The summer is coming. You can tell by the subtle changes in the air, the way that things seem greener and fresher and imbued with a sweet scent that sends a very particular feeling running down to your toes. The feeling you get when you go on holiday, and you’re walking through the town when the sun rises and there’s nobody else on the streets. The feeling that swells and fills your chest and makes you grin, and you can’t explain what you’re grinning about.
What you still lived at home, you often thought of travelling. There was so much more of the world than this tiny island could offer. And now you’re on the road, and you can’t decide whether you were right or not.
Home. It seems so far away and so far forgotten. And it must be said, forgetting is easier for you. But every so often something reminds you of what you left behind, of who you left behind, and you get to wondering. Is that someone waiting for me? Do they remember who I am, what I look like? Or has their memory of me started to wane, like mine?
You shake your head to clear the memories. At least, you think they are memories. Summer is coming, you tell yourself, and allow yourself to smile.
You’ve noticed the way you’ve been changing whilst being on the road. You’re thinner than before, you can feel muscles corded beneath the jeans you seem to wear every day, your arms are stronger. Your hair is longer. Someone said you looked roguish the other day, and you laughed loud enough to offend them. That’s another thing – you have a tougher skin now. You noticed it not too long ago, things don’t seem to offend you any more. And you’re sure your accent has changed. Little wonder if it has, there’s that many people travelling with you from all over the place you were bound to pick up something.
“Just be grateful it’s an accent and nothing else,” Wolfe had said, laughing.
Wolfe. You wonder where she’s gotten to now. Probably on the phone, organising another show – now that the weather’s thawing out, there’s more customers and Wolfe is busier than ever. Over the phone, people have a respect for her, but you’ve noticed the difference that comes with a meeting in person.
It’s little wonder. People expect her to be older, to look more like an office worker, to be more behind-the-scenes, to be more professional in the outward sense. You know that Wolfe is probably far more professional than anyone else in that kind of job, but inwardly. Her looks are a different matter. You went with her to the last one. She asked for you to be there, asked in her usual I-don’t-care voice that made you smile and agree, and you both dressed smart for the occasion. As smart as shirt and jeans can be, but they were clean, at least. You were intrigued about the running of the show and were looking forward to it. But that look in the woman’s eyes, the woman you were going to meet, the steely-eyed landowner with red painted lips. That look said it all.
You know that it’s her tattoos that make people disapprove straightaway. Even beneath the white blouse you could see them, and it stands to reason that the landowner could too. Black ink covering most of her arms and hands, and you knew they covered her entire body. Not that you’d seen, of course. She’d told you. It was a merit to Wolfe’s business manner – witty and straight talking –that they managed to get the site to set up the show. That and the way she managed to always paint a picture in mid-air, a fantastic shimmering mirage that hung in nothingness and then melted away. An image of the show in its full glory.
“Penny for them?”
Her voice jolts you out of your daydream. Quiet as a cat, as the cliché goes, the sleeves of her shirt rolled up to show lines of some ancient language inked on her skin. She takes a drag of her cigarette.
“Penny for your thoughts?”
You shrug. I was thinking of you. “Nothing. Just… thinking. You know.”
She rolls her eyes and gestures over her shoulder. “All hands on deck for unloading, Dolly Daydream. We need everything up and running before sundown. Home sweet home.”
You turn and follow her, watching the contours in her back as she walks in front of you, the way the afternoon sun adds a raven gleam to her hair. The feeling descends on you again, that summer feeling. But you know exactly why this time.