Part 2: The Journey: One
“We prolong the journey because we fear the destination.”
I squinted my eyes and placed my hand over my forehead as I tried to spot any figure approaching me as I stood motionless at Hudson’s gate. In the distance, Summer was running like a wild horse through the green grass as the sun shone on her, making her hair seem as if it was made of gold. Under her arm, I noticed she brought a large object, but not too big for her to carry. When she was mere meters away from me, the object became clear and for the first time in a long time I actually feared consequence, even though I knew there would be none. I was surely not expecting her to do such thing, ever. She did not only surprise me, she blew me away with what she was doing, what her intentions were, because I knew she wasn’t stealing The Book to shock people, or to get a great finale; she was doing this to set them free, to set the people who least deserved free.
“Hurry up!” she ran past me and, still in shock, I ran behind her with our suitcases in hand. There was no time to think, and most importantly, no time to ask questions, although questions were all I had.
“The driver is not going to let us in the taxi!” I said between breaths as soon as I realised that slight detail.
“He doesn’t know we are running away!” she panted.
“Oh really?!” I shouted due to the exertion of running, lifting my arms just slightly to show her our luggage.
She huffed in frustration as she sprinted to relieve her stress. I noticed she was no longer crying, which calmed me reasonably, but she was still extremely agitated.
Soon enough, we reached a taxi and got inside. I threw the cases inside and followed them, with no graciousness at all. Summer did not enter the taxi in the most elegant fashion either, as we both tried to fit in that small space with the suitcases and the massive book.
The taxi driver seemed startled as he gazed us suspiciously from the rear view. The two tufts of grey hair over his eyes lowered as he closed the newspaper he was reading.
“Could you take us downtown please?” Summer’s voice sounded through the tight space.
“Where are you two going with those suitcases?” he asked, turning around to inspect us.
“Laundry,” Summer simply said, directing her gaze towards me.
“Laundry?!” the fifty-year-old man asked, confusion sketched on his features.
“Almost half of the machines are out of order, some maintenance problem they told us...” she carried on lying.
“How strange!” the man exclaimed, “I don’t think this ever happened before.”
“Neither do we!” I interrupted, my foot jittering impatiently, “I think a lot of students are on their way as well. We were afraid this would be chaotic once everyone was here so we came as soon as possible.”
“Oh, I see... You are quite right my boy,” he nodded, starting the engine with a loud roar, “We better get going or it will be impossible to circulate.”
“That’s exactly what we thought!” Summer added, gazing at me one more time and nodding.
The rest of the journey was silent, but Summer and I still communicated. In times like those, it seemed as if our minds worked as one. We understood each other’s thoughts, what we were trying to say to one another. It was as if once our eyes met, we didn’t need words.
The taxi driver dropped us at a random laundry. We thanked him and off he went. We knew once he arrived at Hudson he would realise we were lying since nobody would be there waiting for a taxi, but we didn’t care one bit, although deep down we both knew that deceiving him was wrong.
I looked at her as we stood in the middle of the busy street. People were minding their own business as they walked fast paced past us. They didn’t even give us a glance.
For a couple of seconds, the world seemed to freeze despite everything around us being in a hurry. Reality started to settle in and I was reminded of the reasons why I was standing where I was.
I looked at Summer who was standing emotionless next to me, our shoulders barely brushing against one another. She stared right ahead in the direction of the road, not looking at anything in particular.
“Summer?” I tried calling her out of that state.
She blinked twice and looked towards me “What?”
“What happened? What made you change your mind? Why were you crying?” I asked her in a soft voice.
She chuckled bitterly and said nothing for a couple of seconds before announcing what I most feared.
“They found out I’m poor.”
I sucked in a sharp breath, rage and confusing taking over my senses.
“The same way you did,” she answered simply.
I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know if I should laugh, cry, or go back to that school and kill the person who found that photograph.
Summer seemed to have noticed my distress and held my upper arm with her right hand.
“It doesn’t matter now. We left, they will never bother us again. We will never see them again.”
I huffed in frustration. Of course it mattered; the discovery of that secret was her biggest fear, and she was acting as if it was nothing.
“Maybe it was for the best,” she said, trying to sound positive, although her tone held disappointment and a pinch of sadness “I couldn’t have carried that lie forever, someday the truth had to come out. Maybe this was even meant to happen! Think about it, I hesitated the first time when you asked me to go with you to Germany, and look what happened! The universe, or God, or something made this happen so that I couldn’t stay in that boarding school. Even if your mum wasn’t sick Harry, I would’ve left anyway.”
I wasn’t sure if she was telling me those things to soothe me (to reassure me that the cause of her departure wasn’t because I put pressure on her), or if she was trying to justify it to herself, because what she was doing, what we were doing, was absolutely insane, and having a reason was the only way we could comprehend that madness.
“Are you sure you want to do this?” I asked her determinedly. I had to know if she was one hundred percent sure, or else my conscience would weigh on me for as long as that trip lasted.
“Yes,” she responded, nodding her head, “Now let’s go, we have to get to the train station as fast as possible.”
“Why?” I asked her, “Don’t you want to calm down for a second? I mean, I can’t believe we are actually doing this.”
“Harry,” she told me as she placed her hands on both my shoulders, looking me in the eyes “You sound like a thirteen-year-old girl who is sneaking out of the house to go to a party.”
Although she sounded dead serious, a vibrant laugh left my lips.
“Don’t laugh, this is serious! Mr Hansen might be on his way to get us and I would be damned if I was ever to go back to that hell.”
That hadn’t even crossed my mind. For sure Hansen wasn’t just going to let me go that easily, much less Summer, whose parents would be beyond worried if they ever found out where she was heading. Hansen did not know that my mum had asked me to go to Germany, and I was planning to tell him that day, as well as giving him the boat tickets, but once Summer invaded Hall B with her face washed in tears, all my plans obliterated in thin air.
We strutted towards the train station fast paced. It wasn’t very far, and as soon as we entered the station, it seemed like we had entered another world. The hard, cobbled stone floor of the train station was nothing like the pavement of the street; it looked much older, the constant stepping of the hundreds of people that walked over them day by day had made the surface so smooth it was almost slippery. Frost had crept into its crevices, to hide from the heat of the people standing idly on the edge of the platform, waiting for their train. The place was not as cramped as it usually was, but still had enough people to lose a small child if you got distracted for a couple of minutes.
The high ceilings were what fascinated me the most. The iron structure, with thousands of intertwined triangles to hold the ceiling up, the smoke that escaped from the trains danced between those bars, and eventually found their way out of the station the same way the trains exited.
The first thing we had to do was buy train tickets to Essex, to the port of Tilbury where we would embark a ship heading to Germany.
“How fortunate you are eighteen, we don’t have to pay anyone to buy us the tickets,” Summer stated, heading towards the ticket office.
“You sure know what you’re doing,” I stated, a ghost of a smile appearing on my lips.
“You have no idea,” she stated much to my surprise. What did she mean by that? Was she saying that she was used to this kind of stuff, that she had asked someone to buy her a train ticket before? It did not surprise me, taking in consideration her past, but it sure did sadden me. It seemed as if this wasn’t a novelty to her, the way her head was so clear, the way she did things with confidence.
Only in that moment did I start wondering what Summer’s life had been like before she went to Hudson. It was impossible to tell how independent she was since she and everybody else was so protected inside those walls, but once out, she seemed wiser, as if this was no novelty to her.
How was her life before I met her?
We walked towards the ticket office, but suddenly Summer stopped me.
“He can’t see you are from Hudson,” she stated, directing her gaze to the man inside the tight compartment who was selling the tickets “Here, let me help you.”
She loosened my tie and removed it from around my neck and tucked it in her pocket.
“I think that will do,” she declared, examining me, “The tickets are going to be so expensive... You have money, right?”
“Yes, don’t worry about it,” I reassured her. With that, I walked towards the ticket office and waiting in line. Soon enough, it was my turn.
“Good afternoon,” the man said dully without lifting his eyes upwards “In what can I help you?”
“Two tickets to Essex please,” I asked politely, trying to make my voice sound deeper.
He gave me the tickets without looking upwards.
“That will be twenty please,” he announced.
I grabbed my wallet and took out a twenty-pound note. I handed it to the man, and for the first time, he lifted his head to look at me.
“How old are you?” he asked almost instantly and rather rudely.
“Eighteen, Sir,” I stated, nerves starting to kick in.
Despite his harsh tone, he seemed to believe me and handed me the tickets with no further question as he took the money. I turned around immediately, afraid that he would change his mind.
“Got them,” I stated once I reached Summer’s side.
“At what time is the train coming?” she asked me, taking one of the tickets from my hand delicately and examining it, looking for the time of the train.
“In half an hour,” I answered. “What are we going to do in the meantime?”
“One thing is for sure, we can’t stay here out in the open and wait for Mr Hansen to find us.”
“What do you suggest?” I asked her.
She took my hand, coaxing me to walk with her “I think we should go do some grocery shopping.”
“What- Why?” I asked, confusing taking over my senses.
She sighed, as if what she was saying was completely obvious “We are going to be stuck inside a train for three hours. We won’t have time to stop for a snack, and I can guarantee you, we will be hungry.”
“Makes sense...” once again, she surprised me by her ability to plan ahead.
We walked out of the station and searched for a small grocery store. There was one just behind the corner, hidden behind a plane tree which gave it a dense shadow. Once inside, we searched the small isles for food that would be most convenient for our trip.
“What about a biscuit tin?” I suggested, picking one up from a shelf.
“That’s actually a really good,” she said while picking up two small bottles of water.
She then grabbed carton-chocolate milk and two apples. She told me that was enough for a one day trip, that we shouldn’t go too carried.
We walked towards the cashier and placed our food on the treadmill. I noticed some lollipops behind the counter, and I had an idea.
“Summer, I think we need more apples.”
“Aren’t two enough? It’s just a day trip,” she said, “Are you sure you’re going to be that hungry?”
“Yes, of course!” I said, trying to sound credible “I am already hungry now.”
She rolled her eyes but did as I asked her. Once she disappeared between the isles, I directed my attention to the young woman behind the counter.
“It’s this and two lollipops please, strawberry if you won’t mind.”
“Sure thing,” she said, chewing her gum and searching her for the lollipops which were behind her, handing then to me. I quickly placed them inside my pocket so Summer wouldn’t see them.
“Would you want a plastic bag?” The lady asked.
“No, that won’t be necessary, thank you,” Summer appeared behind me, startling me with her booming voice “We can’t travel with such fragile bags, we need a more resistant one and I found one that is just perfect.”
To the pile of food Summer added a bag she must have found in the small store. It was a simple, dark blue bag, very much similar to a sports bag.
“That will be all,” Summer told the lady, who proceeded to check our items. At the end, I gave her the money, including the price of the two lollipops without Summer noticing. We stored all our items inside the bag we had just bought, and Summer insisted on carrying it, which I did not protest. After all, I was already carrying both our suitcases which weren’t that light.
I decided to only give her the lollipop once we were comfortably on the train, once the stress of today’s events could dissipate from our bodies.
That was when I heard Hansen’s voice just around the corner, near the entrance of the train station.