Young Rich Thompson was considered quite a rising star amongst the people of the small town in which he lived. They thought of him as someone who deserved to be successful, to go far, to win prizes that had never been won by anybody so local ever before. Rich, however, had no such ambitions. Had many of his neighbours known of his plans, they would have been greatly disappointed to know that he had no intention of continuing with his running and he certainly didn’t want to go into a career in maths, despite his good grades.
“But Rich,” they would have said, their wrinkles accented by the care on their faces. “You could do so well! You know it’s what you’re good at. Why be so stubborn?”
That, of course, was why he had not told them of where he planned to go and what he planned to do. On the thirteenth of September, he left his house early in the morning and caught the eight o’clock train, destined for London. When it pulled into the station he was leaping off and already running, hurrying up the escalators as fast as he safely could and exiting the station before the waves of commuters really hit.
“Rich?” His parents were calling his mobile. With a soft sigh, he opened it and answered, since he knew that they would be worrying—they had looked after him for nineteen years, they deserved to know where he was. “Where are you? We’re dreadfully worried. Think what a shock it was to come into your room and find that you weren’t there!”
“It’s okay, Mum,” said Rich, his exasperation clear on his face but carefully absent from his voice. “I’m in London. No, I won’t be back for dinner,” he added, after listening to her question and answering as patiently as he could. “In fact, I won’t be back for a little while. I’m not planning on coming home right now.”
“But where are you going to stay? Have you booked a hotel? Oh, Rich, you will be careful, won’t you?”
“Mum,” he said seriously. “I’m nineteen. I can look after myself. I’m not staying in London; I’m only here to catch another train, and then I’ll be on my way. Please don’t worry about me, because I know what I’m doing and where I’m going, even though it might be a month or more before you see my again.”
“A month?” she gasped. “Try not to stay that long. We’ll miss you.”
“If I had gone to university you would have to get used to life without me,” he reminded her, taking the steps two at a time as he hunted for the right platform to catch the next train. “I promise you it will be okay.” And she believed him. Because Rich’s mother Ana, despite being far older than him and supposedly mature, trusted her son implicitly: he told her what to do in the way that Arthur, her husband, never did, and he was the one who kept the household running with his skills of organisation.