Once again, she had been talked into it. Even though she thought differently, Jeremy had got his way.
Deborah never knew why she let it happen, for she had her own preferences, and now, as it turned out, his weaknesses had let him down and they were in quite a fix.
She’d been there before and knew more than he did. She could have tried to put him off perhaps. At at this stage in their relationship she simply thought, “Why should I?”
The day started out well enough and whilst the hills beyond beckoned urgently in the skyline, the hill was a long, slow climb that required a consistent pace. After 20 minutes, Jeremy was looking both pale and hot at the same time. Each step seemed to be longer than the previous one, until he finally caved.
“I need a few minutes,” he said, slumping down on a large rock and taking his water bottle out.
Deborah took hers out too, although she was still happy to progress. Someone said they were a good team, but now she wondered.
A cheery couple passed them, harnessing a steady, consistent place. Jeremy looked at them with a scowl.
“They’ll bloody feel it soon.”
“Ready then?” said Deborah, getting up. Jeremy more reluctantly.
Plod, plod, plod. She waited for him every 10 minutes or so.
Just before the summit, the hike took an even tougher dimension. Not only did the gradient significantly increase, but the weather suddenly turned worse too.
Black clouds scuddered across the sky, from the west. Down the valley below, detail became obscured at first and then it was completely gone.
“Not looking good. We need to hurry.” She told him, as he struggled the final 20 metres to the top.
“It’s just passing,” he gasped, as he sat down at last.
She saw him look up and the colour had drained from his face. There was sweat on his brow and his lips were pulled tightly, as he looked over to where she was sitting.
“Are you all right?” he asked her, as she came over.
But he was too late.
Deborah thought that morning that the day didn’t feel quite right. She couldn’t put a finger on it. But not quite right.
She only saw Jeremy for that fleeting last second.
The pain in her chest grew, at first unbearably and then, in the final moment, it eased and her world grew dim.
She could see the valley below again. The sun breaking through. And Jeremy, now with the smile on his face.
“You said you didn’t want to come today.
“But I wasn’t so sure. It was a tough climb, but one that I was up to.
But you? No. I knew if I could just make it, it might see you off, at last.
“It was a bad idea for you. For me, it is a freedom that I’ve been after for years.”
Then, her lights went out, that one, final time.