North & South.
I watch her as she leans into the window and doodles a shaky heart shape on the misty glass.
Her trembling hand strokes the dying mark of a bruised face, one eye lost in a blackened fold of skin the other red rimmed with weeping.
Beads of condensation slip down the glass in sympathy and momentarily hover over the heart outline like a delicate chain of silver tears.
A muted expletive is hissed, a finger quickly strikes a broad line clean through the heart before she turns her attention to the flickering TV screen.
Stuttering sound bites spit out world news and local information from the Metrology office and Highways Department.
'... heavy snow...high winds...driving conditions hazardous...the main routes leading North and South...are now temporarily closed until further notice... traffic will be ...directed to the nearest service station and...'
The Met forecast is cast aside for further bleak news from around the world, war, floods, famine, another death...
'Depressing isn't it!' I say. 'Nothing but doom and gloom ...and...!'
'Yes...you can say that again...' she interrupts and leans forward to stare at grainy scenes of desolation from a troubled country.
'Travelling North were you...?' she asks abruptly.
'...ehm...yes... I am, or I was until the...!'
'Staying over for the night...?'
'...well, yes, no option, accident in the rental car, I'm ok though...'
I nod to a small yellow hatchback with crushed bodywork.
'I went for the cheapest hire on offer, now it's going to cost me a small fortune in repairs and...'
'I'm heading South...!' she shuts me off, her voice harsh and desperate.
'I got this far in the bus then all this weather broke...!'
Her thin hand waves at the falling snow.
'...now I'm stuck, here at the border, unable to move anywhere, trapped...trapped...!' her hand moves to cover the bruise.
'...At least it's warm and cosy in here , tea, coffee, hot food ...and...' I offer.
We both sit in silence watching the snow drift ever deeper up against the window ledge.
She draws another heart and watches until the shape slowly crumples.
' A cup of tea helps a broken heart..' I regretfully suggest.
' Tea...? I don't want tea...I want...'
' Sorry, I only...'
'Can I sleep in your room for the night...please... ?'
'Share your room, that's all...I just need...' she whispers and touches the remains of the disappearing heart.
'Listen! No funny business ok! Keep your clothes on, I just want to sleep! No sex ok, or I will...!' she says drawing her hand like a blade across my throat.
She mumbles and jerks like a broken puppet before a deep sleep cuts her free.
A thin arm wraps tight around my waist ,the heat from her body makes my blood surge.
I want to kiss her, I want to...
I wake early to a cold and lonely room.
Carved out on the iced window of the hire car were two linked hearts.
Written alongside was a message saying...
'...if you are ever down South...call me...?
Her number slowly melting away in the morning sun.