They sat on a park bench at the lakeside, watching the hot air balloons drift over the water. The autumn sunset had muted their colours, changing their normally bright red and yellow cloth to the same soft oranges and golds of the mounds of trees at the other side of the water. The lake was still and its glossy surface formed perfect reflections of the balloons and the trees, and as the sky changed from indigo to pale yellow to copper, so did the surface of the lake, until it became unclear what was real and what reflection. Every now and then the roar of the flames cut through the silence, sending the balloons high enough to cross the ridge behind the trees.
‘They’re beautiful, aren’t they? So free.’ she said, but he didn’t answer, his head turned away towards the road where they had left the car.
He turned to her then, and his eyes reflected her own.
‘It’s ok,’ she said softly, ‘I understand.’