Part I: The Awakening
Chapter 16: Departure time
Leaving Ambleside felt like a curse. For more than one reason…’the one’. Apart from that ‘one’ I loved spending time with Martha in the kitchen, I enjoyed talking to Ben about history, geography and a little bit of politics, I looked forward to any discussion with Mark on themes such as nature preservation, while Alice kept amazing me daily with her ways of upbringing her child. And I grew to admire James even more than I already did. But the person who eclipsed each of the rest by far was ‘the one’…Maria. After kissing me she ran out of the room, but from what I could gather not in a fury and not in a hurry. Just the opposite, in fact. She wanted to give no more push to something which at least at that certain moment had nothing solid on which to set its foundations. She ran and I did not wonder why, I did not try to explain it in my mind. I accepted it as a good sign. And that had never before occurred. It was for the first time in my life, to be honest, when I ceased trying to give meaning to each and every sign.
In general, as I’ve already said, I pretty much choose to interpret things, signs, words, gestures, anything really; as if I had a database in my ‘expansive’ brain in which I stored enough stuff to be able to solve any enigma. But Maria was too much of an enigma, even for my oh so ‘evolved’ brain. She was a conundrum, that much was sure, but for whatever reason I chose not to pursue any hidden meanings in her flight. I chose that because for once in my life I wanted to be optimistic about something which did not show much promise, which was not future proof in any way. And because I chose it, completely voluntarily, it felt right. It did not feel like a weight hanging around my neck.
Speaking of enigmas, it puzzled me how it was that Martha managed to present us all with a parting gift. She never seemed to go anywhere without either one of her guests and we knew not of any gifts having been bought. Smooth! When we were drinking some tea and getting ready to go downstairs, she came in the living room all smiling, with her gifts. And not just any gifts, but just the right ones for each of us, the best she could’ve possibly chose.
She gave James a little wooden train bought from the loveliest shop in all of England, an all woody store near the town’s center where everything was hand-made of wood. Even the shop. I’d visited it with Mark and James on our third day in Ambleside and we thought it charming, but little did we expect that we’d get presents from there. James loved trains with a fervous passion, so of course he appreciated Martha’s present over-joyously. The superb hand-made masterpiece fit perfectly in his mostly-wooden train set-up he had at home and he knew it straight away. So he gave her a big hug and the warmest of kisses.
Alice was next on Martha’s list. She had never before entered said shop, but she knew of it. Martha bought her some kitchen utensils which looked like taken right out of a Robin Hood movie. Alice had wonderful modern tools with which to cook the most amazing of foods, but having such classy wooden utensils must’ve had some unique advantages, I thought. And I was right, as I soon came to find out…
Mark received a cereal bowl! I know, I know…it sounds stupid enough, but Mark ate cereals like no other, each morning, seven o’clock sharp, no exception. And sometimes randomly during the day. So a wooden bowl with amazingly colorful and richly detailed birds, the ones common to the Lakes District, was, well, just his cup of tea. As a matter of fact, his habitually impressive dedication to eating cereals from that very bowl later on inspired me to take on the habit of eating the most diverse of cereals. And since I mentioned tea (in an expression, but still), I should say that Alice acted as my mentor in the exquisite art of drinking tea. Like a Brit! And guess what, among the utensils she received lay a cup as well, ideal for drinking tea like a Sir…well, in her case, like a lady.
What I, the unlucky bastard who couldn’t even manage to drown himself, got, really blew my mind and my expectations: two distinctive wooden maps, one of the world and one of Europe. But not just any maps: the cutest ever puzzle maps. Hand-made as well, as most in that shop were. The puzzle-map of the entire world was a little more difficult to solve, while the other presented itself as kind of too easy for a geography enthusiast. But nonetheless, they were both great. I found myself speechless, as I had only just briefly mentioned my liking geography to Martha. I did spent a lot of time talking with Ben about history and geography, as previously mentioned, but Martha was never around, so they must’ve talked about my interests at some point. Nice, I thought, very nice!
Maria came to say her goodbyes to us (especially to me, I liked to think). She had a gift of her own for me, a picture book about the Lakes District, with the nicest of pictures. Signed by her in an intricate looking way. A real blessing for me, that book, seeing as how I possessed no camera whatsoever, not even one incorporated in the dumbest mobile ever. I welcomed the thought of having amazing pictures to show to whomever I was to tell about my journey to Ambleside. I should’ve bought one such book myself, but I’ve probably spent too much time thinking about Maria to focus on anything else. Shame on me, I say!
Maria…hmm, a real mystery of a girl, one which for whatever reason took an interest in me. In me? Why? “I’ll probably never know,” I thought, foolishly enough. ⇒⇓
“So you’re all set? No let’s-go-back!-damn!-how-blind-we-must’ve-been-to-overlook-this!? kind of stuff you may have left behind?” Martha asked, clearly having experienced many such moments in her eventful life.
“I dare say not,” Alice replied. “Nothing inanimate seems to be missing. If we don’t forget to take James along, it will be perfect!”
“I don’t think Martha would mind if we left James with her…am I right, Martha?” Mark asked.
“Indeed I wouldn’t, not one bit. I’d welcome him here anytime, if you ever decide to send him to us while he’s still a little child. That is because I’m sure that when he’ll be older he’ll come here without even asking…” Martha said.”And you, Luck, I’d welcome you as well, anytime, just drop by if you find yourself in the neighborhood. Or anywhere in the Lakes District, for that matter. Please do pay us a visit if that happens, ok?”
I was honored for having received such an invitation. I tried to make the best of impressions, despite the initial setback (which in fact did nothing but help me in my endeavor, not damage my ‘reputation’). “I would be thrilled to re-see you two sometime,” I answered, feeling rather embarrassed by my saying ‘re-see’. In my head it sounded much better, or so I though. Not that they minded my saying that…”I will definitely drop by.”
Unexpectedly, Martha added: “Maria dear, you should give Luck your address in London, maybe he’ll visit the city some time and you two could see each other as well.” In fact, I had Maria’s email address, “which suffices enough these days”, but Maria complied with Martha ‘request’ anyhow.
“I live in Harrow-on-the-Hill, as I’ve already told ya’. 3A Harrow Park Road. A red brick house, the only such one in the immediate area. You can’t miss it,” she said, cordially. ⇒⇓
We said our goodbyes and off we went, driving back to Liverpool. Before leaving, I talked for a bit with Maria in Alice’s car, while the others were chasing James around the garden. Presumably, he thought it unwise to leave such a marvelously-looking garden…and the people who tended it.
“Do pay me a visit if you ever find yourself in London. I think you will, considering all that you’ve told me about your love for our fair capital,” Maria said, her eyes shinning brightly because of a red light which kept flickering in the car. Her blue eyes suddenly had a purplish tint…and what can I say, I loved that color anyhow, all the more so when it was the color of such a beauty’s eyes. So I kissed her. I thought to make it even, that whole kissing business.
Just that it felt nothing like a business transaction: you kissed me, I’ll kiss you too in return. Let’s be quits! I thought it for a second, then my mind completely changed. I knew, in general, people close their eyes when kissing, for whatever reasons, I dunno… But right there, in that car, I did not close them. Maria did, her eyelashes falling down graciously upon the skin around her eyes, but I did not. I wanted to watch her from such a close distance, to try and figure out what went through that wonderful mind of hers. Of course, I didn’t manage to read her mind, I did not manage to figure her out, but at least I marveled at her face. That was reward enough for my attempt of not closing my eyes.
“Hmm…you’re trying to seduce me, mister? You’ve already managed that, so why bother? Around you I feel weaponless. I know, you feel that way as well…that’s the beauty of it. But let’s leave it at that, you must leave, I must leave as well in a week or two. So let’s part ways as friends and nothing more,” she said, not wanting to say it, obviously enough…but she had to…
She exited the car. I said a short “I’ll visit you in London”, after which, soon enough, she disappeared from my cone of view. “We were never just friends, not with the way we met,” I thought. And indeed we weren’t. But for now we had to consider ourselves to be just that…
“Time will tell…” Ti-(‘tie’)-me…to you!