Once Jack’s father had calmed down, and subsequently accepted the reality that this was not a problem he could fix on his own, the three of them had reluctantly walked for what seemed like hours until they came across a hotel where they could find some assistance, and a much needed pot of tea. The hotel overlooked Tal-y-lnyn Lake. With the weather as fine as it was, even Jack couldn’t help but appreciate just how beautiful it was. The water was so serene that the hills cast perfect mirror images of themselves, and the one cloud that scarred the sky similarly stained the water. This stillness, Jack discovered, could be broken quite easily with a single tossed stone.
Jack’s father was on the phone in reception, trying to secure a mechanic’s help; it was clear from his increasingly frantic body language that he wasn’t having the luck he’d have hoped for. Jack’s mother, meanwhile, was sat outside on a worn picnic bench, stirring a mug of tea, seemingly endlessly. Jack himself was sat opposite her, using his straw to push the ice-cubes to the bottom of his glass of lemonade, trying, in vain, to make them stay there. It never worked.
‘Do you want to come and play?’
A tug at his sleeve accompanied this sweet, high-pitched voice and its question. Jack turned around to see a girl around his age, or perhaps a little younger – he found it hard to tell. A puzzled look evidently formed itself on his face as he tried to figure it out, because the girl repeated her request on the assumption that Jack hadn’t heard or properly understood it.
‘Do you want to come and play?’
Jack nodded, before turning to his mother. She’d heard the question, and shrugged apathetically. ‘Just stay where I can see you!’ she called, but Jack had set off already and paid her no attention.
The girl, curly blond hair falling over her pink dress, ran giggling, and led him round the back of the hotel. She only stopped when she arrived at a shoddily assembled rope swing. At this point, she turned and, feigning maturity, held out her hand. ‘I’m Elizabeth, but you can call me Lizzie.’
‘Pleased to meet you, Jack,’ she said, as they awkwardly shook hands. Lizzie laughed at his evident discomfort, and released his hand from hers.
‘Are you staying at this hotel, then?’ was all he could think to ask.
She shook her head, said nothing, and climbed, with considerable difficulty, onto the swing.
‘You’ll have to push me.’
Obediently, Jack trotted around behind her and pushed her whilst she giggled. After a couple of minutes, and when the swing was at its highest point, Lizzie launched herself from it and landed in a heap in the ground. Jack worried for her for the briefest of moments, before she rolled over and grinned at him.
‘I think I told a lie earlier. By accident, of course! I said I wasn’t staying at the hotel, but I am really. I live here.’
Jack could think of nothing to say, so instead he walked over to her and offered her his hand and his assistance.
‘How long are you and your family staying at the hotel, then? We never get families staying. It’ll be nice to have someone to play with…’
‘Oh we’re not staying. My dad’s just trying to get a garage to fix the car, which is over…’ Jack tried to point in the direction of the broken car, but had lost his bearings and ended up just waving his arm around and looking lost.
The joy drained from her face almost immediately, but she quickly recovered her spirits, grabbed Jack’s hand once more, and told him they’d have to get as much exploring done as they could before he had to leave.
‘There’s a lot to see – I just hope there’s enough time to show you everything!’ she said, before leading him back in the direction of his mother and her tea.