The night above the magnificent city Oslo was dark, but not so dark when it was filled with the twinkling stars that were millions of light years away from earth. Norway’s most awesome city rested below the midnight sky, sleeping. Compared to other major capitals of the world, Oslo was a quieter city, and near inactivity; however, that night gave an unexpected roar....
There were no clouds, the sky was clear, but the sudden boom of thunder broke the silence and disrupted the tranquillity of the city. Flashes of lightning started to fill the sky, and rain started pouring. From a drizzle to splashes of raindrops, the unpredicted weather was terrible.
Pitter-patter... pitter-patter, sang the raindrops as they hit the rooftops. The mighty wind blew strongly, raging across the land shaking a few trees. Now and then the thunder would strike, and each time louder, deadlier and deafening.
The rain gradually stopped its melodious rhythm and soon what was left of them were pools of water and tiny pearl drops, which fell off the awnings and edges, playing a sensational chord. On a window of a little bedroom of small house in a residential area, tiny droplets of water rolled down from the glossy pane and fell off to the ground.
The sun rose quite abruptly. Minutes later, the world was dimly brightened up. The rays of the golden sphere went into no trouble penetrating through the transparent windows and through the tiny gaps of fabric stitches of the drapes and into the bedroom. It was morning.
Suddenly, a buzzing alarm rang inside the room. It was the sound of the alarm clock set to the time of seven sharp. Though, it was not bothered. The owner of the clock was still sound asleep.
The alarm clock was somewhat programmed to buzz louder every minute it was not turned off (as to ensure the waking of the sleeper). However, it did not deter the sleeping beauty to continue her beauty sleep. Very slowly and unwillingly, a little hand appeared from underneath a large blanket and reached for the button. As soon as the button was pressed, and the irritating noise gone, the little sleeping beauty went into her snoozes again.
The minute hand moved a quarter. Then, moments later, a high-pitched voice shouted up the stairs (to the bedroom), “ELLLYNNN... wake up Elyn, you’ll be late!” The warning was from the girl’s mother, reminding her that she had to go to school.
Elyn woke up with a fright. She did not realise that the winter holidays were over, and school had reopened. Turning to her faithful clock (which had rung several times to wake her up but in vain), only did she knew it was just a few minutes left for her to report herself in class. Hastily, she sprinted out of bed into the bathroom, out of the bathroom to her wardrobe; out of her pyjamas into her school uniform, and then sped down the stairs.
“I’m late, Mum!” shouted Elyn as she ran past the kitchen lounge, not very courteously, “I shall skip breakfast today. Bye....”
She dashed towards the door and fumbled for the knob. Making through the doorway, she slammed the door behind her. There should be a bus waiting for her right now. There always was a bus waiting for her every morning.
However, Elyn did not find her bus. To her dismay, the vehicle had just left without her. Seeing that the bus was just a distance away, still within her view, Elyn tried to wave for it to stop. Unfortunate for her, the driver of the bus took no notice of her calls.
“Damn it,” thought Elyn to herself. Memories of her being late for school every year was still fresh in her mind. No, she could not afford to be late again, lest she would be reprimanded by her sulky teacher, Miss Goon ‘the witch’, and the disciplinary teacher, Madam Hallard. Then there would be another ‘black mark’ waiting for her.
It was a fine morning, yet there were storms in Elyn mind. Her thoughts were full of frustration and regrets. “I’m jinxed!” thought she “isn’t there any way I can reach school by half-past-seven?”
Just then, a brilliant plan suddenly came to her. Straight away, she ran back into her house, and came out again with a narrow wooden board, which was her own fine skateboard. Carefully placing it on ground, she put one foot on the board, and the other to push the rollers. As she gained momentum, she lifted her other foot from the ground and balancing placed it on the board, legs bent a little to keep stability.
She was a real expert in skateboarding. In fact, everybody knew she was one of the best skateboarders in her town. She knew all twists and turns of the skill, on how to make swift turn and jumping over obstacles. For a young girl of only fifteen years, she was simply a marvel.
Elyn was quite hasty and reckless that day, for she was determined to be punctual. And thus, she created quite a commotion in the area. Along the pavement she advanced, bumping into pedestrians and knocking down some unlucky stall keepers who stood in her way. For once she cared little of safety, and nearly wrecked a whole stall that was pitched quite protruding towards the road. In all, she had left behind a number of angry, mocking storekeepers and streetwalkers, still cursing her for the damage she had done.
With her petite backpack hung tightly over her shoulders, she proceeded towards the school, which was already near by then. The journey took her approaching a T-junction, where she must travel across a wide tarred road in order to reach the other side.
The road was bare; there were no vehicles moving around. Therefore, Elyn sped straight ahead with her board. However, she did not notice that there was an uncovered manhole in the centre of the road. The hole, measuring wide, most probably left unsealed by some careless workers, could entrap rollers of a skateboard. The hazard would be deadly if Elyn fail to manoeuvre her skateboard well.
All the time the girl was only thinking about school and how to confront her hostile teachers. She was totally unaware of the dangers that awaited her. Till the last minute, when she was about to crash into the gap, Elyn saw her danger. Quickly, she tried to dodge the menacing pit, but....
Very ill fatedly, two front wheels of her skateboard jammed themselves into the manhole. The power of inertia flung her full force forwards.
It mattered little if she hit the ground. Too, it mattered little if she was thrown into the water, for swimming was no difficulty to her. But, in front of her was a massive concrete wall, belonging to some owner of the house who cemented his fence. If she were to crash into the wall, then it would be fatal.
It happened very fast. Moments ago she should have knocked herself upon the structure, moments ago she should have slumped onto the floor, with a crushed skull and broken ribs, but she did not, surprisingly. Instead, she landed on something soft and solid, not as soft as feather, but softer than bricks and stones.
A momentary stun overwhelmed her. Elyn had no idea how she was tossed high above on the air, and how she plummeted back to ground, and how she ‘crashed-landed’ safely. All she knew was that she was safe and sound, and heaved a sigh of relief.
The texture of the platform was special. As said, it was not hard, nor it was soft; it was something solid and firm that provided a good cushion for Elyn’s body. And to her, it seemed somewhat like floating in the air, which the air was levitating her.
Elyn, with head tilted down, looked up above her. To her astonishment, she saw a rough figure of a man’s face. Lifting her head, she tried to confirm that eyes were not seeing things, but to her disbelief, it was really a living man staring at her. With opened mouth in a state of agog, she understood the series of incidents that took place – the man who caught her in his arms rescued her fall!
And he seemed to be no ordinary man. From his face appearance there was enough to show: nicely combed red-hair on his head, thick burgundy eyebrows, stern looking eyes filled with radiance of energy (nicely aligned along the bridge of a well shaped nose), and a decent looking lips above a nicely curved chin. He was a rare kind of a handsome gentleman.
Again, Elyn was astounded with the image of the man she had never met before. She gazed at him fondly, inspecting every feature of him carefully. Soon, she gradually slipped into a daydream of her own fantasy. Thought she, how wonderful it would be to have a macho guy like him to be her companion. Then, she could impress her other schoolmates and cast an aura of envy amongst them. Then, maybe she would become a famous celebrity of her school, and there would be millions of gossips about her....
“Err... Miss, are you alright?”
Elyn jolted from her daydream, and quickly replied, “Yes, I’m fine.” The studded man understood, and put her down slowly. While Elyn was back on her feet again, she could distinguish the man more perfectly. Then she realised that not only he was handsome, but quite muscular and tall too. He was the most amazing man she ever came across.
“I hope you’re not injured... don’t do that again,” said the man, showing great concern.
“Thanks, Mister, but I really have to go now or I’ll be hammered to the ground. Sorry for just now!” cried Elyn, and hastily retrieved he skateboard and skated away. While she was quite a distance away, the man shouted to her, “What’s your name, Miss?”
“Elyn,” cried Elyn curtly, and sped off.
The man just smiled, and continued his journey, heading the direction Elyn went.
No accidents after the last. The fine skateboard went on smoothly, until it reached the big gates of the school, namely Heimford High School. Though not a very popular school due to its location in a small district among the many districts of Oslo, the school imposed strict rules, which many students found it hard to follow. Consequently, many ‘fall prey’ to grumpy, sullen and melancholic teachers who were always trying to find fault with students, probably in bad mood and venting their anger with this way.
Elyn made a fine turn along the circumference of the big semi-circle field in front of the building of the school. Not stopping, she went straight into the building, not bothering the enlarged sign hanged on top of the hallway by two dangling metal chains that read “No Skating and Cycling Allowed”. Even if she knew it, she was not going to follow, since she was in a hurry to reach class on time.
Quite a row Elyn made as she progressed to her classroom with her skateboard. Many students and teachers who were walking in her way had to dodge the oncoming skateboard or be knocked down with a bruise and ache. One unlucky teacher, Old Mr. Olsen, quite aged, fell down after Elyn brushed past him. The stack of paper he was carrying thus flew all around and scattered the corridor. “Oh dear,” he just sighed, and hurriedly gathered up the mess.
Elyn made an acute turning at the left juncture. Coincidentally, there was a technician standing around repairing the bell. He was supposed to fix it by the time of half-past-seven, however, got a bit confused with the wiring (for he was a muddled person). Certainly, Elyn did not see him near the junction, and hence knocked down the poor bulky man. (Too, she was not bothered to help him up.) So, like a turtle, the huge fellow tried with his might to get up on his feet again. That took him quite some time.
The desperate girl was racing against time. Still skating and glimpsing at her watch, seconds ticked by to reach half-past-seven. Not her type of easily giving up, Elyn treasured the few seconds left and increased her speed, hoping to beat her pathetic teacher, Miss Goon, on reaching class first.
And Elyn turned out a champ.
Her skateboard screeched to a halt at the entrance of her little classroom. She peered into the classroom – no Miss Goon, however, most of the students were already seated awaiting the teacher, while there were only few absentees. Elyn collected her board and headed to her desk. Placing down the board beside the table and unpacking her backpack, she settled down on her chair, and heaved another sigh of relief. At last, no more lecture from Miss Goon!
“What a surprise to see you on time! A rare chance of seeing you here so punctual.” Elyn turned round, and was glad to see her best friend, Yvonne greeting her from behind. There were other friends who came to exchange greetings after some long holidays, and ‘not-so-good’ friends were heard jeering, “Hey, ‘Lyn. Rise and shine sooo... early today?” or “Not wishing to have tea with Miss Goon again, Miss Elyn?”
“So how come you can arrive on time today? And you seem to be gasping for breath! What happened?” asked one of her friends, nicknamed ‘Curious Cathy’ as she was always inquisitive about everything.
“If I were to explain, it would be long... tell you girls later.” Elyn caught sight of Miss Goon walking towards the class, and quickly ushered her friends to take their places. With perfect timing, when she entered, the bell rang loudly.
“Good morning, Teacher!” shouted the whole class as they stood up to greet her. “Good morning. You may sit,” said Miss Goon in a deep croaking voice, and no more.
Instantly, the whole class went into remote silence. No one made a sound, while Miss Goon squinted her eyes to inspect all four corners of her class. She looked very fierce. Her two eyes were always sparkling with a fiery glare, while her stuck-up nose always twitched, seemingly trying to ‘smell’ out the students’ indiscipline, and her drooping mouth was covered with excessive red concentrated lipstick, ready to spit fire on students whenever they should make a mistake.
“Very good, most of you are here, except for a few black sheep... and my, little Miss Elyn is here as well... for the first time in history! How unbelievable!” said Miss Goon sarcastically.
Elyn, upon hearing the remark, smiled slyly to herself. At last, Miss Goon had nothing to say about her. She would prove that Miss Goon would never always find mistakes out of her. She did forget one thing, however.
“ Miss Elyn Forrester, I do believe you have something beside your desk you ought not to bring?” thundered Miss Goon in rage.
Elyn looked around her desk, only to find her pink skateboard leaning against it. She jumped with fright and perceived what Miss Goon meant.
“So, I hadn’t heard it wrong that someone created a ruckus in Heimford! So, I hadn’t heard it wrong that a troublemaker knocked down Mr. Olsen. And so, I hadn’t seen it wrong that the troublemaker is YOU, Miss Elyn! Am I right, Elyn?” boomed Miss Goon almost hitting the roof, with two wicked eyes staring at Elyn.
Elyn kept her silence. Any word she uttered now would backfire.
“Oh... I knew you break the rules all the time. Can’t you read the rules? You are not to skate inside the school! Elyn, you are going to apologise to poor Mr. Olsen. Don’t think you can get away, I will be watching you. Stay back after recess, do you hear me?”
The recess bell rang, and the fifth period was over. Like a swarm of bees, all students rushed out from the classroom (otherwise called the hall of boredom). Some headed to the messhouse, others to the restrooms, except Elyn, who was refrained by Miss Goon who was standing just outside the classroom.
”I believe you can walk and know your way, can’t you girl?”
Elyn sulkily hung her head and strided towards Mr. Olsen’s office, while Miss Goon escorted her from behind. Elyn now hated the old hag more than ever. Miss Goon was already fifty, but Elyn did not know why she liked to pick on people. Maybe she should opt for an early retirement and cure her troubled soul. Why cannot she be more like Mr. Olsen, who was more caring and reasonable?
The short march finally took her to Mr. Olsen’s personal room. Mr. Olsen was the school clerk, who was responsible for all the paperwork. Thinking back, Elyn realised it was a bit cruel of her to mess up with his documents. It would take him one week or two to rearrange all the messy papers, and she felt very uncomfortable about it.
Miss Goon rattled on the door. Then she pushed it open, and shoved Elyn in. In the room, Mr. Olsen was seen busy with his archives. He was not aware that two persons were already in front of him waiting to speak with him.
”Ahem!” Miss Goon cleared her throat.
Mr. Olsen kept on with his work, rummaging through a stack of correspondents.
”Mr. Olsen!” finally Miss Goon shouted at him.
The old-bespectacled man looked up, and saw the two young and old ladies. Still staring at them blankly, he did not understand about their arrival, until Miss Goon spoke again, ”Mr. Olsen, thus girl has come to apologise for the accident. I’m sure you are the victim of the morning’s crash.”
”Oh, I remember now,” Mr. Olsen suddenly cried out in triumph when he recalled, ”so you are the girl on the skateboard who knocked me down!”
”I’m very sorry, Mr. Olsen,” Elyn stammered,”I was in a rush, so I resorted to skate inside the school. I’m so sorry to have knocked you and disordered your papers. I hope you can forgive me – ”
”Oh, that was nothing girl. I accept your apology, but need not worry about the papers. In fact, that pile was going to the incinerator. No harm done,” assured Mr. Olsen.
”Thank you, Mr. Olsen! Can I go now?”
Elyn happily skipped away. Now she was free from trouble, it was time she joined her friends for some buddy-talks. Left in Olsen’s room was Miss Goon, feeling very unsatisfied with Olsen’s decision. She was dumbstruck when Mr. Olsen took no action on the pesky little girl.
”Are you out of your mind, Olsen? You let that shrew go away like this? Where are your senses, oh God!”
”Well, for one thing, Miss Elmyra Goon,”explained the kind man, ”I am not one who sow vengeance in heart. I am one who always forgives people who are already aware of their mistakes. Perhaps you should learn to be like one, Miss Goon. Now if you would excuse me, I need to complete these paperwork today.”
”She, aware of her mistakes?!” stormed Miss Goon as she walked out of the room.
At the canteen, Elyn bought her tray of meal and sat down with her clique of friends. Upon seeing her presence, all of Elyn’s friends gathered around her waiting to hear her story.
“Well, you promised us your tale,” urged Cathy who was anxious and thirsty for another gossip.
“Alright, alright, but can I eat first? I hadn’t eaten today.” The girls obliged, so Elyn quickly wolfed down her plate of ‘fish ‘n’ chips’ hungrily like a dog that had not eaten for days.
“Ready?” asked Monica, another friend of hers. “Ok. Well today, like any other day, I overslept again. So I had to rush over here. But the bus left without me... hate that driver! And you know why I came with this skateboard. Everything clear?” quite briefly, Elyn told the whole event.
“Nothing more interesting?” asked Yvonne, “at least give us some titbits to chew on.”
“If you want the details...” added Elyn, “I actually went into an accident this morning. My skateboard jammed into a crack, and I fell.”
“You fell?” all the friends were astonished, “but you seem fine, and there no cuts or bruises anywhere?”
“I haven’t finished, you dudes! Somebody saved me. He is a special man you know. I think he the most handsomest man in the world! If only I have time, we might get to know each other mare intimately, and one day, he would my prince charming....”
Elyn went yet into another daydream again. She dreamt of being together with the man, sharing wonderful moments together. Then soon the friendship would develop, and they became couples. Finally, they got married, and they resided in a world of their own....
“So what’s your prince charming’s name?” someone popped the question jokingly. “His name?” Elyn jolted from her daze into reality again. “Yes, his name, and his address, and his age, and his hobbies....” another friend, Lyra listed out all the particulars they wished to know.
“Err...” Elyn paused, “err... to be frank, I don’t know his name, nor his address, nor his hobbies... but I think he looks like a thirty year old chap.”
“What?” the girls cried out, dumbfounded, “you mean you don’t know his name, his address, his age? You know nothing about him, Elyn?” Then, quite cynically, one of them remarked, “oh dear, Miss Elyn’s boyfriend hasn’t got a name!”
While her friends broke down into tears of laughter, Elyn dazed out of a nearby window to break eye contact with them, face blushed with anger. “How stupid I am to not know his name,” thought Elyn to herself. She had made a fool of herself till she could bury her head in a hole to hide her embarrassment. “I’m jinxed,” she thought, “first, the bus left without me. Then, I went into a fall. Next, I was fired by Miss Goon and now being teased by my friends! This day would be worst page in my life!”
Suddenly, Elyn jumped with surprise. She saw someone very familiar standing a few stones throw away from the canteen. She was baffled. The person, a man, was talking to the supervisor of the school. No doubt, he was the man who saved Elyn earlier ago.
Elyn wanted to tell her friends about her amazing discovery but she finally decided to keep it to herself momentarily. She was not sure whether it was just her imagination that she saw the man. Besides, it might have been a hallucination after being ridiculed by her inconsiderate friends.
“So, when and how are you going to find this handsomest guy in town?” the laughter finally died down and her friends took her seriously.
“Need not to,” answered Elyn, with eyes still gazing out of the window, “I think I just saw him a minute ago.”
“Oh, poor Elyn,” another friend Jessica, sighed sympathetically, “one day or another you’re going haywire. Come to your senses, Elyn. Your dream guy may be just imaginary. Stop this nonsense; get real. There are still hundreds of good-looking guys out there in whole of Norway, not this Mr. Handsome alone.”
“I wasn’t making that up, Jessica, for god’s sake! Why should I lie to you? If only I can prove it to you....”
The bell rang, cutting their conversation short. Soon, they left the table and headed their way back to the classroom. On the way, Elyn turned to her best schoolmate, “Yvonne, you’ve got to believe me. You don’t think I’m crazy, do you?”
Yvonne patted her back, and comfortingly replied, “I have trust in you, Elyn. Don’t worry anymore; you must rest your mind. Relax, and think of nothing no more.”
Elyn nodded, appreciating Yvonne’s advice. Perhaps there were still friends who cared about her, she thought.
The last period of the day was the Geography lessons, which the students hated most. The teacher, being old and absent-minded and very dull, brought no excitement to the class. Everyday it would be a repeat of recitals of the texts, and adding to the teacher’s monotonous speech, everyone would have been falling asleep. However, news spread quickly that the teacher had finally retired for good, therefore they jumped for joy. At last, no more sleepy lessons for the whole year!
The class turned quite abruptly into a rowdy flea market. The substitute had not arrived yet, so the students took this opportunity to have fun. The whole room became quite disordered and noisy, and then the chattering of classmates only ceased when the supervisor entered the class.
“I do believe you can behave yourselves, students?” the supervisor displeasingly insinuated, “the new teacher is arriving, and I hope you would make yourselves presentable to him?”
The supervisor left after ensuring that the class was quiet. Then, a few minutes later, the new teacher approached. From afar, the students could tell that he was a heavy man, because the grave footsteps were clearly heard without any hearing aid. Also, he was a large man as his massive shadow cast upon the floor was huge.
A black shoe made its first pace into the room, followed by the other of a pair. The two lengthy and sturdy legs strode across the room and stopped in front of the teacher’s desk. Two strong arms gently placed the books on the table. The dry throat was cleared of its husky voice, the two gleaming eyes rolled through an inspection, and the head nodded with affirmation.
“Good morning, class,” the man greeted to the bunch of students who were staring at him blankly. The rest of them then hastily rose from their chairs and wished him, “good morning, Sir.”
“Good, please have your seat, everyone. I’m your new teacher, apparently. Your former teacher, Mr. Goodman had retired, so I will take over his duty. My name is Phillip Stanley, and I’ll be your Geography teacher and your Sports master. For your information, I’m from Sweden, and am still new to this country. So I hope you all will help me out, and teach me more about your culture and lifestyle. After all, we do learn from each other, don’t we?”
The new teacher was quite a friendly person. He was tall and strong, and dressed very decently. The students felt comfortable with the substitute; at least they did because he was kind and approachable. One by one, the students started to introduce themselves, down the row, each telling about their name and hobbies.
Everyone was calm, except Elyn. She was electrified by the looks of the new teacher. She remembered that she had seen this man somewhere. She looked again, very closely and carefully to avoid making mistake. From red hair to a handsome face to a muscular body, she was certain that the man appeared quite a while. Phillip Stanley was the man who had saved her earlier ago!
“My name is Ben Addams and my hobbies are watching television and gardening,” said a boy who sat in front of Elyn. “Very good,” commented Mr. Stanley, “and how about you, Miss Elyn? What do you have to say?”
The startled girl arose from her chair, her mind still void of response. Incessantly, she was still thinking of a best way to confront him confidently but somehow the fright within her had glued her lips tight. Still nervous, she tried to speak, however, nothing but air came gushing out from the mouth. Deep breathing and heart thumping was her reaction.
“Well,” Mr. Stanley spoke to fill the long silence, partly because to stop wasting time, partly because to help Elyn, “I believe you like skateboarding, do you? It’s a healthy sport, and I encourage it; though, be careful when you do your stances, I won’t be saving you for a second time.” Then, he ended his speech with a slight smile of affection.
Elyn smiled sheepishly to him, and nodded vigorously. Then she restored herself on the seat, still smiling gaily. Clearly, Elyn was thrilled. She felt very happy to have the man talking to her, not any casual talk but a chat that was more in a friendly tone and more prone to beginning a new friendship. It would be a big leap to fulfilling her dreams.
Spring in April was the best time of the year. It was the time of the season when flowers started to bloom, petals of red and yellow and purple here and there colouring the atmosphere with brilliant tints. Shades of green filled the ground and covered the once-bare branches of trees; harmoniously blended into the clear, blue sky. The sun was bright and cheerful, radiating its beaming sunrays through the white fluffy clouds. Serenity was sure a boost of moods among the people. Even to animals. Fierce dogs did not bite as they usually did.
The last bell of class rang throughout the school compound. Then, students began to stir. As soon as the dismiss was declared, like a stampede, of rhinoceros and elephants, students rushed out from the classroom; like a stream, students flowed out of the school building; like colonies of ants and bees, students swarmed through the gates and occupied the streets, all heading home or somewhere else to hang out.
The birds perched on nearby leafy trees all dispersed at the sight of major agitation. Formerly it was supposed to be perfect for repose, but when noise aroused their natural instincts of danger, they had no choices but leave the area. Soon, flocks of exotic birds soared up the firmament, some disappearing into clouds, others landed on rooftops, while few circled around the sky, without destinations.
As her house was not very far away, Elyn walked home. Though she had her skateboard, but traffic congestion had called off her desire for another skateboarding journey. Along with her accompanied Yvonne, who was an intimate friend of hers, and the only one who understood her most. Always with Yvonne were words of encouragement and consolation, but never sarcasm. There was no need of Yvonne to insult her best friend, for she knew it would be a disadvantage to making an enemy.
“We’ve misjudged you, Elyn,” finally, Yvonne made an apology on everyone’s behalf, “so your friend was for real, and everything you said was true. Fancy of us ridiculing you, Elyn. I’m very sorry, Elyn.”
“Never mind. You had trusted me and I appreciate that, not like the others who had really hurt my feelings.”
Yvonne continued, “I observed that the new teacher, or shall I call him Phillip, was exceptionally friendly towards you. And it seems he shows great interest on only you. Do you think he has a crush – on you?”
Elyn blushed. She was delighted that Phillip had special feelings for her (or as she saw it through Yvonne’s view). Nevertheless, trying to keep her cool, she denied. “Oh, no I don’t think so. We know each other for only a day, what can I expect of him! But personally, I think he nice, and very cute. What do you think?”
Yvonne replied, “I just know he would be the greatest teacher of this year. At least he will be a compensation for our malicious ‘Miss Goon’!”
The two friends had walked for some time. They crossed streets and passed zebra crossings. Though it was a busy day, and the hustle and bustle was nothing uncommon, and people crowded everywhere, but somehow they felt that someone was following them. The two girls realised they were trailed, and took a peek of their shadower. Surprisingly, it was Phillip who turned out to be the man, and he was acting very suspiciously. When noticing that the girls were observing him, quickly he hid himself behind a lamppost, and looked like a fool.
“He’s odd. I wonder what is his intention,” cried Yvonne, alarmed. “I think he is just passing his way, or maybe he wants to see me safely home,” defended Elyn, and giggled.
“I don’t think that’s very funny. You’d better watch yourself. Got to go now, see you!” Yvonne parted with Elyn and headed into an alley that led to her home. They lived nearby; Elyn's house was another few miles down the street, however. So she continued along her way, moving briskly on the pavement, whistling a tune of her own.
She thought of what Yvonne had said to her just ago. True, Phillip did acted very suspiciously. There was a perplexity of his behaviour, for he seemed to know Elyn much than she knew him, and his focus was on her, although they had met for a single day. It was even stranger when Elyn should stumble upon him on the street early in the morning, and to find out that he was in Heimford High School. Maybe he, too, lived somewhere in the neighbourhood, she thought.
At last, she reached her home, two minutes after she departed from the road to Yvonne's house. While standing before her garden to unlock the gates, she looked around her, expecting to see the man around. However, she saw no sign of Phillip, and her excitement died down. Just a sigh of yet another day, Elyn paced into the house downcast.
“Mum, I’m home!” shouted she into the hall, and threw down her things on the sofa. Her mother walked out from inside to the living room. Looking very stern, she questioned, “and what do you have to say about yourself – this morning?”
“What do you mean?”
“Oh, stop acting. I know you nearly went into an accident. Everybody knew! Now tell me the whole thing that happened.”
Elyn related the incident to her mother. Her mother shook her head disapprovingly, and continued, “You are sure making a havoc of yourself. And without that man’s help, I don’t know how’re you going to end up. Elyn, I expect not a ‘next time’. Have I made myself clear?”
“Good. From now on, I expect you to behave. By the way, invite this man for tea, say tomorrow. You owe him a gratitude and you must try to repay it, understood my dear?”
Again, Elyn nodded, and headed upstairs to her room. She was prepared to lock herself in her room for the rest of the day, and think of her unlucky encounters for the day.
The day passed quickly, as relatively compared to the days of winter months. Surpassing the days of the long dull winter seemed dragging and boring, with only a few exciting winter sports to subsidy some fun and adventure. However, spring was the most memorable event of the years, mainly because it always happened to be part of a memory – spring was short, so was summer, and then autumn, and finally back to winter to complete the cycle.
Thrushes and larks a-singing on tress, while bees a-buzzing upon flowering shrubs, and earthworms a-digging underneath the fresh soil of April. Lush greenery flourished to their full extent, while green mountains were melted of their snow, leaving just a small white patch at the peak. The sun was still shining as bright as it was the day before, and clouds formed in the sky were still snowy and fluffy.
Elyn like any other day sat in her class with her lessons. Like any other students who hated to be confined in the classroom, like birds in a cage, Elyn looked forward to tomorrow, as it would be a Saturday; and there was no school for the weekends.
The hands of the clock spun circles.
The ringing of the last bell finally ended the day. Elyn and her friend, Yvonne, like always, prepared for their walk for home. However, there was a minor task she had to do, that was to extend an invitation to Phillip on visiting her small family (that was of her and her mother). Simple as it sounded, but difficult when being carried out. It required courage to communicate with an elder, especially when he was a total stranger.
Elyn stealthily crept to the teacher’s office and peered through the window. At the corner of the room, Phillip sat comfortably on a slightly reclined chair, reading the papers and sipping tea to pass the long hours of idleness.
Apparently, there were no other teachers inside.
Elyn politely knocked on the unclosed door, and went in. After a casual greeting to him, she waited for his response.
“So, what brings a pretty girl here today?” asked Phillip humorously. “Well,” Elyn grinned, “I just wish to invite you to my house for tea this evening. My mother wanted to see you and thank you for yesterday.”
“That’ll not be a problem. When do you expect me to arrive? And where do you live?”
“Let’s fix it at six. My house is just down the street, at Beckerham Alley. Just look out for number fifty-six, or just recognise a small green gate would be fine.”
The picturesque evening was pleasant, not too hot, nor freezing, just a little chilly and fresh. The windy weather was delightful, breezy and cooling. A beautiful dusk, perhaps.
Elyn was in the kitchen at the sink, helping to clean the dishes. It was her daily chore to help out with the housework, so that her mother would not be overworked. Her family was small, therefore there were none other to help around, although she had other three elder brothers, who were all grown up and currently earning a living elsewhere, out of this country. She had no father, for her father died early during his work. The girl’s dad was an archaeologist, and that time (when Elyn was only eight) he was killed in a landslide at the Icelandic regions. Elyn missed her father a lot, though she still had motherly love, there was still emptiness in her heart. The absence of her father’s care had greatly affected her.
At precisely six o’clock sharp, the doorbell tinkles. Elyn immediately left the dishes and went to answer the door. Her expected visitor no doubt was punctual, dressed casually in a collared, turquoise shirt matched with grey slacks. He looked even more tall and stout, in contrast to the lowly entrance that was only high enough for him to fit through. As he entered, he towered the living room, with head almost touching the ceiling. Being as courteous as his looks, he nodded and smiled to Elyn's mother who emerged from the kitchen to greet him.
“Oh my,” exclaimed Elyn's mother, “you’re sure tall, amazingly lofty! Do have a seat, young man.”
Phillip politely accepted the offer, and sat down on a couch, while Elyn's mother rested on an armchair opposite him, and called for Elyn, “please prepare tea for your teacher, my dear.” Elyn obeyed, and disappeared into the pantry.
“What’s your name, young man?” asked Elyn's mother. “Oh, just call me Mr. Phillip Stanley, or Phillip will do. You must be Mrs. Forrester, right?”
“Yes, Phillip,” she answered, addressing Phillip in a friendly tone. Then she continued, “I wish to thank you Phillip, for helping my daughter yesterday. I couldn’t have been more indebted to you. Please accept my greatest appreciation for your kindness --”
“Oh, don’t mention it, Madam. It had always been my responsibility for someone’s life; sure you don’t expect me to watch somebody get him or herself killed, do you? I accept your most sincerest thankfulness, Madam.”
“You are a nice man,” said Mrs. Forrester. The red-haired teacher just smiled to acknowledge her commendation.
Not long after, Elyn came out with three cups and a teapot filled with boiling tea. She served them on a table, and beckoned Phillip to sample the brew. “Have a drink, sir,” said she, as she poured tea into a teacup.
The strong aroma of the tea permeated into the nostrils. Very fragrant and aromatic, thought Phillip. He took a sip, and tasted the bitter-sweetness, well blended with a milky flavour. He liked it, he adored it till he finished half cup. Then, he sighed with satisfaction.
“Best tea I ever had. Where did you get it?”
“My husband bought it when he returned from India,” replied Mrs. Forrester. Then she instructed Elyn to get some cookies for the guest. Again Elyn obeyed, and skipped happily back into the pantry. It was not her usual behaviour to be so excited to entertain a visitor. Somehow, she was eager to do her best for Phillip.
“So, where’s your husband?” inquired Phillip, curiously. Mrs. Forrester paused, and sighed, “ahh… he passed away long ago. He was killed in Iceland, and never had the chance to see us again. We do miss him, especially Elyn… ahh… seven years, yes, he was away for seven years already.”
“I’m sorry, Madam,” apologised Phillip after he unintentionally brought back a sad memory, “I hope I have not hurt your feelings.”
Mrs. Forrester said nothing, but turned to the kitchen to watch Elyn. Phillip followed. Together, they watched Elyn busying with the biscuits, running from one place to another to obtain a plate and rummage the shelves for the cookies. She was bubbly and full of life, and it was the first time Mrs. Forrester saw a change on her daughter’s character.
Mrs. Forrester turned back to Phillip, now with beseeching eyes; two pupils twinkled by the reflection of light. “Could you do me a favour?”
“I will try,” answered Phillip curtly.
“Just looked at Elyn, can you Phillip? Something tells me that she has changed – though you may not know since you befriended her for only a couple of days. But honestly, she has been restored to her usual, happy self, as I see it. She used to be sully and droopy for the past few years.”
She continued, “Well, I can’t blame her, for the death of her father had been a great impact to her. However, since your appearance, she was a happy girl again. I call it a special bond between you and her. If you could just spend more time accompanying her and caring for her… I could not have asked for more!”
“That would not be a problem, Madam,” Phillip agreed to her wishes, “besides, I’m free often, and would like to get to know a few friends. Believe me, I’m first to know your daughter intimately.”
Mrs. Forrester, with an affectionate glance, express her indebtedness.
By the time they had finished, Elyn served out the dish of assorted cookies. Then quickly, she jumped into a seat next to Phillip, and impatiently started a conversation, “so, Phillip, can you tell us more about yourself?”
“Sure, lest I would be enigmatic to you. Well, you know my name, Phillip Stanley; I’m thirty-five; from Sweden, as I had already told you; and, I am a stranger here.”
Their little conversation lasted for an hour long. By half past seven, it was almost dark, but there was still enough light for good visibility. Phillip, thus, excused himself, and thanked for the hospitality. “Thanks for the tea. I wish I could stay longer, but I really must leave.”
“You may, Mr. Phillip,” said Mrs. Forrester politely, “but before you go, let us know what we can do for you in return for your help. We really must repay your kindness.”
“I hope for nothing, Madam. But perhaps I do need some help on getting places. I wish to learn about this foreign land better!” Phillip winked a friendly gesture.
“I will help!” volunteered Elyn earnestly, “I know my place very well, and maybe, say tomorrow, I will take you to some of my favourite landmarks!”
“Then I would thank you again. It’s a deal, I’ll be here by nine tomorrow. All right, I’ll excuse myself.”
“As you wish, Phillip. Goodbye, and have a nice evening,” said Mrs. Forrester.
The duo sent the visitor to the small green gates. Phillip, who lived nearby, put on an overcoat and walked home. A few footsteps after, he stopped his tracks, and turned back to wave a warm parting sign to his newfound friends. Then, he continued his way, and vanished into the foggy streets.