The Little Runaway

Chapter One

David hobbled over to the metal fence, through the gates and past the trees, into a world unknown to his upbringing. His comments became a 'Wow' as the ultimate response, said in near silence to the size and beauty that stood before him.  As if in respect, his eyes roamed every inch of what was in front of him, dumbstruck at the sight that lay before him. Breathing with excitement, he snuck behind one of the trees hoping not to get caught. Though his legality for being there was in question, what child could not think wrong, could not explore the magnificence of these surroundings.

Inside the house, a pensioner watched over the stove as the smell of venison roasting in the oven enveloped her senses. The smell as the wine crept and soaked into the meat, dancing on the taste buds, giving a fullness to savour as the vegetables simmering on the burner clouded the window, giving a frosty, cold feeling.

Elizabeth Whitmore had lived alone in this, her abode, for many a year. Discharged were most of the staff, she now spent time, and a lot of pride, cleaning and cooking. The house sparkled like a new pin. Though time taken, a task was set for each day, allowing for the end of each task a start from the beginning.

The house and the land were bought by her late husband's great, great, great grandparents, some four centuries ago. The house and grounds continuing to grow as time went by. The land was, as was the house, built up as the years accumulated. She wasn't sure just how much land, but she was sure it was more than she could herself look after. A gardener was the only staff employed, and he was, at times, a recluse if not lost somewhere within the estate. The stables, now closed, were in truth derelict. She had Bessie, her dog, now her only live in resident her only companion.

George, her husband, had passed away some time ago, leaving her a lonely widow, which most of the time did not affect her. But at times, loneliness was something not to be welcomed. As a young filly, she'd had the pick of the stallions. George was, and would always be her intended. Her choice, as to who she would devote her life too.

David, tree by tree, snuck his way up to the big house. As it came closer, his attention grew to higher levels. His breath taken, as step by step he came closer to what could be considered a jewel.

David at eleven years old could only imagine such things, such riches, his home being the local orphanage had not been such a lavish setting. Born on the eighteenth of January, nineteen hundred seventy~one Timothy David Ward, Timothy getting you a sight of if looks could kill, if used. His attitude was taught, but respectful.

On the way from the church after his christening, the car he was travelling in lost control after entering a single sided road. The car careered down the embankment to the train tracks below. With various breaks, David lost a limb - his left leg being crushed as the car rolled over and over to its final resting place. His parents were mercifully killed instantly the coroner's report stated.

With no informed relatives David was now an orphan, a charge of the state.

So now a life began… a very good acquisition to the world, though at the time it was not felt. As David grew up he was left in the wilderness. People wishing to adopt left David behind … no one wanting a disabled child. So, the path of his childhood was now set, different from the path intended after his birth. A direction not easily adjusted to. He would never be given the chance of the other kids. He didn't make friends readily. His temperament was that of a fighter - one who would stand up to the world and it discrepancies. He was helpful and lovable, but as was the case with State run homes, getting the same in return was neither or never. He was lonely, but grateful; at times his life seemed a burden, but never was a complaint heard as each hurdle arose.

Billy, a recent friend, was originally put in temporary care after his aunt died, he, like David had no mum or dad, but unlike David he had relatives from his mother's side. His mum got pregnant while at school, the father was never intimated. Not wanting to give up her baby, the family pulled together and took over parental duties, home being his aunt's house. When his mum, Pamela left school she got in with the wrong crowd he cried as he told about how his mum looked like an elderly woman after taking drugs for so long. His mum died at home before his seventh birthday. Now with his aunt gone too, he was now, as David felt, alone.

A visit to his grandparents proved fruitless, as they were too old to take responsibility. So now like David, he felt his life had also ended.

David, apart from his predicament, was a normal kid, he went to school, learned his lessons: reading, writing and arithmetic even completing his homework, at times he was a little late handing it in.

It seemed that with his situation he was treated different, not badly, but as if they knew that whatever they taught him he would never be any better than what he now was. He was by no means the best pupil in school, but in context, he wasn't the worst either. That may seem as being a put down, but underneath, David was intelligent, very intelligent young man and if given a chance would rise above what if any expectations they had. His aptitude, though high was not the impression he wanted to give learning quickly, even at school teacher's pet meant being bullied. And at home with a houseful of boys, nobody wants a smart arse, a brain box, or a goody two shoes. David was none of the above, but just doing what he had to do to get along. While most kids played around, football, rugby, board games even girlfriends, David was at the library learning from books. He would in time prove them all wrong; hardship was on his travels to get there.

Elizabeth wandered out from the kitchen, going into the indoor greenhouse to pick some Thyme. Though Parsley was its double, she never could get used to the taste. She wandered outside to the outer greenhouse to get tomatoes for the side salad. Even though living alone, she always made enough to be refrigerated for another day. Being self sufficient, she grew many vegetables. Potatoes, carrots and fruit were delivered weekly. Getting into town was a chore since having to return her driving licence. Looking down what was essentially her driveway to check the automatic gates were open.

Over dinner, again not thinking, she set a place for George. 'You old fool', was her inner thought. As she ate, she looked across at the place setting, her thoughts making her smile. George was the seaman at heart - a captain in waiting. He had a little boat that saw no more use than on the lake that ran at the edge of the property. At times she would go for a sail with him. That meant the whole regalia of 'yes ma'am' and 'no ma'am'. His imaginary crew had to stand to attention while he used the ships whistle to invite her aboard.

George, below the surface was a quiet man, even lovable at times. She laughed at the lengths he would go to make her feel like the angel he'd always referred to her as.

When he was around - she sniffled at the memory - the staff members' children thought of him as a grandfather. He did spoil the kids something awful; but loving it more than the children themselves did.

James, the older of their two sons, was at Oxford. "What was it he had said he was studying? Oh, yes, to get his degree in medicine, and then apply for his doctorate." Edward, being a high court prosecutor - Queen's Counsel, no less. After many a disagreement about the hierarchy, he now lives a quiet life, attaining his own accommodation without all the la-di-da.

Billy and David had become firm friends. He even managed to get David away from his studies. Football he loved, but running around the field on crutches got some unsavoury responses. Billy wasn't dumb either, just a little slow picking things up. "Who cares, I mean, when we leave here, we'll help each other. That's what friends do, isn't it?" Then one Saturday morning, a couple came… they liked Billy a lot.

That was it, the last straw. He was going to run away, and nothing was going to stop him. He'd not used up all his pocket money yet. In fact, he kept it away from prying eyes; that would help get the things he needed. The night before school he had it all figured out, but in truth...? Monday morning, up and ready for school. Teeth cleaned, school uniform laid out - needing to act normal - books packed, and hopefully breakfast, in truth a normal day?

Setting off at his usual time he changed direction, going into town. On the main street, going into the sweet shop he bought himself cake and a D&B. Then he wandered around town after giving into the sweet shop.

Farther up the high street came a surprise. Peering in through the shop window with a smile, wide eyed at all the electronics he saw, knowing the fun he could have… his second thought was a little different.

After changing clothes in the station toilet, he searched for a bus that looked like it was departing. A Stagecoach bus stood in its terminal, engine running as if ready for its departure. Getting on with a party of kids - doubting the driver would let him on, a child on his own - he went and sat at the back of the coach. It seemed like forever before they pulled away.

As he looked out through the window, fields and farm land came into view. Long since had the towns passed. Thoughts of being alone never entered his head. A house caught his view as his eyes swelled at the sights he was seeing. He seemed drawn, taken over, by an imaginary force.

Getting off the bus with little or no thought, he sat in a wooden shelter eyeing everything in view. Though the shelter was meant to keep people covered from the elements, rain and wind, it seemed a pointless exercise. Leaving square holes that looked like windows wouldn't stop you getting wet or even stop the draft.

He looked around, seeing nothing but open spaces. Looking through the ornamented railings he again took a deep breath. The house was in the middle of a number of cut off fields with hedges to keep them separated.

A sparrow squawked, startling David. He looked up and saw that the sun was going down, it gave the sky an orange glow, he smiled, surprised as if he'd never seen it happen before. Maybe thoughts were given over to other subjects.

The long country road was slowly getting him closer to what he had come to see. Walking into a clutch of trees, getting tired, he drew to one of them, lying back against it to rest.

Though not seen from his vantage point, the house and its surroundings held further secrets that he couldn't see.

Though old, the house stood as a reminder of buildings and architecture from a bygone age, a monument standing proud, with all its heirs and graces. The landscape being majestic as it rolled out with pride. The surroundings were a nobleman's paradise, fit to honour any dignitary, be that King or Queen. The outside of the building stood proudly as a testament of its years. Distinguished, though many centuries stood before it. The building had character. A beauty only time and effort could preserve.

Red brick adorned the rectangular building; sandstone in parallel at each corner climbed the walls adding to its majesty. Three storeys high with further rooms in the basement for storage. The temperature constantly updated to match the season and conditions, keeping heirlooms from all ages being protected for future generations. As a compliment, each other room on the top flight held an attic like room with balconies, serving no more use than for a view of the land and gardens that stretched before them. The house and grounds were a complete compliment to each other, like strawberries and cream.

The front of the house though looking relatively plain, had a delicate balance that blended perfectly with the architecture of the house. A horseshoe with a lawn centred was the entrance. A mile back from the perimeter, trees stood to the edge of the property, winding around as a fortress, but no more than to give beauty a start with what lay within them. Beyond the trees stood spears that made up the metal railings, the gloss of the covering giving a black and gold sheen.

The rear of the building gave the house its character. The steps rose high away from the fountain to give a patio effect, adding to its royalty. Sandstone rails stood thirty feet apart to give space a premium look, with the stairway looking straight up. Each level gave a rasping sound as your footing attired each step, as if steel tips had been added to your footwear. As you reached the top of the steps, the ornate rails, again sandstone, seemed to circle the whole building, only to stop halfway on either side.

Walking up to the house, gravel spread its way up to and around the structure. What can only be described as an emporium of glass giving the illusion of an oversized mirror, a kaleidoscope of light with many colours seating inside to absorb the sun without getting the glare to make one uncomfortable? Engraved wooden doors on either side served their purpose. On either side, the windows were oblong to match the structure again adding colour to its counterpart.

The view at the top of the patio steps was amazing. The lawns were made up of many shapes to adorn and perhaps create a mood. Diamond, oval, circle, even traditional squares added to its relaxing contours. As the Monique of green ended, there stood another fountain, lions around in the inner circle as water cascaded high from a marble child. The structure was impressive as steps rose, as to sit on the outer edge. The greenery again rose to the heavens with trees unmanicured aloft on either side, set a distance apart giving an orchard feel. Making your way on the south side of the house were deer that roamed free, having a feast with flowers that stood tall, coloured again to give a feeling of relaxation. The north side gave way to ponds, with life that flew, jumped, or even croaked, as modern-day society calls a wildlife sanctuary.

After getting his bearings his eyes looking ahead fell onto what had brought him this way in entirety. The house though not lit still gave a look of magnificent as the night began to draw in. Lifting himself up was of great difficulty with the soreness of his good leg, his arms heavy after constant use of his crutches. With difficulty, he made his way towards the house, with little or no thought of what he might do, or where, if anywhere he might stay, but he was drawn to the house, blinkered as if nothing else mattered.

The day closing caught between light and dark with a silhouette as a background causing a chill in the air that would certainly cause distress, movement not being the only cause to upset to his stump.

Moving as quietly as his disposition would allow he made his way toward the house, being careful to stay within the shadows of the tree line. Slowly but surely, he edged forward getting to within yards of the house, he dropped down to rest his aching body. Feeling alone, restless he was now, by his own predicament left to his thoughts as the coldness of the night consumed him.

The mind does not detect its own sorrow, only its user. Lonely and alone wishing for a family Good people that would come along take him home, call him their son. Thoughts he so often had. Feelings hurt… really hurt.

"I'm not going back! I'm not!" The thinking mind became sound, words, words that came out loud giving his predicament more insecurity.

The front entrance lit up like a beacon, he panicked ... David edged his frame behind the tree with insurmountable difficulty the pain in his limb worsening. Half asleep upset and tired, thoughts rushing around inside his head a mile a minute. He was now having second thoughts about his excursion, his flight from where he called home.

"Who's there? What do you want?" David cringed, his thoughts had betrayed him. More lights in the house illuminated. Afraid, he tried to think what he could do. What was there to think about? He hurt all over, hands cold, how could he go anywhere. "If you don't go away, I'm calling the police."

David was caught in two minds. Stay or run. Maybe if he stayed quiet, maybe the woman would go back inside, he could find a barn or a shed and hide in there till morning. Hungry and cold is mind and body had now become his Judas. Where could he run? How could he run? Before another thought, a light began to flash at the front of the house. If he moved now he was certain to be seen.

Elizabeth turned the entrance light on illuminating the front of the house, hoping that whoever was outside would know people were inside. How she now wished her sons visited more often.

Hearing noises from within the trees, she called out a warning. She knew that even if she called the police they wouldn't get to her for at least thirty minutes. Getting the torch from the kitchen, she opened the front door and with some apprehension, trained the light outside, hoping to scare whoever was lurking would go away.

David thought about a quick getaway, but where could he go? How? His crutches right now, though normally a help were now a hindrance. His predicament unsure, shivering with the cold, his clothing being no protection against the night as the air was chilled as the night saw the sun set on the horizon. Afraid, scared and nearly in tears, he crawled out from within the trees.

Elizabeth, seeing the boy lessened her own fear, but kept her alert. Looking at the boy she sensed his fear as she gazed at the figure that stood within feet of her quivering a thought went through her mind that her fear would be trivial compared to what in truth, this child would be feeling.

As he walked from beyond the trees her hands went over her mouth.

He stood silent looking up at the woman, scared and hesitant, his thoughts crowded his mind, still thinking it would be better to get out of there, or should he be brave and face his tormentor. The decision was made for him.

"Come here, boy. What in God's name are you doing out here in the middle of nowhere at this time of night?" She watched as the boy quivered with cold, or maybe it was fear… probably both. "What's your name?"

"David, miss."

The boy was petrified. With concern she lowering her tone, she spoke softly. "Come inside out of the cold," more asking than telling. Like a lamb to the slaughter, moving gingerly and with his head down, David marched slowly toward the light.

Glued to where he stood, he looked tentatively at the woman. Smiling, she spoke to him with the tone of a mother. "Come inside child before you catch your death. I know you're scared, but you'll get pneumonia if you stay out here," again with a smile.

A little more at ease, hesitantly he hobbled a little closer, again looking up toward the woman seeing only concern. "I'm sorry miss I saw the house, I only wanted to look. I got tired and fell asleep in the woods. I didn't mean to cause any trouble, miss. I wasn't going to steal anything honestly miss."

After looking the boy up and down, she guided him into the house. With her arm over his shoulder, she walked them into the kitchen. "Would you like some cocoa?"

"Yes please Miss," he replied, hesitantly.

She started to make them cocoa, looking at the boy at every opportunity. 'What was he doing out at this hour. Where did he come from?' She thought.

Tiredness forced David to fall to the floor, crutches falling beside him. The woman seeing this immediately walked over to the boy with an attempt to put him in a chair, but to her surprise as she knelt down to pick the boy up she saw fear in his eyes. "I'm not going to hurt you and I can't leave you on the floor," heartfelt as she to reassure and comforted the panicking boy. She picked him up and carried him into the study, putting the youngster on her knee. That felt good, never for as long as he could remember had anything felt so special. Laying his head on her bosom he started to cry. "Now, now what's all this," looking at the boy, running her hand up and down the length of his back, again giving comfort. She frowned, "everything will be okay," patting his back, again in comfort. There was more to this than met the eye and whatever lay behind this was not anything good.

Calmed, David apologised for being a baby, which fell on deaf ears. Sitting him on the settee with a rebuttal to stay put, "We'll get you warmed up, then you can tell me all about it," as she again walked back into the kitchen to make cocoa.

David looked around the room in awe. Bigger than anything he'd ever seen before, his eyes bulged. Elizabeth sitting down saw the many expressions coming from the boy and smiled. "So, you like my house?" Gently she fingered away the hair from over his eyes, thinking that even she was young in comparison to this old house.

David was again in awe. "It's beautiful, Miss, really beautiful."

Warm, the cocoa gave him a feeling of a cuddle, this night he slept content. Elizabeth looked around at the soothing sounds of very light snoring. Seems like our talk is on hold she thought, smiling to herself. Retrieving a blanket, she covered David up for the night. Sitting by the fire, watching the flames dance she sat back and drifted off into a restful sleep.

The woman lay expressionless as she slept. It had been a long time since he last saw her sleep, remembering the times that cotton wool was placed in her nose as a way of halting her snoring, which at times could be disturbing to say the least. He gave a smile then settled back to observe.

Morning came quickly, Elizabeth sitting in her kitchen with what she considered a lifesaver, her cup of tea as the bacon sizzled on the griddle, the eggs seemingly to be clucking on the griddle.

The presence watched the scene with a quirk as the nose of the young man seemed to squint every time he breathed in. The same had been said of himself when he slept. Maybe it's a trait for knowing when food is to be served.


To Be Continued....

Comments and questions are always appreciated at Terry