October 31, 2021

Book 5/Extract 14

By aarondkey

He told her about everything Paris and he had discovered. He told her about the visitors they were expecting tomorrow and their worry that they might come while they were still sleeping.

“That is quite creepy,” she shook her head and paused. “How does Paris seem to you? I thought she sounded down, not her normal self.”

“There is definitely something bothering her,” Timonthy said. “I wasn’t sure whether it was just the fact that she was worrying about Stolid disappearing, the rest of us going our separate ways or whether it was something else completely and these were just thoughts she was using to distract herself.”

“You know her so well,” Lizzie said with warm approval sounding in her voice. “I thought that she would benefit from spending time with you.”

“So presumably you’re expecting these intruders to turn up early?” she continued. “Before eight,” he nodded remembering how her mind always ran onto the next step, the next task.

“When are you going to sleep?” she asked.

“I was going to wake Paris about 3 o clock and sleep to eight or so, unless we do get disturbed.”

“Why don’t you go to sleep now?” Lizzie said. “It’s half past one and I’m wide awake. If we do have a long drive tomorrow we’ll need the driver to stay awake. I’ll come and wake you if someone comes to the door. I’ll run up like lightning.”

Timonthy had a sudden image of Lizzie running up the stairs and perhaps being stopped by one of the intruders. He couldn’t believe that he had ever thought that it was a good idea to leave Paris there at the most likely time for their arrival. But she hadn’t complained, he thought with approval.

“No, you go to sleep,” he said. “You and Paris can always drive if we’re desperate to leave tomorrow.”

“You are my hero,” Lizzie said without a hint of sarcasm and she nestled her head into his shoulder. He gently pressed his arm around her shoulders in a reassuring but wary way as if in gratitude. “I will go to bed in a minute,” she said, “if you’re sure that’s okay with you. I expect the travelling will kick in a minute and I’ll be out like a light.”

They drank their tea in silence for a while. Lizzie got out her phone and pressed buttons briefly.

Timonthy’s phone began to ring. He took it out and laid it on the breakfast bar and looked at her questioningly.

“I wanted to show you how to answer it,” she said smiling.

She took his phone, looked at it briefly and then dragged his hand over and holding his unresponsive index finger she dragged it slowly over the green light showing by a picture of her face.

“Hello,” she said into her own phone.

“Hello,” he replied heavily. He had almost forgotten why he had refused to talk to her on the mobile phone. Absence had made him forget why she annoyed him so much but her look of triumph was beginning to remind him.

“A giant leap for man!” she said. “I was only trying to tell you I was on the ferry and that I would be at the house in an hour or so.”

“You know how it is,” he tried to explain. “By the time you’ve found the thing or dragged it out of your pocket, you’ve only got seconds before it cuts to voice mail, and I haven’t the faintest idea how to listen to a voice mail.”

“You see this tick here,” Lizzie explained as if to a child but he acknowledged that he deserved it, “that means that someone tried to phone you. If you drag this down and press this you can ring that number back and find out if it was important. You don’t have to do that for everyone but perhaps just for me.” She smiled hopefully at him and Timonthy thought, if I find this annoying it is my fault for acting like a child in the first place. Always being able to see the other person’s point of view was a burden in a way. He was seldom able to feel justifiably angry.

“Where shall I sleep?” Lizzie asked.

“Paris made up our bed. It’s all yours,” Timonthy shrugged.

“Why don’t you come up too,” she suggested. “If we open the window that looks over the front drive you would hear them as easily as sitting by the door but you could lie on the bed in comfort.”

“I would fall asleep,” he said after contemplating her idea. “Then I might not hear them. We might be murdered in our beds.”

“Well we might,” Lizzie said. “I assume you’re thinking now that these are not Stolid’s friends but some other criminals intent on committing serious garden-related theft. I just can’t imagine these desperate people getting here and tidying Stolid’s garden up before they start their criminal activities properly. It doesn’t make sense, does it? By the way I parked on the road like you did. There’s nothing to put them off pulling onto the drive and if our open window is subtle nothing to alert them to the fact that we’re there at all.”

He was reassured by her matter of fact manner and followed her upstairs. It was a relief to lie stretched out on the bedcovers still fully dressed and ready for action, just his shoes on the floor beside the bed, as she got ready in the bathroom. There was no sound from Paris’s room so he was sure she had managed to fall asleep. She would have greeted her mother otherwise.

He had opened the window and peered out. He was sure Lizzie was right. The driveway was gravel and it was impossible to drive or even walk over it without making a noise.

He could lie here and still be downstairs before they had got the door open. Here too he had the advantage that he could quickly look out and assess the situation before making his way downstairs.

Lizzie crept quietly out of the bathroom and shut the door behind her obviously trying not to wake Paris. He avoided watching her as she made her way round the side of the bed. His quick sideways glance had assured him that she did not have a lot on and what she did have was designed to make her more attractive than not, he imagined.

She crept under the blankets and said quite fiercely,

“You need not worry. I’ve given up on expecting you to fancy me. I know that is never going to happen.”

“I’m sorry,” he said.

“It’s not your fault. It is only my stupidity that injures me,” she said, again sounding as if she was angry at him. He decided to take the meaning of the words, not the mixed signals she was giving out.

“I will go back downstairs if you want me too,” he said mildly.

“Oh just ignore me, I’m tired,” Lizzie said impatiently. “You know, sometimes I think that you and I would have got on so much better if you had only told me to sod off instead of always being considerate. I know when I’m being unbearable. I just can’t help it.”

She rested her head on the pillow and gave him a brave smile.

“Don’t forget; wake me up if you hear anything.”

“I will,” he promised.

They lay in silence: she curled up like a mouse, her face hidden behind a sheet of hair: he on his front, his head turned onto the pillow, his back gently stretching upwards. She looked so helpless and sad lying there, like the night she told him she was expecting and she was afraid. He turned towards her and rested his head on one hand. He stretched out the other and stroked her head gently.

“Goodnight,” he said quietly. Without moving her body she grabbed his hand and kissed it almost reverently

It gave him an uncomfortable feeling as if he were a humble saint knowing that he didn’t deserve reverence only understanding.

“I love you, Timonthy,” she whispered.

“I love you too,” he was able to say with complete truthfulness as he retrieved his hand.

She gave him a rueful smile and shut her eyes. He watched her warily for a while but as her breathing grew smooth he drowsed off and on.

It grew cold and a harsh white light started to slant through the open window. It sounded like hundreds of birds were gathering outside just to wake him. Subconsciously he liked the sound: birdsong was a reassurance that the world was alright, better than sirens, or the rattling of lorries or men shouting in argument.

He glanced across at the alarm clock. It was half past six so he had managed to sleep for a few hours but it was probably time to be alert again.

Lizzie stirred a little as he got up from the bed and slipped his shoes on again but she did not wake. He walked quietly downstairs and made his way to the kitchen. He was not going to risk the instant coffee again but he put the kettle on for tea.

Although it was just light the sun was still hidden beneath the horizon or clouds. He took his tea and a couple of biscuits, as a substitute for breakfast, over to the dining table and looked moodily across the view. Only lack of sleep he said to himself as he rubbed his face trying to restore life to his brain.

In spite of the tea inside him and in front of him his eyes were still drooping as he sat there until he heard a laugh. It was a man’s laugh, not unpleasant in any way but the sound of it made the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end.