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She left because of snow. When we rented the cottage, the apple orchard was white with blossom and the surrounding fields were a blaze of yellow tulips. We had just seen Dr Zhivago, and fell in love with the isolation of the fens. We rented the cottage to live on jacket potatoes and stories. The snows started in December. The petrol in the car froze. The electricity supply was cut off because of snow on the cables. She walked off down the lane to buy candles, and I watched her go. I was sitting in the study overlooking the frozen fields. I was trying to finish a story. By the time I finished, she hadn’t come back. I had the light of the fire to watch for her shadow. At midnight, I decided to go and search. I had no idea where I was heading, nor had I any clue as to where she had gone. The local village, about an hour’s walk, would be a good start. After about twenty minutes I could feel my feet, which meant they were cold and as I had not bothered to put the proper walking boots or socks on. I was in trouble.

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Sitting down on the side of the now snow-covered dirt-track road, I breathed in deeply and sighed. Who was I kidding? She’d left me. Things just hadn’t been the same between us anymore. Should I turn back now, or risk the humiliation of her rejection? As I was debating my next move, something caught my eye: a dark pool of liquid trickling further up the track. Removing a glove, I scooped up a clump of snow where the dark liquid was blotted into ice. The moon was waning, and I could barely make out what the liquid was. I was sure it was blood, but realised that it could be from an animal of some kind. So why did I have the eerie feeling as I tracked the trail that the end result would yield neither a satisfying nor a happy ending? Why were my hands shaking? I felt sure I’d stopped drinking early last night. As I walked along the trail I was struck by a feeling of dèja vu; I knew there was a frosted hedge a little further up and somehow I knew that I would find a shovel covered in blood, a shovel that belonged to me.

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