Helena sat down at the bedside, handed over more grapes, a small bag containing some of his things, razor, tooth brush, that sort of thing. He was smiling at her in a lop-sided way.
“I understand that I’m now your fiancé, commiserations.”
She blushed purple, how did he always seem to manage it, to shatter any control she might have when with him with such ease? His eyes were sparkling at her.
“I’m sorry, it was Elaine’s idea, they wouldn’t have let me in otherwise. She’s very fond of you, you know.”
“I don’t know why, the trouble I put her to, including all this. She must have a soft spot for ageing Don Quixotes, a bit like you, no wonder you two get on so well.”
“I don’t know her at all really, but I can use my eyes.”
“And what else can those baby blue eyes see?”
He really was already back with a vengeance, teasing her, almost provoking, where does he get it from, some deep well he hasn’t disclosed to me yet? Get closer, find out. No, that’s not the way. Play the game back at him, you came expecting to mother him a bit, enjoy being in charge, and already you’re running to hold on to your dignity.
“Someone who’s taken too much on himself, not shared the load with others who would help.”
Not bad, it’s a start.
“Someone who needs to learn when to ask for help, when to step back, when to listen to others who care for him a lot…”
Don’t falter, keep going.
“Someone who needs a new home, and there’s one right before him if only he would see it.”
Keep going, you’re on a roll.
“But someone’s who’s so stubborn, who’s been on his own so long, buried things so deep, that he doesn’t even know where they are anymore and needs others to help him find them again.”
Why stop there, nail it now!
This is too big, this is big boys’ games, it’s his move, when… if he wants to, he knows that now.
He was looking at her now, not right through and past like so often, but more deeply, drilling away silently to find the seam he knew to be there. He spoke, that little smile reappearing on his cracked lips.
“That was quite a speech but perhaps that someone is frightened that those would offer their help would get sucked too far in, get hurt, and he would rather bear anything other than that?”
“Perhaps that’s their choice to make, not his?”
“Perhaps. I think she approves of you, you know, even likes you.”
I shouldn’t be surprised anymore, I really shouldn’t. Just when you think you’ve got him covered, almost cornered, he’s behind you like magic, coming at you from somewhere entirely different.
“Why do you say that? I never met her, you know that”
“When I was there, at the river, she was there as well, and you were behind me. She sent me back to your side, for now.”
What does that mean? He doesn’t ramble, waste words?
“That must have been your subconscious, you knew I was beside you at the bed, trying to get through, calling you back.” Are you sure that’s all it was? Could be useful too, help him ditch the guilt. Don’t think that, that’s awful. “Whatever it was, I’m pleased, more than you can know. Anyway, I’ve been thinking.”
“Am I going to like this?”
“That’s up to you. I can never be sure what you’re going to think, it’s one of your…”
Stop right there.
“Anyway, Elaine said you’re going to have to sell your flat, it’s not secure. Why not stay at mine, it’s secure now?”
He obviously hadn’t thought of that.
“Come and go as you please and keep your promise at the same time, neat solution I think. Get your own place outside London, somewhere you like to be, maybe the West Country, secure too, unknown to anyone other than us. Somewhere we could both run to if we had to, somewhere where you, we, can go when we’ve had enough. You could just be a country friend staying with me when working in town, no more, I promise.”
Too many ‘we’s’ in there and why did you add that last bit? I know what I’m like, that’s why.
He eased back into the pillows, smiling in surrender, but she wasn’t fooled this time.
“I can see you’ve got it all mapped out, it seems it’s dangerous to leave you with too much time when I’m on your mind. Alright, at least for a while, until the water clears a bit, but not permanently, understood? The bit about somewhere west might have some merit for other reasons, I’ll think about it, but I can’t stay here and will need quite a lot of rehab. What have you decided about that or are you going to let the Service do its worst?”
“That’s up to them and your doctors, although we can easily sort out private rehab if you stay in London, but maybe getting you out into the country for a while, out of circulation, would be best.”
That’s not what I want! Hush, this isn’t about me.
“This is also all too much for any one man, even you, you need others out here, not from there, people who can help, who believe as you, we, do, bring new expertise. I’ll pack up work…”
“Not that, not unless you really want to, you’re invaluable where you are, you’ve proved that already. But how the hell do you tell people, even if you think you can trust them?”
His voice was low now, just above a murmur, his right hand holding hers tightly; down the ward the armed policeman by the fire escape tried not to look, didn’t want to feel like a voyeur, it was pretty plain to him what was between them.
“I told you because you caught me at a low moment, are expert in prising people open and I knew your feelings wouldn’t lead you to turn me in. And your cousin was down to you again. There’s no one else out here.”
“There must be, people from your days in the military, some still in the service; they’re not blind, they see what’s happening, they must feel isolated, as if it’s just them. Your trouble is you don’t trust yourself and find it almost impossible to trust anyone else. There must be others.”
He looked at her again, with even more respect than usual. She really was quite remarkable, it would be so easy to just relax, let her take the strain for a while, but not fair: she still didn’t see the entire picture, hadn’t seen for herself yet. But she was right in some things, perhaps he had become too set in his approach, compromising the possibilities, been too accepting of the limitations. She was undoubtedly brighter than him, sharper in her acuteness in some ways, had a different way of approaching complex problems, a greater willingness to take a risk.
He smiled at her, but there was something new in his expression this time, she shivered silently when she noticed it.
“There’s always somebody, I’d start with Jonesy, my old and first Sergeant, he might be too old, late fifties, but he’s fit. I bet he doesn’t know I’m in here otherwise he would be banging on the door.”
“Give me his details and I’ll call him; anyone else?”
“A couple I knew from 22, maybe one or two from work, but not easy, that’s why I’ve always held back, for fear of jeopardising everything. That’s it I’m afraid.”
He turned his eyes on her.
“Any more remarkable members of your remarkable family?”
She laughed, “I’m afraid not, but I’ll think on it, but my world isn’t one where people respect others’ trust, it won’t be a happy hunting ground. But another three would be a hundred percent increase, right? It’d be a start. Oh, by the way, Sam called. He said they found something for you; he’s going to send it to me, so our tinfoil friends can get to work. He said they had trouble, you probably guessed from the news, but were alright now. I gave them your instructions like you said; he was very concerned about you. He said he might need my help but wouldn’t say what with.”
She could see he was starting to tire and felt her anger rising again, at them.
“Good, I’ll need to get out of here to as soon as I can, it looks like it’s your place, after all. The spares of the other ones are there you know, in that little bag I started to keep there, couldn’t leave them in the office, the originals are hidden in one of my picture frames at home.”
“They should be at my place as well then, I won’t disturb them unless you want me to.”
“I wonder what happened. He said they were all fine, did he? We’ve been pushing their luck too hard; a break will do us all good for a while. We need to keep following the thread though, something tells me we’re a lot closer than we were and we can’t let it get away again, but until I’m mobile we’re stuck.”
You are; I’m not.
“I should leave you in peace; I’ll come again in the morning, text me and let me know when, then tomorrow, early evening. Let me know whatever you want, and thanks for Jonesy’s number, I’ll call him on my way home.”
“I don’t know what to say to you, but thanks for being here, just being you.”
She almost floated home, it was all slotting into place, he would be there full time as soon as he could get discharged, she had no doubt of that, her friends from the Fens would be at her flat on Saturday morning, Jonesy would come down after work on Friday and stay with her overnight, head back some time on Saturday, he had sounded really upset not to know before, and a new plan was forming in her mind. Maybe Sam could help.
© 1642again 2018