I couldn’t believe this was happening. My life, my school, everything was completely upside down. I had lost count of how many parents had called me wanting to know what was going on, and it had been only two days since Harry and Summer had run away, enough time for the remaining students to write to their parents telling them all about it. To make it worse, I could hear staff and teachers commenting as well. I heard their voices in my head all the time ”It’s unbelievable... I thought Mr Hansen could have avoided this.“, “I knew Harry Edwards would escape sooner or later, why wasn’t he expelled in the first place? Would have saved trouble, that’s for sure.“, “Something doesn’t feel quite right... Did Mr Hansen really do everything to stop them, or is he glad that Harry is gone too?“.
It was all too much, too overwhelming. To avoid that situation as much as possible, I spent most of my time in my office, away from everyone, disconnecting my phone from the wire when the calls were too many.
During the endless hours I sat at my desk, I had never felt that exhausted in my entire life. My thoughts were so many, all moving so fast, that I even lost my appetite. Those thoughts even haunted me at night, when I was asleep.
How was it possible? How was it possible that my cousin was dying? It had already been all too much when my best friend Thomas, Harry’s father, had died, and now my cousin, who was like a sister to me... Harry would become an orphan, I would be his only family left... Where was he now? I knew he was on his way to Germany, no doubt about that. It was no use in trying to stop him, and deep down I actually wanted him to get there, to see his mum for the last time. If only the teachers knew I wasn’t hunting him down for that reason... But I couldn’t tell them, it would be catastrophic if I did.
And then there was Summer. For the first couple of hours after they ran away, I had thought the girl had lost her mind in going with Harry to Germany, but then during dinner her reasons became very clear. It had never crossed my mind that she was being marginalised like Harry had been, that sweet, lively girl who had joined Hudson just six months ago.
Anna’s words during dinner were like a spear to my stomach. I was in such shock at the emotion of her words that I was speechless. I was speechless not only because only then did I realise how little I knew about the situation, but also because of the power of friendship Anna was demonstrating. I knew Anna was a bright girl, with impeccable grades and a flawless academic history, but the words she spoke were the hard truth, and they stirred something in me so deep that I actually felt guilty myself, even though her words weren’t directed to me. I felt like I too had contributed to Summer’s scorning.
To aggravate the situation, Anna received a letter from Summer the morning after that dinner, which I demanded to read. Any doubts or questions I had before reading the letter were now answered. I understood Summer’s point of view of the whole situation, and somehow it reassured me to know that they had a plan to go to Germany.
However, the beginning of the letter disturbed me, to say the least. It made me feel sick just at the thought of my students treating Summer so badly to the point where she had to run away from it all. Of course I couldn’t reveal those feelings to Anna, so I limited myself in being cold.
After Anna left my office, I felt like I had been punched in the stomach for what felt like the thirtieth time in the course of those two days. I felt like it was my duty to get to the bottom of it. To make it worse, I knew since ever Harry had gone through a tough time at Hudson after John’s suicide, but reading Summer’s testimony of the extent of his suffering made me feel like I had failed. I had never imagined he was feeling so oppressed, so powerless. I knew he didn’t come talk to me because I didn’t even give him a chance to... I should’ve been softer with him, should’ve been more understanding...
There was nothing I could do now. I couldn’t stop the parents from demanding answers or make the teachers of my school stop making judgements, I couldn’t stop the students that had made Harry suffer so much from making jokes about him leaving, and I definitely couldn’t make my cousin miraculously get better. What I could do was send her a letter, saying that Harry was on his way and that I couldn’t stop him... I knew deep down that she desperately wanted to see him, and maybe telling her that he was on his way... Maybe she would be able to hold on, maybe she would survive for just one more week...
There was a knock on the door.
I cleared my voice and spoke in a deep tone “Come in.” I looked down at my papers, making it look as if I had been working.
“Amanda? I didn’t expect to see you here. Shouldn’t you be in lessons?”
“It’s break time already Sir,” Amanda said as if it was obvious. I looked at my watch, it was indeed break time. My mind was so occupied with other things that I completely lost track of time.
“Ah yes, you’re right... But anyway, what brings you here?”
“Uh Mr Hansen, I don’t know if it is a good time to bring this up... You see, Summer took with her the Book of Judgement when she left, just thought you might like to know.”
“Yes, I already know that Amanda,” I said sharply, teeth greeted, annoyed by talking about that topic again “But now that you are here, tell me, why do you think she took it with her?”
Amanda stood at the door emotionless, her eyes wide “Why do you ask me, Sir?”
Suddenly, a flame lit inside me, and I felt my face heating up. ”Why do I ask you?! Tell me yourself, why am I asking you? It seems you have an awful lot to say on a matter that is none of your business!”
I was out of breath, my right hand was clenched against the table, my eyes looking down at the papers. I looked up, noticing Amanda had taken a step back due to my sudden raise of voice. She did not say a word, and I knew she wouldn’t.
“Get out, and only bother me again when you having something important to discuss.”
“Yes Sir.” she replied in a low voice, exiting immediately, closing the door silently after her.
The room fell silent, that haunting silence that was now part of my routine which was gradually driving me to insanity. I couldn’t take it any longer, the prying, the insinuations, everyone trying to tell me things that I already knew in hopes to add more wood to the fire, and for what? What did all of those people gain from doing so?
Infuriated and desperate to break that bubble of silence which only harvested negative thoughts, I left my office, exited the building without looking at anyone and walked in the direction of Hall B in a hurry. I could feel my feet digging into muddy spots on the ground as my legs worked at a steady pace, the soles of my Oxford shoes getting covered in mud. I continued to battle against the mushy ground until I reached my destination. I cleared the bottom of my shoes at the entrance and headed upstairs to Harry’s room.
I noticed immediately the door was locked, which was no problem. I reached for my key chain and opened the door easily with the master key.
The first thing I noticed when I entered the room was a number of boxes spread all over the floor, all pointing out that they came from under Harry’s wooden bed. My eyes averted to the drawers; some were open and almost empty, some of the clothes that were left behind were scattered around, hanging from drawer handles. I moved towards the window, pulling the curtains out of the way as I closed it to keep the cold wind from cooling the bedroom, not that anyone would be sleeping there anymore.
There was no need to keep searching for evidences of what I already knew. It was clear the decision Harry took to leave was in a rush, suggesting by the chaos in his room. I sat at the edge of the bed, pondering if there was anything I could have done to prevent this if I had known earlier what he was planning... But I did know. It was clear in my mind all along that he would or at least try to run away.
I let him run away, and deep down I knew why.
Yes, I tried very hard to keep him from leaving, I even went after him at the train station, made a scandal in public and a fool of myself, but I knew deep down that I could have done so much more to stop him, but I chose not to.
I knew he was going to be okay. With Summer with him, I knew he wouldn’t get lost in the way, or would have to face such an emotional and physical taxing journey on his own. Despite being concerned about him, I was sure he wouldn’t get into trouble, he had a purpose that exceeded the need for such stupid endeavours.
I glanced around the room again and noticed how lonely I truly felt. I was not married, had no children of my own. I had lost close contact with most of my friends, just sending a symbolic Christmas card every year. I did have some drinks with some of the teachers once in a while, but I never seemed to be able to break that authority barrier which I needed at times.
My only family, or what was left of it, was either in Germany or going there.
I knew what I had to do, and it surprised me why I took so long to realise it.