We'd be stranded before getting on our flight back. The snow fell around the airport heavily. We could see it out of the large glass walls swirling and settling on the runways.
After several hours of waiting, the standard chatter had died out. Even the messing around - racing trollies around the deserted car park, sitting on the luggage check-in conveyor belts - had become too much. Now we just sat huddled amongst coats and bags, and stared into space, trying to preserve ourselves. Heather, who had been particularly quiet and patient this whole time, sat looking into herself. I thought she may have been missing her boyfriend, who was not on the trip. He was fairly new. I went to get her some food from the shop, which was miraculously still open.
She had always been patient. Her internal quietness now couldn't have been more in contrast to the beginning of the holiday. Upon arrival, Heather had grabbed me and skittered off the train to catch a glimpse of the stuffed musk ox in the station, jumping and shouting to the mountains surrounding us. Like naughty children we'd been called back by the others, who wanted to book a Taxi. When we reached the large house where we were staying, I'd shown her around. She was so excited and had grasped my hand to drag me here and there, standing to examine something or rushing to the next room.
But we'd not spend a lot of the holiday time together. I had tried to avoid her. I was hopelessly in love, and had acute knowledge that she, in general, did not feel the same way. She knew about my feelings, and seeing my avoidance, had allowed herself to do the same. She cared about me in that way.
Eventually we were called up to the desk. The airline was going to attempt to find some way for us to get home. After a long search for possibilities a plan was formed. A taxi, followed by a ferry, followed by a train, would take us to Gothenburg, where by some of the group could fly home, while a few of us would continue to be stranded for a few days. Heather was flying home with the girls. Me and a couple of the boys would stay in Gothenburg. This separation suited me. The plan was decided and a taxi was called. It was going to be a long night.
At the ferry port Heather rested her head on my shoulder and we both attempted to sleep. Apart from having been up now for almost 24 hours, we were mildly contented. I slept well for an hour or so. The ferry arrived and we trailed onto it. Again Heather came to me, smiling to herself at the implicit request of my shoulder, which she was certain I would provide. I again tried to sleep, but my brain had been too stimulated by the host of new amusements on the ferry.
I resolved to go out briefly to the deck to refresh myself and to calm my mind. Heather came with me. The fog was so thick we couldn't see the water. We stood in silence and I felt the coldness envelop me. I tried to feel rested and wrapped myself in my limbs. The process of casting my eyes about the fog must have halted time. As the universe attempted to calculate the infinite trajectory of my vision into that white depth, it must have troubled itself, and eventually given up.
Heather was alongside, but apart from me, with her small hands clasping the railing.
Some time, almost a year after, I was reminded of this encounter by a mutual friend. This was to my great surprise, as we were the only ones on the deck. In conversation with Heather, the mutual friend had heard that time had halted. For apparently in that moment Heather had confessed that, although she hadn't said it, maybe she had been in love with me too.
This report I never verified.
Maybe she had. Maybe our thoughts had been the same. Touching that metal banister, had we bad both looked deeply into that whiteness, and made the best of our circumstances, as those tired, feeling powerless, will often do? In that fog, had we lived our happy lives out together? Had we had first dates, second dates, dinner dates, double dates? Had we laughed together, and recalled our relationship to others in nostalgia? Had we had children, bought a house, cats? Had we sat and watched movies, explored the world, had our differences, got married, faced illness? Had we both died old and happy?
And then time resumed, and we were reborn, and placed as our former selves, two lonely tired teenagers on a ferry across a foggy sea. The ferry continued its journey for a couple of hours, but it may as well have been an eternity. I was suffering but I was not unhappy.