It was early in the morning and everyone was still asleep. Already fully clothed, I sneaked out of my bedroom, careful not to wake anyone up. However, the wooden floor creaked beneath my feet and I prayed to God that it wouldn’t wake Gemma. She’d kill me for waking her up at seven in the morning.

When I was finally downstairs, I put on my jacket and went outside. Closing the door behind me, I inhaled the cold winter air. The temperature was incredibly low, especially compared to California. Unfortunately, I had to leave the warm weather and had returned home to celebrate my birthday. I was also determined to find a quiet place to spend the rest of my break. I already knew I wasn’t going to stay in Holmes Chapel, that would be too easy. They’d find me in a matter of days, if not hours.

I strolled along the street, heading for the only park in this small town. When I arrived, I sat down on a bench and enjoyed the silence of the early morning. The park was completely empty, which was understandable, given that it was half past seven on a Saturday morning. Yet, I couldn’t help but be an early bird. I was never one to sleep till one o’clock in the afternoon.

I zoned out until I heard something behind me in the bushes. The paranoid side of me thought it was them again. I turned around, yet saw nothing but some bushes and trees. However, the sound of cracking twigs came closer to me.

Just when I was about to stand up and go away as fast as I could (in case it was them), the source of the sound appeared out of the bushes. I let out a sigh of relief when I saw what it was. I small dog ran up to me, wiggling its tail. I looked around, searching for an owner but it seemed like I was still the only person in the park. I guessed the dog had run away because I noticed a collar around its neck, meaning he did have a home somewhere. I squatted next to the furry animal so I could take a look at its collar. Maybe there was a name or a phone number on it so I could return the little one to its owner. Luckily, it had the names Jack (probably the dog) and Ethel King (probably the owner) written on it, but unfortunately, it didn’t mention an address nor a phone number.

I knew I couldn’t just leave the dog there, so I picked him up and decided I would take him home. It was safer keeping him there and maybe my mother could tell me who Ethel King was, as she knew a lot of people around town.

I was walking towards the exit of the park, when I heard other noises from between the trees. These sounds were clearer as I could make out a person mumbling whilst trying to push branches away. Seconds later I heard a heavy thud and I looked up –or rather down– to find a girl who had fallen out of the bushes. “Damn it Jack. This is all your fault.” she muttered to herself as she stood up. When she brushed off the dust from her clothes, her eyes finally met my curious ones.

“Oh. You saw that didn’t you?” she asked, her hazel eyes wide. I could only nod while I tried not to laugh because of the leaves in her hair. The brown colours matched her hair though. She was quite a sight.

“Normally I fall more elegantly.” she said, straightening her back and I chuckled. “But there was just some branch that I didn’t see in time and…” she shook her head as she started laughing herself, “Oh well I guess there is no excuse for my clumsiness.”

“That’s ok, I’m quite clumsy myself too.” I smiled and she returned a beautiful one. Then her eyes dropped to the animal I was holding and looked back up to me.

“So, thanks for finding Jack for me.” she said, pointing to my furry friend. “He ran out the door when I wanted to put his leash on. I tried running after him but the little thing’s fast you know.”

“S’ok. Glad I could help. Are you Ethel King then?” I asked as I was walking over to her to return the dog.

“Oh no,”  she laughed, taking over the four-legged troublemaker, “I’m Ruby King, her granddaughter. This buddy belongs to my grandparents, I’m just the one who’s taking him for a walk. Or I was supposed to anyway, I’m not very good with dogs. I’m more of a cat person.”

“Same,” I said, “I once stepped on a dog. Poor thing.” She chuckled and I stepped forward, holding out my hand. “Always nice to meet a fellow cat person though, I’m Harry.” Ruby shook my hand and smiled. “You didn’t really need to introduce yourself, but nice to meet you too.”

Then she put Jack down and put him on the leash so he wouldn’t run away again. “Guess I’m taking this one back home, do you mind walking with me? You never know if he finds a way to escape again.” I nodded and started walking with her towards the exit of the park.

On the way to her house we shared a few other stories about us and dogs and how something always went wrong. We laughed so much that my stomach hurt and I noticed my mood had lifted enormously, compared to how it had been the last few days. I’d been a bit grouchy because of what had happened in LA, but I was happy that Ruby had taken my mind off those things.

Unfortunately, we arrived at her grandparents’ house too soon for my liking. It was a small terrace house with a tiny front garden. Ruby walked to the front door, with me following her suit. She opened the large blue door and let Jack inside, then she turned around and thanked me for walking with her. “My pleasure.” I returned. Then we stood there in silence, neither one of us really wanting to say goodbye first. At least, I didn’t really want to. Ruby was nice and I enjoyed talking to her. Maybe I could ask her to hang out some other time?

Just when I wanted to ask her, Ruby spoke up. “I’d better go, I promised my grandmother that I would bake a cake with her.”

“Oh, ok.” I replied, unsure what to say, and she slowly turned around, walking inside. Just when she was about to close the door behind her,  I decided to speak up. “Ruby, wait!”

She opened the door again, and looked at me with those eyes that made autumn jealous. Suddenly, I didn’t how to speak anymore. “I,… Ehm…” There was no way I could form a coherent sentence like this. So I took a deep breath and… said something completely different from what I actually wanted to say. “You have, ehm, some leaves in your hair.”

Her eyes widened and her hands reached for the brown waves, removing the dried leaves that had been in her hair since she fell in the park. “Have those been in my hair the whole time?” she asked and I nodded with a smile. She chuckled, “You could’ve told me earlier. I must’ve looked like an idiot.” I shook my head, disagreeing with her. “Not at all, you looked cute.” Just when I said it, I realized I actually didn’t mean to say it out loud. Ruby just blushed –which made her look even more cute– and muttered a thank you.

“So… Will I see you around?” I asked and her smile faded. Did I say something wrong? She nervously started playing with strands of her hair when she replied. “I’m actually leaving tomorrow. I was just visiting my grandparents.”

“Oh, that’s unfortunate. I still have many terrible stories to tell.” I tried to laugh it off but I was kind of disappointed to hear she was leaving. I actually didn’t know why I felt that way. Maybe it was because she was so easy to talk to, or maybe it was because she didn’t treat me differently. Most people I come across act in a specific way around me. Some are immediately starstruck, some are all over me, some people are disingenuous, others are overly kind,… But Ruby seemed to be different, she didn’t behave in a certain way. It was all natural, and I really liked that.

“If we meet again, I’d love to hear them.” she smiled and in that moment I really hoped that the ‘if’ would become a ‘when’. I definitely wanted to meet her again but unfortunately, I had to say goodbye to her –for now.

When she had gone inside, I started walking back home. The temperature hadn’t gotten any warmer since this morning and I found myself pulling my beanie further down my ears and readjusting my scarf. It seemed like hours had passed when I finally reached my house, even though mine and Ruby’s grandparents’ house were only three streets away from each other. Come to think of it, maybe I could pass by again tomorrow. It would have to be before she left though. But then again, she didn’t mention at what time she would leave, nor where she would be going. C’mon Styles, my subconciousness replied my thoughts, there is no way you’ll see this girl again. Let’s just forget about her. I sighed heavily, knowing he was right. No matter how much I wanted to, I knew I wouldn’t see Ruby King again. 

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Proof-reading done by @CarrieFae.

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