Sam Harris sat looking out of the train window numbly. He brushed a stray strand of fair hair away from his eyes with his hand. A solitary tear rolled down his cheek. Only three weeks ago he had been an ordinary fourteen year old living in a north London suburb with his mother. Then, without warning his world was shattered by the unexpected death of his mother from a heart attack.
Sam's mother had been a slim, healthy woman of forty five, and because he had never viewed her as old or ill, her death at such a relatively young age had come as a complete shock. Sam was an only child, and since his father had walked out on them when he was just a toddler, he and his mother had become very close. With her death, it seemed to Sam that his whole world had come crashing down.
Social Services were called in to deal with Sam's case. They were faced with two options. Sam could either be put in care, which would probably mean a children's home, or foster parents until he was sixteen, or they could send him to live with his mother's brother, Uncle Ron in Yorkshire. Sam's mother had one other brother, Joe, but he had emigrated to Australia in the early 1980's, and was therefore unable to be of any help.
Ron Blackshaw, at sixty was much older than Sam's mother. Sam had been told by his mother that because this brother had been so much older than her, they had never been really close. Whereas she had been quite close to her other brother Joe, who was only a couple of years older than she was.
When Social Services had first contacted Ron, he had appeared reluctant to take on his sister's child, but after a lengthy discussion with them, he finally relented. Sam for his own part did not want to end up in a children's home, however, he was not keen to live with an uncle he had met only once either. Sam realized his options were rather limited, and so he chose what he thought was the better option, he chose to live with his uncle.
It was only as the train neared Yorkshire that Sam finally understood the implications of his decision. He had left an area he knew well, his old school, and his friends for life in the Yorkshire Dales. He had been a city boy, and now he was going to live in a farmhouse miles away from even the nearest village. It dawned on Sam that his life would never be the same again.
When Sam finally reached his destination he got out of the train, and examined the faces of all the people on the platform to see if he could see anyone resembling his uncle. After about five minutes the crowd on the platform began to disperse, and Sam grew a little more worried as there was still no sign of his relative. Suddenly Sam spotted a stocky man of about sixty coming towards him.
"Sam?" the man barked.
"Yes," Sam answered timorously.
"I'm your Uncle Ron," Sam's uncle said by means of introduction.
"Hello," Sam said quietly.
"Aye, well, I don't have all day. Give me your suitcases, and we'll get going," Uncle Ron said curtly.
As they walked towards his uncle's car Sam observed him a little more closely. He noticed that his mother's brother had a mass of thick white hair, and leathery, weather beaten skin. There was something about his uncle's face that disturbed Sam. He noticed that Uncle Ron had a deep scar on his left cheek which gave his face a slightly hard look, but it was not the scar that troubled Sam. It was his uncle's eyes. They were very dark, almost black, cold and rather expressionless. There was no warmth in Ron Blackshaw's face. Sam wondered how his kind, and gentle mother could have such a surly, mean looking brother.
Ron Blackshaw drove his Land Rover from the station to his home in the Dales. He spoke little to the boy, but Sam did not mind. His thoughts were elsewhere. As Sam observed the scenery, he thought how different it all was to his home in north London. Sam gazed at the hills and Dales, and thought it all rather beautiful. It was more rugged, and wilder looking than countryside he was used to. On the few occasions he had been to the countryside near London, Sam recalled how the scenery had seemed tamer and neater somehow. The fields had been divided by tall hedgerows, whereas here stone walls separated the fields, and in the more remote areas it had a more desolate, windswept look.
Forty minutes later they had arrived at Uncle Ron's farmhouse. It was a large ramshackle stone cottage, perched high up on a lonely hillside. Nearby was a small stream. A little bit further up the hill was a well, and at the bottom of the hill was a stone built barn. The farmhouse, well, and barn, were in a large field enclosed in every direction by stone walls. There was not another house or building in sight.
"We're about twenty minutes away from Ingleton here," Ron Blackshaw exclaimed. "Ingleton's the nearest village. I don't go into it much. Don't like the way the place is full of sightseers and caving enthusiasts, especially in the summer."
Sam sighed, he wondered what there was to do in such an isolated spot. Would he be able to make any friends, and where and how would he get to school? He thought with relief that it was the summer holidays for now. He would have time to settle into his new home before the beginning of term in September.