Nathan Wells had never been the same since his mother died. He looked at her picture on his bedside table, framed in faded silver; it was a nice photo from before she was ill, and it made him feel happy and warm despite the winter cold which permeated his bedroom. He got out of bed and walked over to his window, not noticing the freezing temperature as he stood in his pyjamas on the bare wooden floor. It was a beautiful view, all hills and mountains and mist, a typical Scottish winter scene. He stood as he lived, alone and in silence, miles from anywhere.
With a sigh, Nathan started his usual routine, taking a bath before getting dressed and eating a simple breakfast of cereals and hot coffee. He looked around the kitchen - it looked so cold and sparse now, it was barely recognisable. Without his mother to look after the house it had lost its warmth, and without her to look after him he knew he had also lost something. Whatever it was, a little more of it left him every day.
He left for work like he did each morning, every single day of the year. Work was a small caravan in the layby of a winding road about three miles from the house. He slowly made his way accross the frostbitten grass, head bowed against the elements, crunching along in his old boots and tattered plaid coat until, over an hour later, he saw the familiar little caravan sitting alone in the spot it had always been in the years since his mother had gone.
Pulling the keys awkwardly out of his pocket with his thick gloves, Nathan opened the caravan door and let himself in, opening the large hatch in the side and switching on the electric heater. He sat down in the worn deckchair and picked up a piece of wood and a knife. This is what he did for a living - carve tiny, beautiful and fragile figurines from wood using only his beloved little knife. Row after row of carvings that he had made over the months and years were arrayed at the opened hatch of the caravan, each different from the next.
Here he sat, utterly alone, day after day, carving more and more of his delicate and unique figures until he had too many to fit on the hatch and had to throw some of them away, having been seen by no one's eyes but his. He had a feeling that today would be his lucky day, and he decided to sit and look out of the hatch so that he wouldn't miss anybody walking past.
Hours passed, the morning passed, and still he sat. Eventually it began to get dark, and as Nathan sat staring out his caravan at the sun setting behind the hills, he knew that another day had slipped him by uneventfully. He began to pack everything away when he heard a car approaching, the first he had heard that week. Feeling hope return, he sat waiting, his heart pounding as he heard the car pulling up close by. The engine stopped, a door opened and slammed shut, and footsteps sounded in the gravel.
Nathan jumped as a face suddenly appeared in the hatch. It was that of a smartly-dressed man of perhaps forty, and his face was serious yet careworn. "Are you the owner of this caravan?" he asked.
"Yes," replied Nathan uncertainly.
"I'm afraid we've had complaints," the man said. "I know this is a quiet road but you can't just put your caravan in a layby like this."
"But..." began Nathan. "It's been here for years..."
"I'm sorry, I'm going to have to move you on."
With that he turned to walk away, but stopped and turned back as his eye caught a glimpse of one of the tiny figurines. "That's some beautiful craftmanship," he said, almost to himself as he picked up an intricate and graceful carving of a woman lost to the notes of the violin she played. "How much do I owe you for this?"
"Oh..." Nathan was in too much shock to think. "You can have it..."
"You sure? Thanks... and, er, sorry and all. Just try to get this caravan moved by tomorrow, OK?"
As Nathan realised what he had lost his heart began slowly breaking. He sat back down and stared out at the dying embers of the sun behind a row of mountains, watching with empty eyes until it was dark. Eventually he arose and reluctantly packed everything away, switching off his small electric heater and shutting the hatch for the last time. He didn't have a car - he had pulled the small caravan here from the house by himself all those years ago, and now he was going to have to pull it back.
Walking around to the front, Nathan released the rusty handbrake lever and began pulling his caravan off the road and across the grass and rocks toward home, heaving the wheels into life which had been frozen by age. Luckily it was fairly light, and he found that if he rested every so often, the going wasn't too bad.
He was home almost four hours later, parking the caravan outside his house, his arms aching. He went indoors, feeling more empty than he had ever felt before, and trod wearily upstairs to his bedside table. He looked once more at the photograph of his mother and burst into tears, feeling them rushing to awaken inside him after so many years of lying dormant. "I know you were never proud of me," he whispered. "After you were gone I tried to make you proud by looking after myself, but I just ended up letting you down again."
He hadn't cried this much since the funeral, and he sat down on the floor as the last little glimmer of hope finally left him. Curling up on the floorboards, sobbing, he slowly fell into a fitful sleep, and began to dream vivid dreams, dreams where he was a young boy again. He was young and happy, playing on an endless and sunny beach, and his mother was there to protect him after all. She was smiling at him, telling him that she would always be proud of him. It was the most wonderful dream he had ever had, and the next morning he awoke with a strange feeling of peace.
He arose and stood up, looking at his bedside picture. He could have sworn that his mother was smiling at him from the photograph, smiling like she had been in his dream. He took the photograph and wandered downstairs, shuffling into the living room and sitting on the only armchair he had. He smiled softly, holding his old and worn picture, and stared out the window at the sun rising through the mist. He sat there all day just watching, not moving a muscle, slowly falling apart.