“Yes I will,” he promised.
“And give it back to them after?” There was a definite tone in her voice that suggested she thought this would be foolish.
“Well,” he thought about it, “as far as we know, this is what Stolid arranged, to look after his garden and house. I don’t see I will have any choice until we see Stolid and check with him that he knows what’s going on.”
“I suppose the garden is being well looked after,” she said looking as he did out of the window. Their view to the side was partly obscured by the plants and sacks that had been moved but they could see them still. Gerard was cutting the grass and Will was far away at the bottom of the garden probably keeping the hedgerow in check.
“I’d let them do my garden,” Timonthy said lightly.
She looked at him laughing. “So do you think one of these two men is Stolid’s new love?”
He thought about it briefly. “No, I don’t think so. They seemed quite detached when they were talking about him. As if he was a stranger brought into their world and not yet fully part of it.”
“Anyway enough of Stolid. I’m going to have a quick sleep. I haven’t recovered from all that travelling yesterday.” She gave him a quick kiss on his forehead and left.
He carried on reading and he fell asleep. Waking up with a start, he wiped away a small dribble from the side of his mouth. That hadn’t been his intention. He didn’t want to be looked at with his mouth open: as if any more was needed to make him look old and unattractive.
Paris walked into the room and grinned at him.
“You’ve woken up,” she said brightly. “What a pair you are – both asleep in the middle of the afternoon! I’ve had to do a bit of gardening, just for some company. I’ve been chatting to Will. He is very nice, I think. I am quite reassured that we will find Uncle Stolid soon and that he is fine.”
“Don’t you think he’s a bit odd?” Timonthy said. He wanted reassurance that his own views were valid.
“He’s missing his wife and children,” she said. “He doesn’t like leaving them, though he’s had to do it a few times recently. I think that’s quite sweet. They’re fourteen, ten and eight. Perhaps that’s why he doesn’t seem completely relaxed.”
“I didn’t think he was old enough to have children that age,” Timonthy commented. “But he’s definitely on edge about something.”
“And Gerard, he’s off the planet!” Paris said and Timonthy grimaced to hear her talking so casually, and confirming his own worries at the same time.
“In what way do you mean?” he asked trying to look wisely interested.
“I don’t quite know. He asked me some very strange questions: about Uncle Stolid and you.”
“What sort of questions?” he asked warily.
“Well he wanted to know all about you: where you were born, where you lived, and what you did for a living. He was talking about Uncle Stolid as if he had saved him from dying in a war rather than being a head gardener. Then he was asking questions about obvious things, about money, food and the government but only when Will was too far away to hear him. As soon as he came closer he was quiet again.”
“Possibly off the planet,” Timonthy shook his head. He could see that Gerard wanted to know a lot of things but he didn’t understand why he didn’t know these things already. He had already established that he wasn’t stupid and he was obviously eager to learn. Was it something to do with the unfortunate experiences he’d had in the Middle East? He wasn’t completely sure, but he thought he was flattered that Gerard had shown an interest in him.
Then he thought about Lizzie’s question and his own answer. Anyone who could hero worship Stolid must be under the influence of some reality alteration substance; love seemed the most logical one but this conclusion left him baffled.
“I think we ought to take them out to dinner,” Paris suggested. “If we could get them slightly drunk perhaps we’d learn a bit more.”
Timonthy thought this was a good idea. “I’ll suggest it in a bit.”
“Do you mind me asking,” Paris hesitated, “did you ever go to Paris with my mother?”
“Yes,” Timonthy said. “We had a lovely few days there.”
She noticeably brightened. “Yes, you were on a skiing trip with the school,” he continued and her face dropped again.
“Was that the only time?”
“Yes, why?” he asked surprised by the look on her face. “What’s bothering you? You’ve not been right since we started on this journey.”
They both heard the door open and turned together to see Lizzie.
“What are you two up to?” she said. “Are you planning something?”
“We’re going to invite Will and Gerard out to dinner,” Paris said brightly. Timonthy looked at her closely. There was no sign of anything wrong in her expression. Whatever it was she was determined to hide it from her mother.
“Why?” Lizzie asked.
“We’re going to get them to talk, hopefully.” Paris explained.
“Well that should be fun. They’re nothing, if not entertaining.” Lizzie sounded unimpressed.