The red light flickered on the dashboard. Charlie swore softly and leaned forward, looping his arms around the steering wheel. He’d been driving for hours. He tried to recall the last roadside sign. How far was it to the nearest town? Would he have enough petrol to get there? He didn’t know the road and wasn’t sure if there were any towns on the way where he could refuel.

He stifled a yawn and cranked the window open, hoping that a blast of cool air would wake him up a bit. It was freezing outside, and after a minute he closed the window and turned up the stereo instead. Another huge yawn almost closed his eyes and he nearly drove off the road as it curved into a bend. He shook himself. He needed to focus.

If only things hadn’t gone so wrong last night, he wouldn’t be on this road, heading to who knows where. He knew that it was stupid to take off like that, but he had to get out. To put some distance between himself and Anna. It was meant to be one of the best nights of his life but it didn’t work out that way.

He could picture the candlelit table at the restaurant, Anna looking more beautiful than he could recall. It was their two-year anniversary and he’d gone to a lot of effort to make sure everything was perfect. She’d often laughed at him and said that he was afraid of commitment, but he was going to prove her wrong. The ring was in a box in his jacket pocket, and he’d even rehearsed the proposal in front of the mirror. Several times.

But he never got to say the words that he’d laboured over. He was going to wait for the dessert – Anna had a sweet tooth – but they didn’t even get to order the entree. Maybe she could tell what was coming. She didn’t give him a chance to say any of it.

He was blindsided. After the first couple of sentences and the usual disclaimer – it’s not you, it’s me – he seemed to zone out. Even now he struggled to recall the reasons she gave. At the time all he could take in was that she wasn’t in love with him anymore. His mind zagged off on a tangent. When had that happened? Why hadn’t he noticed? What the hell was wrong with him?

He’d spent the night on a mate’s couch. Charlie had moved into Anna’s flat a couple of months before, but he always travelled light. It didn’t take long to grab his gear. Anna wasn’t home when he called round, and as he left his keys to the flat on the kitchen counter he’d hesitated. He still had the ring, glittering in its box. Part of him wanted to leave it there, its glinting edges somehow reflecting the shattered pieces of his heart. But he didn’t.

He wasn’t sure where he was going or where he’d end up. The red light was flickering now, accompanied by an angry beep. Charlie urged the car forward, scanning the darkness ahead for any light.

Inspired by Discover Prompts – April writing prompts