It's Friday morning, eight o'clock and I'm still in bed, propped up by a pile of plumped up pillows. Most mornings I'm up and out before Philip's even conscious, but on a Friday I work from home, so I'm the one who gets to stay tucked up in the duvet, with the cup of tea he made before he left.
I don't always live easily in the present. My mind's default setting is to think about the future, to mull over things, worry about and plan for what will, or might, or ought, to happen. Today though, there's something about the light outside that leads me to just sit.
The sky's a pale blue, cut in quarters by the white trailing clouds from two passing planes, like a washed out Scottish flag. From where I sit I can see the tops of the trees; they're still skeletal at this time of year. Though I know their leaf buds are forming, I can't see them from here. One old tree must have been there for hundreds of years. It stands in the back garden of a small cottage along the valley and it's been pruned a number of times to stop it blocking the light from the buckled leaded windows. It seems to have been hacked at without much thought for its shape so it now has a permanent one-sided lean, as though it's straining to get away from the cottage. For the last couple of years it's been the last tree to get leaves, like a recalcitrant old man who finds fewer reasons to get up and dressed every morning.
Where the tree's been cut back, I can see the upstairs of the house. The windows peep out from an old, uneven red-tiled roof, blinking in the light like eyes from under a fringe. I wonder if there's someone sitting in their bed thinking about the trees and the sky, looking out at me.
It's very quiet now that Philip's left for work. It's not just that he likes to leave the radio on in every room, more that there's a sound to his presence. When he's here, I sense his breathing. I can tell by the pace and depth of it, what mood he's in, how hard he's concentrating, whether he's tense or relaxed. When I first knew him, we worked in an office together. One day he spent a whole day coughing, trying to clear his chest. By the end of the day I felt the need to clear my own throat in sympathy every time he gasped for breath. Sometimes now, without even realising it, I find my breath slowing down or speeding up to keep pace with his.
Before he left, I listened to him moving around, heard him downstairs talking to the cat; waited for his step on the stairs, on the creaking floor-board in the bedroom. I noticed the click that his tin of hair-pomade made when he set it down on the wooden box by the bed, I heard his keys jangle as he picked them up and dropped them into his trouser pocket.
I sit for a while, but thoughts of the work I need to do today start pushing into the empty quietness. I know it's time to get up. When I do, the news is all of a terrible earthquake and tsunami in Japan. I switch on the TV and see film after film of buildings shaking, people screaming, rolling tidal waves of water washing over fields and through car parks.
It doesn't seem possible, that while I sat looking out at the peace of the valley, halfway across the world, people's lives were literally being turned upside down. I know there is no rhyme or reason. It simply isn't fair that some people will never again hear the turn of the key in the lock as their loved ones return at the end of the day. I am enormously grateful that I will.