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Chapter no 121

Spare

I WAS GIVEN A DESK AT Wattisham Airfield, which I hated. I’d never wanted a desk. I couldn’t bear sitting at a desk. My father loved his desk, seemed pinned to it, enamored of it, surrounded by his books and mailbags. That

was never me.

I was also given a new task. Refine my knowledge of the Apache. Perhaps on the way to becoming an instructor. That was a job I thought might be fun. Teaching others to fly.

But it wasn’t. It just didn’t feel like my calling.

Once again I broached the idea of going back to the war. Once again the answer was a hard no. Even if the Army was inclined to send me, Afghanistan was winding down.

Libya was heating up, though. How about that?

No, the Army said—in every way they knew how, officially and unofficially, they denied my request.

Everyone has had quite enough of Harry in a war zone.

At the end of a typical working day I’d leave Wattisham, drive back to Kensington Palace. I was no longer staying with Pa and Camilla: I’d been

assigned my own place, a flat on KP’s “lower ground floor,” in other words, halfway underground.

The flat had three tall windows, but they admitted little light, so the differences between dawn, dusk and midday were nominal at best. Sometimes the question was rendered moot by Mr. R, who lived directly upstairs. He liked to park his massive gray Discovery hard against the windows, blotting out all light entirely.

I wrote him a note, politely asking if he might perhaps pull his car forward a few inches. He fired back a reply telling me to suck eggs. Then he went to Granny and asked her to tell me the same.

She never did speak to me about it, but the fact that Mr. R felt secure enough, supported enough, to denounce me to the monarch showed my true place in the pecking order. He was one of Granny’s equerries.

I should fight, I told myself. I should confront the man face-to-face. But I figured—no. The flat actually suited my mood. Darkness at noon suited my mood.

Also, it was the first time I was living on my own, somewhere other than Pa’s, so on balance I really had no complaints.

I invited a mate over one day. He said the flat reminded him of a badger sett. Or maybe I said that to him. Either way, it was true, and I didn’t mind.

We were chatting, my mate and I, having a drink, when suddenly a sheet dropped down in front of my windows. Then the sheet began to shake. My mate stood, went to the window and said: Spike…what in the…? Falling from the sheet was a cascade of what looked to be—brown confetti?

No.

Glitter?

No.

My mate said: Spike, is that hair?

It was. Mrs. R was giving a trim to one of her sons, shaking out the sheet in which she’d collected the clippings. The real problem, however, was that my three windows were open and it was a breezy day. Gusts of fine hair blew into the flat. My mate and I coughed, laughed, picked strands off our tongues.

What didn’t come into the flat landed like summer rain on the shared garden, which just then was blooming with mint and rosemary.

For days I went around composing a harsh note to Mrs. R in my head. I never sent it. I knew I was being unfair: she didn’t know she was hairing me out. More, she didn’t know the real source of my antipathy towards her. She was guilty of an even more egregious vehicular crime than her husband. Every day Mrs. R parked her car in Mummy’s old spot.

I can still see her gliding into that space, right where my mother’s green BMW used to be. It was wrong of me, and I knew it was wrong, but on some level I condemned Mrs. R for it.

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