Timonthy felt strangely indecisive. He was tempted, deeply tempted to throw caution to the wind and stay there but he had this image in his head of Paris coming down to see what the commotion was and putting the light on to see him wrinkled and exposed.
“No, we’ll go upstairs,” he said picking up Gerard’s blanket from where it made an untidy mess on the living room floor. They padded lightly and reached the safety of the bedroom again.
In the semi-dark Gerard’s wandering hand found its way into his dressing gown.
“God, your hands are cold,” Timonthy said. He wondered why he had bothered speaking. Was it just to provide a commentary to relieve him from feelings of awkwardness? Gerard seemed to have wondered the same, as he kissed him as if to shut him up. Timonthy remembered,
“I was just about to have a shower. Do you want to join me?”
“Why were you so tense?” Gerard asked.
“Paris said that Will doesn’t have a mobile phone,” Timonthy confessed at last. “I thought that you were messing us about, planning to leave in the night, if Peter wasn’t coming to get you.”
“Well of course he’s got a mobile,” Gerard said with a frown. “He must have been winding her up. That would be stupid otherwise.”
“How did he get hold of Peter in a place with no phone reception?” Timonthy asked heavily.
“Peter usually goes to work every day. He works all over the place. He was probably in Edinburgh, perhaps at the airport.” Gerard said and then he added. “I don’t actually know if Will did get hold of Peter. It might have been Elena he was ringing. She always knows how to contact Peter. You’re so suspicious of us. I’m surprised you agreed to me coming to see you.”
“I agreed to it because I wanted it,” Timonthy said. “But I couldn’t help wondering what I have to offer to you.”
Gerard made a sound as if he was laughing.
“For a man with nothing to offer you’ve done alright,” he said. “And don’t forget, you did want it, you wanted me. That’s important to me.”
“What will happen tomorrow,” Timonthy asked, “when you go back to this remote place you live in? Will I ever see you again?”
“Do you want to see me again?” Gerard asked.
Timonthy thought about this carefully. He had asked out of politeness, he thought, or habit but he did really want to know.
“Of course I do,” he replied more enthusiastically than he had intended.
“I’d like to see you again too,” Gerard said. “I hoped that you intended to follow us to Scotland tomorrow.”
Of course that had been his original intention. He had become confused in the course of thinking that there was plotting going on. He had forgotten that he meant to do that so that he could talk to Stolid and make sure that he was happy and uninhibited in his choices.
It reassured him that Gerard seemed sure that the journey would take place and that there would be no objection to his following them. Surely nothing strange could be taking place in that circumstance. Unless the strangeness was so outlandish that it was worth the risk of luring three people out of the way and killing them for. That was a random thought that had just popped into his brain. He determined that he would make sure people at his business knew where he was within a few miles in case he disappeared, and more importantly to try to bargain their safety with the threat of justice.
Even if this eventuality turned out to be the truth he couldn’t believe that Gerard or Will were any more than innocent pawns, just as Stolid was presumably: anyway he scolded himself his imagination was out of control.
Gerard was looking at him as if he could see the thoughts running through his head. He smiled,
“You’ll feel better tomorrow, when you see Peter. I’d better go, I suppose.”
“No. Don’t go yet,” Timonthy said, with his arm on his chest. He was feeling warm and drowsy and the thought of getting out of bed was not tempting.
“If we fall asleep I will be here when the morning comes. Is that what you want?”
Timonthy wondered. He tried to be subtle. He didn’t believe in rubbing his sex life into people’s faces. It wasn’t the ‘done’ thing, he felt, and he avoided people who didn’t agree. There was a fine line between that and being ashamed, though. He wondered if he had crossed it.
“Stay, if you want to,” he said. Peaceful: that was how he felt. He didn’t remember feeling this way before after meeting someone new. It was usually a feeling like drinking sherbet. He felt he was on the verge of his own nightingale moment, a wistful, cherished, probably impractical day dream inspired by the Decameron.
“I do want to and not just because it is cold,” Gerard said. “I am feeling guilty about leaving Will on his own but I wouldn’t choose him over you, so he will have to cope.”
The next morning Timonthy woke to the smell of cooking bacon, and the sound of running water. Gerard emerged from the bathroom and Timonthy’s heart sunk a little. In the bright daylight it was clear that Gerard was too young for him. He did not want to be an old man lusting after youth. He knew thirty-odd was not very young but it seemed that way to him. This relationship could not last, even in his own imagination and he knew that he wanted it to.
Gerard threw himself onto the bed beside him.
“Why are you looking dismayed?” he asked. “Have I done something wrong?”
“You’re going home today,” Timonthy said thoughtfully.
“But you’re coming too,” that was a definite question.
“Yes,” Timonthy replied and did not finish the rest of the sentence in which he expressed his hopes, his doubts, and his sadness of losing before the loss.
In the kitchen Paris and Will were cooking together. The results looked appetising.
“You’re up bright and early,” he said to Paris, remembering that there had been no food in the house.
“I’m full of energy,” she said with a face shining with enthusiasm. She looked like he would have felt thirty years ago after a night with a new love. He hoped that he hadn’t been the only one to shelter a stranger from the cold. Without believing in the story of Moses and the Ten Commandments, he could see that years of observing misery and folly had led to their creation. He didn’t approve of interfering with married men with children. It could only lead to heartache for everyone concerned: the innocent as well as the guilty. He could only trust to his daughter’s common sense, as he hoped she trusted to his.
Gerard had recovered his clothes and joined them: now a looming figure in the crowded kitchen. He looked helpless and got in the way until Timonthy pressed a hot tea into his hands, directing him to the dining table. The smell of toast was alluring but Timonthy soon realised that he was in the way too and sat in the window beside Gerard.
In the story of the nightingale a lover’s relatives had rejoiced in their union, taken pity on their situation with admirable tolerance and allowed them to sleep late. He checked his watch. It was only half past eight but then he was not young and the exertions of the night hadn’t been excessive.
“Have you seen your mother this morning?” he asked Paris as she brought a couple of full plates over. Will brought the others and greeted Gerard cheerfully as if he had only just noticed him.
“The door was shut and I decided not to disturb her,” Paris said.
“Do you know roughly what time Peter is going to get here?” Timonthy asked Will.
“I checked this morning. He was on course for arriving here at ten, traffic willing,” Will said.
Timonthy could not help the swift look at Paris to see if she had witnessed this call and taken back the suspicion about the phone.
She gave him a little embarrassed smile that was his answer. Will did have a phone then and he hadn’t been lying. That was a relief to him.
“How did you sleep?” he couldn’t help asking Will. Yes, he trusted her but he was a little worried by her recent uneasiness. Had it been sufficient to make her lose her common sense, her common decency?
“Like a log,” Will said heartily, unconsciously repeating Gerard’s prediction. “I was woken early by the dawn though. The sun shone straight into the summer house.”