During the time that took us to arrive at our so expected destination, Harry and I did not touch the subject of The Book again. What had happened that night proved that our minds were still prone to navigate back to the things we so desperately wanted to forget, which scared me to the point where all I was solely focused on shutting those thoughts down, to expulse them out of my body, treat those memories of people who mistreated us, and those negative, suffocating emotions as if they were a disease. I was determined not to ever mention it again, for I knew what it did to our hearts, and I couldn’t bear it, not for myself or Harry.
After infinite hours of staring at the ocean which looked exactly the same no matter how much we advanced, the constant vibration of the motors reminding us that we were moving, and after some time we finally started seeing land. It started off as being just a line so thin we had to adjust our focus just to see that dark outline. Then, buildings, machinery, boats of all sizes become clear. There it was, the port of Hamburg. After two days of voyage, we had finally reached Germany. As we arrived, all passengers were near the balcony which ran all around the ferry as they anticipated their arrival, everyone with thick jackets due to how cold it was, even though it was already two in the afternoon and the temperature should’ve gotten warmer. However, Harry’s disposition did not mirror the one of the passengers. His anxiety was evident as the ferry reached closer to the port of Hamburg, and I could feel a knot in my stomach by seeing him this way
“Everything will be okay,” I tried to cheer him up. He gave me a weak, forced smile, but I knew I couldn’t ask for more.
The ferry finally came to a stop and after twenty nerve-racking minutes of waiting, the passengers were allowed to come down. Harry and I had our suitcases ready, and as each of us took our own, we braced ourselves to enter a whole new world.
“Can’t believe we still have a five-hour train ride,” Harry said as we made our way down the covered walkway along with the other passengers that were leaving the ferry. The same two young and vibrant crew members which were welcoming us as we arrived were standing at the end of the walkway, thanking each passenger.
“I’m sorry to inform you, Miss, but I’m afraid you will have a tougher time with language here,” one of them said, picking up on our first conversation, “I hope you two have a pleasant time.”
“Thank you,” I said, trying to conceal the redness which was growing on my cheeks as the young gentleman smirked at me. Harry rolled his eyes, and I couldn’t help but laugh at his reaction.
“Good thing we are never seeing them again,” Harry said as we stepped foot on the dock. We followed the signs which said “Kartenbüro”, for we knew that stood for ticket office.
Our way to the ticket office at the port was no easy task. That area was packed full with people, some arriving at Hamburg and some departing. By not understanding the language which was being spoken, all I heard was incoherent noise, just some sounds which my brain did not turn into words. Because I was extremely confused and carrying my heavy suitcase while holding Harry’s hand, it was extremely difficult to move with agility through the crowd. I got kicked several times, I had to squeeze through some people occasionally, and I got so many hefty shoves that I had lost count of how many. Even once we reached the ticket office, we had to wait in the never-ending queue, which was also packed full of people. I was feeling extremely confused, and the smoke from all the cigarettes around us and from the machinery nearby wasn’t making it any easier to breathe. I tried to calm down, for I knew that was not the time or place to feel unwell.
At last, there was only one more person in front of us in the line. Harry asked me to get the little notebook with our translated sentences and his wallet so we could buy the tickets.
“Could you hold this, please?” I handed Harry my suitcase so I could turn the backpack I was carrying around. I opened it and searched for our belongings. I found the notebook first, which I held in one hand, but I was having trouble with the wallet. I opened the interior compartment, just in case I hadn’t accidently put it in there, but it was empty. I tried to conceal my sinking feeling for I didn’t want to worry Harry more than he already was. I was surely there, I was just at the bottom of the backpack, that was all.
“Hurry Summer, we are up next,” Harry called impatiently.
“I can’t find the wallet...” I said as I struggled to dig deeper into the backpack. It wasn’t even that full, and I knew I had seen everything inside, but part of me was hoping that I had missed something, “See if you can find it.”
Harry rummaged through the bag, growing more impatient and anxious by the second.
“Are you sure you put it here?”
“I’m absolutely sure!” I said, fearing what could’ve happened for the disappearance of the wallet.
"Nächster bitte,” the man from behind the counter called.
“I think it’s our turn,” I whispered to Harry. Harry motioned me to move to the side, allowing the next person to go ahead of us. We moved to the side of the building, a much calmer and less transited area. Harry dropped both suitcases and focuses only on the bag, opening all compartments.
“This is impossible!” He said, exasperated “Where the hell is the wallet?”
I stood quiet, my stomach turning into a tight, suffocating knot. My head felt lighter and I found it hard to support my body weight. I leaned against the wall of the building, praying that what was happening was just a dream. In a final attempt to find the wallet, Harry opened both our suitcases and looked through them, but as I had known all along, our wallet, containing all our money, was missing.
Harry cursed and kicked the wall, taking his hands to his hair “I bet we were stolen in the middle of that crowd! We will never have it back!”
All of the sudden, the air around me wasn’t enough to fill my lungs. If I was feeling unwell before, I was about to faint now. My hands started shaking, my vision was blurred, and a lump was painfully forming at the back of my throat. Harry noticed the state I was in and rushed to my side, one arm around my back as if we were dancing, the other on my shoulder.
“Summer, breathe,” Harry encouraged me in a calm voice, although I knew perfectly well he wasn’t calm.
“What are we gonna do now?!” I said, hopelessness and regret boiling inside me, making my thoughts and emotions spiral out of control “We are thousands of kilometres away from Bonn, we know nobody here, nobody can help us! It’s all my fault... Oh, and it’s your money Harry, I’m so sorry! I should have kept it safer! What are we gonna do, where are we gonna go?”
Tears were running down my face and by breathing was more irregular than ever. My stomach felt like it was turning upside down, making me feel sick. All I wanted to do was to disappear, to vanish from that place and go back home, to go back in time and not take my eyes from the wallet.
“Summer, there’s nothing we can do about it now-”
“But your money Harry! It was so, so much money!” I cried, taking my hands to my face. In the distance, the sound of a boat’s chimney went off, relentlessly reminding me where we were; in a foreign country, where no one could or would help us get out of that impossible situation.
“It’s just money Summer! Yes, we needed it, but it’s not the end of the world!” Harry tried to convince me, although I sensed he was also trying to convince himself.
I took a deep, shaky breath. What the hell were we going to do?
“We have to get on that train. There is no other way to get to Bonn,” Harry said, looking past the gate of the port, the railway track just behind it.
“We have no money, how are we supposed to get tickets?” I said exasperated, still shaken by what was happening.
For a moment I tried to focus all my energy in comprehending what Harry was suggesting. If we got on that train without a ticket, we would be travelling illegally across Germany without any documentation, undoubtedly risking having to pay a colossal fine or worse, deportation, not to mention that being Harry eighteen, he would be judged as an adult and he could go to jail, a German jail.
“No way!” I objected immediately, freeing myself from Harry’s arms, “Harry, I’ve seen people doing these kinds of things and they always end up at a police station! Not to mention that we are in a foreign country, I have no idea how things work here in Germany. And we got no documents!” The more things I listed the worse that idea seemed.
“We’ll sneak in the cargo carriage, no one will see us!” Harry insisted, but I was determined to think of another plan.
“Maybe we can ask someone for a ride!”
“Don’t be naïve Summer!” Harry said, sighing in frustration “Do you really think anyone will give us a ride to a city five hours away from here?”
“You are already turning it down before we even tried! Our other option is a felony!”
Harry exhaled sharply in desperation, which just made me feel worse. I understood where Harry was coming from but something in me couldn’t accept his solution.
“Summer, please understand. We are just hours away from my mum and I won’t forgive myself if we arrive too late because we didn’t take the fastest route.”
I could feel my eyes welling up with tears again. I didn’t want to be the cause of such lateness, but at the same time, the risks were too high.
“If anything happens to us and we get caught, I will assume all responsibility,” he said, trying to convince me.
“Yeah, and that is more reassuring!”
“Please Summer, I’m begging you.”
As I looked into his eyes I could see the desperation in him. I had accepted going on this journey with Harry knowing the risks from the beginning. Entering Germany with no documents was a decision I took being fully aware of the consequences, so was I hesitating now? I knew things could go wrong from the start, and I had accepted that fate anyway. Whether or not I liked our plan, we had to follow it, we didn’t have a choice, we had to reach our end destination. We had to get on that train one way or another, and since we had no money we would have to sneak in.
I walked over to our suitcases and picked them up, giving Harry his.
“You take the backpack, I don’t trust myself with it.”
With that, we walked from behind the building we were hiding behind and joined the crowd once again, this time making our way to the exit of the port. I had no idea how we would sneak into a train without being noticed or how we would endure a five-hour trip with no heating in a cargo carriage, but that was what had to be done.
Harry and I walked in the direction of the train station which was not far from the entrance of the port. Hundreds of people were at the open-air station waiting for their train to arrive, although already two of them were there, one going to Frankfurt and the other to Cologne.
“Look, up there,” Harry pointed to a sign which had the times of the arriving trains “The train for Bonn arrives in ten minutes.”
“Ten minutes for us to go over the plan then,” I said, looking at the trains in front of us and trying to identify the cargo carriages. Hopefully, the train for Bonn was similar to those ones.
By observation, we noticed that each train stayed at the station for fifteen minutes before departing, giving time for all passengers to get in. We decided we would enter the train as soon as possible since the crowd would be busy getting in, hopefully paying no attention to us as we moved down the train.
As the time approached, thoughts of failure invaded my head and I grew more anxious. What if all cargo carriages were locked? What if they decided to unload the train, making those carriages unreachable? What if we were caught and asked for our tickets, having to go through the humiliation of admitting we didn’t have them?
After some gelid minutes of standing in the unguarded station at the mercy of the cold, the roaring train grew bigger as it appeared from the line of the horizon. Still not sure if the train that approached was the one going to Bonn, I waiting with expectation as it got closer.
“This is the one,” Harry said, the full length of the train coming into view.
Adrenaline spiked in my blood and I felt extremely alert. I felt as if everyone was looking at us, accusing us of our felony before we even got on the train.
Suddenly, Harry took my free hand dragged me down the train, leaving the chaotic area filled with passengers trying to enter the locomotive. I looked back, expecting to see anyone following us, but everyone as focused on getting inside. We sped down the train until we reached the end of pavement, the ground beyond being off limits.
“Have you seen any carriage?” I asked, the cold making my thoughts feel hazy.
“No, keep going!”
We ran by the train’s side, and the further we moved the more nervous I grew. The time we spent on off-limits area, the more prone we were to being seen and caught. I was desperate to find a cargo carriage, but all we saw passenger carriages. Luckily, no one was on the back carriages, so at least no one inside the train would see us.
“Here!” Harry shouted. At last, we had reached the cargo area. Harry stepped on the track and tried to jam open the shed-like doors of the first carriage, but to no avail. It was locked with a chain and a locket, both of them weighing so much neither of us could even lift them. We moved to the next one, but we faced the same problem.
“Shit,” Harry cursed, giving up on trying to open the carriage.
“Harry, it’s not the time to give up, if anyone looks back they can see us! We need to hurry!”
I started running, leaving Harry behind who was not giving up on that chain. I was so desperate that I was even hoping for a miracle, knowing all too well those didn’t occur often. We had done everything we could, we had left everything behind in order to reach this is one person, and now that chance was slipping through our fingers like sand. We didn’t deserve this, we deserved to get to Harry’s mother after all we did.
As I ran, Harry right behind me, I noticed the carriages were connected to each other by a flexible, rotating piece of iron, leaving a gap of about a meter between two of them. I also noticed all of carriages, in that junction, had a door.
“Harry look!” I pointed, wasting no time in climbing the train and examining the door. I had to balance myself (which was a challenge due to the extra weight of the suitcase I was carrying) to stay on top of the iron connection, for it was no wider than my foot and it was covered in a slippery black oil. I crossed my fingers and turned the handle of the door.
I inhaled sharply. What were we supposed to do now?
I looked at Harry, the expression of worry finally setting on my face. I had tried to conceal that feeling so I wouldn’t worry Harry, but now it was impossible to hide it, now that I had lost all hope. Unless he had another idea, we weren’t getting on that train.
“What are we going to do?” I said in despair.
“We have to keep moving down the train, I’m sure we will find something!”
“No, we won’t!” I shouted, Harry’s hope that we would miraculously find and open carriage annoying, “We have checked, I don’t know, ten carriages! What makes you think we are going to find one?”
That was the truth, and he had to accept it. It crushed me to admit defeat, and what a great defeat, but that was what it was.
That was when I noticed a ladder attached to the other side of the train. Without asking, I gave Harry my case to hold and I went to the other side, bumping off the train and into the pebbles at the railway track.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?”
Since Harry was standing on the other side of the train we couldn’t see the ladder.
“A ladder! It goes right to the top of the train. Maybe there’s a way in from the top.”
“What if anyone sees you?”
“Honestly, I am so desperate I couldn’t care less.”
“Okay but keep low. I’ll be right behind you.”
As Harry said those words, I was already climbing the rusty ladder. I pushed myself over the top, my clothes getting all dirty from crawling.
“I think I see something!”
Getting our hopes up before I confirmed it was actually a way in wasn’t the best idea, but because I had been stripped of all hope, having it back felt like my body was gaining actual physical strength.
I crawled over the train until I reached the indentation I had noticed which resembled a trap door. I wasted no time and I picked it once, twice, three times until door miraculously opened, revealing a dark interior.
I almost squealed in excitement, but the nervousness of knowing people could see us perfectly held me back.
“Harry! It’s open! Get up here!”
I crawled back towards the ladder to help Harry up. He handed me one suitcase, then the other and I started dragging them towards our improvised entrance.
“You are an absolute lifesaver!” Harry kissed my cheek, and although I did deserve it, we were still on top of a train illegally, and I couldn’t wait to get out of there.
“You first!” I told Harry. I could not see the bottom from how dark the carriage was inside, but from the height of it it couldn’t be that deep. Since Harry was the tallest, it made sense for him to go first so then he could take the suitcases and help me in.
He sat at the edge of the opening and slid his body through, almost instantly hearing a thump as he hit the ground.
“Oh, this is dusty in here... Pass me the cases.”
One by one, I gave Harry the cases. I then sat at our entryway and braced myself for the fall.
“You’ll be fine, I’ll catch you.”
That moment reminded me of when Harry and I had jumped from the upper floor at the stables, minutes before flames consumed it. I had felt like I had to choice before, that I had to jump. Jumping inside the train made me feel the same way, but this time I had someone on the ground to stop me from falling.
“Come on, you can do it!”
Barely seeing Harry’s figure in the dark, I took a leap of faith. Almost instantly, I felt his arms wrapping around me and my feet touching the ground lightly, like a feather.