Horndon on the Hill

“Let’s get lost today,” a husband said to his wife. They had only been married a few months and he knew how much she loved going for drives. The winding roads, charming houses and green everywhere felt enchanting. Rolling hills with sheep grazing stood by. Fields of farmlands gave beautiful colour and texture to the country. Having lived mostly in the city, the couple thoroughly enjoyed their countryside drive. After listening to the same CD twice, they reckoned their taste for adventure and new scenery had been satisfied and felt ready to go home.

However, on the way home there was an exit that read “Horndon on the Hill” next to a long narrow road that led up a hill. The wife could see a small neighbourhood. Intrigued, she persuaded her husband to get off the exit and maybe they’d find a nice pub for dinner before going home. He agreed, drove up the hill and together they looked for a pub. They passed some terrace houses and a small high street before seeing detached houses, a school and a library. The high street was so small perhaps they drove too fast and didn’t see it. The road dead-ended quite abruptly and they turned around, drove much slower and kept a look-out for somewhere to eat. There was a florist shop, a post office, a chemist, a kiosk, a take-away, a small grocer, a bakery and the pub. The wife noticed a mother with her child staring at her. The husband noticed two men who had been talking, stopped and began to stare at him. Uncomfortably, they continued to drive around the neighbourhood. Many of the the houses were lovely with gardens well tended to.

The husband grew increasingly annoyed with all the dead end streets. He turned around to find the exit. They both changed their minds about eating at a strange pub and decided they would rather go somewhere closer to home. Somehow getting lost no longer seemed as fun. The husband turned the car around towards the exit, but they found themselves on the high street again. An older woman in a flat above the kiosk watered her flowers and shook her head as she watched them drive by for the third time. The wife grew impatient. It was clearly a small town, how could they not find the road that led back to the highway? The sun was beginning to set, yet children were still out with friends. Groups of people gathered to socialise, which would have been nice if the couple didn’t feel like they were the topic of conversation. Finally the husband parked the car at the pub, they would eat and ask for directions. They sat a table near a window, placed their order, but found their conversation dry. An elderly couple watched them, and the wife stared back. The elderly woman held her husbands hand. Their faces were solemn, but not unpleasant. They nodded to the wife, as if to confirm something. Gathering whatever courage she had, the wife walked over to the table and asked, “How do we find the road that leads to the highway?” The elderly woman raised a tender eyebrow and replied, “You don’t. None of us ever found it.”

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