Kingdom Come

Chapter 8

Virtually all the barriers were now down. Although we still shut the bathroom door when we showered, it was only to keep the steam in, while the other might sit on the loo and chat. Out of a residual sense of modesty, however, I did still shut the door when I crapped, and David followed suit. But solitary wanking was no longer required.

“Did you wank?” I asked David. “Before I came along?”

“Oh yes. I learnt about it five or six years ago, from my friends. And I did. Not very often, and always with Carl. Then … all that happened, and for ages I was too dead even to think about it. It was only a year ago, when I was hankering more than ever for somebody to take an interest in me … yes, all right, somebody to love me … that I began to fantasise about that somebody. And it was then that I remembered about wanking. And it was as soon as I started wanking again that I realised I was gay.”

“But you say you didn’t look at porn, or anything on the web, and you didn’t have anyone to chew it over with. How could you tell? Was it as obvious as that?”

“I mayn’t know much, but I’m not a total ignoramus. There are books. There are newspapers. And it’s easy enough to tell, isn’t it? You know deep down that it’s boys who turn you on, not girls. All it needs is the word gay to describe what you are. Even if you don’t know the details.”

“Point taken … But,” I observed, a trifle hurt by his reticence as he had been by mine, “you didn’t tell me you were gay. Not even when you found out that I was.”

“No. I didn’t dare. I was still afraid you were looking after me simply because you pitied me. Which didn’t seem a very good basis for what I was hankering for.”

Fair enough. I could understand that, and approved, and laughed.

“I did begin to wonder, though, when you groped me on Castle Hill. Removing that spider.”

He blushed. “Yes, I’m sorry. That was over-intrusive of me. A bit like a flea crawling under your foreskin.”

I laughed again, this time at his language. “And I wondered too when first you poked me with your hard-on.”

“That was even cruder.”

“But I didn’t really believe it until Mum told me straight out.”

“So she did tell you, then? After I’d seen her in London?” He laughed as well. “Great. I told her she could. In fact I hoped she would.”


So life went on. But while the monotony of school persisted, everything else was in a new key, more cheerful and more equal. We talked in total freedom. Our walks were larks. Bedtime … enough said. Never again was I tempted to see David as a little boy. I saw him now as nothing but an almost-adult, like myself. The effective distance between the ages of eleven and sixteen is enormous — greater by far, whatever the arithmetic may say, than between twenty one and twenty six — and though his body might still be a child’s, his mind was emphatically not. And while bodies are undeniably important, minds are infinitely more important still.

Like some desert flower miraculously revived by a rare rainfall, he blossomed. Or rather he usually blossomed. Half of his problem had not yet been tackled, and he was easily reminded. On such occasions he shrivelled back, if only temporarily, into drought mode.

He wrote to his father. The letter was not long, but it took him a whole evening to compose. He did not show it to me, but he did tell me roughly what was in it.

“It’s about prisons. His and mine. Because I’ve been in a prison too … all right, partly of my own making. That’s the thing about cages, they work both ways. They may keep you in, but they also keep out the nasty world outside. The budgie inside isn’t free, but at least the cat can’t get at it. It can live a self-contained life, even a spiritually free life. But if it wants to be bodily free it has to hope for someone to come along and open its cage, so they can face the cat together.

“So the letter’s about you too. I’ve told Dad that ever so slowly you and your Dad are whipping away the bars from around my body. And that you’ve already whipped them away from round my soul. Trouble is, there’s nobody to whip his bars away. All I can do is try to reassure him that a self-contained life is liveable. I’ve quoted Lovelace.

“Stone walls do not a prison make,
Nor iron bars a cage;
Minds innocent and quiet take
That for an hermitage;
If I have freedom in my love,
And in my soul am free;
Angels alone, that soar above,
Enjoy such liberty.”

Nor did he show me the reply which arrived a fortnight later. Written on what was obviously regulation prison paper, it was not long either. But he did read me a bit of it.

‘What matters, David,’ it said, ‘is that the bars are being removed. Speed is neither here nor there. You comforted me with that marvellous bit of Lovelace. Let me throw a bit of John Donne at you in return.

‘And seeing the snail, which everywhere doth roam,
Carrying his own house still, still is at home,
Follow (for he is easy paced) this snail,
Be thine own palace, or the world’s thy gaol.

‘So be your own palace, David my son.

‘And my heartfelt blessing both to you and to Peter. I hope I may see you when you turn eighteen and are therefore, in the weird logic of my gaolers, beyond my lusting. May I see him then too?’

“And short of seeing you in the flesh,” David added, “he asks for a photo.”


While chewing a sticky Dorcic dessert, he lost a tooth filling.

“Never mind,” he said, exploring with his tongue. “It doesn’t hurt.”

“But it’s got to be dealt with, or it’ll get worse. Go to the dentist.”

“No way. I can’t stand the man. He’s creepy. I’ll survive.”

He said no more, and next time I phoned home I asked Mum and Dad to fix an appointment for him with our Hampstead dentist at half term. They had heartily endorsed my invitation to David to spend it with us.


One night I was exploring David’s balls.

“However young a prune may be,” I was moved to sing, “he’s always full of wrinkles. A little prune’s just like his Dad, but he’s not wrinkled half so bad …”

Oops. This was tricky territory. Mention of his Dad could all too easily send him off into gloom. But this time I was lucky. He giggled what was becoming his trademark giggle, and explored my balls in turn.


Half term finally came and Dad collected us. For the first time in five years David could sample normal — or fairly normal — and happy family life, and the week proved an eye-opener. At first he was wary. He prowled through our Hampstead house like a cat introduced to a new home, almost sniffing his way around and stopping for minutes on end to stare at things I never spared a second glance. In winter, which it now effectively was, we kept an open fire going at weekends and whenever anybody was in for long enough; not that the central heating was inefficient, but open fires are such primordially wonderful things. After two hours of prowling, he settled cat-like on the hearth-rug to gaze into the flames, legs drawn up and hands round his knees. My arm too was round his waist. I stayed silent. As I read it, he was shedding yet more of the loneliness of the past and his heart was too full for idle chatter. It grew dark, but we moved only to throw new logs on the fire.

At last Mum came in, gave us an approving look, and without a word drew the curtains and switched on a side light. Soon she was back with two generous glasses of sherry. Once they were safely on the coffee table, David leapt up and hugged her. She hugged him back, long and hard. “Food in half an hour,” she said, and left. As we clinked glasses he gave me a smile of contentment, and tears were on his cheeks. He knew that he was loved, and not just by me.

It was much the same at tea. Mum and Dad gossiped gently about this and that: the latest news from Tim at university, kids they had recently treated at Great Ormond Street, the long-overdue redecoration of my bedroom that had been done in my absence. They did not expect either of us to join in breezy conversation, and I was grateful for that. So, I could see, was David. He was taking it all in, though. His eyes flicked from one to the other, and from time to time a tear trickled down. And he ate well. At the end he sat back and positively beamed at them.

“Thank you, Sophie,” he said simply. “Thank you, George. For everything.” And without warning he subsided into outright weeping.

From either side Mum and Dad put their hands on his. He calmed down, pulled out his handkerchief and began to mop his face.

“If you’re about to say you’re sorry, David,” Mum put in before he could speak again, “as your psychotherapist I flatly forbid you say it. Because you’ve absolutely nothing to be sorry about. It’s all entirely natural, it’s all to be expected, and it’s all good. Look at it as part of your therapy. It’s the equivalent of your immune system fighting bugs. Of your body eliminating nastinesses. Much better out than in.”

We spent a gentle hour, the four of us, back in front of the fire. Then David began to yawn.

“Bed?” I suggested. “I’m tired.” So, more evidently, was he.

“Yes. Please.”

He gave Mum a hug and a sedate kiss. With Dad he was not sure what to do, but Dad too pulled him into a hug. I got my hugs, and we went up to the bathroom and thence to my room. No question of David camping out in the spare room. Everyone had assumed without a murmur that we would sleep together, and for three years my bed had been a double one. We undressed, climbed in, and cuddled. Toothpaste, as usual at night, was prominent on his breath.

“Peter, I didn’t say thank you to you.”

“No need. Take it as read.”

He yawned again, prodigiously. “I’m beautifully relaxed. More than I’ve ever been since then. Even with you. Because there’s always been hostility around. In Bermuda. At Shillingford. At Dorcic. Not in our room, of course, but still around outside. Here, there’s no hostility at all. Here, I can get all the nastinesses out of my system.”

As if to demonstrate, he farted. I flapped the duvet vigorously.

“Sorry,” he muttered.

“Much better out than in. Mum said so, didn’t she?”

He giggled sleepily and dropped straight off, without us doing anything at all.


Next morning he was chirpy again, and an unexpected conversation arose. From under the duvet he watched as I stood naked in front of the mirror performing the every-other-day ritual of shaving.

“I do like your hair,” he remarked above the buzz of my shaver. “I don’t mean your body hair, though I like that too. I mean your head hair.”

“Good God, why?” I turned the shaver off and looked at my hair. “It’s straight and mousy and boring. Not a patch on yours. Yours is rich and curly and interesting.”

“And unruly. Yours is orderly and reliable. Like you. Like your face.”

I pondered my reflected face and laughed uncomfortably. “Well, I have seen worse,” I admitted. “But it’s ordinary. Deadpan. Nothing special. No character. Might be anyone’s. But no accounting for tastes.”

Still by way of the mirror, I switched my gaze to him. His face had much more character. Boyish, yes, and immature, but you could see the strength in it waiting to come out. There was no more, now, of the weariness and wariness that had so shocked me when first we met. Instead there was a sparkle and an interest and an impish humour lurking behind. There was a long way yet to go, but he had come a long way already.

“And it’s all your doing, Peter,” he said, reading my thoughts as he so often did.

He threw back the bedclothes and came, naked and horny, to stand behind me, his little erection pressing against my thigh. His hands snaked round and ran seductively down my chest and belly.

“You’ve got a hard-on too,” he announced when he reached that level. As always nowadays, the sight of his body and the feel of his fingers had generated it. “You deserve your reward for being you. We missed out last night. Let’s make up for lost time.”

As I thanked my lucky stars that I had him, David dragged me back to bed where we dealt comprehensively with our needs, followed by a hug and a deep kiss of fulfilment.

“Peter,” he said out of the blue. “When I farted last night you didn’t seem to mind. Don’t you really?”

“Not in the least. I’m not a prude, I hope. Well, in bed the pong can be a bit overpowering. But when there’s plenty of space, no problem. And I certainly don’t mind the noise — in that department I’m still nicely juvenile. What’s bothering you? You haven’t been holding back, have you, for fear of offending me?”

“Well, actually I have. A prude’s the last thing you are — I do know that — but the point is that never once have I heard you fart.”

“That’s not because I’ve been holding back. It’s only because I don’t seem to need to, or not much. Maybe it’s our different metabolisms, or our gut flora or something.”

“Oh. Good. Carl and I used to fart, you know,” he said reminiscently, “when we were alone together. Sometimes we even had competitions.”

That was an endearing touch, and somehow rather typical of David.

“Well,” I said, “feel free to fart with me, though you’d win any competition. Whenever you like. Or wherever, except under the bedclothes.”

His reply was to throw off the duvet, stick his bum in the air, and let rip resoundingly.

“Aaaah!” he said, pulling the duvet back again. “That’s better! But I still need a crap … Peter, another thing. Why do we always shut the door when we crap? I don’t mind seeing you shower or pee. In fact it can be fun.”

For some weeks now, when out on walks where there was no bathroom floor at risk from the splashes, we had sometimes crossed swords with our streams as we peed, or had even held each other’s cock to aim it. Both of us were still nicely juvenile in that department too. We might be nearly adult, but we hung on, thank goodness, to some elements of childishness.

“And I wouldn’t have any objection,” he went on, “to seeing you crap either. What’s the difference?”

“None at all, I suppose. Right, from now on let’s crap without false modesty.”

He smiled his happy smile. “Great! Thank you, Peter … But I hope,” he added a trifle anxiously, “you aren’t thinking I’m being lavatorial. I haven’t got a fixation on, um, bodily functions. It’s simply that I don’t like us hiding anything from each other. Keeping places fenced off, so the other one can’t go there. All right, I know there’s one exception, and I’m the culprit … My arsehole is still out of bounds. I’m sorry about that. Stuff coming out of it’s one thing, but I don’t want anything going in. Not yet. But I’ll get there one day, though it may take time. So shall we go to the bathroom and revel in our freedom?”

We went, stark naked — Mum and Dad had long since gone off to work — and crapped in turn. All the barriers, apart from that one remaining taboo, were now well and truly down. I had no problem with his ideal of total togetherness, although it did not loom quite so large with me as it clearly did with him, and wondered why he had not raised it before. Perhaps it was another reaction to his years of total isolation when he had been unable to do anything with anyone, but had yearned for the pendulum to swing so that he could do everything with someone. And perhaps it was the benign atmosphere of Hampstead — where, as he had said, he was beautifully relaxed — that had brought it to the surface.

Having crapped, we showered together, because the shower here, unlike that at Dorcic, was big enough for two. We took advantage of it, once well soaped up, by hugging tightly and grinding against one another until we climaxed again.

Then breakfast, followed by a brisk walk on Hampstead Heath. Then, at my request, Doug came round — it was his half term too — and he greeted David with interest. I had considered asking other friends in as well, but decided that, this first time, enough was enough. Doug had obvious priority. I had put him in the picture by phone from Dorcic and, good guy that he is and knowing what to expect, he took the meeting in his stride. David, still perhaps uncertain about this character who had enjoyed my favours before him, was quickly won over. Doug accepted our invitation to a bread-and-cheese lunch, but said that he could not stay too long because he had spent last night consoling Helen for his absence and his parents expected at least some of his attention.

And we talked, at length. We listened with envy to his praises of Yarborough. He listened with disgust to our lambasting of Dorcic. David was bold enough to ask straight out what might have happened if he had landed up at Yarborough instead.

“Oh, there’d have been no problem,” Doug reassured him. “They’re broad-minded there. Supportive. Boys and staff. They wouldn’t have rejected you. They’d have helped. Your housemaster and tutor would’ve made sure you got proper medical attention. You’d have been all right. They care.”

He finally tore himself away, far later than he had intended. As I saw him out, we had a private word.

“Thanks, Peter,” he said, “for letting me meet David. I felt really bad about it, you know, when I ditched you …”

“But you had to ditch me,” I broke in. “No hard feelings at all.”

“I know there weren’t, because I know you. Yet I still felt bad. But I feel a lot less bad about it now, because you’ve found a winner instead.”

“Yes, I have. And the whole thing’s down to you, Doug. If we’d still been together, I’d have had to be as chaste as ice with David. As pure as snow.”

“And you would’ve been, too, because that’s the guy you are. Fidelity’s your middle name.”

I blushed. “And if you hadn’t gone for that scholarship, I wouldn’t have gone for it myself, and wouldn’t have found David at all. That’s the bottom line. So it’s thanks to you.”

“Anyway,” he said, “I’m glad.”

And he kissed me. Not sexily, just a friendly peck on the cheek, accompanied by a little hug. What a great man, with a generous heart. I had loved him before, and I loved him still.

So that visit was a success. “Do you know,” said David when I rejoined him, “that was the first time for five years I’ve talked properly to someone my own age? Apart from you. And I can see why you like Doug so much. Do you know what he told me, while you were making the coffee? That I’ve found a winner. Though I did know that already.”

Later, between us, we found a suitable photo of me for David’s Dad, and from my collection David chose some DVDs to play at Dorcic of an evening, for there was rarely anything worth watching on TV. His choice was interesting — youngsters in tribulation, and generally winning through. Billy Elliot, Kes, I’m Not Scared, Empire of the Sun, I am David, Lord of the Flies — Peter Brook’s, not the dreadful American remake.


The next visit was a further success. I took David to Great Ormond Street, where I cooled my heels while Dad examined him again and took more blood for tests. The results, when they came in, were even more encouraging.

“Your hormones are at full blast, David,” Dad reported. “They’re higher than if we’d had to replace them. We can’t give too much for fear of overdosing, but your body knows its own limits, and it’s pumping away like mad. I think progress is going to be a lot faster than we expected.”

Mum also had a few private sessions with David, presumably psychotherapy, though he did not talk about them. But she and Dad behaved towards him exactly as, for several years past, they had behaved towards Tim and me, treating us not as children but as intelligent equals. In their attitude to David I thought I detected an extra level of sympathy and concern. I did not in the least resent it, because I fully understood it. I could see too that they were watchful, and more than once caught their considering eye on us. This was, after all, their first chance to observe us together. But their eye seemed to be wholly approving.


Our third visit was tedious but necessary. I took David to our dentist’s, where I cooled my heels while his filling was replaced. But on our return we had a session at my computer. While Dorcic in its supposed wisdom blocked risqué websites, here there was free rein. David had asked, out of curiosity, to see some porn and erotic stories. I found him some porn, but at the first image of an anus being impaled by an outsize penis he shuddered and refused to look at any more. Skimming through a couple of stories, however, left him not upset but bored.

“And they call them erotic!” was his verdict. “But I suppose they might be titillating if you haven’t got the real thing, like I have.”

He moved onto my lap to titillate me, and one thing led to another.


Our last visit was another howling success. I took David to Chalk Farm to see Haverstock School. From the outside only, I thought, because it would be closed for half term. But as we stood looking at its functional modern architecture, a million miles removed from the Pratt’s classical extravagance, and I was filling him in on the qualities of the teachers, a million miles removed from the Dorcic disasters, who should come along but the head. Hailing me with delight, he demanded to know how things were going. I replied in rather more restrained language than to Doug, but the gist was the same. He was disappointed and sympathetic.

“It sounds as if you’ve drawn the short straw, Peter. I happened to see Doug yesterday, and he’s clearly landed on his feet at Yarborough. But don’t give up hope. If Dorcic becomes insufferable, there’s always a welcome for you back here. Not in mid-year — that would be silly. But no reason why you shouldn’t return for your second-year modules.”

That was an enticing invitation. There was an obvious snag but, it suddenly struck me, a solution. A wholly desirable solution. A just conceivable solution, though I had had no time to think it through. As I looked consideringly at David I remembered I had not introduced him.

“This is David Kingdom, sir. If I were to come back, could he come too?”

The head shook his hand. “Hullo, David. Yes of course, provided you live in our catchment.” And he made the obvious assumption. “You’d be coming in at, er, year seven? Or eight?”

David had given me a startled glance, but had already caught on. “No, sir. Year thirteen. Same as Peter.”

The head took it in commendably fast and without batting an eyelid.

“Ah. And how did your GCSEs go?”

“Straight A-stars, sir.”

“My word! If you qualify by residence, we’ll have you with open arms. Peter, if you want to show David round, go ahead. I’ll tell the caretaker not to kick you out.”

“He knows your name,” said David wonderingly as the head disappeared inside. “How many kids are there here?”

“Oh, twelve hundred or so.”

“Five times the size of Dorcic. I’m quite sure the headmaster there doesn’t know my name. I’ve hardly ever even seen him.”

I certainly never had, or not knowingly. At Haverstock the head would publicly have welcomed a visiting scholar, just as he had publicly wished Doug and me good luck when we left. At Dorcic nobody had welcomed me at all, apart from the receptionist, and hers had hardly been a welcome.

God!” said David. “Is there really any chance of me coming here instead?”

“It’s only just occurred to me. We’ll have to talk it over with Mum and Dad.”

We went in, and I showed him round. The academic and pastoral facilities were vastly better than at Dorcic. The sports facilities were vastly worse and the playing fields far away, but to David that mattered not a toss. Then my former English teacher sought us out. His name was Mr Booker, he was a gangling and dishevelled man with an inbuilt charm and a wonderfully human touch, and I held him in the highest regard. Only minutes beforehand I had been singing his praises to David. I introduced them.

“Hullo, David,” he said. “And great to see you again, Peter. Stroke of luck that we’ve coincided. I sneaked in to pick something up and bumped into the head, who told me you were here. How’s it going?”

I repeated our tale of woe.

“Good God! Sorry to hear that. No sign of sparkle then, even in the teaching?”

“No. No imagination. No inspiration. No encouragement.”

“Which I take as a compliment to us. And not even from your English teacher?”

David, who had clearly fallen for him already, was moved to reply. “Not even him. He lumbers through literature like a hippo in a lady’s boudoir.”

Mr Booker laughed out loud in enjoyment of the image.

“Worse still,” David added, “he goes in for deconstruction.”

“Oh Lord, no! That fatuous fad that came and went! At least I hoped it had gone, because it’s gobbledygook. What was that lovely critique of Derrida by John Searle, back in the eighties?”

He looked up at the ceiling, searching his memory.

“Yes — ‘Anyone who reads deconstructive texts with an open mind is struck by the low level of philosophical argument, the deliberate obscurantism of the prose, the wildly exaggerated claims, and the constant striving to seem profound by making claims that seem paradoxical, but under analysis turn out to be silly or trivial.’ Something like that.”

David was grinning broadly. “That’s our hippo, to a T.”

“It sounds,” Mr Booker remarked, “as if he’s lumbered out of a museum. Ought I to have heard of him, then? What’s his name?”


We now used his nickname between ourselves, there no longer being any obstacle, but not in circumstances like this. Mr Booker, who (surprisingly or not) had no nickname, laughed again.

“No, doesn’t ring a bell. With a name like that I’d have remembered. I can guess what you call him behind his back.”

David’s smile was answer enough.

“But what,” Mr Booker asked, “does he actually talk about?”

“Oh, he thinks his lessons are the cat’s pyjamas. In fact they’re the dog’s breakfast. A stodgy mishmash of ingredients borrowed from Derrida, Lyotard, Lacan & Co. All stirred up together and overcooked. All equally unappetising. All equally barmy.”

“Or, as we say nowadays, all equally Dagenham.”


“Oh, it’s on the London Underground. A few stops beyond Barking.”

[Note for non-Brits: barking is slang, abbreviated from barking mad.]

David stared, then hooted with laughter.

“And that’s a lovely place-name, isn’t it?” Mr Booker went on. “Barking, I mean. I wonder where it comes from.”

Knowing him of old, I could tell that he was still busy testing David.

“I suppose the prim and proper answer,” was David’s reply, “is Old English — ‘Barca’s people’ or something like. But then Barking isn’t a million miles away from the Isle of Dogs. Or maybe its meaning’s even less mundane.” He put on his cheeky smile. “Like Thirsk in Yorkshire, which obviously comes from Old Norse — a desire for vodka.”

Mr Booker was hooked.

“Nice one! And you know about Erith in Kent? Third person singular of an Old English verb. Survives only in the ancient proverb, ‘Man erith, woman morpeth.”

David cackled. “And what about Rickmansworth, from the age-old manorial right to build haystacks?”

“And Lowestoft. A subterranean granary.”

And so it went on. They were leaning against the wall on opposite sides of the corridor, throwing pseudo-scholarly gags across at each other like a pair of comedians rehearsing a routine. Fascinated, I observed from the sidelines. When it came to wacky word-play, Mr Booker was hard to beat, but David was not far behind. I found myself loving him more, if possible, than ever. And when they moved on to more serious subjects it was clear that their views on literary criticism chimed. They had clicked instantly, and were now getting on like a house on fire. Mr Booker, it was already obvious, was itching to have David in his class — and I think he genuinely wanted me back too — and David was itching to be there.

“We’re wondering,” I put in at last, to add fuel to their fire, “if we can somehow wangle our way out of Dorcic next summer and come back here. Well, come here, for David. Come back, for me. But at the moment it’s only a glimmer in our eyes.”

Mr Booker’s face lit up yet more. “However faint the glimmer may be,” he cried, “fan it into flame! By fair means or foul! Make it come true!”

“What a lovely man!” was David’s comment as we went home. “In a totally different league from the Wetwank. Oh God! Make it come true!”

That evening we talked it over, along with other future possibilities, with Mum and Dad.

“If you’re allowed to, David, you’re more than welcome to live here. You know that. But we gather it was your guardian who sent you to Shillingford and Dorcic after your mother died and your father for obvious reasons lost custody. Was that because your parents had wanted you to go there?”

“I’m absolutely sure they didn’t. I was down to go to Wallingford along with my friends, and would’ve stayed there. I presume my guardian thought that Shillingford and Dorcic best fitted the bill — boarding schools near where I was born. But he never asked me. At least it keeps us out of each other’s hair, which is one blessing.”

“And why was your uncle made your guardian? Because he was your nearest relative?”

“I suppose so. My only close relative.”

“Do you know how he pays for your fees? Out of your father’s money? Or your mother’s estate? Or his own money?”

“No idea.”

“Isn’t it worth asking him? You ought to know. Because it isn’t much more than a year before you turn eighteen and can legally thumb your nose at him. Not that that would be wise if you don’t have any money to call your own.”

“All right. But I’d much rather ask Dad.”

“Fair enough. He’d surely know. There is another point, though, even if it’s crying for the moon. If your Dad were exonerated, he’d resume custody.”

“Yes. And he’d take me out of Dorcic like a shot.”

“And you’d live with him. Would he go back to Dorchester?”

“I doubt it. Not after all that.”

“Well, it’s hardly probable that he’d end up in the Haverstock catchment, though he’s as welcome here as you. But that’s all in the realms of hypothesis. Just remember that this house is always open to you. Both you and your Dad.”

Wholly desirable, should they be able to come. But, on sober consideration, highly unlikely, whether by fair means or foul.


At the end of the week it was Mum who took us back to Dorcic. Not having seen the place before, she was intrigued, and admired the architecture and the landscape and our eyrie in S312.

“Sophie,” said David solemnly, sitting on the bed, “it was here it all started. Exactly here, that very first afternoon. I was crying. Peter hugged me. He told me George was already setting the wheels in motion. He invited me to Hampstead for half term. He took me straight to the nurse to give samples. And it was then that I first realised properly what Peter really is … what a son you’ve got … what parents he’s got. Since then I’ve never looked back. Thank you.”

In tears again, he leapt up and hugged both of us together.

“Yes,” said Mum, moist-eyed herself. “Peter is a jewel. But then, David dear, so too are you.”