"That's weird," said Jillian. "To dine on Harold Heffernan's sentencing.
"It's retribution. Why aren't you pleased?" Christopher asked.
They were sitting together on the waterfront rocks in the parkland.
Almost a year had passed. Chris was between women and Jillian was studying almost
constantly, too busy to date.
Jillian looked down at her hands as they rested in her lap." He actually
did us good. Dad now owns the whole of a larger, more streamlined business." She
looked up at him. "He gave you a magic thesis topic and you built on it incredibly
well. You had a brilliant final year."
"Those things might have happened anyway."
"True." said Jillian, shrugging. "And he hasn't done me any favours,
that I admit."
He gave her a searching look. "At least Keith resigned, so you weren't
lusting after a staff member."
"I was never lusting." She laughed, "Never."
"Whatever you were feeling for him, I was jealous of it." He grinned
back at her. "I think you felt more strongly about him than about me."
"I thought I had hidden it better than that. Anyhow, I haven't seen
him since, so that's been a wasteland." Her face fell. "To top it all off, I'm no
closer to liking Anatomy than I was at the start of the year."
"I'm too busy. I'd love to. You know that."
"I don't know that. I don't think you know what you want. You know
I date other women, and you say you want me to wait, and I'm still prepared to. I
still think you are the brightest and most beautiful woman I know, and I've known
you since pigtails. But now that I've graduated, and I've got a secure future with
the fraud squad, the time is going to come when I will want to get married. I do
hope you come out of this funk before it's time for me to make that decision."
"You've been very kind to me, Chris. You've notn't nagged me, and
what you do is your own business of course. I'm not sure I'm ever going to be the
marrying sort. You shouldn't wait for me. I know myself better now, I think. I'm
too fearful for you. You go climbing and skiing and tramping. Those aren't for women."
"Of course they are. Lots of the women go on the tramping and skiing
trips. You should come too. I'd love it if you did. And I'm sure you'd have a great
"I'm really far too busy keeping up with my studies."
"I know. You enrolled for this year as soon as the results came out
last year. You were into your text books long before the first term started. You
don't have holidays. And where is getting you? You know your marks have slipped badly."
"Only in the anatomy subjects. You are lucky. All your work is on
what you love, but only some of mine is. And you before you had even finished you
got a job with the fraud squad, and your fees paid thereafter."
"Oh, Jilly, they still see me as being in the police academy, seconded
to a post-graduate course. I get called in to help on some cases, that's all."
"Yes, but you love it all. I just hate anatomy."
"Why? It's only studying the human body. Isn't that what being a
doctor is all about?"
"I don't want to talk about it. I can learn it, I can. It just takes
me extra time to memorise it, that's all."
"What does your studies advisor say, Jilly?"
"He expects me to pull through. He's not happy about it, and nor
am I. I'll get through, this year, but I won't be top of the class, that's for sure.
I'm just miserable. But I'm coping."
"Yes, but that's all. Just coping. not living."
"My studies have to come first." She burst into tears, ran back home,
and up to her room.
Christopher followed slowly. She's been like this since the night
of the car chase. I wonder if it has left her permanently unsettled her in some way.
But surely she would have got over that by now? Maybe she had some sort of problem
already and that just highlighted it? If she doesn't snap out of it, she'll end up
with no friends, fail her course, just live at home, lonely, doing I don't know what.
Christopher wasn't the only one who had noticed. Jillian's state
of mind was hard to overlook. Her mother tried to be accepting, to give her daughter
time to work her way through whatever the problem was, without nagging. Eventually
she felt her daughter's self-cloistering behaviour had gone far enough.
"Jilly, you should get out more often, Dear. I know that you've a
much heavier work-load now. But you are not a hermit, you are only young once and
I want you to see other young people, not be shut away all the time. It's nearly
the end of the middle term and you've not been out once. You are looking washed out,
from over-work, I am sure."
"Oh, Mum, you know I see Chris, and there are all the others in my
class, as well. I'm only shut away when I'm doing my actual study, at home."
"But Dear, that's all the time when you are not in class or eating
- and goodness knows, if I let you have your way you would take your meals at your
desk. I know it's very late when you finally go to bed. sometimes I see your light
under your door in the small hours if I go to the bathroom then."
"Oh, Mum, it's not really that late. And everyone does it."
"Well, I'm not so sure. But I'm certain they don't all look as drawn
as you do. And Chris you only see these days when your buses arrive at the same time
and you walk back together. I'm sure you must be top of your class - you can afford
to ease off a little now and then - they won't fail you for relaxing sometimes!"
"Oh, dear Mum - yes, I know that I work hard, but I like to do a
little better than I need to, so if something happens to slow me up, like getting
sick, I've got some marks in hand to do well enough at my exams. I used to float
through at the top. Whatever I read I remembered. I can't seem to get the latest
stuff to stay in my head. I'm not top any more. I don't really enjoy cutting up dead
bodies. If I keep slipping I'll end up at the bottom."
"And if you don't ease up a bit, being at the bottom and a sick bookworm
is quite on the cards, my girl. Maybe you would end up not being able to go on to
be a doctor. I think you are so worn out, and nervy, that it's making you unable
to study effectively. If you get invited to any nice parties this weekend, I want
you to go to one, please. Or else you've got to go to the movies. Something. Anything.
Now promise me."
I do wish she wouldn't worry, Jillian thought, I only need more
time at my books. More memorising. Other people manage it without getting sick -
how am I to convince you that I will be just fine? I can see you aren't going to
let up. I'll give way gracefully and take a night off my books. Who knows - I might
even enjoy myself. "Oh, yes, Mum. I'll do that. Please don't nag, and please don't
worry. I promise I will."
"That's good, and you can take the car on Saturday night - your father
and I are having a bridge night here, so we won't need it."
Later, as she rode the bus to the university, instead of trying once
more to memorise her lecture notes, as she usually did, Jillian found herself wondering
about what her mother had said. I'm not a bookworm, she thought, I have feelings
- certainly for Chris - and I like dancing and reading, and the movies, but I just
don't have time for any of that. I'll be able to do those things again when I've
Why can't people leave me alone? And why do people think I'm a natural
party girl? Even Mum? I know I'm pretty, I can see that in the mirror, and my damned
red hair is like a flag to men, but why do they automatically think I will like them
just because they like what they see? Mostly, I don't know them at all, and they
know nothing about me. With people, what you see, isn't at all what you get. I might
be nice for men to look at, but how about me as a person? How about what I want?
It's years since Keith hounded me, and Chris couldn't be more different, but now
I think that there's a bit of Keith in every man.
Perhaps that's not fair to Chris. Maybe he knows and likes the real
me, because we were so happy playing together when I was flat-chested and had freckles
and buck-teeth. But I just can't trust any other man - Keith was so nice to start
with but it turned out that he was just a disguised groper, and a bad-tempered one
at that. I think that is what all men are like when you get to know them better.
Unless perhaps you grew up together as children?
Later, in a gap between lectures, she found her thoughts running
on the same track again. Maybe mother is right - maybe I really am too tired to learn
properly, becoming just a bookworm. Perhaps medicine is not for me. I'm doing badly,
and losing contact even with my own family. Mother and father spend a lot of time
just being happy together, and so did I until university. Now I'm never happy at
all. And I've come to hate this course. I loved it so much to start with. I've got
to get back on an even keel. But surely I can put the effort in now and play later?
Why isn't that working for me? Surely I can postpone some short-term pleasures for
a few years while I get my degree? I have always been logical, and loved solving
puzzles and reading and learning about things, but am I letting that work take up
too much of my life? What's happening to me?
The following evening, getting off the bus, she found Chris waiting
at the bus stop, sitting on the bench under the big old tree on the corner, in the
gathering dusk, the smell of flowers in the warm air, insects buzzing around. "I've
been waiting for you Jilly - my bus came in first. Your mum is getting worried about
you. She was over to our house yesterday talking to my mother, and mother told me
- as I know she was intended to."
"Oh, I really wish Mum wouldn't do that."
"Yes, but she has, as long as I've known her, and that's since you
moved here when you started high school."
"Yes, I'll never be able to stop her - what is this about? Is it
about my not going out to parties? If it is, I've already had my earful. From her
as well as from you. She was on about yesterday at breakfast."
"That's right, and, Jilly, you know I feel the same way. Well, not
quite the same. But I would love it if you could spend more time with me, like we
used to. We are nearly grown up now, or maybe we are grown up. Either way, I feel
you've shut yourself away from me and after all the years we have spent together,
it has me feeling almost lonely, sometimes."
"Oh, Chris, you've never talked this way before. It's ridiculous,
you've many friends who you see, and you go out with some other girls. Is it the
mothers who have put you in this mood?"
"Not really. I had been thinking about it a bit, as the weeks went
by and I still didn't see you except at the bus stop. But 'the mothers', as you say,
have made me think about it a bit more and that has helped me make up my mind to
talk to you now. I don't mind for myself too much - I do spend time with the others
in our old crowd but I also do miss you. And there's another thing. What will it
do to you to be asked to leave the school, in the worst case, or to graduate, perhaps
only scraping through badly, with no friends, a virtual recluse? And I want you,
as much more than just friends. As a man and woman."
That night, trying again to focus on her books, Jillian found that
her usual ineffective repetitions were displaced by that conversation. Her mind was
on Chris, and what he had said. I've missed him too, she thought, but if I spend
more time with him, as well as taking it from my study, it also seems to give him
ideas I would rather he didn't have. He has laid it on the line now. He wants to
kiss, even more than kiss. He's getting like Keith, actually. Chris used not to nag
at me like that, and I could cope. This is too much - it isn't fair.
I know he wants to love me as he wants to - but what makes him think
I would like that at all? Men are all the same, even Dad. I can't understand why
Mum seems so willing to put up with it. And if I got pregnant - what about my studies?
And Chris would want time with me, time and time again. Then what about my studies?
Will he wait for me till I graduate? He loves me, and maybe I could love him, perhaps,
but certainly not in the same way. Not at all. I think he has guessed, but I'm not
sure and I can't ask him - it would be the same as telling him. He said he would
wait, but he's close to graduation now, and I have years ahead of me. Will he wait
that long? Do I really want him? Do I want to marry anyone? Well, of course I do
- that's my plan. But it should be another doctor, with a true sense of vocation,
with the fortitude to share a life in the disadvantaged third-world regions. And
I know that Chris sees the other girls, women now, much more now than when we were
younger together. They all go in their groups, tramping, or skiing. At those times
I am not there for him. If he keeps being thrown into the company of those women,
all of them adults together, maybe he will feel love for one them too. As well as
for me? Or instead of me?
And with that she felt her eyes grow moist at the thought of a lonely
life without him, and finally slept, but with unhappy dreams that she could not quite
remember when she awoke, after a full night in bed, but not feeling rested, not at
That morning, in her study time at the library between lectures, Jillian
found she could not keep her mind off her 'bookworm problem'. What if they are right,
and I am overworking? she thought. Certainly I am much less effective in my studies.
Just how much less was soon revealed to her. After one of her classes, as she was
preparing to stand up, she realised that someone was standing over her. She looked
up to see the tutor, her studies advisor, smiling down at her.
"Hello, Miss Jones. You've not got another class immediately, have
"No. No, I haven't."
"Could you spare me a few minutes, please? We may need to have a short
discussion about your progress. I could make you a coffee."
They went to his study. He talked as he made the coffee.
"We're worried about you, did you know?"
"No, I hadn't known."
"At one point you were our best student. we had great hopes for you.
But this year you've slipped to be an average student. Good average, true, but where
has the brilliance gone to? We talked about it, earlier, didn't we?"
"I just couldn't get into it somehow, as I used to."
"And now you've slid back still further. If you maintain this standard
you will probably fail at the end of the year. But if you keep getting worse at the
rate you are, we will have to ask you to withdraw, and quite soon."
"Oh, surely not. Please."
He sipped his coffee, leaned back in his chair, looked at her over
the rim of the mug. Very gently, musing, almost to himself, he finally spoke. "I
wonder. Have you thought about specialising rather sooner? Into some related field
that would present you with a challenge, where you could do valuable work, but that
avoided those parts of the discipline that seem to be giving you so much trouble?"
He smiled, gently.
Jillian was ignoring her own drink. "What do you mean?"
"You do brilliantly at the impersonal science units, but you've really
lost the pedals on the blood-and-guts aspects. Maybe you're not meant to be a doctor?"
She sat up straighter. "Oh, no, it is my vocation."
"Vocation. Oh. Dear Lord. Don't hear that very often these days."
"I want to do something for the disadvantaged peoples of the third
"That'd be about as blood-and-guts as you can get, I would have thought."
"I know. I'm so confused." She burst into tears.
He looked around his messy office. Found a box of tissues. Put it down
beside her. Sat down again. Waited.
"I study hard. I'm up until two most mornings. I used to memorise everything
at one reading, but some of this stuff just won't go in at all. My mother says she
thinks I'm over doing it. Over-tired. What would you suggest? Is there anything that
anyone can suggest?"
He got up, took a small book off a top shelf. "You might like to read
this. You've probably read it before. A revision might be a good idea. And get more
sleep. And have some sort of social life. If you can't cope with people how can you
deal with patients? Start getting some more practice at that, too."
Jillian looked at the book. 'How to Study'. "I've read this."
"Read it again. Particularly the sections about blockage, and about
balance. It might help. Bring it back to me in a couple of weeks. We'll have another
talk then. Don't worry about your marks in the meantime. I'll have a talk to your
lecturers. If you aren't well, we can't expect miracles from you."
"I'm not unwell."
"Anyhow, I'll see you at the same time, in two weeks. In the meantime,
don't worry. Something might happen to make it all click into place."
"Oh, good." She cheered up immediately. "What've you got in mind?"
"Oh, I see. No, I didn't have anything in particular to suggest. It's
that these things sometimes come good of their own accord, or are triggered by some
quite random occurrence. Sorry, no magic wands today. Right out of magic wands."
He had stood up, and walked across the room. "Two weeks." he reminded her, dropping
one hand on her shoulder as he opened the door to the hall and saw her out.
The door closed behind her. He's just like all the others. All pawing,
as if I was some sort of prize or prey. At least Chris is prepared to wait.
On the bus home, as instructed, she began a further reading of the
book she had been lent. She didn't think it was going to do any good. She could remember
the whole thing, anyway. When she got to the discussion on social life, she remembered
that she had always thought that advice didn't apply to her. Why should the best
results often go to the students who 'balanced' their study time with social activities?
It made no sense. The more you study, the more you learn, surely. And more study
takes more time. It's that simple. But, on the other hand, the way things are going,
I will be flunked out unless I can change.
I must do something. It seems that my hand is forced. I guess I am
going to have to take Mother's advice and go out this weekend - with Chris, perhaps.
Just a movie. Nothing more. He'd want to do that, I'm sure.
She hoped to see him at the bus stop if the buses arrived close together,
but he was not there. After dinner she walked down to his home.
"Jilly, come in!"
"Oh, Chris, I thought we might go for a walk - it won't be dark for
a while yet."
"That's great - where shall we go?"
"Down to the water will be nice. I've been thinking about what you
said yesterday, about my not getting out, and neglecting you, and my mother's fear
I will turn into a bookworm. Well, this worm is turning over a new leaf. My studies
aren't going all that well. My study advisor says I have got to spare time for my
friends too. I'm getting stale and I'll keep getting worse, otherwise."
Chris turned and hugged her - "Oh, what a shame about your studies.
I had wondered. But it's just great that you want to go out with me."
She felt a sudden warmth for him, and then a sudden cooling. It was
the same as usual. I wish I could understand this, she thought. Her legs felt shaky,
so she told them to keep strong, and put all her will-power into keeping her eyes
"So I thought we might go out some more, like we used to."
"What about a movie, this Saturday night?"
His face fell - "I've arranged to go to Melbourne to the computer
conference. It's really part of my job. Or my course. Both, really. But we could
go to the movies the following Saturday. I'd love to do that. What would you like
Jillian's heart fell too. Mother won't accept that. She'll have me
out with some stranger. Surely not. I'll explain about the conference in Melbourne.
She'll understand. This week, next week, what's the difference? I'll make the date
with Chris, and then she'll be happy. She looked up at him. "Lovely, Chris. We can
make our choice when we see the Wednesday papers. Saturday. I hope the conference
is interesting and useful. Are they paying your expenses?"
They chatted for a few more minutes, as they turned about and returned
in the dusk to their homes.
When she arrived home and let herself in, her mother looked up -
"Hello, Dear. Been out for a stroll?"
"Chris and I walked down to the park - we are going to a movie next
"That's lovely dear. That's a step in the right direction. Now, what
about this Saturday - you did promise me."
"But Mother - Chris will be in Melbourne this weekend, at the conference."
"So this weekend you go out with someone else, or go to a party,
you told me that there are a lot of parties arranged at lunch time in the cafeteria
- I want you to go to one of them with some of the other girls you know from your
"But I have no idea what sort of parties they will be."
"Go to one where some girls you trust already know the host - and
remember there is safety in numbers."
The next day, Thursday, was very hard for Jillian. She kept forcing
her mind back to her books, but with difficulty. She had lunch in the cafeteria with
other young women from her class, but nobody said anything about parties.
"Mother, I had lunch in the cafeteria, but I don't think there are
any parties on - nobody said anything about them."
"Well, then, you are going to have to ask outright. Tomorrow is Friday,
your last chance to keep your word. I'm serious, you know."
The following day, Jillian went to lunch in the same group. After
they had taken their trays back to the table and settled down to eat, she asked "Are
there no parties on this weekend - I haven't heard anything about them."
"Oh, Jilly, of course there are," her friend Margaret said, "but
you've always spurned them and we didn't want you to feel left out, so we have been
waiting until you went back the library - there's one at John Cumbene's place on
Saturday. He's nice, he lives near me. His parents are nice, too. They will be there
and we are all going. They would love to have you - take down the address. I'll let
John know to expect you."
That afternoon, in class, Jillian looked round the lecture room,
its seats in curved tiers facing down to the lecturer's desk, and saw John Cumbene
looking at her from the other end of the curved bench, at the far side of the room.
He smiled at her and made a thumbs-up sign, and she suddenly found herself looking
forward to the evening at his home.
At dinner that night, her mother asked her, gently, if she had any
plans for the weekend.
"Why, yes, Mother, I'm going with Margaret and some of the other
girls to a party that John Cumbene and his parents are putting on for us."
"How lovely, Dear. And what are you going to wear?"
"I thought my red sweater and the new jeans."
"That's a bit too casual, isn't it."
"Maybe, but it's what the other girls will be wearing."
"I suppose it will be fine, then. And how are you getting there and
"Oh, I hadn't thought it through that far."
"Will you want to be drinking?"
"Oh, I shouldn't think so - I hear that some of the girls make quite
fools of themselves that way. Why do you ask?"
"Well, now that you've got your P plates, as you won't be drinking
there is no reason why you should not take the car - isn't that right Gerald?"
"Yes," her father had said, "it's better for you to have your own
transport. It will give you some independence and make it easier for you to avoid
difficult situations. Accepting a lift from a boy with a hidden agenda isn't altogether
prudent, for he has the keys and the control. But nobody except you is to drive the
car at all, and absolutely no alcohol, clear?"
"Oh, Dad, you are such a dear, and thank you Mum for suggesting it.
I love you both," and she had got up from the table and run around it to hug them
each in turn.
That night she slept well, feeling that all the problems in her life
finally had solutions, and that she could afford to relax and let them fall into
place, with the passage of time, and only a little nudging here and there to keeping
them moving in the right direction.
The Saturday dawned clear. She opened her eyes with the sound of
the birds and was out of bed before the clock would have called her. After an early
breakfast she got her books out and, apart from meals, worked at her assignments
until mid-afternoon, when she looked out the clothes she was going to wear, pressed
them, laid them on her bed, showered and dressed, then went down to help her mother
with the dinner.
"You're early down, love. Books too boring?"
"No Mum, but I've got the point that I needed to, today, so I thought
if I am going to spend more time with the people I love, you should be on the list,
"Oh, Jilly. I do love you. I am so glad I had you. I don't need any
help here just now - why don't you go and see where your dad is?" She looked towards
the door leading to the garage, and winked.
Jillian found her father in the garage, cleaning the car. "Hello
Jilly - come to help? Here, grab the polishing cloth - we can't have you going out
on a dirty steed."
"Dad, there's no way anyone would ever call any car that you own,
dirty. I'm sure you are the fussiest motorist ever."
"May be, but if you keep it clean it doesn't take long. Though it
will probably be a wasted effort today - from the look of those clouds we will have
rain this evening, thunder, even."
"I know what come next, Dad, take more care in the rain - the roads
are slippery and the visibility poor."
"You'll be fine, Dear. Won't be long now and you will be finished
with your "P" plates, anyhow. Well, that's done now - let's join your mother for
After dinner, Jillian put on a little makeup, checked out her handbag,
and looked out her raincoat and umbrella, for she might have quite a walk from the
party to where she could park the car, and she would rather look drab than be soaked.
Then she hugged and kissed her parents and went out to the car, took out the street
directory and looked up the Cumbene's address, to work out her route. Sydney was
becoming harder to get around in, each year, her father said. When he had got married
and bought his first house in Sydney, thirty years ago when they were still affordable,
you could drive anywhere in the region without trouble. Now, with more cars on the
road, the one-way streets and motorways seemed to make it harder rather than easier.
The Cumbenes were at Warriewood. At least that was on the same side
of the harbour. She could get there easily by Warringah Road and the Wakehurst Parkway.
Her father had followed her out, "Where are they?"
"Warriewood. I'll go by Warringah Road and Wakehurst Parkway."
"If it's wet, the Parkway will be difficult - it's narrow, winding,
steep and unlit."
"I'll be careful Dad. Don't worry."
"I know you will - but Dads do worry, anyhow. Have fun."
He turned back into the house as she drove carefully away.
Three quarters of an hour later she reached the Cumbene house at
Warriewood, drove past looking for a parking space, found one almost a block away,
then took her purse, coat and umbrella, checked her lipstick, locked the car, and
walked back to the party.
"Hi Jilly, I'm glad to see you here at last. Come in." John took
her coat and umbrella, and led her into the lounge. I think you know almost everyone
here - they are mostly in our class. We have a few strangers though. Come and meet
Jillian felt her stomach tighten, then she forced herself to relax.
Surely this would be some other Keith.
"Jillian - this is Keith Heffernan, Keith, Jillian Jones."
"Oh, we know each other." - they both spoke at the same time, and
neither put out a hand to shake.
John looked from one to the other, puzzled, then said, awkwardly,
"Well, I'm sure you've a lot to catch up on, then - I'll get you a drink, Jilly."
"Oh, nothing alcoholic, please. I'm driving and I'm still on my P
"We have fruit punch, exactly for that purpose. I'll get you that,"
brought back a glass, handed it to her with a smile, then took off to welcome other
Keith scowled at her, "Hello Jilly, long time no see." He took her
arm and, before she thought to object, led her out into the loggia.
She looked around. They were alone. "What on earth are you doing
here?" she asked, furious at finding her evening blighted by him.
"Manners, manners. I'm a guest here, just like you."
"I bet you're up to no good, as usual."
"Jilly, Jilly. Don't be nasty. I'm installing a computer system for
the Cumbene family business and Mr. Cumbene was kind enough to invite me here this
evening to meet some other young people."
"They don't know about you, do they? How could you?"
"Oh, Jilly, you can't say anything to them - that would be slanderous
- quite improper. I'm well aware that I've got a criminal record, but all I did was
give Dad a password, you know. I feel badly about that, ashamed of him. I trusted
him. We all did. My mum can't make up her mind whether to stand by him or divorce
him. And I'm very good at my job. I don't take any chances. I always set up systems
so that even I can't see the passwords, and I recommend that my employers get their
auditors to check that it's so. I may have been too trusting once. Wouldn't you trust
your father? But I'm not a complete fool. I've kept my nose clean and been given
another chance. Can't you do the same?"
"Oh yes, I know you would be keeping your nose clean, as you put
it. But you're otherwise absolutely no good at all. I'm sure of it. You're completely
unprincipled. Totally evil."
"And you're just a goody-two-shoes, aren't you. All prim and proper.
I bet you're still too scared to even let a real man touch you."
"Oh, you're hateful. If you were a real man it might be different.
But you're not. You're a little scheming weasel. What woman in her right mind would
"Oh, I have my moments, and few complaints. You might give it a go
some time. You could surprise yourself."
"No chance. I value myself better than that. I'm going in now, and
you had better not trouble me again this evening. I might find that I'm prepared
to risk a slander after all. If you want to be left alone, you leave me alone too."
She turned without giving him time to reply and walked back into the lounge.
John watched her entry with interest. "You've been out there a while
with Keith. Not my business, but I wouldn't have thought you two had much in common."
"Just a business acquaintance of my father's."
"Same here. Quite a nice guy by all accounts, but I can't say I feel
too certain about him. Don't know why. Just something."
"I know what you mean." I don't like this, she thought, but I promised
mother, and my tutor is insistent, too. I'd better do my best. "Now who else is here
that I don't know?"
"Of course, let me take around."
The rest of the evening went tolerably, better than she had feared,
except for Keith's continued presence, for whenever she glanced to his side of the
room she found his eyes on her, considering.
Jillian was one of the first to leave. She had put in much more than
a token appearance, and she wanted to make an early start on her books the next day.
She was pleased that she had prepared for bad weather, as the rain by then was streaming
down in torrents. As she left she asked John if anyone wanted a lift back toward
"I don't think so - most will be making a much later night of it,
and I think they all arranged their transport together before they came. Thank you
for coming - you seemed to enjoy yourself after a slow beginning," he grinned, "Drive
carefully." And he watched her down the steps then closed the door.
The rain swirled around, briefly caught in the dim street lights,
as Jillian tried to shield herself with the umbrella in the wind, which drove the
rain almost horizontally. In the short distance to the car, her jeans below the knee
were soaked through. Reaching the car, she unlocked it and slid behind the wheel,
struggling to close the umbrella with getting soaked, all at the same time. She felt,
rather than heard, the passenger door open, and turned in time to see Keith climb
in and slam the door shut. "Get out" she shouted, still trying to deal with the umbrella.
"Just calm down and finish what you are doing, and then we can talk
Jillian finally managed to extricate the umbrella from the radio
aerial, with which it had become entangled in the dark, folded it, threw it into
the back seat, deliberately trying to hit Keith with it in doing so, and slammed
"How did you get in, "she demanded.
"That's the problem with central locking," he grinned, and even in
the glim from the street lights she could see it wasn't a nice grin, "when you unlock
one door they all open, and you can't relock them while the driver's door isn't shut."
"You get out again, right now."
"Now, that's no way to speak to an old friend who only wants a lift
to a railway station on a night you wouldn't put a dog out in."
"I would put you out, though, if I could. You know there are no stations
out here. I would have to take you almost all the way home with me, and the roads
are dark and lonely, and I don't trust you - I can't abide you. get out."
"Jilly, Jilly, little Jilly. You may think I'm evil, but I wouldn't
lay a finger on you without your permission - you believe that, don't you?"
Strangely, she did. Offensive as he may have been, through all the
time he was working in her father's office, though he had occasionally touched her,
it had always been done tentatively, and he had always stopped immediately she had
"But your manner is gross and offensive, and I don't want you in
the car with me. Get out."
"No Jilly. I want a lift back to town, and I want to talk to you.
I'm no physical danger to you, but I can and I will make trouble for you if you send
me back to that party now. They think we have left together. If anything happened
to you I would be blamed. You are quite safe. Now drive this bloody thing, or are
you hopeless at that, too?"
She started the car, and headed into the Wakehurst Parkway. Keith
began telling her that he was going straight now, and if she wanted him to leave
behind him the mistakes he had made when he was younger, she should not make it impossible
for him to earn a legitimate income.
Copyright © 2003 Peter Leon Collins