Always the bridesmaid.
He didn’t want to go out on such a night but he’d stopped having a choice long ago. Instinctively, he put on his shoes, sitting on the cold doorstep. It was a beast of a night, he threw on his coat, but he was soaked as soon as he’d reached his garden gate. The heavens had opened, the sky leaked the sort of rain that whipped your face with a ferocity. He could see the town up ahead, as that was illuminated by the amber blur of streetlights. Further on, he could see the lighthouses, one for each pier, flashing, reassuring, and guiding the late night boats to safety through the hungry harbour mouth. But he couldn’t see here, in the middle of nowhere, surrounded my rolling hills, long fields, rocky paths and dense woodland. Here, he could scarcely see in front of his own feet.
He slid the torch out of his pocket. He was okay for now, on the level ground, every bump in the road was etched into his memory, but when he needed to ascend the steep, winding stairs, leading up to the cliff-top church, he would need it then.
It was a dangerous route, particularly at this time of night and in this sort of relentless, heavy downfall. Mist began to follow him, to chase him up those rickety stairs. People had died here; walkers, climbers, depressed individuals who had chosen their own sorrowful fate. Every couple of weeks, the bright yellow helicopter growled over the pretty coastal town, bringing the residents down, as they knew nobody ever survived. He had to be careful, he couldn’t risk falling, she needed him.
She was all he ever thought about, night and day he pictured that cherubic face, the large pale blue eyes, the dimpled cheeks, the honey blonde curls and the smile which portrayed equal amounts of innocence and mischief. He hurried now, clinging to the side of the cliff as he made his way up. It would have been a beautiful view in the daylight, as heather became sand and sand became sea. But it was almost midnight now, and all his eyes could make out was the vast, shimmering blackness of the sea, like a billowing, gigantic dark blanket.
Almost there, he switched on the torch and tried to keep a steady pace, despite the biting ache in his calves now as he began the sharp incline. He saw the looming silhouette of the old church and the sprawl of ancient, broken and wonky gravestones which appeared as though they had been randomly dropped from above, scattering and stabbing into the grass.
There. He’d done it. He shoved the torch back into his pocket and strode up the gravel path and around the side of the building to the small door at the back, which was always left open, a tiny crack, but he slipped inside with ease. It was cold and dark, the same as every other night. He lit a few candles and seated himself on the front pew, and waited for her. He counted the seconds in a whisper.
‘One, two …’
There she was, walking down the aisle of the church in her, now dated, bridesmaid dress, posy of flowers in hand. She looked so content, so thrilled and utterly proud of herself. He smiled at her earnest little walk and he wept into his palms. She would have been twenty-eight this year, yet she remains six years old, haunting this place by night, playing out her favourite and most treasured memory, over and over again. He tries to pretend that he can’t see through her, his ghostly daughter, but he can. Until she fades with the morning sun, and he starts the walk back home.