Chapter no 106


THE ONE GOOD THING about Tweedle Dumb and Tweedle Dumber was that they made me ready for war. They filled me with choking rage, always a good precursor for battle. They also made me want to be anywhere but England. Where are my goddamned orders?

Please send my orders.

And then, of course, as so often happens…

I was at a music festival and my cousin tapped me on the shoulder.

Harry, this is my friend Cressida.

Oh. Um. Hello.

The setting was inauspicious. Lots of people, zero privacy. Also, I was still suffering a broken heart. On the other hand, the landscape was lovely, the music was good, the weather was fine.

There were sparks.

Soon after that day we went to dinner. She told me about her life, her family, her dreams. She wanted to be an actress. She was so soft-spoken and shy, acting was the last profession I’d have imagined for her, and I said so. But she confessed that it made her feel alive. Free. She made it sound like flying.

Weeks later, at the end of another date, I gave her a lift home. I’m just off the King’s Road. We pulled up to a large house on a well-kept street.

You live here? This is your house? No.

She explained that she was staying for a few days with an aunt.

I walked her up the steps. She didn’t invite me in. I didn’t expect her to, didn’t want her to. Take it slow, I thought. I leaned in to give her a kiss, but my aim was off. I could take out a cactus from three miles away with a Hellfire missile but I couldn’t quite find her lips. She turned, I tried again on the return trip, and we managed something like a graze. Painfully awkward.

The next morning I phoned my cousin. Discouraged, I told her the date had gone well, but the ending had left something to be desired. She didn’t disagree. She’d already spoken to Cressida. She sighed. Awkward.

But then came the good news. Cressida was game to try again.

We met days later for another dinner.

As it happened, her flatmate was dating my longtime mate Charlie.

Brother of my late friend Henners.

I joked: Obviously this is meant to be. The four of us could have so much fun.

But I wasn’t totally joking.

We tried another kiss. Not so awkward. I had hope.

For our next date she and her flatmate had Charlie and me over. Drinks, laughs. Before I knew what was happening, we were a thing.

Sadly, however, I could only see Cress at weekends. I was busier than ever, doing my final preps for deployment. And then I got my official orders, my actual deployment date, and the clock was now loudly ticking. For the second time in my life I needed to tell a young woman I’d just met that I’d soon be going off to war.

I’ll wait, she said. But not forever, she added quickly. Who knows what’s going to happen, Haz?

Right. Who knows?

Easier to just tell myself, and others, that we’re not together. Yes. That is easier, I suppose.

But when you’re back…

When. She’d said when. Not if.

I was grateful. Some people said if.

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