They say to start a new task is easier than to finish an old one. There's a chance 'they' are right, but that fact didn't make my new task any easier.
For one thing, it was not as if I had any idea how to begin. All I had were the set of letters meant to be my name, and the echoes of what my adoptive mother had announced about a pattern in them. So. I started from the beginning: with the 'L' of Lily.
The girl inside me knew that this was the way forward; details of my heritage lay in neat chronological order across my birth-name. Aside from that, though, I was clueless.
My big mouth and I wanted to spread the news, and soon a troupe of girls thundered across the doorstep. As she gave them access, my mother took one look at the girls, and then gave me a look, shaking her head in my direction. She still wasn't able to look directly in my eyes. It might have been my imagination, but she had suddenly gained a hard look in her eyes, one of contempt or a certain lack of care. Though I wished it could have been a trick of the light, I was pretty sure of her split-second expression. Nevertheless, I continued relating my news once my friends were up in my bedroom, tucking the guilt deep inside me.
As I'd expect, my friends were more excited than shocked, and more than willing to help me. They would have been that way no matter my revelation; it was one thing I could be very grateful for. Unfortunately, so far, we had been edging in the wrong direction, still close to nowhere. With excitability, there came the madness of youth, and giggles clouding our concentration.
The suggestions flew across my room:
"It could stand for..."
"Lucy! Your name could be Lucy!"
I rolled my eyes; it was obvious that they hadn't been listening to the details.
"My name is Lily. The 'L' could stand for anything at all. Anything other than my name. So...where do we start?"
One of my closest friends, Meygan, looked up, her ivory eyes sparkling.
“Well, London,” she said as she tossed her copper hair into a ponytail, “it’s the biggest place around. And all those suggestions we just gave are a reflection of howLondonis always in the mind of the ‘modern girl’. I’d wager my hair-dye that you were born in a hospital inLondon. Why not, then, start from the beginning?”
At the mention of hair-dye, the other girls in my bedroom sprang at Meygan, laughing. Soon the order descended into a chaos of the pillow-and-feathers kind.
So the few days afterwards were full of organisation into London. I was about to embark on a journey that would not have been possible if it would have gone ahead it in term-time; it would have removed me from my education, and nobody would have let me be removed. As Meygan herself later remarked, it was to be a journey for one; it was my personal life, and I was the only one who would be allowed to walk this path. It had a taste of destiny about it. Even if that was just the lower kind of destiny that meant I was going to be whomever fate had wanted me to be.
And so, having bid farewell to my chums, I told my mother. Naturally, she wasn’t too pleased.
“This is exactly the ridiculous notion I did not want you setting off to pursue. You won’t far without running out of money, and I’ll doubt that you’ll find very much. You’ll end up wandering the streets, alone! I will not let you do it.”
I cleared my throat once I was sure that she had finished speaking.
“I sorry, Moth- Miss Brook, but this is what I have chosen to do. I’m afraid there will be no dissuading me… You cannot lock me up in my room for an eternity. Less so since I have the only key,” I added out of spite.
Her judgemental eyes would not stay on my person. Instead, they filled up with sorrow.
“I suppose the time has come. You know the reason why I am doing this.” She didn’t reiterate, she didn’t need to. Instead, she added, “you’ll need more than the change from your pocket-money fund, than-”
“Meygan and the others have agreed to chip in-”
“It still will not be enough. Here, this should last you,” she said, thrusting a wad of notes from her purse into my hand. “If- if you succeed out there, there’ll be people who’ll help you with other monetary issues.”
I counted up the notes. Two twenty pound notes and a ten. And a fifty. A hundred pounds. I had never held such a great amount of money before, except in those board games where the object is to be the richest through life, or to own more than everybody else.
“I suppose this is it,” she finished with a sigh. “But Maria, don’t pin your hopes on finding anything. Be safe.”
I shook my head, surprised at those tears that threatened to spill from my eyes.
“My name isn’t Maria. I’m sorry.”
And I hurried away to continue my packing.
The leaving reception, my mother at the train station in a morning where the sun had not yet cast its best, was frosty. I clung onto my suitcase, disparagingly heavy, as I listened to her lecture me once again; but once I was in the train, unpacking my London-guide-book from my rucksack, I could see the regret in her eyes. She would go on, but she couldn’t deny that she knew I needed to get away from her, and get into the spirit of my task. I wanted to be sad, but, unfeeling, I felt more comfortable just to stare out of the window at the platform that began to rush by. A couple of my friends had also come to see me off, encouraging me melodramatically as we waved goodbye. I saw their eyes examining the old train as it swept me off to London, the two chuckling girls, and finally I lifted a hand to salute them.
The countryside whizzed by as the train gathered speed, blues filling into greens, orange and yellow flowers lost in the pattern of the world out there. Trees moulded together into one big canvas smudge. The art of the world didn’t matter to me. I splayed my hand up to the cold, cold window instead, feeling that steady pulse of the wheels’ constant travel. Even that sound had a place in society, a heartbeat. Moving away as I sat thinking, I rested my head against the pane instead, letting the vibrations thrum through me.
Time moved on as the train did, people came and went all around me, but I stayed put…until London.