The Awakening Chapter 16: Departure time

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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. ⇒⇓

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“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.  ⇒⇓

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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!

Chapter 17

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The Awakening Chapter 14: Hillsides

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Part I: The Awakening

Chapter 14: Hillsides

Two days after our eventful arrival in Ambleside Mark wanted to show me the beauty of the Lake District. I had it figured out already that it was one hell of a natural park, but of course I couldn’t possibly say no to exploring some more. So after a fast breakfast Mark and James took me on a little hillside adventure.

We took the fastest way out of town so that we could walk around undisturbed by cars and other vehicles. An inconspicuous path between some ancient houses led us to a larger one, through the woods, alongside the same stream which passed under the Bridge House back in town. The area was extraordinarily beautiful and the nuances of green caught my eyes so much that I nearly tripped over a couple of times for not paying attention to what lay ahead of me on the path.

“Soon we’ll get out of the woods and into open hillsides,” Mark said. “You’re saying that like it’s a good thing, but I feel like these woods here are too awesome for me to want to get out of them anytime soon,” I told Mark, hoping to spend more time in the forest than in mountainous plains.

Little did I realize how those hillsides looked like. They were truly unique, as opposed to the forest which in fact was quite similar to those around my home town. The British may have grazed their sheep a little too much in their pre-industrial age, but that in turn transformed the land in a way that’s very pleasing to the eyes. Each stone wall separating the pastures adds charm to the hillsides. They were meant to be useful, but now they’re features of the environment which any tourist instantly loves. They may look nice when seen from a distance, while riding a bus or while on a train, but from up close (and personal) they are even better.

“Mark, I know now why you wanted us to get out of the woods. You were sooo right!” I said, enthusiastically. “I knew it as well that you’d like it here, I was sure of it,” Mark replied. ⇒⇓

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Of course he was right. Mark was British, after all, and a dedicated nature lover at that, so he knew the best features of the land better than me…Anyhow, we advanced further down the path. James kept slowing us down, because he took interest in all of the many tiny streams which popped in front of us regularly. Not that we minded the slowing down which allowed us to enjoy the picturesque views all around us.

The little streams were, most of them at least, temporary. It rained so much in the area in the course of the last couple of weeks that such streams felt right at home. Even as we walked it kept raining continuously, without signs of any attempt of stopping. Or at least slowing down. It was a little foggy, but every feature of the land and of the atmosphere combined made up that typical British landscape which people were admiring ever since the whole touristy business started to take shape in Britain.

James began feeling cold, in his boots especially, but pretty much overall. We were no better, for all that wetness around us, but we wanted to continue, to reach an ominous looking summit which lay directly ahead of us. We were making good progress but at some point we had to stop. “Daddy, I’m sssooo coold! I want back to mummy!” James said, complaining on a tone just as you’d except for his age. “Ok, ok, we’re no better off, actually, so we should go back, I don’t want Alice to strangle me for giving James an awful cold!” Mark said. And we began our descent. Immediately.

It was not a long trip, but given the weather conditions and the fact that we had a three-year-old on our tail, we walked more than enough. We took a different path downhill, so that we could see the area from another perspective. It wasn’t all bad, after all. After half an hour or so we reached Martha’s house, all wet and trembling.

“Some great adventurers you turned out to be, returning home so soon! I take it you didn’t even reach the summit you said you’d climb on, Mark, did you?” Martha asked when she saw us like that.
“Nah, we didn’t, but we got pretty close in fact, we’re not so old as you are so we can walk pretty fast, even with little James here slowing us down,” Mark replied.

“You’d be amazed how light-footed I can be if I want to or need be!” Martha said, after which we entered the house and warmed ourselves up.

Chapter 15

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The Awakening Chapter 10: A watery grave

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Part I: The Awakening

Chapter 10: Watery grave

“How come you are so scared? Why do you fear, what do you fear? Maybe death is not so bad, who knows?” A voice was in his head. In that place on that particular moment, Luck had no luck whatsoever. “You should’ve learned to swim, you lazy good-for-nothing!” He wanted to learn to swim, he feared just such a thing, but he had not been able to, no matter how hard he tried. He’d always wanted to be able to swim. And in that very moment, he could not do anything about it. “There are people who learn to swim in moments like this, ’cause they want to live!” the voice yelled, disappointed in Luck’s lack of any signs of struggle to survive. “Damn you, voice, I want to live, you know that, but I can’t seem to be able to do anything about it! I DON’T want to die, damn you!”

He was talking to himself, feeling sorry for his lack of ambition – or power, it was not clear which was it – to learn to swim. But there he stood, drowning, and dreaming of taking swimming lessons in some swimming pool. “Maybe a beautiful creature could’ve managed it,” he though. He was thinking of fantasy creatures, an elvish maid or some fairy of legend, so beautiful that his muscles would have nothing else to do than to listen to her will and thus, swim. Swim towards her. Such a creature, maybe, just maybe, could have taught him what no instructor managed. “But there’s no elfin around, nor will there ever be…so I’m gonna drown, pitifully…” Luck thought.

Just as he said that, in his head, of course, which took him only a couple of seconds, something hit him. It grabbed him. It tried to drag him towards the surface. But it was no easy task. The it was a woman, after all… fair Alice…and she was not all that muscular. But she made it. She struggled. She did not give up. She brought him to the surface. Yay!

All the while, Mark was inside the boat with little James, trying to calm him down while hiding from the rain. He was not able to hear Luck yelling when he went overboard and he did not see anything, so Alice, in a moment’s time, decided to jump. She could not risk losing time by running to Mark. She had spent a lot of time swimming and surfing in sunny California, so she had enough experience. She even saved a man from drowning, in L.A., a couple of years back. She had told that to Luck during a discussion some days back and now…she was saving him. Pretty embarrassing, for him…and pretty awesome, for her, to be able to do that! Now for the second time!

“Oh my God, what the hell happened?” Mark asked Alice, as she saw her getting out of the water with an unconscious Luck, all shivering and agitated. “He fell over,” she replied, not in the mood for giving more explanations. “Call Martha and tell her to bring the car to the pier, asap!”

“Martha, Mark here. There’s been an accident and Luck’s pretty beat up. He does not seem to be in any real danger, Alice’s helping him the best she can, but as far as I can remember, a neighbor and friend of your’s a doctor, right, Mr. Dickinson or something?”

“Oh my, what happened?” Martha asked, clearly not feeling well for hearing such news. Alice told me that Martha’s heart condition was precarious those days and she never took such pieces of news in any other way than very badly. “It don’t matter, just call the doctor! Just do it and come to the pier immediately! Details are not going to change the situation in the least,” Mark said, stressing it on a raging tone, so that she understood not to dwell on it, but do what she was told to, rapidly.

“What’s she said? Mark, drop out of it and tell me!” Alice yelled, looking at Mark being lost in thought for a moment. “She’s coming, both of them are, don’t worry. I’m just nervous, cause it might’ve been little James here and even as it is, the situation’s dire, if something real bad were to befall Luck…” Mark said, nervously. He added: “I don’t know what I’d do if we were to lose James, I just don’t know…” “Stop thinking hypothetically (and badly at it)! I did the best I could, Luck’s gonna be alright, although he was drowning rapidly when I caught him. A couple of more seconds and it would’ve been almost impossible for me to do anything, apart for drowning myself alongside him, that is…” Alice said, keeping her calm better than her husband, but nervous enough as well.

“Oh, honey, we should’ve turned back. This boat’s not meant for such journeys. Stupid weather, changing on us like that! Come here!” Mark said, taking Alice in his arms. And little James as well, scared as he was. “Everything’s gonna be all right, James”, both of his parents said, at the same time.

Meanwhile, Luck was breathing, but apart from that, he did little else. On shore, when Martha saw him, she almost fainted: “Oh my, he’s our guest, he’s your guest, that’s not supposed to happen!”, she said in a faded voice. “I know, aunt Marha, I know that it shouldn’t have happened, but it did, so we must deal with it the best we can!” Alice said, trying to calm down everybody, including her uncle Ben. “She’s a strong woman, I’ll give her that!” said a voice inside Luck’s head. “She is, indeedy…”

After a few minutes, Mr. Dickinson arrived as well and checked up the near-drowned-patient, carefully. He said that there was no need for a hospital, which was over in Kendal anyhow. “If he were to have drowned, no trip to the hospital would’ve helped him any more. It would’ve been too late to reach it,” the doctor said. “Take him home and I’ll instruct you how to best take care of him,” he added, trying to calm down Martha.

All of them drove home and gave their best in order to make Luck return to his senses. They arranged his bed in such a way, that he’d lie on a raised pillow so that he could breathe more easily. They all stood there for some time, at his bedside, but at some point, they left about their business, as Alice asked them to. After a while, Luck woke up, not feeling too worse for wear, actually, but not before having another conversation of sorts in his head, just as he did when he was in the water, with himself or something like that.

“Oh, thank God you’re awake!” Alice said. “I am so sorry, we should’ve been more careful. I’m so sorry!”

“I’m the one who’s sorry, for falling overboard like an idiot and for not knowing how to swim. This is the last thing I’d wish for you or anyone else, for that matter, to have to save me. You did, right, you were the one who jumped in the water to my rescue, it was not my imagination, right?” Luck said, in a low tone, but cheerful enough.

“Yes, I did. Luckily I saw you in time…I might’ve not. Now stay and rest, near-drownings are a nasty business, they’re so proficient at draining all the energy out of you and, well, your air as well. Have a nice rest and think happy thoughts” Alice said, smiling. She gave him a kiss on his forehead and left, feeling relieved that nothing’s happened, nothing really nasty. She shut the door carefully and Luck was left alone. He fell asleep soon, not knowing who was going to watch him sleep during the next couple of hours…

Chapter 11

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