“I’m sorry,” Timonthy said. He had a sudden thought. He could see now that Gerard was not stupid but he was very far from interacting with his environment normally. It reminded him of another time: an evening in the week when Paris was young: six or seven. He picked up the phone and felt his heart sink as Stolid said,
“Hi, it’s me.”
Stolid never phoned. It was always Johnathon who phoned up for a chat or an invitation. Stolid’s voice could only mean that something bad had happened.
“What is it?” he asked nervously.
“Johnathon’s written off his car,” Stolid said haltingly. “He’s not hurt,” he said quickly as Timonthy drew his breath in sudden panic. “But he’s not right. I think he’s lost his memory. Not completely, he knows who I am but he seems to have forgotten simple things like his pin numbers, where he gets his hair cut, what food he likes. He’s almost like a completely different person. I don’t know what to do. Should I insist he goes to see a doctor? I don’t even know if I’m imagining it all.”
“We’ll come and see him this weekend,” he had promised and they had. Then he and Lizzie had seen what Stolid meant. Johnathon had been like a …floating being. His mind bobbed along the surface of life with little connections of delight: everything had been new to him. He had still been thoughtful and incisive, still witty and warm: just disconnected. Johnathon had refused to be seen by anyone with any medical qualifications in spite of their insistence and gradually he seemed to recover his place in the world, until they all forgot that this interlude had ever happened. He had always wondered whether it had been the shock of the accident, of almost dying. Perhaps it had been the same for Gerard. Something happened to him that his friends avoided dwelling on. Perhaps this had set his mind free to wonder from his body like a balloon torn free from a mourning child’s hand.
They heard the door-bell. Will and Timonthy turned to each other as if wondering who was going to get it.
“It’s probably for you,” Timonthy said.
“I’ll go. I’ll let you know if it is for you,” Will said and disappeared down the side path.
Gerard took another sip of his tea in a studied way. “It’s growing on me,” he grinned.
Timonthy felt a sudden appreciation of contentment. He did not know why he was content: whether it was the sun, the pleasant surroundings, the company, or just the fact that he had something interesting to do with a definite aim.
“Your friend is alright,” Gerard said tentatively. “I hope that Elena will be able to arrange something to prove that to you but I know it is the case.”
Timonthy was comforted by that assurance even though he knew, he still acknowledged, that these men could lie.
“And Peter is a good man. He will make sure he comes to no harm.”
“I’d ike to see him though,” Timonthy said. “If I do drive to Scotland will I see you there, or will you still be travelling around?”
“No, we’re going back after we’ve finished here. I’ll be working in the garden again. Make sure you get good directions from Elena though. You’ll never find us otherwise.”
They heard the sound of Will shouting down the side passage, his voice transformed by the wind into a haunting mournful noise.
“I’m wanted,” Gerard said leaping up. He disappeared down the side of the house and Timonthy followed out of curiosity at a slower pace.
As he emerged he saw Will and Gerard carry a large round sack, with some effort. There were already three smaller sacks stood near the plant collection, and another large one waiting on the edge of the lorry’s delivery platform. He looked inside one of the sacks to see bulbs. He began to have an appreciation of the size of the garden Stolid had taken on, and perhaps a reason for his not being in touch. It was beyond anything he had ever done before. He must be so far out of his comfort zone it was no wonder that he seemed not to be focusing on the present.
He was interested to see what sort of vehicle Elena had taken shopping with her. It would need to be sizeable. The delivery lorry departed as Will walked down the road a little, holding his hand to an ear and talking. Gerard turned back to Timonthy with a laugh.
“We’ve just realised there’s no way we’re going to get all this lot in our van. He’s talking to ….the boss to see how we’re going to manage it all.”
The word boss did not come naturally, Timonthy thought. He wondered which word Gerard would have used if he had not been told to use that one. They walked down the side of the house again.
“When are your wife and daughter due back?” Gerard asked, stopping abruptly but still making the question sound like general conversation.
Timonthy was behind him unable to continue. He felt uncomfortable trapped in this corridor between two house walls but he said calmly.
“I don’t have a wife,” he said. “She’s a friend. I’d imagine they could be back at any moment. They’ve been shopping.”
Gerard continued walking and said in a pleasant, casually interested tone.
“The young one is your daughter though?”
“I think of her as my daughter, that is true,” Timonthy replied. He felt regretful, in a way he had tried not to be since he learnt that Paris was due, that she was almost certainly not his own child.
“She looks like you, a little,” Gerard said.
Timonthy knew that was true. He believed it was because Paris had unconsciously picked up his mannerisms, ways of holding her head, expressions he used that transfigured her face. He imagined that it would be the same for chicks who had adopted a cat as their mother. Would they learn to sway like a cat, to try and purr, to nestle their heads like their mother? He didn’t know but it seemed to be the case with Paris. Even Lizzie, whom he assumed knew who Paris’s father was, commented on their similar expressions.
“A little like her mother also,” Gerard continued and he looked thoughtful.
Timonthy wanted to know why he looked thoughtful. He wanted to know everything that was running through his head but he knew it was foolish to expect the thoughts once extracted to make sense. His own thoughts would have made no-one any wiser as to his motives, his intentions, his hopes and his fears. He tried to see clearly and all he saw were a thousand haphazard zigzags, bloodlines on skin. He was a mystery even unto himself.