“I think I would prefer Timon,” Paris said pursing her lips as if debating the matter internally.
“Well, classical names are probably more popular now than they were when I was a boy,” Timonthy mused. “But you see it seemed apt, when Lizzie and I were thinking of names, that we picked something classical too. Paris was a popular name then, so it fitted both ways.”
“I do like my name,” she said smiling. “I’m glad you helped Mother choose it.”
He had a sudden kick from his conscience and knew he had to speak even if it would make her unhappy.
“That doesn’t mean that I am your father unfortunately,” he stumbled watching her mute expression. “I mean, there is a very vague possibility that I might be but most probably I’m not, although you know I think of myself that way. I have always tried to be the best possible father that a person like me could be.”
“And you have been, that’s why I wish you really were,” she said and she got up to give him a hug. He felt unworthy of it, still hoping for his night of debauchery in someone else’s arms.
“Have you ever asked your Mother?” he said almost unwilling to hear the answer.
“No,” she said tight lipped. “It doesn’t seem right does it, having to ask your Mother which of the many men she slept with might be your biological father?”
“There weren’t that many,” he had to say in Lizzie’s defence “I think you should ask her, if it’s troubling you.”
“I’ll think about it,” Paris said. “I’m off to bed now. We’ve got an exciting day ahead of us, one way or the other.”
He watched her leave and make her way upstairs. He could see that the uncertainty was troubling her but was it all that was troubling her.
He sat in his chair facing the garden: he and the room lit up like a stage for the night sky. No-one could see him apart from potential people with telescopes a few miles away, or innocent peepers out of the aeroplane windows but it didn’t stop the sensation of being watched, on show.
He gave up. He wanted to watch the garden to make sure that if the men tried to escape he could block their exit and demand explanations but he wanted to do it in an unobserved way. He made his way upstairs hoping that they would not choose this moment to make their escape. Checking on Lizzie as he recovered his bag: she was snoring gently but peacefully as he closed her door again.
It sounded like Paris was still in the bathroom as he walked by, reaching the sanctuary of Stolid’s room and shutting that door behind him with a sense of relief.
He didn’t bother with the light, there was enough coming in from the crescent moon and the stars. The outline of the summer house was clear. They still had the torch on in there: it sprayed out through the windows like the glitter of a jewel. In his mind’s eye he saw them discussing the events of the evening; planning, laughing.
He sat down in the armchair by the window, remembering Johnathon sitting there, knowing that he was dying but still taking comfort out of the pleasure of being here. That thought tightened his chest and made breathing harder. Johnathon had always seemed to him to have a charmed life, after a shaky start. He had money; his father, who had been a bastard, had done the decent thing and died young; he’d always been healthy until this last illness and he’d found love and it seemed happiness.
He imagined Stolid in the other chair watching the man he loved dying, and powerless to do anything. God, that was a depressing thought! Not the sort of thing he needed to get him in the right mood. He needed to be in a good mood, or Stolid’s meddling would account for nothing and the night would be wasted.
He was hoping again, he chastised himself. He was hoping that Gerard hadn’t been playing with him all evening – to what end he couldn’t even begin to imagine – and that he and Will were not planning to vanish into the night, so they had no need to account for Stolid’s whereabouts. Surely not: they would have to leave all the plants and bulbs behind, they would have to assume that Stolid’s house was out of bounds for the foreseeable future, after all the trouble they had spent looking after his garden. No, he thought, he was justified in hoping and he needed to leave all depressing thoughts behind.
He decided to have another shower. It seemed a bit excessive, twice in one day, but he needed to get out of this cursed chair. The warm water on his naked skin would divert him into a better frame of mind. Slowly, he got up and undressed, still looking out of the window. He wanted to minimise the amount of time he wasn’t keeping an eye on the summer house. With a catch of breath, just as he was about to turn his back he saw the light turned off. He carried on watching carefully, breathing shallowly. His heart beat was the only thing he could hear.
Nothing happened for a while and he was about to continue his walk to the shower when he saw the top corner of the summerhouse door move. Disappointment threatened to suffocate him but he carried on watching. A figure appeared around the corner of the terrace: just one. The door shut behind it as far as he could tell.
Goosebumps suddenly covered his body and he reached for a dressing gown. His eyes were fixed on the figure. It wasn’t obviously a man, there was some sort of covering, probably a blanket, obscuring the shape and as it appeared to sit down transfigured it into some sort of giant mushroom.
What effect would the tinted glass have on his attempt to flash his light? He wasn’t sure but decided to open a window in case, so that at least a sliver of light would show.
There was a light switch by the bed so he could continue to watch the effect his signal had on the mushroom figure. It grew taller, transformed into a hooded bandit and hurried over to the dining room door, almost out of his sight.
He quietly opened his door again and noticing the bathroom door was ajar he padded downstairs. He crept into the living room, grateful that he had left all the internal doors open, found the key for the outer door and gently opened it.
A blast of freezing cold air coated him. The dark figure darted in and Timonthy shivered, shutting the door quickly behind him. Removing the blanket from around his head and shoulders Gerard let it fall to the floor.
“That was quick,” he said quietly. “I was expecting to wait for longer than that. That’s why I brought the blanket.”
“I’m not sure that everyone is asleep,” Timonthy confessed. “I didn’t want you to get cold.”
He didn’t want to admit that he’d been fast as he wanted to relieve his fear that Gerard had no intention of visiting him. Now this fear had gone completely he felt as if he floated just a few inches above the floor, like land crushed and then released by glaciers.
“Do you want to stay here for a while then?” Gerard asked.