Chapter 2

The Girl with the Green Beanie

 

          Fifteen days.  Fifteen helter-skelter days.  That was all that now stood between Robin and his first ever real holiday.  And not just any holiday, but one off of mainland Britain that was going to last for five weeks – almost his entire summer.  At times he’d wake in the morning and it would take him a couple of minutes to confirm with his brain that this was indeed actually happening.
         During a visit to the secondary school that he was moving into the next year, his new form tutor assigned the class to write a paper over the summer on a topic of their choosing, and Robin immediately decided to write something about Corentin.
         Spending more time in the library than he had done previously in his entire life, Robin scoured over an old road map for hour upon hour, and looked up every reference to the island that he could find in any book.  It appeared that by far the most famous things there were The Giants; five partially destroyed stone statues that looked out over the Atlantic Ocean and were shrouded in mystery as to why, when, and how they were constructed.
         Discussions were had with the lawyer, and arrangements made with the housekeeper, Mrs. Fitzgerald, for their arrival, so that by the day before they were to leave everything was set in place.  Making final adjustments to the packing of his battered green and red plaid second-hand suitcase, with its rusting metal latches, Robin had this filled to its limit with clothes, comics, and notes he’d made of places to see.  Continually checking the clock, it seemed as though time was deliberately slowing down, yet eventually the sun had set, dinner had been eaten, and his brain finally let him drop off into a restless slumber.

.

.

.

         The next day broke with a heavy rain, but it could have been blowing an ice blizzard and it wouldn’t have dampened Robin’s mood.  Up early, he waited by the front door with his suitcase for his parents, before they headed out into the chill of the day.
         Squeezing onto a local bus to the town of Hangbourne, they switched there for a slightly bigger, slightly smellier coach that choked its way along the motorway as it headed for the ferry that was awaiting them in Penzance.  Robin was settled into a window seat, the comics and brainteasers sections of a newspaper laid out next to him, and for a time he gazed silently at the patchwork of rain-sodden fields passing hazily by outside, his mind already in Corentin.
         The journey was long, broken up only by a 30 minute stop in Plymouth, and by the time they chugged into Penzance Robin was filled with an overarching sense of relief that he didn’t have to spend one more minute on a coach.  Making the short walk down to the quay and following the signs for the ferry terminal, they came around the corner of a two-story faded red brick building to see a small crowd gathered at dockside.
         Looking beyond the heads, Robin’s gaze fixed upon the huge ship moored there, its loading doors laid down and glinting in the late evening sunlight that had seemed to emerge impossibly from the afternoon grayness.  As they came closer, he could see cars being loaded into the hull, while a queue of foot passengers awaited their own entry.  “The Lady Isabelle,” said Robin aloud to no one in particular, reading the name painted elegantly on the side.
         Joining those who were walking on, they started their boarding and came out of an echoing staircase into a wide hallway opposite a huge painting of Corentin’s Lookout Lighthouse shining brightly in a gale.  Heading outside onto the deck, they took up a place on the railing just as a piercing whistle sounded, the engines rumbled into life, and Robin watched as the shore started to edge slowly away.
         They remained there as the English mainland moved further and further from view, until the cold of the open water started to get the better of them.  Finding a small corner bench in an upper deck lounge to settle down at for the night, Robin soon became bored, and with too much activity going on around him to contemplate trying to sleep, he got permission from his parents to take a walk around the ship.
         After exploring extra-thoroughly, from the tasty smell of grease emitting from the restaurant to the flashing lights and vibrating sounds of the arcade, Robin leant up against a wall staring at a hot chocolate machine opposite as he thought about heading back to his parents.  Even inside the ferry it was becoming chilly and just the thought of a hot chocolate in itself warmed him, such that he found himself watching transfixed as a boy and girl moved into his line of sight and got a drink each.  His daydream was snapped when he realized that the girl was staring straight back at him from speckled brown eyes that shone out from a light olive face, her deep brown hair popping out from under a gray beanie hat with huge brown buttons.
         “Hey.”  Robin looked around at the wall behind him.
         “Hey,” the girl shouted again, this time flicking her head a little motioning him to go over.
         Unsure of what else he could do, Robin walked towards them, focusing hard on not tripping which made him stumble on top of a stumble.
         “What were you looking at?” asked the girl with an uptick of her head and something that Robin couldn’t tell whether was a smile or a scowl.
         “Hot chocolate,” was Robin's totally honest response.
         “Yeah, nippy tonight isn't it.  Definitely hot chocolate weather.”
         “Definitely,” said Robin, as he eyes moved down to the drinks in their hands.  He had no idea what to say next.
         “So, you getting one or not?” asked the girl.
         “No, don't think so,” said Robin, starting to feel a little uneasy.
         “Why not?  They don't cost anything.”
         “Yeah they do, they're a pound,” answered Robin, pointing at the price tag on the machine and thinking the girl a little strange.
         “Well, that's the official price,” said the girl, and then, after a pause during which she stared straight at Robin, “So, you want one?”
         Robin decided just to go with it.  “Yeah, okay.”
         “Alright,” said the girl.  “Give us that quid again Greg.”
         Taking the pound coin, Robin watched as she dropped it into the slot, chose a regular hot chocolate, waited for a second, and then gave the side of the machine a small thump just as the drink started to pour, which was followed by a clunk.  “Here you go,” she said, handing the drink to Robin before reaching into the change compartment and taking out the coin, flipping it in the air.  “Ta-da!”
         “Cool!” said Robin, hugely impressed.
         “Yeah, we take this ferry every year, and they never fix this thing.  Quality isn’t it!”
         “Come on Georgie, we've got to get back to gran and granddad,” cut in the boy, who had the same sun-kissed complexion as the girl.
          “Yeah, alright, let’s roll,” said Georgie, turning on her heal and setting off down the hallway.
         Robin felt a little perplexed for a moment, standing suddenly alone in front of the machine, before shouting out “Thanks!” thinking it polite that he say something.
         “Whatever Trevor,” called back the girl, raising her left hand in a wave over her shoulder without either breaking stride or looking around.
         Drinking as he walked, a combination of the lateness of the hour, the exhaustion of the day, and the warmth in his belly contrived to set a spell of tiredness over Robin such that the moment he was back at the bench his head was down and he was fast asleep before his dad had even laid his jacket over the top of him.