Me and Kit are now an Us. He is Chap 2.
We spend all day in Marjory’s bed. By six pm we think it would be a good idea to transfer to a bigger bed.
Kit goes back to go back to the Big House and I pad around on a cloud knitted from post-coital endorphins. What’s interesting is that I’ve discerned that Kit has no interest in deeper feelings, mine or his.
I have a very unhealthy relationship with Love, being someone who craves attention, when it appears I mainline. I toss whatever swatches of impossible reality in the air while swallowing whatever whatever stupid song lyrics I become convinced soundtrack my life. Meanwhile, detachment, balance and self-awareness melt like spit on a griddle. I am a tail-chasing puppy, unable to stop until someone hits me with a figurative (or literal) frying pan.
In terms of phobias, you’re meant to hug the monster. If the monster is a relationship, I don’t just hug it; I smother, flee, return, pinch, tease,fret and flip-flop the monster to death.
Kit does not want anything from me beyond my pelvic region and several G-spots. For once, maybe, I have found the lover in me who does not need someone else for sanity and validation. Maybe I can be a tart without a heart. This opens a door of perception in my head. A semen-al moment, as it were.
At ten, as instructed, I tip-toe around the back of the Big House, through the scary, dank courtyard to the kitchen door.
Kit leans out and grabs me, muffling my squeak. Then there’s kitchen kissing on a table. It lasts so long that when it stops I ask for a drink and can only squeak ‘Water!’ Kit dashes away like it’s an SAS mission. This kitchen’s only one of five. Where we would have white goods (oven, dishwasher, washing machine, fridge freezer) they have a devoted room. In here, there’s a ten-foot wooden table, some utility-ware kitchen units, thick pipes and an AGA twice the size of mine. The walls are lined up to eye-level with rectangle cream tiles – the thick victorian kind that you could smash your servant’s head into without cracking the glaze. It’s very dark and quiet. I peep around for Kit. Outside the kitchen door is a wooden box with a black glass panel on it. The glass has gold writing listing every room in the house.
It’s a life-sized game of cluedo.
Kit comes back with a glass of water.
‘The coast is clear, let’s go!’
‘Clear of what?’
‘The Marquese. She’s at a fund-raiser in Aldeburgh, she definitely won’t be back for ages. She’s the only one who’d check up on me.’
This is a grown-man talking.
We push through a swing door muffled by green felt (for added servitude, I guess) and then we’re out by the huge open staircase. Everything seems noisy – about twenty clocks are ticking themselves off their faces. Up, up, padpadpad, and along a carpeted corridor either the same or similar to the one that Prop lives in. Kit opens his door with a flourish.
Kit’s room is a big bachelor pad in an 18th century container. The king-sized bed is modern. So is the heap of dirty washing and so is the weights bench in the corner. He’s lit candles above the fireplace. It’s a room for having all-over-the-place sex and Kit gives me a tour of the room in twenty minute bursts of jack russell-style enthusiasm. I’ve never previously been on the end of such self-centred love-making. There is no Two in this tango, just one feverish performer athletically doing it for both of us. As satisfying as it is to be the cause of such animal lust I can tell that if my conscience gets in the way, it may start moaning on about emotional commitment and sexual equality. Eventually Kit collapses and falls asleep snoring. I also dose off, only to be woken regularly by the clocks that chime every quarter hour. Which would be fine if they rang at the same time but they each like a solo gig.
Things are just kicking off when there’s a squeak in the corridor. Kit freezes. So do I.
‘I thought you said she wouldn’t be back?’
‘She shouldn’t be.’
‘What about Prop?’
‘His rooms’re on the other side.’
‘Do you have a ghost?’
‘Yes but not here.’
At last he takes a candle from the mantelpiece and we set off for an explore. Shadows swing around the walls – the ceilings are really high. I remember how much I used to need to pee when I was a scared little kid.
Passing across the top of the staircase landing and into somewhere that leads into a long, wide, tall, high room with portraits of people who almost seem to be stepping out from the frames in this half light. Kit shows me how to do cartoon-skidding on the wooden floorboards. This leads to whooping. Just then, the door opens and a long shadow fills the room. I melt behind a sofa.
‘it’s me Mother.’
‘What are you doing up at this time? And why are you indecent?’
Kit pushes me slightly with his foot and nods his head to a corner door. He wanders nonchalantly towards his mother’s cenotaph silhouette.
I’m alone. It’s very dark and cold. I edge my way along the walls, trying to visualise my position within the house. My kneecaps bounce. There’s a narrow staircase. I have to go down it. Every slasher movie splices together at the point where I’ve screamed to the victim ‘Don’t go down there you idiot!’
At the bottom of the stairs I discover a room that looks like a Dadaist nightmare. The grey dawn gives enough light to reveal shelves of sunbleached tennis racquets, croquet clubs, cross-country skis and dead animals; glassy-eyed, dusty and behind glass. I can hear them whimpering. It’s horrible.
I note by the smell I’m in a kitcheny area – ten minutes of trying every door and wanting to cry, pee, be sick ends with my staggering into the courtyard.
Crossing the terrace and gambolling down the lawn, I’m gloriously relieved and – as my panties are inside, at liberty to pee whenever I like.
Free! Alive! Joy! I’m here to face a newly-minted day and I’m full of trippy-trappy love. Love has been discovered to be a mental condition apparently. So many endorphins get pumped into your brain your hypothalamus goes on a rampage and holds your cortex hostage. The cortex becomes a gibbering Stockholm-syndrome victim for two years until your hypothalamus gives up and hands itself in, drained and contrite. But by that time you’re married! Hah! Now you’ve got to do the forty years without the endorphins.
But here and now, I glory in the experience; in the grass and trees, which are a strange luminous lettuce green against graphite sky. Dawn breezes blow. Dawn birds sing.
hich I’m pathetically aware is not bullet-proof.
The echo flies across the garden, bouncing off the face of Toft Hall. Below the smutty line of trees, the shooter emerges from the undergrowth. He’s wearing black Wellington boots, grubby white pants and an open dressing-gown. He approaches the middle of the lawn tip-toeing with the comic drama of a stage villain.
In the smudgy 3:30am light, I recognise Prop approaching; a praying mantis in Y-fronts.
Then he stops, his skinny legs brace. He points his rifle. At a mole-hill on the lawn.
The mound of earth explodes, rises and dissipates. Then the hunter turns and creaks away with knees-a-crook, towards the terrace steps. The blanket of bird twitter resumes.
I go home and think on.