The drive to Somerset was three hours but to Eddie, it felt like three years. He constantly checked his phone for the time which usually only moved forward a minute, two if he was lucky. Eddie had dreamed of going back to Wookey hole for the last five years. He saved his pocket, birthday, Christmas and work money for a beat-up old Beetle from his dad's mate. For his seventeenth birthday his Dad bought him driving lessons and Eddie was determined to pass first time. He had been anxious to come back to wookey hole ever since the day he left and he didn't want to delay it more than he had to.
Saturday traffic, Eddie thought to himself. As the streets gradually clogged up with the amount of people, Eddie's skinny fingers tapped the steering wheel. He scanned the mental pictures he took of Gwerren in that magical summer. Her ghostly face, long blonde-white wispy hair and those luminous eyes, all the things he missed when he left.
The crackly car radio finally conked out, ten minutes before he would reach his destination. It didn't bother Eddie since he wasn't really listening in the first place. He was too busy replaying their last conversation, 'I think you'll come back,' She had said 'and in five years I will be the Underner Sentinel and – maybe Stan will be ready to retire. If there's someone might take his place as Overner Sentinel.'
Rocks, water and warmth. That was Gwerren's fragrance, he tried to keep it fresh in his mind but after a year or so it disappeared. Sadly the memories of Kayleigh and Chanelle's cat strangling singing were a lot harder to erase. Shivers trickled down Eddie's spine just thinking about it. Although it did bring a smile to his face to see that plate of fish fingers slam into Damon's face. I wonder if he's still a horrid toad that he was before, Eddie pondered, probably.
Eddie made the final turn onto the Wookey Hole car park. It was only half full, but most people come early morning. Or at least they did when Eddie was last there. In the front pocket of his wallet, Eddie kept the July and August free Pass that Stan had given him. He took in a deep breath and stepped out of the car and made his way to the entrance. Everything looked the same, the sign, the paint and the crumbly exterior. Maybe Gwerren was right, Eddie mused, five years isn't that long.
Inside Eddie paid for his ticket and got in the queue for the next tour. A few more customers milled in and the tour started. Butterflies swarmed in his stomach. Eddie was anxious for the guide to finish his speech and move along to the Witch's Kitchen. It was as if it was five years ago, Stan stood by the Witch and smiled at Eddie.
He waited for the tour to move on before approaching Stan. Eddie dug into his pockets, took out his wallet and retrieved the free pass. He sliped it into Stan's closed hand and said 'It's been a while, hasn't it?'
'A good five years I should think.' Stan chuckled 'You're lucky you came today, I'm leaving tomorrow. I'm guessing you came to see Gwerren, am I right?'
Eddie nodded and said 'I've missed this place so much, they don't have anything like this at home.'
'Nowhere does. That's why it's Wookey Holes!' Stan chortled, 'Go on now, Eddie. We don't want to keep Gwerren waiting.'
Eddie grinned and slipped into the crevice to the right of Stan. He was careful to keep from hitting his head on the low ceiling. He jumped and hopped about until he saw a blue orb of light. He had a sudden urge to run forward over the deep ditch below and embrace Gwerren like people do in films. Instead he opted for calling out her name.
'Hello Eddie?' A familiar voice called back, 'Is that you?'
The figure danced over to him just the way she used to, like a fluid. When she reached him, neither of them knew what to say. Eddie took her face, that beautiful face he longed to see. Hesitantly, he used his right hand to stroke her cheek. He felt silly, he had waited for this moment for five years and he couldn't say the things he wanted.
'You came back for me.' Gwerren whispered. Eddie laughed because for him, that was the point of the last five years getting back. Of course, he never thought of what he would do when he did.
'I promised, didn't I?' Eddie said in a soft, low voice. Very unexpectedly, Gwerren reached up and pecked him on the lips then smiled sweetly. Eddie was overwhelmed. He thought his cheeks must've been pink and his head went light. He could've stood there all day. She slipped her hands into his and looked into his eyes.
Swiftly, she turned and led him, still in a daze, down to where she was standing.
'I want to show you something!' Gwerren said excitedly, she led him through crevices and nooks to a ledge above, unmistakeably Cartraethia. Just as beautiful as before. Every colour last gave orb you could think of, little houses and the wondrous stalagmites and stalactites. He stared into the little town and grinned at its amazingness. He shook his bag off his shoulder and reached into it, feeling about for the starbars he'd bought at a petrol station.
Eddie passed one to Gwerren and ripped his own open. Her face light up and she exclaimed 'Cad-berries! I haven't had one of these since you got me one.'
'Gwerren?' Eddie asked quietly, she turned to face him with smears of chocolate around her mouth, God she was beautiful, he thought. Her smile was sweet and made Eddie weak at the knees.
'Would you… only if you want to,' Eddie mumbled 'maybe… only maybe, you could… be my girlfriend?'
Gwerren's smile faded and she slumped down, her legs swinging over the edge. Her face was solemn and her hair was swept over her right shoulder so Eddie couldn't see her properly. He felt like an idiot. He shouldn't have been so insensitive, and now she would never want to be with him.
He glanced over to Gwerren when a single tear rolled down her cheek. But she leant over and put her head on his shoulder then said 'yes'
Eddie whooped in delight before sitting down next to her.
'Eddie…' Gwerren smiled shyly 'I'm not that pretty, you could find someone else who is prettier than me and who needn't think about leaving here'
He looked over the beauty of Cartreathea and an idea popped into to his head. He didn't need the world above of course he'd come and visit his dad, but other than that there was nothing tying him down twubuv.
'Wait, how about this?' Eddie was panicking, he didn't want to upset Gwerren. 'I come down here and we take holiday's twubuv?'
'What about your family? Is your mother better?' Gwerren looked truly concerned. Eddie shut his eyes and took Gwerren's hand. He had almost forgotten but it all came pinging back like an elastic band.
'Mum's illness came back, worse this time,' Eddie faltered on mum, 'She didn't make it this time. She was given three months to live, a year ago. We did all the things we could to make her feel special and her last memories were happy ones. She refused to be unhappy but she got weaker and weaker and she was taken into hospital and never came back. We took her flowers every day until one day they said she'd passed away in her sleep, not in any pain.'
He cried. He didn't even feel ashamed, Gwerren understood and cared for him. Images of Mum materialised in his mind, every one of them her smiling and laughing. He smiled at how she once left a cake in the oven for three hours because she forgot that the timer didn't work. And when she tried to light their new oven with matches for half an hour until Dad came home and reminded her it was an electric oven. Every memory of her Eddie ever had was of her beaming and giggling. That was what he liked the most, no matter how hard a situation gets there's always something to laugh about no matter the circumstances.
'Eddie you must know something about me too,' Gwerren looked into his eyes as if they had a story to tell,' my mama and papa died when I was six. They were taking their first train ride and sadly that turned out to be their last. I remember Mama was so excited, she told me she was going to see the world and that one day I would too. Papa borrowed some clothes from Stan. It was a train to London so that they could fly to America but half way through train journey it went off the rails, they didn't survive.'
'I'm sorry, Gwerren.' Eddie patted her back.
'Speaking of family would you like to see Wilf?' Gwerren nudges him playfully. He nods, stands up, brushes dust of the back of his jeans and slips his hand into hers. Hand in hand they patter down nearby steps. A sweet tinkling sound coming from below captures Eddies attention. He scans the floor until a anklet around Gwerren's ankle catches his eye. Nine or ten little bells are hooked onto a piece of string. They jingle at Gwerren's every step.
She leads him through the little village to a small cosy house. Gwerren knocks three times and a welcoming voice shouts 'Coming!'
A short, slightly chubby lady opens the door and before Eddie can introduce himself, he's up in her arms and being violently squeezed. She plopped him down to scan over him. She wore a floral dress, red cardigan to match and sandals that looked fairly worn. Her brown hair shot through with streaks of grey was tied up in a messy bun.
'Wren, you never said we were expecting visitors!' That face looked awfully familiar, Eddie searched his memory for a some evidence that he knew this woman.
'Angrid, do you remember Eddie?' Gwerren asks the lady who Eddie finally remembered as the woman Uncle Wilf fell in love with before the war and then were reunited just before Eddie left for home.
'How could I forget?' Angrid smiles, 'The only boy Wren could never forget, would never, I should say. We've been waiting for you to return for little while.'
Eddie face became very warm, he was sure that his cheeks were as pink as roses. But on a quick glance at Gwerren, he could never forget her either.