It was cold and clear as we walked back to our cars. I hugged the the others, and sat shivering while I waited for the windows to clear. I indicated, turned the car around, and waved goodbye as I turned onto the main road.
The roads were quiet- it was a Sunday night, though quite early- and I sang along to the radio, loudly and happily, as I made my way out of the city. The news warned of ice further up the country but the Devon roads seemed safe. I indicated off the dual carriageway and took the moorland road- this had been my favourite route, when I had made this journey on a daily basis for work.
I slipped past the last few houses and street lamps, and out towards the open countryside. The road was empty and silent. I drove faster than I should have perhaps, and as I wound towards home, I looked up through the windscreen. The sky was clear, and the moon illuminated the road in front of me. Even the animals who normally roamed these roads were inside, safe and warm.
As I reached the highest point on my drive, I pulled into a lay-by. I switched off the headlamps and turned off the engine, sighing as the car shuddered into silence. I hadn't seen another car in a good twenty minutes, and I pulled the keys from the ignition, wound my scarf around my neck, and opened the door.
The cold hit me hard. The temperature gauge has never worked on my car, and I hadn't been prepared for it. But I left my coat on the seat, locked the door, and stepped towards the edge of the hill.
I closed my eyes, spread my arms wide, tipped my head back, and breathed deeply. The air was crisp and tickled my nose, but felt cleaner than any air I had breathed in weeks. Opening my eyes, I looked up at the sky.
As a child, whenever I couldn't sleep I would go to my bedroom window. I would look out at the sleeping street, and up at the sky, at the millions and millions of stars, and think about how small I was. Even now, I do the same. In London, it doesn't have quite the same feeling- the street lamps make the entire sky press down heavily and glow orange, and the foxes scream, bringing me rapidly back down to earth. But in Devon, the sky is huge, spanning above me with more stars than I could ever begin to count.
I take great comfort in the stars. As I stood on that hilltop, alone and silent, I gazed upwards and thought of the fact that those stars were shining on everyone I have ever loved. Whether they know I love them, knew I loved them, or will never know how much I love them- those same stars shine on every single one of them, silently watching, knowing more about their lives than I ever will. I often wonder, as I look up, whether any of these people are looking up too- and if they are, if they ever think of me while they do. Whether they ever think of me at all, actually. I wonder what they're doing, and if they're happy. I hope they are.
The air was still and silent. My hands felt cold. I thought of you, whispered words that you are of course too far away to hear, and pulled my scarf a little closer.
Unlocking the car, I slipped back into my seat and rested my head against the steering wheel.
I put the car back into gear, turned back onto the road, and headed for home.