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“Cecil!”

Cecil looked up from her book, surprised that anyone was calling her name. She perked up a little when she realised it was Sophie Hastings-Lewis, who had always been friendly with her, even for ages after the others had just dumped her in order to hang around with Daphne. Cecil paid no attention to the fact that to have a friend you must first be a friend, and she herself had failed enormously in this lately. It was so much easier to blame Daphne than consider her own faults; moodiness, spiteful remarks, jealousy.

“Hello,” she said, cautiously. Maybe Sophie wanted to make friends again? Cecil determined she wouldn’t be too eager.

“We’re having a little party in the Sixth Form Common Room this afternoon. We’re all bringing something from our tuck boxes and Grete’s had some ices sent from her mother in Berne. Miss Annersley said we could.”

“Who is?”

“Me, Carla, Léonie, Mary, Claudia, oh and Jan and Grete and Rachel.” Sophie sat down. “You should join us.”

All Daphne’s closest friends! Cecil’s heart lifted. They must have seen through her at long last. She smiled and Sophie tentatively smiled back.

“I’d love to,” she said. “I could ask Mamma for some of Anna’s best cream cakes.”

“Oh good! Claudia said you probably wouldn’t come, but I was sure you would.” Sophie was pleased.

“I’ve got French now,” Cecil said.

“Me too, let’s go together.” Sophie said and the pair of them went off together, Cecil secretly very happy indeed. That would be one in the eye for Daphne Bettany!

*

Daphne was unsettled. The morning had been full with an art lesson and then English Literature, which she enjoyed, but now she had a free afternoon and time to mope. She knew her brother was having his operation and was worried. Eventually she sought out Miss Annersley and asked for permission to go to Freudesheim which was immediately granted.

Auntie Jo was pleased to see her and they spent an enjoyable hour talking over kaffee. It was a great distraction. Unfortunately a telephone call from her publisher in London called Joey away for a long while and Daphne found herself worrying again.

“Oh, hullo,” Mike came in, looking tired. “Where’s Ma?”

“She’s on the telephone.” Daphne didn’t know Mike very well but shyness seldom troubled her. “John’s having his operation now, at the San in Armiford.”

“Oh... I hope it’s going OK,” Mike looked uncomfortable. Daphne was perceptive and immediately seized upon it.

“What’s wrong? Do you know something?”

“What do you mean? No – not about the operation. I was just thinking about that night. I should have stayed.”

“John said you were heroic in his letter to Mummy. I saw it.” Daphne looked at Mike with renewed respect. Mike shook his head.

“I wasn’t, not really. I only dismantled a few of the charges. John saved the whole company. I heard he’s going to get a medal.”

“Really?”

“I expect so.” Mike shrugged.

“He didn’t save the whole company though, did he? Your captain drowned. Rix told me.”

Mike’s expression changed. “Yes, well...”

Daphne noticed him close off and wondered about it. “What was he like?”

“I thought he was wonderful. He was awfully approachable, even if you were just a Midship, like me and he took an interest in what you were doing, you know? Even though he didn’t need to.”

Daphne thought of Miss Yolland, “Yes,” she nodded.

“But then – oh, hang. It doesn’t matter,” Mike turned away.

“Wait, what?”

Mike turned around and Daphne noticed with alarm that he looked angry. His face was white and his eyes were flashing.

“He was just an utter bastard,” he said. “Don’t ask me anymore, Daphne, for I shan’t tell you. I think John should just have left him there to rot. I hope he did.”

He left. Daphne, feeling rather shocked, had enough sense to realise he wouldn’t want her to go after him. She hastily scribbled her aunt a note and headed back to school through the gate set in the hedge. Some painting in the art room would distract her. She was so lost in her thoughts she didn’t even notice Cecil and Sophie at the other side of the garden.

*

“That went well,” David had asked if he could assist even though it had been years since his last surgical rotation. “One feels so helpless,” he had confided in Francis Rayner.

“Yes, I’m pleased.” Frank had pulled off his gloves and surgical garments, now he turned to wash his hands. “Don’t think you can use this in your publicity for the hospital though, what with him being a national hero and all.”

“No, I’d already thought of it, but John would hate it. I can’t see my father being too keen on it either.” David heaved a great sigh. “He’s annoyed enough already about Rix.”

“I’m not surprised,” Rayner said drily.

“I know – but I’ve tried my best. Arguing with him just makes him dig his heels in further. He could work here full-time and pay for someone to run the wretched farm.”

“Yes. Anyway, this should be some good news for your family.”

“Your family too now, of course,” David pointed out.

“Thank you – yes. I’m confident he’ll make a good recovery. He should be averagely active. There was a lot less damage than I thought. When the swelling subsides he should start physiotherapy immediately.”

“Fantastic. I’ll arrange for that myself. Maybe you should speak to Rix?”

“I thought I’d phone the Quadrant now to let them know how it went...”

“I meant about coming back to surgery. If he leaves it any longer he’ll be no use to anyone.”

“I’ll see what I can do. He might not listen to me.”

“Oh, he will! He’ll remember how terrifying you were at the university...” David realised what he was saying and stopped talking. “Well... I’d better get back to my office. Thanks,” he muttered and left in a hurry.

*

Daphne loved the ritual of painting – getting her easel ready; mixing paints. It was soothing. Miss Yolland was fond of her and had given her permission to use the art studio whenever she wanted.

She was just hunting for turpentine when the door opened and Mary Huthnance came in, looking a bit perturbed.

“Daph, so sorry but have you got a few minutes? We’re just in the Common Room talking about those awful Middles.”

Daphne cast an anguished look at the blank canvas but she was a conscientious girl and knew that Auntie Hilda wouldn’t want her to shirk her Head Girl’s duties.

“Of course I do. What have they been up to now?” She asked, following Mary into the corridor.

*

Cecil placed Anna’s Leckerli pride of place right in the middle of the table. She felt happier than she’d felt for weeks.

“They look lovely, Cecil!” Carla Kennedy exclaimed.

“Anna’s baking really is fab,” Cecil said, all smiles. It was as though Daphne had never joined the School and she was back in her rightful place with all her friends.

“Karen’s given us some lemonade – shall I pour?” she offered, just as the door opened and Mary entered, followed by her cousin, whose expressive eyes widened in surprise when she saw the feast.

“I’m sorry, Daphne, but we’re having...” Cecil was about to ask her cousin to leave when the horrible truth dawned on her. The others crowded around Daphne, and Sophie gave her a hug. Claudia Harris patted her arm with affection.

“Surprise!” Mary grinned, and then continued in more serious tones, “We know how worried you are about your brother so we asked the Abbess if we could have a little party for you – just to show our support.”

“We know it doesn’t make up for everything, but it might be a distraction,” Carla added.

“Thank you,” Daphne smiled gratefully at them all. Even Cecil was there, she noticed, and she smiled warmly at her. Cecil stared back, feeling completely dropped upon. She busied herself pouring lemonade with a shaky hand. All this was for Daphne! She felt the tears coming and hastily put down the jug with a clatter.

“I-I must go,” she managed before she was dashing for the door, nearly knocking over the petite Léonie, and wrenching it open.

“What on earth...” Rachel Kennedy, Carla’s twin, gazed after her in disbelief.

“Good grief!” Claudia’s patience was not her strongest suit and scorn edged her tones. “Does she have to spoil everything?”

Daphne paused; she felt she should go after Cecil but she also knew that would not end well.

“Oh she hasn’t spoilt anything. This is amazing,” she said hastily, praising their contributions and the way they’d kept the secret until Cecil had faded from their minds almost entirely.

*

“Do you need any help?” Rix asked his brother, after several long weeks of physiotherapy and convalescence John was home.

“I’m fine,” He was. It was remarkable. He tired easily; his wrist was still in plaster and he was still in some pain at times but considering the seriousness of his injuries he really was fine.

“You will need to take it easy for a while,” Rayner warned. He had driven John down to Devon and would stay at the Quadrant for a night or two.

“I know. I will.” John promised. He had not taken the doctor up on his promise of a confidential chat but he had appreciated the offer as well as his skill in the operation. “I don’t want to set myself back.”

He took a few cautious steps towards the end of the drive; below them lay the sea; waves breaking onto the shore. He suppressed a shudder; it held no attraction for him now.

“It’s cold. Come inside.” Rix said; and they did.

“Where is everyone?” John asked; looking around the empty sitting-room.

“They flew to Australia yesterday. Mary-Lou went too. The kids are at school in the village now; I’ll stroll down to collect them later. I thought Mother wrote to you about it?”

“Yes, she did. I remember now. I didn’t know Mary-Lou was going.”

“She wanted to. Mr Hope flew them all out in his private plane so it didn’t cost us anything. She didn’t want to leave me here on my own, but well, I can’t afford to leave the farm.”

John was too tired after the journey to enquire further, but he didn’t miss Rayner’s frown.

“I think you should rest,” Rix said. “Leave your things; I’ll unpack ‘em later.”

“Thanks.” John wanted to point out that Rix had enough to do but it wasn’t the time. He felt all in. He shrugged off their offers of help with as much grace as he could muster and took the stairs slowly.

His bedroom was exactly the same as he had left it although someone had piled his correspondence sent to the Quadrant on top of his chest-of-drawers and Rix had left his suitcase on the window seat. A large package caught his eye and he had picked it up before he realised by the official stamps that it was his personal effects from HMS Commitment.

His letters from Daniel – and from Lewis. He anxiously wondered if anyone had read them before deciding that it didn’t matter. If they had; he would have heard about it. They were both gone now anyway.

He left the package where it was, unopened, and turned to the other letters. Official ones; discharge papers, information about his pension – he could leave those until a later date.

He opened the door to go to the bathroom and heard raised voices from below. He tried not to listen but the bathroom was a few doors away and his progress halting. He couldn’t make out much but Rix was in disagreement with the other doctor. They weren’t quite arguing, more debating, he thought, wondering about it. On his return journey there was quiet.

*

“It’s good of you and David to think about offering me a partnership but it would be impossible. I’m running the Quadrant now.” Rix said, testily.

“You could get someone in to do that, surely?”

“No. This is what I want to do.”

Rayner nodded. “OK.”

“I’ve got the triplets to worry about too. They can look after themselves here, more or less. If I were in Howells I’d have to find someone to look after them.”

“Surely only until Mary-Lou comes back?”

“She has her own work. They’ll all be away for three weeks, anyway.”

“I see.” Rayner didn’t see. He thought his protégé should be in the operating theatre but he saw the sense in dropping the matter for now. “We should talk about your brother.”

“Of course. Thank you for what you did. I was worried when I saw him in Portsmouth.”

“He should continue with his physiotherapy if you can manage to help him that would be good, but he knows what to do.”

“Of course I’ll help. He looks a lot better.”

“He still has memory loss, but it would be beneficial if he spoke to you about what happened, rather than just bottling it up.”

“I’ll ask him to,” Rix got up, frowning, and paced the room, restlessly. He wanted to discuss medicine, as they had in the old days, but he didn’t want to show the alarming gaps in his knowledge of the latest developments. He knew he couldn’t go back to surgery now.

He didn’t mind running the estate – not as much as he had at first, anyhow. He was starting to get to grips with it. The evenings were lonely though; he either worked on the estate books, played the drawing-room piano in a desultory fashion or wandered around the house. He missed his wife. He wished they were still in Carn Beg.

“I’m going to see how John is,” he said.

“Shall I fetch the kids?” Rayner offered, looking at his watch.

“Thank you, yes. Do you know where the school is?”

“Yes, we drove past it. Next to the church.” Rayner pulled on his coat and extracted his car keys from the pocket.

Rix went upstairs and knocked on John’s door quietly. There was no response, so he opened the door just the tiniest crack. John was asleep. Rix backed out and closed the door. He wondered if John really was recovered and selfishly, what he would do if he had not.

*

“Here you are,” Rix handed John a cup of tea.

“Thank you. You’re cold, have you been outside?”

“Yes, of course. This is late for me. The kids want to come in and see you.”

“What time is it?” John asked.

“Half past six. You slept the clock round and then some. You must have been tired.”

“Mr Rayner gave me sleeping tablets.”

“You can call him Frank. He’s married to your cousin, you know.” Rix was amused.

“I don’t even know him. I barely know Con. Still, I expect I can do something to fix that.”

“Yes. I’ve got to get back to the farm. I’ll bring your breakfast up – we have it at eight.”

“I can get up for it.”

“Breakfast in bed for the next few weeks, I’m afraid - doctor’s orders. Then we’ll see. You don’t want to set yourself back when you’ve come this far, do you?”

“I suppose not.”

“Good. Well, I should get back to the animals. I’ll see you later. Shove the kids out if they’re too tiring. I’ll tell them they can come in for ten minutes just before breakfast.”

“OK. Thanks.” John pulled the blankets up as it was chilly. The Quadrant was a big house and costly to heat.

“David’s coming at the weekend.” Rix informed him as he drew back the curtains.

“That’s good. Will he help you out a bit on the farm?”

“He might. I should go back to the estate office.” Rix gazed out of the window at the sea without really seeing it. “See you later.”

“Rix... Thank you for having me here. I know it’s making more work for you. I’ll help you out as soon as I can.”

“You’re always welcome here. It’s your home.” Rix smiled. “Aunt Jo and Uncle Jack want you to go to Switzerland too, to visit them. They were quite insistent about it.”

“I know – Aunt Joey wrote to me at the San.”

“I’d see how you feel about it in the autumn. No point missing the swimming and boating here, is there?”

“No.” The hand holding the tea cup shook slightly, but his self-control was good. “I’m stopping you getting on. I’ll see you later.”

*

The triplets didn’t come to see him before breakfast and John didn’t see them until just after four, when he was up, dressed and quietly sitting in the drawing room in front of the fire with his discharge papers and more tea, made for him especially by Cook. His pension arrangements were complicated and he was still wary of overdoing his reading.

“Uncle John!” They ran at him, ignoring what their father had said but
John was sitting and it didn’t matter. Rayner closed the door to keep the heat in, and sat down on the other armchair.

“Daddy said you’re a hero,” Alexander said, rather awestruck. “Will you tell us about it?”

“Grandmother cried – everyone thought you were dead,” James interjected.

“I’m sure you’ll hear all about it, but Uncle John needs lots of rest. Get off him, child, and go and see if tea’s ready.” Rayner interfered.

“You missed our birthday, Uncle John,” Thomas climbed down, reluctantly, but unlike their often-distracted father, Uncle Frank stood no nonsense.

“I know. I’m sorry I’ll make it up to you when I’m better.” John moved his papers out the way of the children.

*

The days at the Quadrant passed slowly; John frustrated at his lack of progress. He caught a cold – the children seemed to go round with permanent sniffles – which went to his chest. The nights he did sleep he had the old nightmares. One particularly bad night woke up Rix and the children. And the letter came.

Rix handed it over without ceremony at the breakfast table, barely even glancing at it. John saw the creamy white good-quality envelope, the official stamps and slid it quietly into his pocket. He had been half-dreading its arrival even since Captain Walsh’s words in Southampton.


David was coming again that day for the weekend. John didn’t mind; was actually looking forward to it. The children went to bed early and so did Rix, who was often tired and monosyllabic in consequence during the evenings. John pulled on his jacket and left the Quadrant by the front door. At the cliff edge he stared over at the sea below trying to collect his scattered thoughts.

Very few sailors loved the sea as he had done; most viewed it with a professional dislike. He had realised he was frightened of going out there again very soon after his return to Devonshire.

The wind and smell of salt made him cough again. He cursed, turning away and heading up the cliff road. There was a copse on the very outskirts of their land where he had often gone as a teenager. That would do.

He ripped open the envelope anxious now to know the worst. It was from Captain Walsh and appeared to have been dashed off by hand in a hurry. John read it, quite staggered by the contents. He had expected to be nominated for something, but this was totally unexpected. He laughed softly to himself. Walsh was way off the mark – it couldn’t possibly happen. Amused, he opened the envelope to replace the note and discovered the newspaper cutting.

Gazetted 19 April 1969, Lieutenant Commander John Noel Bettany DSO RN.
Following the wreck of HMS Camaraderie while she was at sea he rescued a large number of men who were trapped on board.
The QUEEN has been graciously pleased to approve the following Award(s): —
For bravery in saving life at sea:
The George Cross
Lieutenant Commander J.N. Bettany DSO RN 45K812 (Coorg, India)
When HMS Camaraderie was wrecked in severe storm conditions, Bettany, in flotilla, gave orders to steer HMS Commitment alongside the damaged ship to ensure all could and did evacuate. He crossed to the other ship, went down in another part of the ship, into a water-filled compartment to facilitate the rescue of two men who would otherwise have been left behind. When there was an incident when part of the ship broke apart he went to another part of the ship to ensure all were saved. To reach the Bridge, Bettany, who was without apparatus, had to grope his way through water and debris. Although unaware of the full damage which had been caused to the ship Bettany well knew that he was facing mortal peril. Acting with complete disregard for his own safety his bravery was of the highest order throughout.

He walked back, his hands in his pockets. The sound of a car, driving slightly too fast and braking sharply, made him turn around. David’s low red sports car with the top pushed back.

“Hallo old man. Get in. Where have you been?”

John got in, feeling a bit breathless. He knew he’d overdone it.

“That’s a nasty cough. Has Rix looked at it?”

“It’s just a cold.”

“Humour me. I’ll look at you when we get to the Quadrant.”

“All right. You do fuss.”

“Can’t be too careful with that rib damage you had. What are you doing walking so far anyway?” David didn’t expect an answer. He pulled up by the side of the Quadrant and they both got out.

“I’ve got some documents from the San I need Rix to see. Is he in the estate office?”

“I expect so.”

“I’m looking at your chest first though. I’ve brought my bag.”

“All right.” John didn’t argue. He supposed David hadn’t heard about the medal. It would make the news he knew, but perhaps David hadn’t heard it yet. Their phone was out of order so none of the family could ring either. He waited patiently while David examined him, used by now to doctors.

“Are you going to America?” David asked; a propos of nothing.

“No, why would I?” John was puzzled.

“I just thought...” David was interrupted by Rix’s return and John never found out what he thought until later.

“Why are you doing that in the hall? The fire’s on in the drawing room.” Rix rolled his eyes at David’s slapdash doctoring. “I’ve just lit it.”

“Good idea,” John shivered. “I’m fine anyway.”

“Loveday’s made tea. I’ll join you. Are you not feeling well John?”

“Just this cough. David fusses more than you do,” John said, ungratefully. David laughed. He seemed in a very good mood and Rix responded to it. They ate their meal with chat and laughter.

*

After tea Rix and David went off to the estate office. John took David’s car to the village to pick up the triplets. As he sped past Candlebury, enjoying the opportunity to put his foot down, he was struck by David’s comment about America. Could David know?

Surely not, he rationalised, as he slowed coming into the village. David would have told everybody if he did. He would have joked about it at best and at worst, been disgusted. John parked and examined his scarred wrists. David had been unexpectedly kind over that. He had been supportive also when John had come to London straight after Suez and so had Rix.

He sighed. If David would understand, the rest of his large family would not. His parents – Uncle Jem – the Maynards. He couldn’t tell them. He had kept himself apart from them for years for good reason.

*

The boys ran to see Cook for food while John parked the car on the drive so it was out of the way of the farm vehicles. The estate office was near and he saw David and Rix through the window, dark heads close together as they looked through pages of figures. He hesitated, unsure whether or not to join them, but Rix did look tired. He should help out more. He pushed the door open and went in.

“Can I help at all?” A coughing fit ruined the gesture slightly, but John sat down regardless.

“It’s a bit cold out here for you,” Rix said at once.

“I’m fine.”

“It would be useful to get a fresh perspective. What do you think about this?” David pushed some of the papers over to him and began to explain the issues. John was interested. The three of them settled down to work, occasionally David or Rix would offer explanations if John asked, but mostly they worked in a companionable silence.

“Have you got those projections?” Rix asked, breaking it after an hour. He stretched, as John shuffled the papers in front of him, knocking something off the desk. “Oh, sorry.”

“It’s just a key. I shouldn’t have left it there.” Rix smiled and took the paper. John bent to pick up the key, idly, and as he saw the paper label attached to it in writing that was as familiar to him as his own, he gripped it.

“What key is it?” he asked, trying to sound casual.

“Just Dan’s key. He left it in case I wanted to go round there. I haven’t really got time.”

“Oh.”

“It’s shut up. He’s gone abroad.” Rix looked up briefly from his paperwork. “Here, I’ll take it to the house.”

“Didn’t you know that he’d gone away?” David looked astonished.

“Yes I did.” John put the key back on the desk. “I should go...”

“When’s he back, John?” David stretched himself with a sigh, pleased to have a break. “Soon, I suppose, if you’re not going to America. Will you be moving to London when he is?”

John froze as Rix looked up, frowning. “You’re going to London?”

“No. Maybe.” John prayed David would stop talking. He clearly knew. Had Daniel actually told him? He didn’t think he would be able to act his way through this, but he gave a little laugh and spread his hands. “But I don’t know where Daniel Lyndhurst fits in. I barely know him.”

“But...” David blinked, utterly confused. “I thought...”

Rix looked at his brother, and at his cousin, and stood up and left, abruptly. The door banged in the wind after him.

*

John got up, slowly. He didn’t look at David.

“Oh, Christ. I’m sorry. I didn’t know.”

“What didn’t you know?”

“That you hadn’t told Rix about – well, about you and
Lyndhurst.”

“No.”

“I’ll tell him I was joking. It’ll be OK. Look, sit down, won’t you?”
“How did you know? Did he tell you?”


“No. Come off it, we’re hardly best friends. I just guessed I suppose. He was always asking after you when you were away. Look, Rix doesn’t mind, you know.” Even David didn’t look convinced by his words.

*

Rix was in the kitchen garden; he appeared to be alone.

John went over to him, warily. He didn’t know what to say. “Rix.” He began. “I didn’t want...”

“Are you?” Rix was direct and his expression was thunderous. “With him?”

“I am. I was. It’s over.” It was a relief to finally admit it to his brother. No more pretence. He didn’t wait to hear Rix’s response but turned and went back to the house.

Rix stared after him for a long moment. Everything suddenly made sense. John had always been secretive, even when they were children. Ignoring his pressing farm responsibilities for the first time ever, he left his work and headed towards the cliffs, to walk and digest the news. His brother and his best friend. It felt like a betrayal. David seemed to know all about it. Why had John never told him?

John went into his bedroom. He still had sleeping pills left; now he shook two into his hand and swallowed them with water from the basin. He craved a long, dreamless sleep before we would have to face the others and pack; or whatever else he would now have to do.

*

“I brought you some tea,” Rix came in to his bedroom, having knocked. John sat up, rubbing his eyes. It was dark outside. He had slept for hours. Rix turned on the electric light. He seemed nervous. John took the teacup and thanked him.

“I’m sorry that I lost my temper.” Rix said. “I admit I was shocked.”

“David thought you knew.” John said. He was dressed under the bedclothes; he pushed them back and got out of bed. It was easier to talk at the same eye level. “I didn’t tell him. He guessed.”

“I know.” Rix was terrified he would say the wrong thing. “I realised that. I-I gave it some thought this afternoon. When did it start, I mean, when did you know?”

“I’ve always known.” John was frank.

“And Daniel – It started last summer didn’t it? Around the time of Fred Brentford’s big party.”

“That was the night we... Yes. But it’s over. He didn’t do anything wrong, Rix. I wanted it to happen. I – I like him a lot. Liked him, I mean.”

“I went to see him when we thought you had drowned.” Rix said, thinking hard. Was it just Daniel? Have there been others? He was full of questions but it was too new and he shied away from asking them. John still looked frightened. “I just want you to know that it doesn’t change anything, well, between us.”

“You don’t know how many times I wanted to tell you...” John’s eye fell on the envelope that held the letter from Captain Walsh. “They’re going to give me a medal. Here.”

Rix took the envelope but didn’t open it. “Did Daniel initiate it?”

“Not really. We both wanted it to happen.”

Rix nodded. He was reluctant to ask further questions and recognised that John seemed hesitant to talk about it. Perhaps he hadn’t wanted Daniel to go to America. He read the letter, not really taking it in, and then the cutting.

“The George Cross?” he asked John, incredulous. “They want to give you the George Cross?

“I think they’re mad.”

“Rot. You were incredibly brave. It’s entirely deserved. When does it happen?”

“Walsh says it’ll be announced on 19 April. That’s today. It’ll be in the papers.”

“Congratulations,” Rix said warmly. “Mother and Dad will
be thrilled.”

“I don’t know if I deserve it. No, I’m not being modest. I don’t remember anything. I remember going to get lifejackets and then... If I could remember what I did then I’d feel better about it.”

“But you directed a rescue of 500 men. You saved their lives.” To Rix it was simple. He sat down on John’s bed and re-read the citation.

*

The three of them sat down to a late dinner once Rix had put the children to bed. David did most of the talking. Rix was tired and John nearly silent. Rix had been all right about it on the whole but things had changed between them. They had used to talk about the future and that wouldn’t happen now without a new distance. He also had to tell his parents and that wouldn’t be easy. He had no idea how they would react.

*

At least Rix hadn’t told him to keep away from the children, he thought, as he watched the three of them run across the beach. He had a lot to be thankful for.

“Uncle John? Can you take us into the cave?” Alex ran back and pulled at the sleeve of his jersey.

“The tide’s turning. I promise I’ll take you when I come back.” He swung the boy up onto his back, marvelling that he could. The dark days when he thought he would never walk again seemed very distant now. He called the other two who came running.

“You could take us tomorrow, Uncle,” Alex pointed out. “Please?”

“No, it’s better in the summer.” John looked at his nephew. “You’re not to go down there yourself, understand?”

“Yes.” Alex said, a touch sulkily.
Chapter End Notes:
More soon!



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