Chapter 24: Pain

“Pain is just weakness leaving the body” and “Pain is temporary. Quitting lasts forever.”, the jockish rugby players used to quote, owning the sayings as if they were their own.

Now, staring up at the clear blue sky crumpled in a heap like a disused paper bag, she started to think that those idiots had no idea of pain.

She couldn’t tell exactly where the source of the pain was coming from, but she guessed her dodgy knee might have finally decided enough was enough.

Michele and the Colonel were staring down at her, the former blinking madly almost like he was being electrocuted by an invisible current, and the latter doing the complete opposite, eyes-wide, unblinking and looking somewhat like an oversized human Bambi.

It was all going so well she thought, one minute she was drifting back across to the piazza to her... what was he? Almost-boyfriend? Holiday romance? The next moment she had tripped over her own feet and would be cursing herself if it wasn’t for the damn pain!

“Miss? Miss? English Miss? Are you ok?”, the Colonel asked, having abandoned his Tupperware at the first sign of an emergency.

When the hurt is that bad you can’t even form the words or the sounds.

The only time she had even come close to this excruciating feeling was many years before. She had slammed that specific memory into the filing cabinet of her mind, and she had made sure it had stayed locked away, until that exact moment. Double whammy.

She had just finished her final exams at college and was looking forward to a summer of freedom and fun. He’d been called Luke, her boyfriend at the time, pulling off the swagger of a young John Trovalto and looks of a rugged James Dean, he was beyond perfect. The allure didn’t stop there, he had a motorbike, he was a year older, and he worshipped the ground she walked on. Until he didn’t.

Unlike the heartthrobs in the films, there wasn’t a happy ending for her and her first love, because although he was her one and only, she wasn’t his. Which she only found out on that afternoon as she bounded over to his place. She’d managed to get away an hour or so early, and she wanted to surprise him. She had definitely surprised him, along with the leggy brunette who lived down the road who was mimicking the startled impression that the Colonel had been sporting.

The rest, as they say, was history.

It was her first infatuation, and the pain that comes with going cold turkey, from any addiction, well she felt like that was akin to what she was experiencing right now.

“Sophie”, she heard another voice, bringing her back to the present. It was Michele. “Wa-re does it ‘urt?” he was asking.

She tried to gesture towards her knee, but the very movement of any part of her body made her leg throb in angry agony.

It was like the white tunnel they tell you about. You know, the one in films when the end is nigh and everyone is preparing to get the Kleenex out, but as she blinked into the blinding lights, she realised she wasn’t in a movie, or indeed heading towards the pearly gates. She was just in a room which was so stark and bright it took a second for her eyes to adjust.

She could just about make out a figure beside her before the figure sprang into the air at the sight of her now conscious body.

“Sophie!” Michele exclaimed, “Y-you are awake?”

“Where am I?”

“Ah, you are home, you are in Ing-land!”

It took a moment for her brain to process, wasn’t she just in Italy, did Michele swap his Vespa for a Tardis?

Seeing the confusion on her face, Michele began to explain what had happened. She had fallen and the pain had been so bad it caused her to blackout. The Colonel had immediately gone into military-mode and whisked her off to the barracks and demanded his team of medics look after her. It turned out, however, that when she’d fallen her knee had gone in pretty bad, Michele struggling with the language barrier couldn’t remember, let alone pronounce, any of the medical terms they had used to describe the injury. Plying her with morphine, the medical team had looked at the dysfunctional joint and realised it was clear that they didn’t have either the experience or necessary equipment to perform the desired intricate knee op. The Colonel being new to Italy, and having little faith in most hospitals outside of his own on mainland Europe, decided the best option would be to stick her in one of their light-aircrafts and whisk her back home, on the recommendation that some extra gas and air wouldn’t go amiss, in order to avoid any further damage or trauma.

So there she was. It took her a while to take it in.

“But zee good neeews is that it’s ok, zee, come se dice operazione, it went good! You’ll be ok. And when you are better you show me Ing-land ok? I think I might like dis place for a holiday.”

Her brain was still a muddle, and the pain in her leg had become uncomfortable ache. England? But she was home. And he was here? It was a lot to take in, like she was sitting in a fast car hurtling along a highway, clinging onto the seats and praying for it to slow down. Oh God, she was scared, but in the back of her mind there was that little voice echoing the young Italians words, that she knew somehow, this time, she would be ok because as the boys at school used to say ‘pain is only temporary’.


Note from the Fleek Team: We hope you have enjoyed Sophie's slow travel adventures as much as we did, and that it gave you an insight into the joys and unexpected experiences of slow-traveling. Next week, we have a new and exciting guest blogger who is going to be sharing her experiences of slow-travelling and going even further to let us know what it’s like to live as a self-professed nomad.

We are always on the lookout for exciting new guest bloggers, so if you’ve got experience of slow-living or slow-travelling, or you are just dipping your toes into this world, then get in touch today. Email us at to join the Featured by Fleek team.

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