He turned his back subtly so that he could no longer see Johnathon, although he knew he was still lumbering towards him, and lowered his head to whisper in Gerard’s ear.
“Let’s try and ignore him,” he said and then, because the smell of the man’s neck was irresistible and spurred on by the desire to put his friend off, he kissed him. Gerard humoured him by caressing him back: a light, mocking gesture that electrified him. They sat in this posture unmoving, waiting for the possible interruption for a moment and then Timonthy turned his head. “Has he gone?” he asked quietly.
He braced himself for the quite likely curt answer from Johnathon but it didn’t come. “I think he took the hint,” Gerard said with humour in his voice.
“Let’s go to bed,” Timonthy suggested, intending to banish all his worries until the next day. But he failed. In the dark, in a blanket of warm contentment he couldn’t help asking, “You remember that time we went for a walk around the garden and you were left behind. How long were we away for?”
“Why are you thinking of that?” Gerard asked and he sounded hurt. “It was ten days or so,” he eventually mumbled.
“Why?” Timonthy asked him exasperated beyond the point of consideration. “What was the point of it?”
“Well, your friend Stolid, the one you have seen since you have been here is not the same man Will left gardening here a few days ago…..He was still here until a few days ago but not in a fit state to greet you. It would’ve been too much for you to see both of them at the same time so Damon Ich moved you in time
“How do these people keep up?” Timonthy wondered aloud.
“Practice I presume,” he could tell in the dark that Gerard was laughing by the sound of his voice. “I understand now why you were grumpy,” Timonthy acknowledged.
“It was dull and I had to stay out of the way most of the time. There was another version of me wandering around at the beginning and then of course, it was important that Stolid didn’t see me because he thought that I’d left.”
“Complicated,” Timonthy mused.
“It got better after the other me and the other Stolid left and then I was able to move freely. Life was boring and I missed you but on the whole I suppose it was pleasant enough. It was mainly because I thought Stolid had left me behind deliberately that I was grumpy.”
“He was concerned about you,” Timonthy said. “I’m not sure how you got left behind but he spent time looking for you presumably before he moved us in time.”
“I have forgiven him…” Gerard said as if he no longer cared.
The next day hit Timonthy like a flu bug. There was no good basis for it, his rational mind assured him but he couldn’t reason his feelings of dread away. Reaching in through the window the light was grey and withered. He turned over and looked at Gerard.
He was lying completely still, face down into the pillow. Gerard’s back was clear of blanket, the shape of muscles clearly outlined, rippling in his imagination like the stormy waves of the disturbed lake. He wanted to reach out and touch but he stayed his hand. It seemed unfair to wake Gerard before he was ready especially to such a dreary day. Then he lay back and contemplated how he had finally found love at this late stage in his life. He wasn’t sure that even he loved himself, so how could he ask it of anyone else.
The niggling feeling was sternly and consciously resigned to a dark cupboard to allow him to feel the warmth of feeling love. He was sure that this was necessary for happiness somehow: the ability to accept and appreciate being loved. Then he drowsed in and out of blissful sleep until he was woken by Gerard getting out of bed.
“It’s late again,” Gerard said, looking out of the window.
“How can you tell?” Timonthy asked thinking of his own useless watch, out of synchronisation with the whole world. “The sun’s higher than it usually is,” Gerard explained, pulling on his clothes while still peering out as if considering the matter.
“Normally I wouldn’t worry but I feel like we need to catch up with people at breakfast to understand what the hell is going on.”
Timonthy could understand what he meant. The previous day had been momentous in many ways. Everyone involved needed to take stock and understand how the others were situated. He also hurried to get ready for the day and soon they made their way down the sunlit emitting stairway.
“Timonthy, wait,” he heard a voice calling him. He turned to see Paris and Lizzie walking towards them. They exchanged greetings and Timonthy hurriedly asked. “Are you alright, Paris? I didn’t see you yesterday after the storm.”
She smiled at him so he knew that she hadn’ experienced a storm: thinking it quaint that he thought a thing that had happened only in his head could affect her. He was reassured if slightly annoyed by this attitude. If she had been there she wouldn’t have thought it such a trivial and laughable thing he said to himself – and then had to laugh at his own thoughts.
“I had a good day,” she said. “You would’ve thought a child of four or so would be a pain, not good company, but Yan seems older than his years. I don’t understand what happened to you, though.”
“Damon Ich said we had a vision, or an optical illusion, of a terrible storm which made the land at our feet disappear. It seemed really real but it was nothing in the end,” Timonthy was embarrassed explaining the incident to her. It made him and Gerard sound like neurotic children.
“So many odd things have happened since we’ve been here,” Lizzie said as if trying to move the conversation on.
“You didn’t finish telling me about your day,” Timonthy prompted her, keen to change the subject too. “I will when we sit down to breakfast,” Lizzie promised as if it were too important to talk about on the move. Koa wasn’t there at breakfast. Timonthy was relieved in a way feeling ashamed of his avoidance tactics and would’ve welcomed a sign that his friend had survived his snub with a sense of humour.