It had been exactly one year since Corinne and Richard’s marriage. Eric was a happy man, though his life was a little empty. He still loved Corinne and missed her presence in his house. He remained optimistic, however, having a friend in Rose and other men at the marketplace and finding strength when he went into the forest and saw the animals and the birds. He had his job and his novels and his flute; he had plants to look after in the garden. He was allowed to teach and play with Keris which was most special and gratifying... Yet somehow it wasn’t enough to bring him total happiness.
On this cold day in November he made a decision that would attempt to fill the hollow part of him.
Eric had finished seeing to Whisper in the stables and was walking to his cottage when a familiar wooden cart caught his eye.
“Lisa!” he exclaimed as it approached.
The young woman riding the horse with long curls of ebony-coloured hair and sparkling green eyes smiled and stopped her horse. She dismounted, her movements energetic, and she strode up to Eric, calling, “Hi, Eric!”
“I’ve not seen you for so long,” Eric said. “Where have you been?”
Lisa sighed softly.
“There was a death in the family and I had to attend the funeral and sort out the inheritance.”
“Oh, I’m sorry,” Eric murmured, reaching out and rubbing Lisa’s shoulder.
“Would you like a drink?”
“Certainly.” She followed him inside. He admired the way in which she seemed to move as if she was bouncing though without ever being clumsy.
As they moved to the kitchen she asked, “So how have you been? Did you attend the banquet for Lord Richard’s wedding?”
Eric nodded. “Yes. The food was delicious. And there were so many different types. I wanted to try everything but couldn’t.”
Lisa laughed. “You ought to travel with me. I taste foods you wouldn’t dream of.”
Travel with Lisa?
Despite the fact she was joking the idea was actually quite appealing. If he travelled with Lisa, he might find the substance he needed to fill his soul. And having a constant companion could only be a positive thing.
He poured out the elderflower juice and handed her the bowl. He sat beside her.
Lisa stared at him in amazement.
“Could you travel with me?”
Eric nodded. “Yes. It sounds fun.”
He remembered all the previous attractions of travelling: the encounters of different cultures and the attachment to a certain one; and also a new idea occurred to him. How free one must feel while travelling?
“Of course. If that’s what you genuinely want. There’s room in my cart for one more - though the space is a little cramped.” Her brow furrowed. “Of course, there are other matters to consider. You would need to sell your house, a lot of your clothing and all other items apart from those which are useful to you. You would have to possess a certain skill - so you could make money. Oh, and you must consider the people you are leaving behind.”
Eric nodded. “I don’t really own a lot of items with sentimental value - though may I keep my novels and flute?”
Lisa nodded. “They help pass the time when the outside world isn’t very interesting. But people? Are there any friends who you cannot bear the thought of not seeing for long periods of time?”
Eric frowned. “Well, there is one, I suppose. But it would be better if I lived without needing to see her.”
Lisa nodded. “Yes, I can understand that one. And a skill?”
Eric smiled. “I know which mushrooms are edible and which are not, and I can sew.”
Lisa smiled in return.
“Fantastic. Well, I shall remain in town while you prepare yourself. One word of advice - say farewell properly to your friends. You’ll be surprised at how you do start to miss them on the road. And take your time. I couldn’t say when we’ll next be in Periville after this.”
Eric nodded, taking everything on board.
He smiled once again.
“Thank you, Lisa.”
“You’re very welcome, Eric. It shall be nice to have someone to talk to during the journeys.”
One month later Eric was all set. Corinne had been understanding when he had told her he would not be available to teach Keris. She had encouraged him on his path, telling him that it sounded exciting and different. He had agreed though embraced her tightly (a gesture thankfully allowed by Lord Richard) before leaving the manor.
Rose had also been happy about the path he had chosen.
“Change can bring about the unexpected,” she’d told him knowingly. Then she had smiled with a twinkle in her eyes. “And it will not do you harm to gain a female companion.”
Eric’s cheeks had turned crimson at that remark.
And now he was in Lisa’s cart, sitting upon his rugs, listening to the sounds of Nature as they travelled along the road to a town he did not know. Eric was sure he would find at least one thing to bring a smile to his face in this new place. And if he did not, well, he would have Lisa’s company.
Perhaps the reason for his hollowness had been loneliness. Even with his friends at the marketplace, maybe he had felt alone. It would hardly be a surprise since he lived on his own and only saw his friends two days each week. Now that problem should be solved. And who knew? Maybe his relationship with Lisa would become one based on love and then he should feel much happier about Corinne having married Lord Dachshund.
“Are you excited?” Lisa called from her position upon the horse.
Eric thought. His reply came quickly.
“Yes,” he said. “Yes, I am.”