I opened my eyes when I felt the lulling movement of the train ceasing. The first thing I noticed was Summer’s arm holding mine tightly as she rested her head on my shoulder, her eyes closed and breathing steadily.
The sun was high up in the sky as I looked out the window, narrowing my eyes due to the clarity. The train was slowing down, and I could see, no further than fifty meters away, the entrance of a station. This station was much smaller than the one in London, only a metal canopy coloured deep green covering the few benches and the ticket office.
Suddenly, the chimney of the train went off in an ear-splitting roar. Summer jumped in her seat, startled. She looked extremely confused as she looked around. I couldn’t help but laugh at her expense.
“Are we here? Already?!” she asked as she wiped the sleep out of her eyes with the back of her hands. “What time is it?”
I glanced at my watch “Almost two o’clock.”
And with that we got up, grabbed our belongings and exited the train along with the other passengers. I noticed Summer was looking around the train, as if looking for someone.
“You forgot something back there?” I asked her as we made our way down the long, narrow corridor.
“Uh no, I was just admiring the train. It’s a pretty train.”
“You are so weird,” I stated, not even half joking. She didn’t respond or look at me, but I could notice her shy, closed-mouth smile.
Once out of the train, we made our way out of the station.
But that was when I noticed we were at the wrong station.
“Summer?” I called her “This is not it. We were supposed to be at Greys station.”
I pointed at the white letters on a signboard that read “Burberry Station”.
“Maybe we have to get another train. Maybe it isn’t a direct trip,” she sounded calm and in control. “Let’s just ask someone at the ticket office.”
We approached the ticket office, a woman in her forties standing behind the counter with a thick white raincoat. Summer explained the situation and showed her our tickets, to which she replied:
“I see... To get to Tilbury you have to get another train that will arrive in... Three hours.”
“Three hours?!” I exclaimed.
“I’m afraid so.” the lady said politely.
“Do we have to pay for another ticket?” Summer asked, her hands around my bicep to get warm.
“No, it is already included in the previous ticket you bought.”
“See Harry, at least we don’t have to pay for another ticket!” she beamed at me, but I couldn’t even force a smile. “Thank you so much for the help.”
“You’re welcome.” the employee said at last and we walked out of the station.
“So, where are we again?” Summer asked me as we walked through the weather-beaten metal gates.
“Rayleigh, bloody Rayleigh.”
“Hey, it could be worse. It could be raining.”
“No, you know what could be worse? If someone’s life depended on how fast we get to Tilbury station. Oh wait, it actually does!”
She was silent as she stopped in her tracks. I didn’t mean to be harsh but every second we wasted in waiting was precious time for my mum.
“I know Harry, but we can’t go any faster. We are already far away from Hudson, look how far we have come already!” she told me “If it depended on me we were already on that ship.”
“And if it depended on me I was already there!” the words left my mouth before I could think about how hurtful they were.
Summer widened her eyes, her cheeks a deep red “I didn’t stop you from going sooner, you could have left me. It was your choice, and I am sorry if you made the wrong one but don’t blame it on me!”
She stormed off, walking away from me without knowing where to go. She just went, but I followed her “Of course it’s not your fault damn it!”
“Then why did you say it was?”
“Because I’m furious and anxious and impatient all at the same time... Stop running away from me!” I spun her around, her face strong and determined. “I’m sorry, the words didn’t come out how I wanted them... I’m just- I’m sorry for letting it all out on you.”
She was silent, but then said “I should be more comprehensive with you. If this is hard for me I can only imagine how it is for you.”
I took a deep breath. Nothing was her fault, absolutely nothing. If anything, she was why I even left that school in the first place, I owed that to her.
“Hey, I know we bought some snacks and all, but don’t you want to have a real lunch, like in a real restaurant?”
She didn’t know what to say “Harry, we can’t waste our money on luxuries like that, especially now. We are going to need it afterwards...”
“Summer, it’s one lunch. Besides, what are we going to do for three hours? Might as well eat.”
“You do have a point...” she looked up at me with sparkly eyes and I didn’t need to hear another word to know it was a yes.
“Okay, so it’s settled then. Let’s find a quiet place and eat.”
“Like a date,” she added much to my surprise.
“Yeah, a date,” she said as if it was obvious, “It’s going to be our first time having lunch at a restaurant, so technically when a couple goes to a restaurant, it’s a date.”
“Well, if you say so, then it is a date, I suppose.”
She squealed in excitement as she walked beside me, and I couldn’t help but place my hands on her cheeks and pull her to my lips. How has it possible that she got so excited over such small gestures?
“I’d kiss you longer, but I’m starving,” I said as I pulled away way too soon for both of our liking. I got hold of her right hand before she could reply, and kissed her knuckles lightly. “Let’s go.”
We walked hand in hand through the streets in hopes of finding a small restaurant when Summer spotted the Post Office.
“Oh Harry, let me just sent the letters.”
“Letters? Plural?” I asked, changing our course in the direction of the Post Office.
“Yeah, I wrote two, one for Anna and the other for my parents.”
I stopped in his tracks suddenly in surprise “Your parents?!”
“What? Were you expecting me to just leave the country and not tell them? That’s insane, even for us.”
“You can’t tell them!” I told her as we stood outside the door of the post office. “What... Summer, I know this whole situation is irrational, and indeed sending a letter to your parents saying you are going to Germany is the logically correct thing to do, but it isn’t the right thing!” I tried to keep my voice down and soft.
“Why not?! If you were in my situation you would do the same thing!” she took half a step away from me.
“No, I wouldn’t, because I would know better than to worry my parents! And especially in your case, you haven’t written to them in like, I don’t know, since New Year. They don’t even know about me... How do you think they will react when you tell them you are going with a stranger, for all they know, to Germany?!”
“I don’t know Harry, but I have to tell them-”
“Why? Why do you have to tell them? How will they benefit with that information?”
She stood quiet, her jaw set in a sharp line. “Because they are my parents!”
“No Summer, that is not an excuse and you know it...” Summer huffed in frustration and as if instinct, I placed my hands on her shoulders, looking straight into her eyes “I tell you what: don’t think I don’t understand why you want to do it, because I do, but wouldn’t it be better to just try to solve this without them knowing? Imagine what they would do after they read that letter: they would freak out! Besides, we will go to Germany and I promise you, no, I swear to you that I will bring you home once this is all over,”
The conviction in my voice was the proof that I meant every single word I said, but she didn’t seem totally convinced, so I continued.
“I remember when you broke your wrist and you pleaded Hansen not to send a letter to your parents, and why did you do that? Because they couldn’t change anything, and you would only worry them. This is the same situation, but instead of having a broken wrist you are in perfect health.”
She let out a short chuckle, almost sarcastic but it held a certain genuineness.
“Don’t laugh, I am serious.”
“I know you are serious, so am I,” she told me, taking one of my hands from her shoulder and holding it in hers “But what if Mr Hansen has already told my parents what is happening? I want to be able to give my version of the story, I want to reassure them that I am okay.”
“Now that is a valid point, but what would Hansen gain by telling them? He would only make trouble by doing that, he would solve nothing. For all the know he could be on his way to get us right now... He hasn’t told them yet, it’s too soon, and even if he has written to them, the letter takes at least four days to get to Switzerland and another four to come back.”
“I know that...” she stared at the two letters in her hands “I just want my parents to know everything! The lies, the secrets, the gossiping, how much I love you, everything! I feel like you know me better than them, and they are my parents, they should know me better than anyone.”
That sentence caught me off guard. That was the last thing I expected to hear, but I went along with it.
“And you will eventually, just not now.”
She sighed and stared at the letters again “What should I do?”
I took both letters from her hands and inspected them, as if holding them would give me the answer “Save the letter for your parents for later, send Anna the letter.”
“I wrote in her letter that I told my parents what is going on.”
“And what is the problem?”
“What if she decides to write to them?” she asked.
“She won’t, she doesn’t have the guts,” I told Summer with honestly, but she gave disapproving look “It’s true! Anna knows better than to interfere on issues that are not hers taking in consideration what happened this morning.”
“You’re right...” she bowed her head, reaching for the letters “She won’t care anyway... I’ll just send her the letter and then if I change my mind about my parents I’ll send it, wherever we are at that point.”
“Now that’s a good plan,” I told her, heading inside the unfamiliar Post Office.
Why had this situation to be so hard for both of us? It wasn’t fair, at least not for her. I could tell she was scared, that she feared the future, but I couldn’t let her tell her parents. We didn’t need one more problem, we already had plenty.
Summer went to the counter and bought a stamp and an envelope. She wrote the address of the school and licked the back of the stamp, her face cringing at the taste of glue. Once everything was sealed, she placed the letter through a rectangular hole to send her letter.
“Okay, now can we go have our lunch?” I asked her as we walked out.
“Yeah,” she said. She then paused as if deliberating what to do and then spoke “Can you keep the letter for my parents? I don’t want to look at it.”
She handed me the letter which she was holding way to tightly. Her hand was shaking, and in that moment, I realised why she had to deliver that letter, as if out of pure magic. She didn’t say a word, or even blink, but in that moment, I understood why she had to send it, how she couldn’t live with herself if she didn’t.
“Summer, do you want to send the letter?” I asked her, the corner of her eyes glimmering from the formation of tears “I won’t stop you.”
“No, just take it. You are right, they can’t know what is going on just yet.”
“Summer, I don’t want to see you suffer from this decision, just make sure that you won’t regret not sending it.”
“I won’t, it’s decided.”
I took the letter from her hands and folded it neatly, placing it inside a pocket of my jeans.
“Oh look!” her tone of voice changed drastically, almost robotically “That restaurant seems nice! Shall we go check it out?”
I didn’t quite understand why she was faking that excitement, because I knew she couldn’t possibly be that happy after making that decision. If she was doing it to forget that she hadn’t sent her parents the letter or simply to change the tension I didn’t know, but one thing was for sure; I wish I had that ability.