by Syd Peck
They were stuck in Gateshead, had never felt like they belonged, and wanted to escape. They were young inexperienced teens. Charlie and Susan didn’t know each other at all, so they came out after the late cinema separately, though he had caught her eye a number of times during the film. It had been snowing heavily while they were inside, and there were about five inches of perfect snow covering Bensham Road everywhere they looked. They caught each other’s eye and timidly nodded, as she pulled her coat belt tightly around her waist and he turned up his collar. They set off downhill in the same direction a few yards apart, but he quickly caught up and they were side by side. At that hour all traffic had stopped and sounds were muffled, and they exchanged casual shy comments about the weather in the intimate silence that heavy snow brings. It was as if the world had closed down for the night, and was not moving, not making noise, nor even breathing out loud. Holding its breath.
Away to the north the dreary view over the industries of the Tyne valley was transformed. Not sure what to talk about, he made some comments about how the gasworks with its leviathan gas holder looked like an enormous Christmas cake with icing layered on its curving, shallow domed top. She smiled and murmured agreement, huddling down into her hood. He felt a bit self-conscious and wished he hadn’t said it. She’ll think I’m an awful prat, I never know what to say.
“You know, that’s very interesting — I never thought of it like that. You have a different way of looking at things. As if it were a dream,” admitted Susan, then hesitated, and asked, “What’s your name, like? ”
He was relieved to be off the prat-hook. “Charlie Armstrong… What’s yours?”
“My name’s Susan, Susan Grey. How old are you?”
“Seventeen, and you?”
“Sixteen, and it’s my birthday next month”
“Ah… My birthday’s not till November.”
With these simple pleasantries and this nice girl, he found he was enjoying the distant view out over the Tyne valley from the top of the Windmill Hills, made novel by the snow covering everything. She liked the silence with only the echo-less small sounds of their footsteps crumping the snow. It appealed to her sense of security, a sort of cosiness.