Lucy Blues was in her hospital bed watching the news for the first time in what felt like years. It had only been a month since her self-imposed exile but the freedom she felt was like a planet released from the gravitational orbit of its Sun. She no longer had to care about the woes of the world and troubles of others. If not for a careless glance at the local newspaper a week ago she would still be in her father’s cottage chopping firewood or knitting a blanket. Deep down she had to admit that perhaps that lifestyle couldn’t be sustained forever but she knew it was better than her old life and as the film crews passed by the little window of her hospital door, she felt that her cottage escape was just a dream set to fade into sweet reminiscence as her real life steam rolled on like the train that brought her into town that day.
She didn’t actually remember too much from the train. Her last memory was recognising the velocity increasing dangerously. Then she felt as though she were asleep in the cottage again with Walter Wallace’s face smiling down at her gently. It was surely a dream but as she willed herself to wake up his face only became clearer. It was charred and worn. He wasn’t smiling, instead wincing and his pained expression softened into acceptance as a wave of light and noise crashed over them. Reporters and news programs were snapping at them from every angle before the paramedic crew muscled them to reasonable distance.
She had blacked out again until now, and as her head cleared from the comfort of sleep she began to doubt how much of that had actually happened. Thankfully, those ever reliable new reporters were on hand as a photo of her cradled in Walter’s arms popped up to the left of the news reader’s head and some bubbly font read “FairyTale?”
“We go live to resident Walter Wallace expert Tania Holmes who has been in Newport Haven since before the disaster began. Tania, what does the aftermath of the Newport train disaster look like?”
“That’s right, Aaron, the day began with a bright Sun rising just over this very hill but it wasn’t long after that the clouds set in – clouds of smoke, that is.” Lucy frowned as the young, sparingly-clothed news reporter chirped along, apparently oblivious to the disjointed segue and cheesy opener. “Witnesses claim to have seen a fearless Walter Wallace forcibly enter the burning building and it wasn’t until at least 15 minutes later – some people claiming he was in there for over an hour – that Walter stumbled out of the building.”
Tania Holmes looked awkwardly to the bottom right of the screen, brushing the hair out of her face and trying to reinstate herself in the cold chill. Some footage of Tania from earlier that day, beaming in the much more forgiving autumn sunlight, came on the screen and was slowed down and zoomed in to the bottom corner of the screen. “As you can see in this footage,” she cleared her throat as her voice fell weak against the breeze, “It is clearly Walter Wallace carrying the limp body of Ms Blues out of the inferno and taking her up the hill before collapsing beside her.”
The footage rolled on as she spoke. It showed fireman with Walter before a horde of reporters seemed to swarm on them, the camera itself zooming past Tania and into the distant scene. The footage cut off there. “-they’re saying that this is like a real life fairytale, and if it is just that then these two may just live happily ever after. Aaron.”
Lucy scoffed and hit the power button on the remote aggressively and repeatedly. She accidently managed to switch the TV off and back on again before she could react, which made her even more flustered. “We haven’t even said a word to each other and they have us rolling away in a horse and carriage.” She let out a self pitying huff before having a moment to reflect on her own childish state. She tried to rechannel the peace and serenity that she had found in the last month and despite the frustration and confusion she found her thoughts inevitably settled on Walter Wallace.
She could not shake the solemn look of duty that had swept over his face after he saw the TV vultures swooping in. How many appearances and exploitative scenarios had he been forced to endure while she was hidden away in obscurity? What choices had he been given when her machine revealed his face to the world? What possible future could he endeavour to live with such a weight of expectation placed upon him? All this was her fault and in return he saves her life.
Lucy struggled out of bed. Her arm was clearly broken and cast but the rest of her body only appeared bruised and cut. She limped over to her door and peaked outside. Down the hall was a crowd of cameras and she assumed Walter’s room must be there. She was not sure of her plan but she opened the door and headed down the hallway.