A Banquet of Consequences(9)

By: Elizabeth George


He looked back at the building, at the windows of the sitting room that belonged to Will’s flat. He felt a surprising pounding of his heart.

“I’m in London,” he said. “But I’m that glad you rang.”





THIRTY-FIVE MONTHS BEFORE





6 APRIL



BROMLEY

LONDON

At first, Lily had not intended to see William again. She’d intended instead just to move on. She’d done so before, and she knew that she could do so another time because it was never as difficult as other women her age made it seem. She’d taken a cooking class where she’d quickly become part of a group of foodies who, like her, believed that eating on the cheap did not mean eating takeaway burgers from American fast-food outlets but rather sussing out the best food stalls in every market from Spitalfields to Portobello Road. She’d taken a dancing class where the Argentine instructor made it perfectly clear that he’d be only too delighted to share his smouldering looks and his smouldering body with just about anyone willing to have a go. She’d joined a crew of women who kept fit by rowing on the Thames early Saturday mornings. In short, she’d redeveloped the life she’d let go of during the ten months she’d been with William Goldacre, and she vowed she’d not get so entangled again. But then he rang her.

He sounded wonderful, like the William of old. He also turned out to be just as good as his word because he wasn’t living with his mum at all. He was back on his feet, and he was living in the village of Yetminster. Did Lily know it? Not far from Sherborne?

Of course she didn’t know it because what Lily knew about Dorset could fit into a teaspoon. But she told him that was brilliant news, and he went on to enthuse about his digs.

“Just a cottage in the village, not far from the high street. Well, nothing’s far from the high street here, is it. It’s not much more than two up and two down, but it’s got the most amazing garden. You must see what I’ve done with it, Lil. And I’ve got my first client right here in the village. A bloke who stopped by and saw what I’d done and asked could I do the same for him. Surprise for his wife, he said, who’s off in Australia visiting their daughter and the grandkids and he wants something special for her lest she decides she wants to emigrate. Best part is—and I knew this would happen if I got out of London—he’s completely on board with the way I work. I told him what I’d put in but not how or the exact cost because—I said to him—I don’t know the exact cost initially and that’s how I work but I’ll keep him in the picture every step of the way as costs come up and he says fine.”

“That’s brilliant, William.”

“I knew you’d think so. Will you come down?”

Lily had known he was going to ask the moment she’d heard his voice on the phone. She’d been trying to prepare an answer as he spoke, but she didn’t have one other than a hesitant “I don’t know . . .”

He said, “I want you to see the place. And its garden. And the other garden that I’m working on. It’s not much, but I’m entirely on my own here. I knew it was London, Lily. The noise, the traffic, the herds of people. I can’t cope with cities. Will you come? Listen, there’s no tattoo shop here. I’ve checked.”

“There wouldn’t be, would there, in a village?”

“I mean Sherborne, Lil. Yeovil. Shaftesbury. ’Course there might be something in Dorchester or Weymouth, but here there’s not. You see what that means, don’t you?”

Of course, she did. She could move house—to Dorset—and set up a shop, which was what he wanted. The problem was: It wasn’t what she wanted. There were far too many variables—who in the country wanted tattoos, after all?—and one of them was his mum.

She said, “Your mum must be pleased you’re doing so well.”

“Yes, of course she is. But don’t let’s go there. She helped me get back on my feet, and that’s an end to the story. I hardly see her now. I did do her a garden, though. But that was when I was stopping with her and Alastair. She’s been showing it off to people who come by the bakery for special orders and such, and there’s been some interest there as well. She’s supported me, Lily, but that’s all. I’m on my own now, I’m fit, and I’m thriving. Will you come down and see for yourself? I swear I can make it so you don’t regret it. We were good together, you and I. I know we can be good together again. I guess what I’m asking is will you try? Will you let me try?”