I hail a cab at Gatwick airport; throw my backpack in the trunk and sink into the creaking leather seats. Rain drizzles down the glass; little rivulets of water create lines in my view of the approaching city. My eyes close and a sour feeling rises from my stomach. When I open my eyes at a stoplight, I force myself to look straight ahead. I want to collapse on a soft bed and take a long nap, but I haven't even booked a room in London. Sixteen hours from now, I'd be in Paris.
The rain slows and comes to a stop as the cab drifts through the streets to the Tower of London. It hits me as I get out and hitch my backpack on my shoulders. I'm alone.
I stroll through the grounds, snapping photos, and trying to blend in with the crowd. I hover near a tour group. The guide is talking about the ravens, "...raw meat and bird formula biscuits soaked in blood. They also enjoy a whole rabbit now and then." I follow the group to a line for the Crown Jewels. I take a picture with a guard and buy a postcard from the shop.
On narrow streets, I look for the tube station that's supposed to be nearby. On the train, I pull out the postcard from my pocket. I can tell the truth; it's cold, grey, and I hate being alone. My mother will read it and show it to my father, saying, "I knew this trip would be a mistake. She should be at home." I write:
The grass at the Tower of London is impossibly green. Ravens strut their giant, shiny black bodies on the neatly manicured lawn. I'm sure they cut each blade with a pair of expensive scissors. It looks fake. The legend says that if the ravens leave the grounds, the kingdom will fall. I saw one fly away.
P.S. The kingdom did not fall.