The first pale pink threads of dawn wove their way across the sky, and the patchwork fields that covered the hillsides shook off their grey coating of sleep and slowly flickered to life in brilliant greens and yellows.
Under his tree Henry began to stir.
It was cold and mist still clung to the grass, but Henry’s coat was a sturdy one, if a little worn. He pulled himself up to sitting, and chafed the cold from his arms. There was still a splash of cold tea in his flask. Henry unscrewed the cap and poured it into the lid and sipped at it as the sun crept across the sky.
His supplies were low. He’d walked a full day yesterday and hadn’t eaten since the night before that. Three shrivelled apples and the heel of bread he’d filched from the last town bakery - he’d need to find the nearest village for supplies.
It wasn’t far, as it turned out. Henry walked along a high ridge over the neat fields and there, nestled in among a cluster of hills, was a small village, the newborn sun glinting orange on their tiled rooves.
Even in a tiny place like this Henry felt wrong. He saw passers by glance at his tattered coat and muddy boots, saw their eyes slide away from him as they hurried on, afraid he would beg food or a coin.
Henry kept his own eyes on the ground.
The village was busy. Outside the greengrocers Henry watched in awe as the shop boy balanced the final orange on top of a teetering pile. He held his breath. It stayed up.
The air was filled with the smell of freshly baked bread and Henry thought, for the first time in a very long while, that perhaps it would be nice to belong somewhere like this. To have a soft bed and warm fire to come home to, regular meals and maybe even someone to wash and darn his socks. His current pair were filthy and riddled with holes.
He moved slowly, turning the handful of coins over in his pocket. He stopped outside the baker’s, arrested by the smell, and peered inside. There were steaming crusty white rolls and thick seeded loaves, a tray of small cakes filled with raisins and soft sponges with jam and cream.
He went to push open the door, when he felt a small tug on his sleeve. A small girl was staring at him, wide-eyed.
“There’s a hole in your boot.”
“What’s your name?”
Henry opened his mouth to answer, but before he could crank his rusty voice croak into life, the child was whipped suddenly away. Henry watched in dismay as she was bustled into the apron of a large, sour-faced woman who shot angry looks at Henry without ever quite meeting his gaze.
Henry closed his mouth again slowly. He found the luster of the morning was wearing awaynow, like the shine coming off a new penny.
But as he turned back to the shop he caught sight of a bright face beaming back at him over her mother’s shoulder and suddenly henry’s nostrils filled again with the aroma of freshly baked bread and Henry pushed open the door of the baker’s to buy his breakfast.