A Banquet of Consequences(5)

By: Elizabeth George


You are one arse-ugly bloke, my man. She didn’t see past it. She couldn’t. Who could? Gave her an out, and she took it, mate, and who can blame her? How long you think it took her, boy-o, to spread ’em wide for someone else? And someone who can do it the way it’s meant to be done. No excuses, no pills, no fast and furious and Sorry but you just get me going, woman. The real thing instead, which is what—let’s face it—you were never up to.

He rang his gran. He meant it to distract himself from what was going on in his head. But when he told her he was returning to Dorset, she said, “Don’t be a fool, Guillermo,” in her harsh, smoker’s Colombian voice. “This plan of yours. You make a mistake. You talk to Carlos about this, sí? He tell you the same.”

But there was no point to talking to Charlie. Will’s brother had a magical life, the polar opposite of Will’s in every way.

“Dorset?” he would say. “Fuck it, Will. Don’t go to Dorset. You’re seeing her as the solution, you idiot, when she’s been your problem for twenty-five years.”

Charlie wouldn’t believe what their grandmother didn’t believe what Lily couldn’t believe and that was the impermanency of this arrangement. Caroline Goldacre didn’t want her son home indefinitely any more than her son wanted it. She herself had said, “We’re calling this a temporary arrangement, Will. You do understand that, don’t you?” and she hadn’t allowed any plans to be made until he agreed: a few weeks to sort himself out and get reestablished somewhere. Sherborne, he thought. It would have to be Sherborne.

She told him he would have to wait in London till she and his stepfather could get away. The bakery didn’t operate on Sundays, so they would drive up to London on Sunday. He’d be fine till then, wouldn’t he? He said he would. But then Lily left.

His mind had started roiling shortly thereafter and the voices in his head were unrelenting. After twenty-four hours, he rang his mum and said, Couldn’t he come down in advance of Sunday? He’d bring some of his gear in the Fiesta and then on Sunday they could all return and pick up the rest.

“Darling, don’t be silly,” his mother replied kindly. “Surely you can survive till Sunday. Can’t you?” And then carefully, “Will, you are taking your medications properly, aren’t you?”

He said that he was. He didn’t tell her that Lily had left. He didn’t want her to associate the two: his meds and Lily. There was no point.

Four days stretched out like the creation of toffee. There was nothing to distract him from who he was. By the day on which his mother arrived, Will had taken to pacing the floor and hitting himself lightly on the forehead. When the hour of her appearance began its slow approach, he started waiting at the window like an abandoned dog.

Thus he saw the bakery van cruising into the street. He saw his mother get out, as usual, to direct his stepfather into a parking spot. She waved her arms and strode to the driver’s window to have a word. More arm waving ensued until poor old Alastair had managed to dock the vehicle without crashing it into another.

Will felt the bad rising within him as he watched. He tried to quell it. But his eyes began their double blinking, and deep within him from a place he could not manage to harness, the words bubbled up. “Cocksucking storm troop here it is.” He locked his hand over his mouth as his eyelids danced. “Fucker fucker fucker bastard rain ice.” He backed off from the window and tried to strangle them off. But still they came forth like the foul effluent emerging from a broken sewage pipe. “Whore slag whoreson slough off pantering.”

The doorbell rang. He stumbled to the buzzer and released the lock to allow them to ring for the lift. He slapped himself hard and could feel no pain. “Fuck all merry men Robin Hood heap.”

He swung the door open but retreated across the room. He raised his wrist to his teeth and he bit down hard.

He heard their voices coming his way, his mother’s soft and Alastair’s gruff. He heard her say, “It’ll work out well,” and then they were coming into his flat.

She spoke first, a reference to his ringing them into the lift without a query as to who they were. “Will, love,” she said, “you really ought not to do that without seeing who’s there. It could be anyone, and in this part of town . . .” Her words sank into silence as she took him in.