths emitted translucent puffs of vapour into the air. I put my arms around Claudia’s wrapped-up body, feeling the soft textile of her woolly hood on my cheeks. It would be four months before I would see her again.
“OK, now go.” Pushing free from my embrace, she grabbed me by the collar and straightened out my black GoreTex jacket, pulling the zip to its highest point. Teary eyed, but not yet crying, I took one final look at Claudia and then turned painfully away.
Glancing over my shoulder every few seconds, I paced along the redbrick promenade, flanked to its south by the murky waters of the English Channel. The quicker I walked, the sooner it would be over.
Eventually, amidst the fading light, I lost sight of Claudia’s waving arm, pulled my hood over my head and didn’t look back until I reached the ferry.