“…Bad luck,” the twenty-year-old with dark, scruffy-looking hair mused. “Don’t you think so, Monty?”
The young man, about three years older than the girl, looked up from his compass. “I’m afraid I didn’t catch what you said.”
“Like I said, we’re in the middle of nowhere, the car’s broken down, our phone batteries are das kaput, and it’s the middle of October, yet the temperature’s maybe thirty degrees at most. I think it’s definitely bad luck.” She furrowed her brow and crossed her arms.
“Were you this superstitious in England, Anne? That isn’t like you,” Monty replied with a light laugh. Anne didn’t respond.
An awkward silence began to set in as the atmosphere became strangely heavy around them. Anne kept her mouth shut and turned her back. When she was frustrated, she became almost childish. Monty fumbled with the compass, turning it in every direction just to give himself something to do.
“You shouldn’t have said that,” he thought. “You should’ve guessed that she was being serious.”
But when they were in grade school, she’d always joked about superstitions and such. It was always, “Monty, watch out for that ladder! You’re so tall, you might knock it over on you.” She’d always joked about it before, so how could he have suspected that she was serious now? Then again, unlike every other time, this was something of a serious situation.
“Anne…” he started, sighing and pushing his hand through his wispy, black bangs. “Look, Anne, I didn’t realize you meant it. I guess…I suppose I thought you were trying to lighten the mood.” He sighed again. This was not something he was used to. “I’m sorry.”
“I know,” Anne replied. “It’s just…this is kind of freaky for me. I’m not used to things like this happening, and…well, you know how I get under pressure.”
You know how I get under pressure? As far as Monty could tell, she was always calm and happy. Well, except for now. “No, I’m afraid I don’t know.”
She turned back to him, eyebrows raised. “Really? You don’t know?” His confused expression must have spoken for itself. “Oh, come on now. Don’t you remember my ninth grade Science project?”
“Oh.” Now he remembered. She’d shut herself in her room for fourteen hours straight trying to sort through all the data she’d collected. When she finally let Monty in, her room had been a wreck—papers, glue, and cardboard everywhere. He wasn’t much of a Science whiz either, but they’d finally managed to pull something together that pleased that cranky old woman—at least enough to give her a passing grade.
“Yeah,” she said. “It’s like that.”
An icy wind howled behind them. They jumped, startled. Monty nearly lost his grip on the compass and made a wild grabbing motion to catch it before it fell. This time it was Anne who laughed.
“Sorry,” she gasped, “you just look so funny when you’re frazzled!”
She was probably right, Monty thought, feeling his face heat up with a mild blush. Trying to grin a little, he rubbed the back of his neck.
“So,” he said when she finally calmed down, “I take it you’re adjusting well?”
“Well, except for tonight, yes,” she replied. “But it’s a lot bigger, and a lot easier to get lost in. And there are so many people.”
“There are a lot of people in England, too. We were just fortunate enough to live in the country. And it’s much smaller. Don’t you remember?”
“I remember,” Anne replied. “And sometimes I wonder why I don’t go back.”
They were silent for a few minutes. There was a half-moon out that night. At least it gave them a little bit of light so they weren’t completely lost. Monty turned the compass again. Why was his heart thumping so loud in his chest? Surely, she must be able to hear it.
“You stopped responding to my letters,” he said at last, speaking quietly, hoping his voice wasn’t taking an accusatory tone. “I wasn’t even sure if you were getting them until you wrote asking me to come over a few months ago.”
“I don’t usually have much time for writing anymore,” she sighed. Then she turned to face him. “I wish you would learn to send an email, Monty. Don’t you know that almost everyone can send an email these days, except you?”
“I tried several times, believe me. Besides, there’s something about written letters that email can’t compare to.”
“You and your sentiments…” she teased.
“If we lived closer together, perhaps that wouldn’t be a problem,” he suggested.
“I might move back, Monty. I’m really thinking about it,” she said.
“You’ve been saying that for awhile,” he mused.
“Well, this time I mean it. How long have I been here, yet I still don’t know that many people?” she almost snapped as she said that. “Besides, I’ve known you for so long…and then to be away from you…I don’t know…”
Even in the dark, Monty could tell she was fighting back tears. Maybe she wasn’t as happy as she wanted him to think. He fidgeted with his compass for another minute before he mustered up the courage to speak. His heart was pounding in his ears and his throat was choked with night air, but he had to speak now or he might never say it.
“Anne, you know I’m not going to stay here forever. It’s been so nice being back together, and truthfully, I don’t think either of us wants to say goodbye—no, I know neither of us does.” He swallowed hard. “What I mean to say is…would you like to come back to England with me when I go?”
“Are you asking me to marry you?” she asked, smiling.
Monty blushed a deep crimson. “Perhaps…”
She closed her hand over his without a word, but he knew what it meant. He sighed, both from joy and relief.
She took the compass away. “Come then, let’s find our way home…”