Caught by the tumult of emotions, I felt numb. My mother prayed for me in the car when she dropped me off at the bus station and that helped. Neither of my parents cried when they said goodbye to me, something I am immensely thankful for, but I could still read the sorrow in their faces as I walked away. When I embraced them one last time I didn't want to let go.
I spent most of the journey immersed in the pages of a book, but occasionally broke off, mid sentence, gazing out of the window at the familiar scenery. I've done this journey so many times now that I recognise the landscape. It wasn't busy, and both my coaches were far from full. We ran on time the whole way.
We arrived fifteen minutes early. It was another ten minutes before Spud showed up, but the wait provided me with the opportunity to text my parents and let them know I'd arrived safely (I don't have mobile signal at Spud's). Spud stepped out of the car and presented me with a bunch of red carnations. He bought me flowers! I thought, because it was the first time he'd made this gesture. They nearly got crushed between us, but I had the foresight to hold them to one side when Spud took me into his arms. I memorised his face once more, although I no longer have cause too. The long separations are behind us. This is the beginning of the next chapter.