It ended at the start

Red streaked skies. Perhaps a shepherd’s warning — tread carefully into this new year, or that there’s a fire burning bright and I’m alight for you.

Quiet streets. Time disappeared when the clocks struck twelve; likely passed out in a corner somewhere following too many colourful cocktails and fizz. Our friends have long since headed home to bed, whilst we’re walking across London on a whim.

‘Where are we going?’ you asked when we started.

‘No idea,’ I replied, giggling excitedly. Our current destination as unknown as the future we counted down then kissed on hours earlier.

‘Let’s just head south and see where we end up.’

‘Genius,’ you said and we both laughed. Because we’re not worried. London is still in its best party outfit, glowing rosy in this early dawn light; in her charming company, the miles and landmarks start to pass by.

I breathe in and out deeply, watching my breath on the exhale.

‘Are you cold?’ you ask.

‘No. This is perfect,’ I say. And I mean it. Us, newly befriended from the party, strolling in sync across the capital’s timeless streets, wrapped up in warm conversation. The night never needs to end.

And for a while it’s electric. The spark of connection is real; at its hottest in the heart of the city — the bright lights of Piccadilly Circus, through Trafalgar Square under Nelson’s father-like watchful eye and then down towards the river.

On the approach to the water though, our conversation is drying up and my pace slows. Is it the numbing cold seeping in from the outside, or our overtired hangovers kicking us from the inside that’s the toughest reality bite?

When the fire was burning bright, I thought you were the reason for my night. Now in the cold as ice daylight, I’m not sure.

London is equally subdued; just one pale pink smudge remains in the overcast sky, making me blush at the thought of so much shared so quickly with someone so little known.

Across the bridge, we reach Waterloo station where we decide this was the genius destination all along. Strangers to each other again, we perform awkward goodbyes.

‘We made it!’ I say, lightly shifting from one aching foot to the other. ‘Well it was nice to meet you. That was a really great night.’

‘It was. Thanks for the walk. It was fun – long, but fun. I enjoyed talking with you. Shame we don’t live near each other.’

‘I know! I hope everything works out for you. Happy new year again.’

‘You too. Happy new year. Have a good one.’ You kiss my cheek goodbye and we part looking for trains going in different directions.

As my train noisily screeches out the station, I notice the time; it’s made a comeback and the new year starts.