"So what's the big plan, eh? You not marrying Farquard? Just going on adventures every week, getting me into trouble for the rest of my life? You're like a magnet for crazy people who want to kill me, do you remember that?"
Alex chuckled and tried to sound as cheery as she could whilst holding back tears.
"Don't be daft, Hooten. Of course I'm gonna marry Edward. It's just…"
"No… no there is no it's just.. Either you marry him or you don't. Aren't you one of those 21st century need no man and don't shave their legs independent girls? You got to make the decision on your own."
"Excuse me the word is feminist, actually."
"So you don't shave them then?"
"Hooten, my legs and my body hair, as well as the two combined, are not the topic here!" She hated when she lost control over her voice like that. When it broke away in this high-pitched fashion, it made her sound like Minnie Mouse in her own ears.
"Okay, okay Mrs Flokati Farquard there's no need for this hostile attitude."
She hated when he did this. Holding up his hands just a little bit in mock surrender, with a glint in his eyes and that cocky smile that made her want to slap him in the face most of the times.
"I am not being hostile… I am just", she paused in order to organise her thoughts, trying to sound as calm and casual and preferably less high-pitched as possible. "I am just saying that..."
"Hold that thought for a second, there". Hooten stared at his compass and looked around. "We have to go that way according to this here."
Alex who glimpsed over his shoulder shook her head.
"No Hooten, that's wrong, see the needle is obviously pointing that way so we, obviously, have to go in that direction". He looked in the direction that she was pointing in, which was the exact opposite direction of what he had proposed.
"No, look the needle always points south so we have to go tha…"
"What?", Alex interrupted him, "what did you just say?"
"I said we have to go that way", Hooten said with a lot of gesturing is his favourised direction.
"No you said and I quote the needle always points south…Hooten have you ever used a compass before?" A shrug and a grin followed.
"Well it ain't rocket science, right?"
"Hooten you can't be serious! A compass doesn't point south it always points north!"
Hooten turned a few times on his heels, shielding his eyes from the sun, as if he was searching for a huge sign that said you messed up the real southwest is that way, buddy.
Alex stared irritated at him. "What are you doing, now? I've been following the directions you gave us for miles! You even insisted on taking the compass! You didn't even allow me to cross check! And all this time we walked in the complete wrong direction?"
Hooten now stood still questioningly staring in one, then in another and rather opposite direction.
"Oh my god…" Alex placed her hand against her forehead and took a few deep breaths. "Ulysses Hooten you did not just get us lost by the misuse of a compass, did you?"
"Well", he scratched his head, "define lost. I mean we know where we are just not where everyone else is. Or the treasure. Or the nice little restaurant in which Farquard will be sitting by now waiting for you. And in fact like I told you I never needed a compass. I always land where I need to be. You can call that intuition, or like I call it awesomeness."
"I'd call it delusional, really. I mean what kind of…Oh no wait the dinner! I completely forgot about that! Oh poor Edward, not again!"
Hooten glanced at her from the side.
"Telling almost, eh?"
"What do you mean?"
Alex was the only person that he knew that could look so deeply and honestly confused and yet so suspicious of everything at the same time.
"Nothing, nothing really… just how you seem to completely forget the soon to be Lord Farquard every time one of our little adventures pops up."
He smirked at her.
"Don't. Don't Hooten. Don't do this, I mean it. That is not fair and it's most certainly not the truth and you know it."
He turned his head towards her his eyebrows raised.
"Oh, do I?... Alex… really… do I know so?"
His words came out hoarse and far more quiet and serious than she had ever heard him before. One could almost sense the emotions behind his words, which was ironically the only reason why he uttered them in the first place, perhaps not knowing how much his voice could betray him and reveal more meaning than some simple platitudes could.
Together with his piercing expression she subconsciously held her breath.
However, the moment went the same as it had appeared…it went away in a flash.
Hooten stopped himself from maintaining a serious attitude, be it from the habit of avoiding exactly this very thing, or from the feeling that if he didn't watch his verbal step, he would hit a landmine of things that were better be left unsaid, in some cases even better left unthought.