When I reached the house I was surprised by the dogs, hurtling round, not bothering to judge the space as inadequate and forcing their bellies through the half opened gate with sheer single-minded will. Then they bowled me backwards down the path. For a while the greeting grew in scale as I responded with pats and rubs and appreciative words. Then it was finally enough and they escorted me back through the gate, letting me open it first. As much as I was thrilled to see them I was also preoccupied, nurturing new thoughts and impressions to digest from Ed. It must have been the exuberance of the dogs that let me think for a moment that I would share what had happened with Jason, and that we’d sculpt the sense of it together. It was also, perhaps, self-centred, because I’d absolutely no idea why he’d come to the house, and even whether he’d come to see me. By the time I got to the door I’d tempered my dog-given impetuosity.
Jason stepped out onto the front step. He’d let himself in then.
“Shall I make some tea, or coffee?”
“I’ll have some tea if you like.”
If I liked! So no coffee, no sense of heartiness nor goodwill, no sharing. Tea was more ambiguous, emotionally colder. The only time when tea felt as convivial as coffee was outside, during or after a long and exerting day. Not now though.
I skirted past him to the kitchen and took out the old teapot and a couple of mugs from the cupboard. As I walked past the door I opened it fully against the wall to conceal my artful coat hanging on the peg.
“Linda came over a few times in the week. She was saying you’re in the foresters cottage on the hill”
“Yes that’s right. I’ve taken a few things already from here, you’ve probably seen, and I’m wondering whether you want to sort out the rest now or leave it a bit? I don’t need much. Lyn has lent me quite a bit and I’m sure she wouldn’t mind me having them as long as I need…”
Well, there it was. The sad thing for me was that I knew it wasn’t posturing – not bluff. I could take this at face value. He wanted to know what I wanted to do about sharing out the stuff. Practical of him. There might have been something ulterior in his mentioning of Linda, but that wasn’t a speculation to build any hope on. So I poured tea and slumped down for the dreaded discussion. After a while I wondered why he’d bothered since he seemed to want to leave everything with me. He was, though, adamant that the dogs stay with him. That was really gutting, not least the intimation that they’d be better off that way. I didn’t object, but after gazing emptily into my tea I was inspired with a compromise:
“You wanted to let her have a litter, a while ago. Otherwise we’d have got her spayed, wouldn’t we? So we can breed her and I’ll have a few of her puppies, when the time is right of course. What do you think?”
I was feeling confident, confident enough to just come out with it; no prevarication was necessary. I knew that he’d find it just as appealing as I did, probably more so. And yet he couldn’t just say yes could he?
“I’d need to check where I stand with the tenancy. It’s okay with the two dogs in the house, but I’m not sure beyond that.”
Something like ‘yeah, whatever, blaa baa blaa’ went through my head, but I didn’t feel like arguing over the sentiments behind his appeal to bureaucracy. He was stalling, but only to avoid impulsivity, my impulsivity, nothing more. I knew he’d agree in his own time.
“Well, let me know, later this week? Will that be enough time?”
Barking and scuffling outside signaled Jason to get up. “Okay. I will.” He picked up his jacket and led the escalating altercation away from the house, the offending marauder yapping after them with frantic enthusiasm. Once they’d gone it sauntered back the other way along the street. Maybe it had seen an opportunity to extend its territory to my house, an opportunistic land grab. Next door’s cat was also taking his chances these days; lazing around in the window when the sun was on the kitchen and coming through it for a walk around the worktop as I cooked. Open house!
With Jason’s departure I set upon calling to mind my impressions of Ed from earlier. He wasn’t trying to hide anything; he seemed quite open in fact. Nevertheless he was enigmatic, didn’t call a spade a spade, that was for sure. That made him suspect in my eyes, an obscurantist whose obtuse comments could draw me in to something that would be ultimately confused and meaningless. I didn’t want to waste my time, but then being drawn in was probably the best way to really understand why Elly went away, and to restore a connection with her. The problem was, could I embark on that process without risking the question? Would I lose my objectivity? No. Of course not. How could anything get in the way of my quest for Elly. Unthinkable. So it was safe then, I decided, as though my decision would make it such. A disappointing spoiler hit me. What I hadn’t taken into account, for the second time in the same day, was the agenda of the other party. I’d assumed that Jason had come home to see me, which as it happens he had, but I then assumed that Ed would be around and would be willing to extend our acquaintance, which it was by no means certain that he would. Three times by then I’d sought him out, and any more pursuit would obviously be with an alternative agenda than to ask him for information on Elly’s whereabouts. What would he make of the obsession that had already made itself felt, and what if he drew the wrong conclusions, where would that leave me?