He knew he wanted to have sex. He was reasonably clear on that: in spite of the fact that Lizzie and his daughter would be back any minute; that a woman called Elena and a man called Will were around potentially demanding his attention; that he really had no idea whether Gerard was interested; that he could see no reason why he would be; he didn’t even mind if he wasn’t. He could happily amuse himself in a private place until the temporary madness passed and then judgementally analyse his lack of self control.
This thought caused a spasm of shame to cross his face which he hoped had passed unnoticed. These were normal thoughts at least for him but there were others unbidden, lurking, bobbing like drowning men on the surface of his mind. Hopes perhaps: though he tried the equivalence of beating them on the head with an oar, patting them down under the water so that the sea was untroubled and calm. Stupid hopes! What relevance to him did this stranger have?
He lived so far away that even post or a phone signal couldn’t reach him. He liked horses. Timonthy had always subconsciously avoided people who cared for horses thinking the animal affection was a substitution for the pursuit of knowledge and improvement. He knew that was an intellectually snobbish thought which he wasn’t entitled to, given his own avoidance strategies but it was an innate prejudice that had always been with him. Could he change?
What did he hope for? A companion for his declining years? In twenty years if he was still alive he would be a shell of a man, walking with aid if at all and unable to perform the most basic functions of man in a dignified way and this man, if by some miracle he was still with him, would barely have reached his own current age. Gerard was twenty years or more younger than him. He knew he would have said thirty but the number stuck in his throat. He had nothing to offer to make up for that.
Or was he looking for a dalliance, a momentary titillation, or just a meeting of minds to pass the time. So many questions!
His mind was racing beyond what was surely appropriate for the moment. He imagined a world in which the object of his sudden obsession was completely unaware of his thoughts, thinking their meeting just the normal commerce of the day and he felt deflated. It was so little different to the world around him.
They had made their way back to the wall where the tea mugs still stood in a row. Gerard looked hopefully into his. In spite of his initial distaste there was not much left. He took a sip.
“It’s gone cold.”
The sentence hung in the air like a question mark. He was waiting for something Timonthy realised that he had not noticed, while wallowing in his own imminent decay.
“Do you want another one?” he finally said, thinking that it was a bit much. His fascination had turned him into a sort of domestic slave.
“I would,” Gerard said eagerly. “You could show me how you make this drink.”
Timonthy reflected that he didn’t mind the chore as long as he was provided with the company. They went in through the dining room doors and both left their shoes by the door.
“You’re not serious, are you?” Timonthy said as he made his way to the kitchen. “You know how to make tea really?”
“That was the first time I have had this drink,” Gerard admitted.
“What do you drink in Scotland when it gets cold?” Timonthy asked curiously.
“It doesn’t get cold in Scotland. We mainly drink water.”
Timonthy looked at him gravely wondering whether this was some sort of subtle joke that he didn’t quite understand but Gerard didn’t smile. Now Timonthy was baffled but he carried on doing what he knew how to do, make the tea.
“The water comes out of these pipes,” Gerard said as Timonthy filled up the kettle. “And the jug makes magical fire to heat the water?”
He must surely be winding him up now, Timonthy thought with some annoyance but Gerard had moved closer, staring into the spout of the kettle with no obvious embarrassment, and flinching as the steam hit his face.
Timonthy put tea bags into three new mugs and they waited: Timonthy with arms crossed waiting for the joke to be explained. So he had been stupid but he wasn’t sure he deserved this.
“I’m sorry,” Gerard said looking at his face with a worried expression. “I must seem very ignorant to you.”
“Gerard, are you here?” Will’s voice shouted out.
“In here,” Gerard answered and moved towards the back doors. He reached them just as Will did from the other side and stepped back to allow him to come in.
“We’ve had a change of plan,” Will said. “Peter’s going to drive down tomorrow and pick us up. Elena’s gone to London. She’ll make her own way home.”
He turned to Timonthy. “Sorry you won’t see Elena today but Peter will be able to answer all your questions when he comes tomorrow.”
Timonthy was starting to feel suspicious that the answers he sought were being put back and back to distract him, so that they might escape without answering anything – leaving him in the dark still.
“You’re making more tea, oh good,” Will said rubbing his hands in appreciation.
“I understand you don’t drink tea in Scotland?” Timonthy said. He was fed up of being the one on the end of the joke.
“Well I do,” Will said without guile. “I’m not sure about Gerard here. He does his own thing.”
The two men exchanged a glance, of warning or of understanding. Timonthy couldn’t read it.
“We’ll have to move the plants and bulbs into the back garden,” Will said cradling his mug now. “I know it’s not likely they’ll be stolen but after all this effort to get them, I want to be sure. Then we should finish tidying this garden. We’ll need to find somewhere to sleep for tonight. We’d normally rest here, if we’ve needed to before, but perhaps you wouldn’t like that?”
“I don’t want to seem inhospitable but I don’t think Lizzie and Paris would be that keen, as you are strangers to us,” Timonthy said.