As I was escorted out of the train, all I could see was burning red. It wasn’t because of the glances people gave me, or how ashamed I was for causing a scene, nothing of that. I was so mad about Harry getting his way that it made me want to run right back inside the locomotive and drag him by his earlobe.
But I couldn’t do that, because Summer, that brilliant but mischievous girl, managed to fool everyone! How was it possible?! That thought itself made my insides boil at a very dangerous temperature.
“I hope this incident doesn’t happen again,” the officer commented as he walked behind me.
“I hope not as well,” I said between teeth. With that, I didn’t give him another word and was out of that freezing cold station.
As I headed back to the taxi that had brought me to the station, I couldn’t stop replaying the scenes of that morning like a movie in my head. I was working peacefully when Anthony and Amanda come bursting into my office, declaring that “I wouldn’t believe” what they had found out. As they told me their great discovery, my body froze, not for the sake of the girl, not for the sake of the school, but for my sake. What would their parents say when they found out that I had let someone inferior enter that school, without paying a single dime?
I jumped out of my armchair and headed upstairs to the room they were supposed to be having lessons. On my way, I bumped into Anna, who was staring from the top of the stairs to the atrium down below, her eyes fixated on air. I ignored her, and made my way to the class, Anthony and Amanda right behind me. Once I got in I glanced around the room; the girl was not there.
“Where is she?!” I howled impatiently. I looked at the female teacher who was fanning her face as she rested on the teacher’s chair. She didn’t even look up at me, too exhausted to respond.
“Summer left,” one of the students said.
“We don’t know sir.” That answer infuriated me even further, and I left the room just as fast as I had gotten there.
That was when it all made sense, when all the dots connected.
I headed towards Hall B like a hurricane, destroying any obstacle in my path. Once I got inside, it was obvious another hazard had arrived before me.
“What happened here?!” I yelled at the concentration of boys who had gathered on the top floor, more specifically, the corridor.
“That girl, Summer, from year eleven, just came bursting in here about ten minutes ago, can you believe it? I mean, you must be brave to enter the boys Hall,” one of the senior boys spoke “She went to Harry’s room and left after yelling something about leaving. He just left a couple of minutes ago.”
“Shit!” I didn’t even bother censoring my language in front of the boys, I couldn’t contain my anger even if I tried. “Did he take a suitcase?”
“Yeah, I think I saw him take one.”
I didn’t remember what happened after, just that I got in a taxi and was going to the train station.
The worse part was that I was already exhausted and it wasn’t even eleven A.M.
“Did you have any luck sir?” asked the taxi driver, Mr Carson, who sat beside me as he drove.
“No, I didn’t find them.” It was better to tell him that than having to explain they fooled a police officer, a very dumb police officer. I was this close to getting them, but I knew that if I had insisted, I would end up being dragged to the police station instead of the sidewalk.
“Pardon me, but permit me to ask, what are you going to do then?” the driver asked.
I sighed “I’m going to let them go.”
“Let them go? Sir, with all due respect, but what are their parents going to say? They can press charges to the school, we are responsible for their well-being and safety.”
“Don’t worry Mr Carson, I know where they are going and I have a feeling the parents won’t be a problem. Besides, I can assure you that they will come back with their tails between their legs in no time.”
“If you say so sir.”
But there was a problem. I wasn’t sure if they would come back, because they had a very strong reason to leave and stay away. I knew for a fact that Summer and Harry would do whatever it took to get to Germany as fast as possible, and there was nothing I could do.
Now that Summer and I were in our seats and the train was moving, it was easier to breathe. The adrenaline from the last couple of hours was starting to fade, but no one dared to talk. The atmosphere was thick with tension as we both stood petrified in our seats. Not moving, not talking, not looking at each other. I knew the same things were going through our heads. I could sense Summer almost shaking beside me, her breathing irregular but not too out of control, just slightly agitated.
“I can’t believe what I just did.” she whispered so lowly it was even hard for me to hear.
“It’s okay now, he’s gone.” I tried to soothe her.
“He isn’t gone, Harry. He will continue hunting us down, I know it. He won’t stop until we are back at Hudson, I am sure.”
“We won’t let him get us, we have come too far to go back now. We will finish this trip, no matter what.
She took her hands and covered her face “Good thing I know how to lie, or it was game over for us.”
I noticed that what she said was an attempt to alleviate the shock of the events, and I almost chuckled if it wasn’t for her next statement:
“Well, at least it worked out this time, because clearly I have failed miserably.”
I knew she was referring to what had happened that morning, and for the first time I could take it all in, putting myself in her shoes and trying to feel all the weight she was surely feeling. There was on other eminent danger ahead for the next hours, and this was the next problem to address that was way overdue.
She was quiet, awfully quiet after that statement. It worried me because I knew for a fact that that secret she had kept was her ultimate weak point. I tried to relate the situation to when I had discovered her secret that afternoon at our acclaimed bench. She was emotionally wrecked, completely shattered, but it was surely nothing compared to this time. This time, people that did not love her found out, people that were desperately seeking for her weak point to step on her, people who intended to hurt her with this information, and I was absolutely sure what she heard from their filthy mouths was way worse than what I told her, which left her in a state of devastation when I found out she was poor.
We were located right in the centre of the carriage, just three more people in it with us. I was sitting close to the window, Summer by my left, and I turned my body in ninety degrees to face her.
“Talk to me, tell me what happened, tell me all of it.”
I could tell from her hesitant reaction that she was torn between bowing her head or facing me, so she did both. She reached for my hands and rested then on my lap, her hair falling over her eyes and face.
“It was horrible.” she whispered, possibly embarrassed due to the spectators we had around us.
Before asking her to talk, I was confident I knew how to comfort her, but now that she was speaking, I lost all ability to respond. Maybe because I was too stunned or simply didn’t know what to say. My mind was blank but I captured and felt the weight of each word she said.
“I didn’t think it was possible to be so-” she stopped momentarily, the words caught up in her throat “So cruel. I mean, I knew they weren’t my friends, but what they told me...”
Her voice cracked at the end, and almost instinctually, I reached for the back of her neck and pulled her into my chest.
“You will never see them again, they are gone,” I tried my best to soothe her.
“I had never heard anything like it, and the worst part is that we are not adults, we are not supposed to be so cold and cruel to one another. They are good kids, and yet they managed to spit in my face what they knew would cripple me down, and for what?!” She took a shaky breath “What have I done to deserve to be treated like this?”
“You want to know what you did?” I asked rhetorically, holding her more tightly in my arms and whispering in her ear so no one around us could hear “They wanted to bring you down because they couldn’t stand the idea of you. Someone who they thought was below them, was better than them. Trust me, if they hadn’t found you were poor, they would have found the next best thing and use it against you just to make you feel inferior. I bet their souls were eating them inside because they just couldn’t stand seeing you happy.”
I felt a tear land on my hand, and instead of being more concerned I was relieved. It was worse to cry on the inside than letting it all out.
“Despite all things, I thought one day we could have been friends again,” her voice came out in what sounded like hiccups, her face still buried in my chest.
“I know,” I said “You have always wanted to be a friend to someone, but what happened just shows that even if you were the perfect friend, which in my opinion you were, they could never give that back. They were never your true friends, they were never loyal or trustworthy. What happened just showed you their true character. This friendship was doomed all along because they are back-stabbing cowards who only care about themselves. They would have used you if you were ever their friends, and you are so much better than that. No… Actually, everyone deserves better than that! They were never your friends, they could never have been.”
After that we were silent, but it didn’t last long.
“Anna was in the room when they stole the picture from my bag. She saw it too and when I entered the room she was already crying.” Summer told me, emotionally drained. “She just stood there, unable to stop what was inevitably going to happen. It’s true she was a bitch before, but she was the only one who didn’t scream in my face that I was a beggar.”
“Don’t do this Summer, don’t get your hopes up just to be disappointed in the end. It has clearly happened a lot of times before and I don’t want to see you cry ever again over those motherfuckers.” I emphasised the last word to make her realised how vile those people were.
“She is different, she has to be. She was only a bitch because she was being influenced by Amanda and the others. I want to tell her my version of the story, I have to let her know I am not a bad person and that I only lied because-”
“I know, I know.” The sadness in her voice was like daggers to my heart. Knowing she was suffering made me feel sick. “I just don’t want you to get hurt anymore. You've had enough.”
There was silence again, but this time it lasted longer. We stayed exactly where we were, wanting to feel each other’s presence and comfort. I played lightly with Summer’s hair in an attempt to make her feel like everything would be okay.
“I’m going to write her a letter,” she stated, “I have to, I have to tell her my version of the story and that I will miss her, because I will.”
I just stared down at her, at a girl who had all the reasons in the world to cry for hours and to wish the death of some people with no remorse, but no, instead she was already thinking of the people she had left behind.
“You are so bloody strong and kind it’s absolutely amazing. It’s even annoying, you know?”
She didn’t laugh, but I knew eventually she would laugh about this, but right now she wouldn’t laugh, couldn’t laugh, and that was okay.
Summer unwounded her arms from behind me, possibly intending to start writing the letter right away, but I stopped her.
“Let’s just stay like this a little longer,” I asked her in a tender voice.
She didn’t protest and snuggled into my chest as before, lifting her legs onto her seat and close to her chest, almost like curling into a ball.
We stayed like that for quite a while. We were so still and comfortable in each other’s arms that I didn’t even notice when my eyes started to close and I drifted off to sleep.
It had been a long morning.
I had noticed Harry had fallen asleep with his head resting against the window by his deep breathing. I lifted my head slightly upwards to get a look at his beautiful face. He was so tired, I could tell. The mixture of adrenaline and worry had drained him, and I was surprised I had not fallen asleep as well.
But I had something I had to do before I could sleep.
I got up very slowly so I wouldn’t wake Harry up and reached for my suitcase, intending to get my school bag which had paper and a pen inside. After taking what I wanted, I looked around the carriage to see if there was a flat surface I could write on.
I noticed the back seats of the carriage had a table, the seats in front of it facing the desk, making it suitable for four passengers. Luckily, nobody was seated there, and I moved clumsily down the corridor of the carriage to reach the seat.
I sat down and inspected the setting around me. There were six people in the carriage, Harry and myself included. Three of them were men, two sitting together and one alone, reading the newspaper. The other person was a woman, two seats in front of me, who had been staring at me when I had changed seat.
“You and that boy are not brother and sister, are you?”
I jumped in surprise, more confused than actually startled. I looked up and noticed the lady had turned sideways to talk to me, her ginger hair catching my attention.
“Uhm, I’m sorry, are you talking to me?” I asked her, glancing around in confusion.
“How many other people in this train claim to be that boy’s sister?” She asked rhetorically, a smirk splattered across her face.
“How can you tell?” I asked her, trying to sound polite although she was freaking me out.
“Well, first, the dimples. He has dimples and you don’t, which is odd since having dimples is a genetic trait that is very common in siblings if one of them carries the gene,” she stated “The second is the way you guys were cuddling just there. Brothers and sisters don’t do that.”
My eyes widened in surprise at her statement.
“Were you watching us?” I dared to ask. Although I was always warned not to talk to strangers, the woman (who appeared to be no older than thirty-five) didn’t seem dangerous and once I left that train I would never see her again. Besides, her statement about the dimples caught my attention, and I was curious to see where that weird conversation would lead.
“I wasn’t watching you, I was simply observing. You caught my eye the second you told the police officer your name was Mary, which is also not true, right?”
“Maybe,” I told her, earning a challenging smile.
With that I turned my attention to the paper in front of me, writing Dear Anna at the top.
“Have you guys had sex yet?” The curious voice of the young woman sounded again, distracting me from my task once again, but this time I was not just surprised with her questioning, I was baffled.
“Wha- what?” I was perplexed at her question, not managing to articulate my words properly.
“You know, sex can kill you,” she continued, gazing at Harry from across the carriage. At this point I was outing if she was mentally sane. “Do you know what the human body goes through when you have sex? Arteries constrict, pupils dilate, core temperature rises, blood pressure skyrockets, heart races, respiration becomes rapid and shallow, secretions spit out of every gland, the brain fires bursts of electrical impulses from nowhere to nowhere, the muscles tense and spasms like you’re lifting three times your body weight.”
I just stared at her, completely lost with words. I was in shock and didn’t know what to say. I wanted to laugh, out of nervousness, and go back to my seat at the same time.
“Don’t worry girl, you’ll me fine, just messing with you.” The woman chuckled. Surely, she must have noticed how shocked I was from the tone of her response.
“I’m sorry, but are you a doctor?” I managed to ask after processing her words. She was talking like a doctor would, and her initial reference to genetics made me believe so.
“Maybe.” She said, giving me a mischievous smile. Her face then became serious “You really don’t know who I am, do you?”
I squinted my eyes. Could she be a renowned doctor who I wasn’t recognising? Hadn’t I seen her in some newspaper? Hadn’t I seen her face somewhere before?
The woman shook her head in disapproval and disappointment “I thought you were a bright girl, suggesting by your top-notch acting skills.”
My cheeks became scarlet. Who was this mysterious woman?
“I’m a descendant of Sherlock Holmes,” she said, once again that creepy smile on her face.
I frowned. I was quite certain she couldn't possibly have a sound mind, but I didn't want to be rude, so I kept responding. “Sherlock Holmes is a fictional character.”
“Oh darling, has nobody ever told you characters are based on real people?” She laughed with a kind of confidence that made you shrink.
That was it. I was officially freaked out. I got up and went back to my original seat without another word or glance. I heard the woman chuckle behind me, and I hurried my pace.
I sat down next to Harry with a loud thump, waking him up by accident.
“Hey,” he said with a sluggish tone “What are you doing?”
“I’m just starting the letter, I want to get it done with so I can send it right away when we get to Essex.”
“Kay,” he said, closing his eyes “I’m going back to sleep now.”
“Clearly,” I chuckled, amused by his childish words.
“I love you,” he stated as he rested his head on the window, eyes closed and hands under his neck to keep them warm.
“I love you, too,” I replied, staring at him for just a couple of seconds, taking in his peaceful state.
The conversation I had just had with the mysterious woman came crawling back, feeling utterly uncomfortable knowing she could have her eyes on me that very moment.
Sex can kill you, her words played in my head. With my peripheral vision I looked at Harry who had already fallen asleep again, and shook away all thoughts that involved Harry and sex in the same sentence, although it was a challenge since his leg was inches away from mine.
Wanting to erase my last thoughts, or at least get rid of them, I decided to write my letter on the nearest flat surface I could find, which happened to be the thick arm of the seat. Although I had very little space, I managed to write in a relatively legible way, so I was happy. As long as I didn’t speak to that woman again, I would be glad with anything.
And with that, I started writing:
This letter must be a surprise...