The sun was low in the early morning winter sky. It was cold, a sharp frost lay on the ground and Tom’s breath evaporated into white clouds as he walked along Londons’ Regents Park canal towpath. Thin ice skimmmed across the still canal surface and he drove his hands deeper into his pockets and sank deeper into his quilted jacket as he hurried by the water on his regular Sunday morning walk to his favourite coffee shop for an Americano and a read of its’ collection of morning papers.
The tollpath was quiet and he hadn’t passed another soul until he hit a bend in the canal, where a set of steps led up to a bridge that carried the high street across the water. He saw her by the steps, seated on a bench with her head in her hands. She wore an expensive looking overcoat that almost covered what he could see were her black and red Christian Louboutin shoes, a make recognisable from a past girlfriend with expensive tastes. She looked out of place and he almost walked past her and up the steps but he stopped. He wasn’t sure, something wasn’t right, maybe she was feeling the effects of a particularly late night party, or maybe she was in trouble, someone who needed help?
“Excuse me Miss, are you alright?”
He got no response so he crouched in front of her and asked again,
“Are you OK, is there anything I can do?
She dropped her hands and looked up at him with tear stained cheeks.
He was shocked to see Gillian Anderson looking back at him, so vunerable, so defeated.
“ Miss Anderson, whatever is the matter?,” he gasped both in shock and concern.
She went to speak but merely shook her head as more tears trickled down her cheeks.
He sat down on the frosty bench and put what he hoped was a comforting hand on her back. He could feel her shivering and her ungloved hands looked blue with the cold.
“Do you need the police or an ambulance?”, he asked again as he delved into his pockets to fish out an unused pair of gloves he had.
“Put these on, your hands look frozen,” and he took her hands and slid the oversized gloves over her small hands. She roused herself and offered a little smile.
“Thank you, there’s no need I’m just feeling a bit,” she faltered.
“I’m just feeling a bit low at the moment,” she repeated distractedly.
After years of avidly watching the X-files, her cut glass English accent always surprised him no matter how many times he had watched her in British productions, and he was momentarily caught off guard before his mind started to pose questions like why is she here at the canal, was she going to do something silly?
“Look I was just on my way to the coffee shop, will you come with me and I’ll buy you a coffee, you look frozen.”
She went to get up and he thought she was going to walk away but she hesitated.
“Thank you for being concerned and thank you for the offer of coffee but I think I’ll go home now. It’s only across the way,” and she pointed in a direction vaguely across the bridge and to the park and went to climb the steps but slid against him on the ice.
“Oh why ever did I wear these ridiculous shoes,” she scolded herself.
“Here let me help you,” and he took her arm and walked her gingerly up the steps.
At the top she went to thank him but he held his arm firmly over hers and told her he wanted to make sure she got home safely.
She looked at him a few times as they slowly walked as if to speak but seemed to think better of it before he asked her how long she had been sitting there as he could feel her slight frame shivering against him through her coat.
“I’m not sure really.” She stopped speaking and shook her head as if confused. Water droplets fell from her soft auburn hair where frost had melted.
“It’s been a difficult couple of weeks, the new production hasn’t been going well.” She looked up at him, her pale blue eyes looked wet and tired.
“I don’t know if I can do the singing,” and then he remembered the new musical she was due to star in the capitals’ West End. He was shocked that someone so famous and so accomplished sounded so insecure about her craft.
“I’m sure it will be brilliant, like everything else I’ve seen you in.”
“I’m not sure I can cut it this time,” she said quietly and they walked in silence, her delicate perfume hung in the air as she guided them along the side of the park before stopping at a terrace of large beautiful Edwardian town houses.