It was freezing cold on the Embankment, the river Thames flowing past with an insidious slithering oily sound in the darkness. It was nearly midnight and the air was crisp and pure, slightly uncomfortable to breathe. The clouds of her breath wafted away on a gentle but persistent breeze.
She thought back through the evening, remembering how she had decided not to dress up for the occasion, choosing warmth over style, grateful for the fur-lined hood of her jacket. She hadn’t wanted to roam around London with her friends, visiting pubs and bars looking for fun and the minute she had a chance to escape, she took it.
She wasn’t ready for fun, not yet. The scars of her broken marriage were still sore and she lived in fear that they would break open again at any provocation and she would weep uncontrollably. She could nearly go a whole day without thinking of the pain she had caused, leaving him wounded and helpless on the floor, begging her not to leave him. But she hadn’t hesitated or listened, it was far too late for any of that. If she hadn’t left when she did, she may have drowned in her misery and sunk without trace.
She didn’t hate him, only what they had become. Two lonely people, each trying to outdo the others suffering.
In the distance, the sound of revelry echoed around the streets of London, but it was almost eerily quiet where she was stood, looking down at the black water that was catching the glint of the Embankment lights. Here and there, the coloured lights on the bridge shone down on the water, making a magical picture in the dark.
She took a deep breath and the cold air felt almost solid in her lungs. The peace she felt at that moment was total, no regrets at all. She was free and it felt amazing. The overwhelming joy lifted her heart and her eyes began to water, distorting her vision.
Several yards behind her and without warning, Big Ben began to chime. Being this close, the sound was deep and resonated through the air. As it struck the hour, each strike seemed to build on the one before, and by the time it reached twelve her ears felt muffled somehow. The ground beneath her feet had gently shaken and she had felt the vibrations in the cement she was leaning against.
As the sounds faded away, the old year died, taking away the past and promising a better future.