She was waiting for him outside the entrance to the railway station; a young woman leaning against a wall with her head and face enveloped in the hood of her coat against the cold, and on first seeing her as he walked from the car, his heart went out to her once more, and he knew before they had even spoken that he had, after all, done the right thing, or at least had taken the only course of action open to him. He would rather have her life on his conscience than her death, whatever might follow. To have done nothing when he could have done something, however desperate and foolish that thing may have been, would have been a burden that he would have carried like a dead weight on his soul.
What should his first words to her be? How would they follow such an extraordinary parting with such an ordinary meeting, at a railway station concourse in broad daylight on a cold winters’ evening? Indeed it was true to say that almost all of their previous encounters had been extraordinary, since the time that she had knocked on the side door of his cottage, and they had had their first and defining conversation. But perhaps because of this, they had in the short time that they had spent in each others’ company come to know each other better than two people perhaps had the right to do. Both had looked deep into the soul of the other, and found a mutual place, and a mutual understanding, and so, in the end, no words were needed; only ordinary words.
‘Hello Rebecca; shall we?’
They walked together to the car and Percival drove them out onto the main road for the half hour or so of their journey; they would catch some of the commuter traffic.
‘So; where is she?’
‘She’s at the Manor House; I take it you don’t want to go straight there.’
‘Does she know I’m coming?’
‘Nobody knows you’re coming. You’ll have some explaining to do; I don’t know where you’ve been and I’m happy to keep it that way.’
‘Fine; the village then’
And of course this would be her next difficulty. She had no idea how she would meet Victoria again, or what reception she would receive when she did so. Even assuming that they were to be together after all that had happened, she could scarce walk up the long drive to the Manor House and knock on the huge wooden doors; something which Percival had understood. If there was to be a reunion, and if, eventually, they could live on the village Green again, this time with the full knowledge of her mother and father, then this would have to happen on Victoria’s terms, and in her own time; Rebecca owed her that. In any event she asked Percival to make a brief halt to their journey, so that she might acquire something which might make their reunion a little easier.
‘Percival; how much does she know?’
Did she know about the massacre at the temple? Did she even know that Percival had met her, and had sent her away before he did whatever he had done? These and a hundred other questions Rebecca had been asking the four winds during her long period in hiding; now at least she might begin to get some answers.
‘She knows you’re alive and coming back sometime; she knows it was probably you who killed the guy on the bridge; that much she worked out for herself. As to the rest of it; probably not; certainly it hasn’t come up in conversation between us’
Rebecca smiled despite the circumstances; Percival had saved her life, twice; Percival knew her dark and terrible secrets, and this was his way; to make light of everything; to make profound and important statements as if he were discussing the weather.
‘Well then indeed.’
‘And what about you..?’
‘What about me?’
‘Are you okay with everything?’
‘I’m getting by. Look; everything that only I know stays that way; as far as I am concerned it was only probably you who killed the red – head. We have both made it through this far and for that we should be thankful, but…’
‘But you can do no more; yes, I understand that.’
‘Then we have an understanding.’
For most of the rest of the journey they were silent, each attending to their own thoughts, and both quietly and in their own way taking solace from the presence of the other. She was alive, and perhaps no longer hunted; hard bridges still lay ahead for her to cross, but she was alive. And he had brought her back; an ordinary car journey with a young woman; the culmination of all that he had put himself through. There had been a moment, in the confessional at a church, where he thought that it was all over for both of them; when the panic which he had been holding in tight restraint by means of narcotics and willpower had broken free and found its’ way into his thoughts, and his innate and instinctive will to live had berated his own stupidity. He had always known that the odds against this moment ever happening had been long; very long, and he understood this better now in retrospect than he had at the time. But the odds had paid off; the ace had been turned over; they had bought the story, at least at the time, and here they were jumping traffic lights together. As to what Rebecca had been through since their last meeting, and how she now saw the world, that conversation if it had to occur at all needed alcohol and cigarettes. He took one from the pack and lit up, offered it to her and she refused; he took a deep draw, looked out of the side window of the car, and allowed himself at least a few moments of satisfaction.