TWO SIMON GRANT MYSTERIES
HIDING THE ELEPHANT – Chapter 43
Oh, yes, it happened. Such a long time ago, and yet it may have been yesterday. The rainy Easter Monday in Oxfordin 1973. People talk about shattered expectations, broken trust. But when it happens there’s nothing shattering about it. No sharp pieces cutting into the flesh, no particular pain, no drama. More like molten lead that spreads and slowly coats everything in its path.
And presiding over that process, magnificent in his oblivion, was Rudi. The big brother.
At lunchtime it was still raining and they ran all the way to the Turf as fast as Rudi’s wheezing allowed. The pub was crammed with noisy strangers with cameras and college scarves, fresh from gift shops and wrapped over their hooded anoraks.
‘Bloody tourists,’ said Rudi and set about finding them two chairs.
Rudi was considering going vegetarian so he ordered cheese pie with chips and Simon had gammon steak with a burnt ring of pineapple on top. They were both given a pile of tiny, unnaturally green peas to go with a couple of overcooked carrots.
‘You shouldn’t drink beer after all that wine you had at the flat,’ Simon warned out of a fairly recent and seemingly unforgettable experience, and Rudi agreed because he always agreed with anything anyone told him. They didn’t talk much on account of the noise and the distance between their seats, but half way through Rudi jumped on his feet with the agility of a former rugby player and claimed a just vacated table for two in the alcove next to the fireplace.
There followed an embarrassing moment. They had talked out the school gossip the night before and there didn’t seem much left to say. Simon had been hoping to tell Rudi about Celia. She was Stinky’s latest stepmother and very generous during the last half term. Stinky, Marcus Smithers, whose elder brother Rufus used to be in Rudi’s class at school, Stinky was under strict orders from Celia to bring Simon home to Somerset for at least a week that Easter break. Mr. Smithers had to be away somewhere overseas where they didn’t have Easter. Simon thought he was in love with Celia. But what was the point of telling Rudi about all that if he wasn’t into sex?
LOCK UP YOUR DAUGHTERS – Chapter 43
‘Can you ring the Hallbrook surgery?’Lynn buzzed through. ‘It’s urgent.’ She sounded worried.
‘It won’t have anything to do with Debbie,Lynn. That would be just my sister-in-law,’ he said lightly.
Just my sister-in-law. Playing the game, living a lie. How easy it all comes with practice.
‘Should you be working?’ he teased, relieved that Emma had answered the phone herself and he didn’t have to explain himself to Heather Rickman, her personal Cerberus.
‘I’m pregnant, not ill,’ she said predictably. ‘Got my message, then?’
She chose ‘My Plaice’ even though the smell of fish made her feel sick. But the chippy held romantic memories for the two of them, she said, then reminded him that they’d had coffee there once in the room at the back that was nearly always empty. A good place to talk.
Simon could have added that their one and only meeting there nine months ago had happened three days before they become lovers and that his memories of it were not exactly happy or romantic. Another visit to the rarely used dining room of the Hallbrook fish and chips shop reminded him that he still hadn’t told her everything about himself and that he couldn’t, shouldn’t expect her to make up her mind about their joint future before she’d inspected all the skeletons in his cupboard.
This was an opportunity to make up for what he’d failed to do the first time around. Tell Emma the truth about Nicola Finsbury.
But, she didn’t come to listen. She attacked the steak and kidney pudding, the mushy peas and chips, all swimming in thick, dark brown gravy with determined urgency as if they were about to leave her plate of their own volition unless tamed. ‘I’m still sick every morning,’ she informed him. ‘Then I’m constantly hungry for the rest of the day.’
Simon couldn’t see much change in her. The loose red top and baggy jeans covered the bump completely, and her over-large eyes and lips still registered every thought she had, every sensation she experienced like fine-tuned, built-in seismographs of her very private turbulences. There was none of the much talked about introverted serenity of pregnant women about her.
‘Is that how it should be? Everything is okay?’ He felt marginal, kept on the sidelines.
She shrugged. ‘I suppose so.’ The food was disappearing fast from her plate, but she seemed to need it more than enjoy it. ‘When Pippa couldn’t track you down the night before last …’ she started.
‘I’ve got to talk to you about that. Well, not about that exactly. But, it’s connected,’ he interrupted. His insides were churning in the same way they used to when he was very little but keenly aware that Chloe’s idea of truth differed significantly from his own. ‘There are things you should know before you make your final decision about us.’
‘Oh, I’ve decided,’ she said calmly. ‘That’s what I wanted to talk to you about. There is, will be no us.’ She sounded casual, off-hand, but her cutlery stopped working.
Kindle UK: http://amzn.to/shZvJq
Kindle US: http://amzn.to/scZ1cw
Kindle FR: http://amzn.to/uRu02G
Kindle ES: http://bit.ly/unx9jU
Kindle IT: http://bit.ly/tC4zd