*Experiencing England Part Two*
The back cover of my book was completely sogged in dirt, and as it landed facedown, multiple pages had been bled through with mud and rendered unreadable. Nonetheless, I closed it and hugged it to my side, the wetness making it weigh more than usual.
Books are expensive, you know.
Holden stretched, frowning at the sky.
“I don’t know why you threw it off,” he said in that awful British accent.
“Because I-” I paused. Why had I thrown it off? I suppose for some sort of familiarity in whatever we were doing. To remember who I was, maybe. “I don’t know. I just wanted to bring something.”
“You could’ve tucked it under your shirt while you jumped.”
My mouth fit into a small ‘Oh.’
“Now you tell me?” I rolled my eyes and started walking forward, towards...well, nothing really. Holden sped to catch up with me, hands in pockets. I cleared my throat, shifting my book to the other side of myself. “So. Care to continue the story?”
We continued walking, through grass and dirt, not really bothering to look for a certain path towards anything. If we walked far enough, we’d reach some sort of civilization. We had to.
“Well,” Holden cleared his throat, pace falling slightly. I matched mine to his, slowing my feet down. “It’s, uh, just a little complicated.”
I blinked, suppressing the urge to hit him with my muddy book. “Give it to me straight Holden- Did you do something wrong or is he just after you for some other reason?”
“Wait don’t tell me, lemme guess,” I pretended to be thoughtful, setting a finger on my lips and tapping it. “Oh, I know, you’re a prince and you’re next in line to the throne, so if this guy kills you, he causes panic and then can easily kill the rest of the heirs, overthrowing the government and securing the throne for himself.”
He gave me a dirty look, rolling his eyes. “You aren’t funny.”
“I’m not trying to be.”
A gust of wind blew past and I took a deep breath, enjoying for a moment the cool air.
“I suppose...I suppose it’s my fault,” he said, speaking slowly and stretching his words out.
I groaned, tapping my finger against the cover of Sherlock Holmes, wishing I’d just ignored the tapping that’d been at my window a little longer, and kept reading.
“Should I be worried?”
I sighed, quickening my pace a little and forcing him to do the same. I put slight pressure on my hip, which still hurt from when I jumped off the train.
“I said, should I be worried? This guy wants you dead. Am I walking with a murderer right now?”
He took a little too long to answer and I stopped walking, raising my eyebrows at him. “Well?”
“I mean- not really- I’ve never killed anyone, okay?”
I scoffed, continuing to walk and seriously mentally scolding myself. I imagined my mother, calling a billion people at once and wondering where in the world I could have gone. She always thought that as a bookworm, I was relatively harmless. I couldn’t get myself into too much trouble if my nose was always in a book, my hands twirling pens, and my eyes lazily staring out windows on long car rides.
I tried to remember the chapter of Sherlock Holmes I was on as I walked, imagining Holden wasn’t beside me and tracing my finger along the pages- the dry ones.
Oh, how wrong my mother was.
“Stop!” I held my hand out, the one that was empty, stopping Holden in his tracks.
We’d been walking for about an hour. Or a day. That’s how it felt anyway, and I was sure I’d collapse from the pain in my hip any moment now. I’d never broken a bone before, so I didn’t really know how it was supposed to feel, but I could tell something was wrong with it.
Thankfully, right there in the not so far away distance I could see a small house, wisps of thin smoke rising from the chimney. I pointed towards it, and Holden followed my finger. “A house!” I smiled, walking towards it.
Holden hesitated, but followed, and we were in front of the door in a moment. Without bothering to think of a plan, I raised my fist and knocked.
“Wait, don’t you think we should-” Holden started to speak, but was cut short when there were a series of clicks from the other side of the door. It was at that second I realized I should’ve thought up some sort of lie. Not everyone was stupid enough to help people on the run like me.
The door opened, and I let out a small gasp, taking a small step backward. Holden, standing to my right, crossed his arms and stood up a little taller. I could practically see the little gears turning in his brain, silver eyes taking on a special shine.
A little old woman came into view, shorter than both of us and practically swallowed by her shawl. Her white hair was so thin I could literally see some of her scalp underneath. She held a cane- a gnarly wood stick she leaned on with her left arm. She looked to us with her dark eyes in turn.
“What do you both want?” she said, voice nasally and unpleasant, and also British. She pointed her cane at us both, and I fought the urge to step back again, because if I did, I’d fall off the little ledge.
“Me and my-” Holden cleared his throat, “wife here were taking a walk and we’ve strayed a bit far from our home, but you see she’s...hurt. So we were wondering if we could...stay. Just a little. Here.” He placed a hand on my shoulder and I took a moment to gape at him, mouth nearly falling open.
That’s it? The best lie he could think up. Wife. We’re seventeen.
At least I didn’t have to fake being hurt. I crumbled into my hurt hip, hugging my side and whimpering for full effect. Holden glanced at me, probably surprised at my ‘acting skills’. I stumbled on my feet, almost falling, because now that I’d stopped walking and ignoring the sharp pain, I realized how much it actually hurt.
The old woman wrinkled her nose, setting her cane back on the wood. She grunted, walking back in. I expected her to slam the door right in our faces, tried to get myself ready to walk again. Instead, she turned her head over her shoulder, waving her empty hand at us.
My whole being flooded with relief. There was nothing I wanted more at that moment than to sit. I pushed Holden’s hand from my shoulder, wiping my feet on the small mat in front of the door before slowly walking in. The old lady had disappeared from sight so I stood there awkwardly inside for a second, unsure where to go. Holden followed me inside, pushing the door closed.
“In here,” the lady called, and I followed her voice to a small room that resembled a kitchen. There was a small cushioned seat in the corner, and I couldn’t help myself as I walked over to it and sat down, putting as little weight as possible on the side where my hip hurt most. I pressed a hand to it, closing my eyes. I set my book down next to me and inhaled deeply. I felt the weight on the cushion shift, and opened my eyes to see Holden sitting next to me, leaning his face towards me.
“Talk British,” he barely whispered, before leaning closer and pressing a kiss to my cheek. “How are you feeling?”
I was about to smack him when I remembered we were, for now, married. The old woman came over, a small sack in her wrinkled hands.
Talk British? Whyever would I do that? Well, I guess someone American is more suspicious than a native.
The woman knelt in front of me, rummaging in her sack.
“Where is your injury?”
I glanced at Holden to see his eyes widen. He was probably worried that I didn't have an injury and that the alibi wouldn’t match up.
Well, we were there right? Might as well get it patched up. I pointed to the right side of my hip. She took a mat out of the sack, laying it out. She patted it.
I gulped, standing up and crouching, plopping on the floor. I slowly moved backward, laying my head down and straightening my legs.
The woman pushed against my hip, and I winced as pain flooded my right side.
“Tell me when it hurts,” she said, pushing in different places on my hip.
“Uh-” British, British, British, “It hurts,” I squeaked in an impersonation of a British accent. She sighed, and I let out a breath when she finally stopped poking around. I felt a small throb in my hip, matching the pace of my heart. She muttered something underneath her breath, rummaging more in her sack.
“It could be a fracture,” she said, pulling out something that looked vaguely like a balloon. She pulled up my sweater slightly, pressing her cold fingers directly on my skin. I shivered. She pressed the thing onto my hip- ice. A cold compress. Now I recognized it, mom has one at home. At first, it hurt, but then, it slowly soothed the pain at my hip.
“You shouldn’t walk on it.”
Yeah. I wish.
I sat up slowly, pressing onto the cold compress. The woman motioned for me to stand, and I did, sitting again next to Holden. She rolled up the mat, putting it back in her sack.
“Thank you,” I said genuinely, remembering to add in the ‘British. She nodded, standing up herself.
“You should go to a hospital when you’re back in town.”
I nodded, though I didn’t think that fit with our running away plan.
I leaned my head back against the wall, happy to be resting after our walking. Before I knew it though, Holden stood up, again placing his hand on my shoulder.
“We should get going, miss, get out of your hair,” he said, picking up my book in his other hand.
First of all, she barely had hair.
Second of all, I was in no way ready to get back to walking. I glared at Holden.
“The girl is injured. You really wish to get going so soon?”
Yeah. I like this lady.
“W-Well-” he stuttered, cheeks heating. “I suppose we can stay for a little longer.”
The woman nodded, getting out of the room. Once I was sure I heard her footsteps going over creaky staircases, I sighed.
He set my book down, cracking his fingers.
“I panicked, alright? Also, you’re hurt? Why didn’t you tell me?”
I shrugged, pressing the cold compress harder on my hip.
The woman came back in, blankets in hand. She set them at our feet.
“How long have you two been married?” she asked, and I’m pretty sure I paled.
“Oh, only a month,” Holden said, avoiding eye contact with the woman.
“Mm. It gets cold at night, so when you two leave, take those,” she pointed towards the blankets with her cane.
“Thank you for your hospitality,” Holden said, and I was glad, because I was pretty sure I’d already pushed the limits of my British.
She grunted in reply, turning to walk back out.
“Rest as long as you’d like,” she paused to say.
Again I heard the creaking of the stairs.
I waited a moment before speaking.
“What are we going to do next?”
Holden clasped his hands together behind his back, pacing.
“I have absolutely no clue.”
I sighed, grabbing my book and getting up.
We walked out the door together, thinking it best to leave before the woman asked any more questions. Book in one arm and cold compress in the other, I walked forward, the sun beating down on my back and the pain in my hip numbing little by little.
We were safe.