I felt Harry’s hand connect with mine, and what I thought would be a reassuring gesture turned out to be an abrupt pull. In less than half a second, we were in a dark alley, my body between Harry and the wall. I let out a loud gasp in surprise, and Harry covered my mouth with his hand.
“Shh!” he whispered-shouted, his eyes wide open. He then took his hand away from my mouth and not a sound escaped from my lips.
“What is it?” I whispered. To my greatest fear, Harry spelt Hansen with his lips, not taking his eyes from the edge of the building we were hiding behind, as if waiting for Mr Hansen to appear any second. Panic was rushing through my veins, I could feel my heart hammering against my chest, my lungs seemed too small for the air they so desperately demanded. Despite all this, I managed to hold on to reality and drag Harry out of there. We had to get away from there, fast.
We went to the back of the building, and I looked around to see if there was some place where we could hide. I noticed there was a small bookstore, and I wasted no time in getting in there, Harry right behind me. It seemed like we were children playing hide n’ seek; although the last thing we wanted was to be found, the adrenaline was somehow addicting.
The bookstore was too warm inside, but we didn’t take our coats once the adrenaline pumping through our veins settled down. We went straight to the back of the room, not looking around to see if the owner of the store was around, we burst into there as if it the store was our own.
“I can’t believe it,” I panted, finally taking off my coat “He is coming after us.”
“I am not going to say I wasn’t expecting it,” Harry said, copying my actions.
I noticed in the corner of my eye an old lady looking behind the counter in our direction. She must’ve been startled by our abrupt entrance, but I chose to ignore her for a second, we had more important issues to address.
“I bet he has figured out which train we are going to get, so he will be there waiting for us. He knows we can’t wait forever.” I tried to make sense of what was happening in a hushed voice.
“We have about ten minutes,” added Harry, looking at his watch “What are we going to do?”
“We have to get rid of these clothes first, especially me. How many girls do you see outside wearing skirts and knee socks? Mr Hansen will spot us immediately because of this uniform.”
“You’re right,” Harry agreed, taking two fingers over his lips, pondering our options and next move.
After Harry said that sentence, I averted my eyes in the direction of the older woman, who had been staring at us since we had arrived.
“I’m sorry, do you have a bathroom we can use please?”
The woman seemed to jump once I talked directly to her, which was extremely bizarre. Her eyes looked like the full moon, wide in... Fear? Her hands were jittery, her grey hair resembling straw or even striking lightning, her petite figure shaking.
She did not respond to my question, just stood there, frozen in place. A genius wasn’t needed to conclude that the bookstore woman had a mental disorder of some kind. Her reaction to my polite and harmless question indicated so, and even though I was incredibly stressed and tired, I felt incredibly sorry for her.
“Oh, I’m sorry for speaking in a loud voice,” I apologised, walking closer to her. I looked at Harry, studying his features, and it was officially the more confused he had looked that day so far. “Do you have a bathroom we could use?”
I gave her a warming smile which she retributed, although still incredibly shy. She didn’t lift her hand to indicate the way, just tilted her head sideways. Her eyes landed on a side door at the very back of the small bookstore, and I thanked her.
I looked back at Harry, who was standing very uncomfortably behind me.
“Harry, I think this is the perfect time for you to search for any kind of book that might help us on our journey, don’t you think?” I asked him in a child-like tone. I noticed that that way of talking soothed the old woman.
"Kay," he said. I reached for my suitcase which he carried and he handed it to me. I made my way to the minuscule bathroom, trying to close the door but struggling due to the tight space.
Once settled, I opened my suitcase rather awkwardly on top of the toilet seat. The intense yellow light shone on my clothes. I have made my suitcase so fast it seemed like a hurricane had been trapped inside; I had never seen anything as messy as that. Anyway, I managed to get a pair of black pants and my old hiking trainers. I didn’t manage to find anything suitable of ironed to wear on too, so I kept my shirt and put a light grey wool sweater over it. I put my uniform in my suitcase, somehow managed to close it, I walked out of the claustrophobic bathroom.
“What about this?” I heard Harry’s voice from the opposite side of the room, which was not more than ten meters away. He held a German-English dictionary in his hand, so small it was hard to see at first. I walked towards him and gestured for him to go change as well.
“Go for dark colours, it will be harder for him to spot us.”
“Got it,” He said. Before turning around, he signalled with his head towards the counter and handed me his wallet. I gave him a smile and walked towards the counter, the old women not leaving her post.
I handed her the little dictionary, careful not to scare her, and suddenly her eyes lit up with such warmth it melted my heart. I have her the exact money of the dictionary, and she took it and placed it in her cash machine.
From the corner of my eye, I noticed Harry had left the bathroom but didn’t avert my attention from the lady.
“Thank you so much, have a good day,” I said, a tender smile on my face.
“Thank you,” Finally, the woman spoke, her voice raspy and slightly shaky. I could sense she didn’t have confidence in her words, and that she wasn’t aware of many things, like for example the obvious: that we were students missing lessons.
I felt Harry’s hand on my shoulder “Let’s go?”
I nodded, walking towards the door. I gave one more glance in the direction of the kind but oblivious lady. She waved us goodbye, and I retributed the gesture.
“What a strange woman,” Harry commented once we were mere inches from walking out.
“Harry!” I looked at him wide-eyed to show disapproval. He had no right to talk to her that way, especially because she obviously had a condition.
“Why would you leave someone like her taking over a store?” He wondered.
“Because she wants to be treated like a normal human being, and maybe selling books is the way she feels that way.”
With no further discussion, I opened the door and walked out. Only then did I get a good glance at Harry’s attire, the midday sunlight much more pleasant than the one in the bookstore. He wore black pants as I had advised him to, a white plain t-shirt and over it, a denim jacket with fur on the collar.
“If Mr Hansen wasn’t chasing us, I would take a moment to tell you how incredible you look,” I gave him a half smirk.
“You kind of just did.”
“Oh, did I?”
Harry nudged me with his elbow in a playful way.
That exchange of light words ended as fast as it started; the impending fear of facing Mr Hansen took away every speck of calmness that was still in us.
“Look,” Harry pointed once we reached the lateral entrance “Our train has arrived.”
I nodded and looked around to see if I could spot Mr Hansen “We should go then, but keep it cool, we don’t want to call too much attention. Once on the train, we go to back so it will be harder to find us.”
“Sounds like a plan.” With that, we were off. Harry pushed opened the door that was between us and Mr Hansen. If he found us, I didn’t know what I would do.
We walked calmly towards the entrance of the train, where a man in a blue uniform stood waiting to punch the tickets of the passengers that would come aboard.
“Have you seen him?” Harry whispered by my side, keeping his face straight ahead.
“No,” I responded, keeping my vision likewise directed to the train.
I could hear my heart pounding in my ears. It felt like we were moving torturously slow. It seemed like the train was neither getting closer nor farther away, like we were frozen in place although I could feel my legs moving and Harry’s arm brushing against my own.
Finally we reached the man in blue uniform. Harry handed him the tickets, his hands shaking almost violently. He was terrified of being discovered more than he wanted to admit.
“There they are!” A piercing voice echoed through the station, above the noise of the trains, of the people chattering, of the young boys selling newspapers. The voice was so loud it frightened my soul, and as if my distress wasn’t enough, I heard Harry suck in a sharp breath.
“Go inside, go inside, don’t look back, act normal,” I said close to his ear as we entered the train with our heavy luggage.
“Stop immediately! Stop them! Somebody stop them!” The voice was clearer as each second passed, meaning that he was closer. Harry uttered something under his breath which I couldn’t decipher, but I was sure they were no kind words.
“We don’t know him,” I told him much louder now as we made our way down the train.
“Summer, he got us!” Harry almost shouted as he started running. I didn’t respond because I didn’t want to believe it.
“Harry, stop right now!” It was clear that Mr Hansen was on the train now, and as if on cue, Harry and I came to a stop.
“Woah woah woah, calm down gentleman! You are not allowed to come on the train!” The man in blue uniform reached Mr Hansen’s side. I looked at Harry. His face was pale, but this could not be the end, we couldn’t go back to Hudson. I would prefer to die than to back to that hell.
“I’m sorry, do I know you?” I asked once I was face to face with Mr Hansen, Harry right behind me.
“Summer, I order you to came back to school right now!” Mr Hansen’s face was scarlet with anger, his tie was nowhere to be seen and his trousers were a mess. He was a mess.
I looked at the uniformed man with a confused look on my face “I’m afraid there has been a misunderstanding. My name is not Summer, I don’t even know anyone with that name.”
"What?!” Mr Hansen’s voice came from the bottom of his throat, a sound so gruesome it almost made me flinch.
“My name is Mary Smith and this is my brother, Jacob. We are just going to visit our family, I don’t know what is going on…” I looked at Harry, wanting him to desperately understand what I was doing. He had to play along or we were heading back to Hudson.
“No! Her name is Summer Daniels, and that boy is Harry! His name is Harry! And they are my students!” Mr Hansen said desperately. I just made an even more confused expression, and even a tad bit of fear. I had to give the impression that the man in front of me was mad. By now, the passengers around us were peeking out of their compartments to see what was all that fuss about.
“What is going on here?” Yet another man in uniform joined us, but this was no ordinary uniform, he was a police officer.
“Officer, these are my students and they are running away!”
“Running away?!” I sounded bewildered “Officer, please take this man away, he is surely disturbed.”
“Harry, won’t you say anything?!”
“His name is Jacob Smith and he is my brother!” my tone was now matching Mr Hansen’s in desperation, wanting the men in uniform to believe my words.
“Okay okay, settle down please,” the officer came between us and looked at Harry “Young man, do you know this individual?”
Harry looked at me, then back at the policeman. Before responding, he scanned Mr Hansen up and down with disgust on his face “No. It’s the first time I have ever seen him.”
“Then I guess it’s settled. You must leave the train, sir.”
“No! He is lying! He is my nephew!”
“Sure! First, he is your student and now he is your nephew! Get out of here!” The first man that punched our tickets exclaimed.
“You are seriously going to believe in two kids?! I’m a very influential man and I am telling you the truth! You can’t let them come aboard!”
“It’s the last time I tell you, or you get out on your own foot or somebody else’s. Is that clear?” The police officer told Mr Hansen.
He stared at us for a couple of seconds before speaking “Is it going to be like this? Very well, but I promise you, this is not over.”
With that, he reluctantly turned around and left the train, the police officer right behind him. I just stared at Harry, waiting for his reaction, but none came. He just stared straight ahead, watching Mr Hansen leave the train.
“We better find a place to sit,” I said, tugging at his arm.
“I can’t believe what we just did.” He told me, more in awe than regret.
“Me neither,” he did not move as I pulled his arm, so I reached for his hand, tangling our fingers “C’mon, let’s go to the back of the train.”