My name is Helena, and my father is the mayor of Hiesfield. It sucks. The entire town knows and loves me, and all I want to do is get the hell out. I have hopes and dreams unlike the 413 farmers and ranchers that live here. But then again, I need to get ready for a party celebrating my dad’s seventh consecutive mayoral election victory. That is, if you count a loose gathering at Mr. Caldwell’s barn a party.
The barn smells of rotting wood with a slight scent of cow excrement. The party is just about as lame as I expected, except for Mrs. Weller’s famous soy cake, which sounds bad but is surprisingly delicious. As I am navigating the barn, and trying in vain to avoid the congratulations of various townspeople, something catches my eye. In the corner of the barn there is a new boy, and he looks like he came straight from London.
Ever since I was nine, I have dreamed of running off to London and living the city life. At thirteen I started playing bass, which made the thought of the big city more magical than ever before. At 15, I traveled to Edinburgh and Glasgow and started performing in bars, and now I’m just a sixteen-year-old country girl, longing for the city. Here in Hiesfeld, I am an oddity for pursuing my passion, but anywhere else I could have a community, and maybe even be popular. But here in Hiesfield, I am viewed as strange for not grinning with joy when Mr. Aldous’ cow wins the highlands cow race.
That boy in the corner changed everything. I had to talk to him. He was the best thing that had happened to me since I was invited to my first show in Glasgow. However, when I tried to move my feet seemed stuck in place. “Hey there Helena, have you seen the new arrival from London, his name is Thomas,” I snapped out of my fantastical staring at Thomas, and lightly nodded to my father, who had given me the useful knowledge of the new boy’s name.
“Hey, are you new around here?” I asked as I finally got the courage to approach Thomas
“Yeah, My dad had to move here for work.”
“What does your dad do?”
“He used to teach botany at the Imperial College of London, but now he is doing field research here in Scotland.”
“I’ve always dreamed of moving to London, how is it?”
“Great, certainly better than here.”
Thomas seemed like the perfect boy to run away with. I have been planning to go to London on my own for about a year now, and now is the time to act. But then comes the small question of asking Thomas.
“Would you like to meet at the general store tomorrow for me to show you around town?”
“Sure, and what’s your name by the way?”
“Helena,” I said timidly
“Well, Nice to meet you, Helena.”
The next day at the Store, I met Thomas. He was wearing faded jeans and a t-shirt with the cover of London Calling on it. I figured that I may as well talk with him for a while before getting to the point.
“So, how long are you here for?” I asked,
“My dad is on research leave for two years, so it could be awhile before I finally get back home.”
“I’ve dreamed of going to London since I was a young girl, sometimes I’ve thought of running away.”
“Well, I would do anything to get back home, so how about I take you up on that plan.” Now that I finally have a plan to leave, I don’t know if I really want to. Hiesfield is the only home I have ever had, and I love it despite all of its annoying qualities. The thought of leaving the place where I’ve spent my entire life is thrilling, but terrifying at the same time.
“When do you want to leave?” Thomas asked as I snapped out of my internal monologue. “Does next Sunday during church sound good?”
“Perfect, I’ll meet you at the train tracks by the hill.”
I spent the entirety of that next week planning, fantasizing, and crying. I went through the pack my grandfather gave me when he died over and over to make sure I had packed just right. The pack had the emblem of the Highland light infantry on it and had a bullet hole from Dunkirk in it. I mapped out train routes, and roads to walk on. I spent hours and hours contemplating leaving my home, which usually resulted in tears. I met with Thomas daily to talk. We both shared a love for punk, and a yearning to be in London. On Saturday we talked about why we were leaving. Thomas danced around the topic which made me suspicious of his motives. Perhaps he had unfinished business with a rival or was a member of a gang.
On Sunday morning, I told my father that I was meeting Thomas before church. We met at eight by the tracks, just in time to catch the train to Edinburgh. The man selling tickets looked at us with reasonable suspicion, but ultimately let us pay the seven pounds each to get on. As the train rattled through the countryside that had always been my home I said goodbye to the land that raised me. Hills changed to meadows, meadows to suburbs, and suburbs to the city.
I had been here once before, about a year ago when my dad brought me to play a show. Thomas leads me through back alleys to eventually come upon a basement floor pub called the Candle and Arrow. As we walked down the dark stairway into the musty cellar, I asked Thomas how he knew of this place. He simply replied: “I’ve been around the block.” I had gotten a sense that he was hiding something. Thomas began talking to a figure in a shiny leather jacket, who led him to a back room. When he emerged with the man, he announced that he could get us to London without being found. His insistence on secrecy worried me even more, but I was yet to see him do anything concerning.
We were lead by the man into a shiny red Lotus Carlton, and we were off. The car remained in a state of awkward silence until we were dropped off at a small flat where we were told to stay.Over the next few days men came in and out of Thomas’s room. I heard whispers in the room, followed by applause and laughter. I was sure at this point that Thomas was doing something bad, but I never suspected anything sinister or evil. I spent my first few days exploring. London fulfilled all of my highest hopes, until Tuesday, November 27th.
That morning I thought about turning Thomas in to the coppers. I just knew that he was up to something, but how could I turn him in after he changed my life forever? As I was eavesdropping through the thin walls, I heard a man say that the act was to be done today. I picked up the phone. I dialed. Nine, I paused and thought about what they could be planning. Nine, I thought of my parents telling me to dial 999 for the police when something bad was happening. Nine, I thought of all of my hopes and dreams that Thomas had fulfilled, of how he created the new, beautiful life I was living. I set down the phone.
That day, I strolled alone around St. James’ park. And tough of what a roller coaster of a week this had been. I envisioned my parents reporting me as a missing person, and them thinking where they went wrong. I thought through the morning about my entire life, and what it was all about. I thought about punk, and all of the joy it gave me. Then suddenly, there was a scream. More screams erupted from all around me. The whole scene took me by surprise. Shots rang out, people fell. I saw Thomas running into the park. There was something on his chest. Six, ten-centimeter long cylinders that were bright red, A button in his hand. Then the world disappeared from around me.
As I was engulfed by the flying debris, the dark, and the light; My life flashed before my eyes. I remembered my happy childhood. The mornings I spent frolicking in the meadows with my parents. I remembered when I started to stick out from the rest of my friends. I remembered the afternoons when I cried for hours after bobby would ridicule me for being different. I remember the first time I listened to The Clash, on a rainy summer evening. I remember playing music as the sun was setting at an Edinburgh park. I remember seeing Thomas in the corner of the barn on the night that changed my life. I remember finding Thomas' weapon stash at midnight, but pretending to forget, so I could pursue my dreams.
I stared at Thomas one last time. As our eyes met, Time seemed to stop. His eyes were full of love, hatred, and fear. He gazed at me like a puppy desperate for food. I saw his eyes reflecting A man falling after being shot. A young woman flying in the air while saying here last words, “Brits Out,” she crumpled to the ground. I thought of the lyric that saved my life, just as my life ended. “London is drowning, and I live by the river.”