Hesitant, Anathema peeked out of the window. In the garden of Jasmin Cottage the flowers bathed in the late summer sun, the birds fluttered around the little font and a mild wind moved through the grass and the hedges.
The day was beautiful but normal for a summer day in Tadfield. For most people.
Anathema however, stepped into new territory. She faced not only a new day but a new chapter of her life. A chapter full of not knowing.
The past is a foreign country.
At least that was what the beginning of a novel by LP Hartley said. Anathema was inclined to agree, but for the first time ever, for her the future was a foreign country, too.
She did not know if the day would remain as beautiful or if catastrophe just waited to strike.
For the first time in her life she had woken up with no book to open for guidance. Of course she had not always used it, but she always could have. It had always been there and this knowledge had reassured her, grounded her.
Now when she opened the door and picked up the newspaper with the worrying headline, she was as uncertain as everybody else. Would the mentioned “conflict” be solved or turn into a long term crisis? A war even?
For upcoming elections she would have to rely on polls, speculations and gut feelings like everybody else. No sooner than the public would she see a storm coming and deaths of loved ones would hit her just as hard and surprising as other people.
The cage was gone and so was its security.
She’d be as helpless and vulnerable as everybody else. Something she was not used to. Walking blind into the days to come, normal for each single other human on the planet, was frightening to her.
Suddenly it was hard to breathe and her vision tunnelled. She hugged herself, trying in vain to stop the shaking of her body.
She couldn’t do this. Burning the new book had been a mistake. She wouldn’t be able to do this without guidance. She wasn’t strong enough. Not smart enough. She couldn’t…
Two warm hands found her trembling shoulders and a soft kiss was pressed to her hair.
“Hey,” Newt’s voice sounded from behind her. “Are you cold?”
He rushed away only to return seconds later with a cardigan.
“It’s actually pretty warm in here,” he said with concern in his voice while he carefully draped the woollen jacket around her. “Are you getting sick?”
“I… I don’t know,” she said, the truth in these words almost bringing her to tears.
“Come on,” he said while he - with tender force - manoeuvred her into the living room and on the couch.
He pushed her down so she landed on the sofa with an “oof” and he chuckled softly.
“You really make cute noises,” he said as he put a blanket across her legs. “Now, you stay here and I’ll make you tea.”
“I can do this myself,” she said, waving dismissively, and tried to get up.
But Newt wouldn’t let her.
“I know you can make tea,” he laughed, holding her down. “But I can, too, you know. Unless you have a computer here for that.”
“I, in fact, do not,” Anathema smiled.
He sat down beside her and cupped her cheek. While stroking through her hair, he kissed her, tender and sweet.
“Rest for a while,” he said and suggested, “Watch TV or read. You had a very tough week. I’ll take care of you. If you let me.”
Anathema bit her lip, but then she nodded.
“Okay,” she said.
After another soft peck against her mouth, he stood and left to make tea.
Anathema held her fingertips against her lips and smiled. With the memory of Newt’s touch, his aftershave in her nose and the busy noises from the kitchen, the looming shadows of an unknown future seemed less scary all of a sudden. Sighing Anathema laid back and allowed herself to close her eyes for a moment.
This was unfamiliar as well. Someone taking care of her. Someone seeing more in her than a carrier of knowledge. Someone willing to share whatever burden she carried.
Unfamiliar, but not frightening.
The future was a foreign country. But she did not have to discover it alone.