116 Revelation in the breakfast room

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X   Ghost town departure: love and pain

116   Revelation in the breakfast room

My eyes open, at nearly noon. Something heavy happened last night. I push my memory into gear...

Oh yes. Loss of special sight, plus a few supporting dramas. This will need some processing.

I lie here, my mind racing. First, I should try tuning in to someone, just in case. Evelyn, for instance. I try; but it's no good. All I'm doing is thinking about her, nothing more. I try several more people, including Alaia through this wall here, before realising I don't even know if she's behind this wall, however hard I focus. I simply don't know where she is.

I stare at the blank sky through the window, distraught, then I get ready numbly, leave my room and knock on Alaia's door. No answer. I knock again, wait, turn the handle and peer in. Her bags sit just inside the door, all packed up and ready to go. I am just about to turn away, when I realise that the bed is not where I saw it when I tuned in to her yesterday morning: instead of being against the wall beside my bed, it's over there by the window. She must have moved it yesterday. That's odd, though. I can see she might prefer to have a window view from bed, but why did she wait a week, until yesterday, to act upon this preference, and then pack up all her things anyway?... Now that I consider the room as a whole, however, I realise that in fact this current arrangement must be how the Metropolitan staff keep the room. The arrangement I saw when I tuned in to her was the temporary one.

I start to ponder this as I head down the marble staircase, but am startled by Marc's voice from the hallway below. I'd completely forgotten he was coming here today from New York. "Jaymi!" he booms, striding over to the stairs and extending his hand to me with gusto.

"Hi Marc," I murmur, trudging down. I feel like no match for the Albright whirlwind this morning.

"Excellent news! We now have a date for our third broadcast event..." He trails off, fixing his shrewd regard upon me: sensing change, no doubt.

"I have a confession," I say sadly. "First, I succumbed to the temptation of leaving the Metropolitan. I know you didn't want people in town spreading it that I was down here, but that wasn't the problem; that never happened. What happened, nobody could have predicted..." And I stand there and tell him all about last night—omitting the flying thing and the disc in the ocean, both of which I've decided to keep to myself until I've had time to decide what to do with them from now on.

He interrupts me not at all. When I am finished, he says, "I see." We stand there unspeaking for a moment. "Well—what's done is done," he pronounces. It is all too obvious to both of us that there can be no third broadcast now; that our adventure with global TV events, special sight and raising the world's self-knowledge is over, and that it's time for Alaia and me to leave this town. "I only wish we'd had a camera and sound equipment trained on you last night," he adds, smiling but with genuine regret too. "What a fantastic third instalment that would have made... Jaymi, can you imagine it?"

I close my eyes for an instant. "Yes, Marc," I say dryly.

"Well—there it is." He pats me consolingly on the back. "Let's all meet in the office down the corridor there at two o'clock, and take care of the all the paperwork, shall we? I'll see you both then."

He exits the hallway and heads briskly towards the office in question.

I wander through the open door of the breakfast room and find Alaia sitting alone on a window-seat, drinking coffee. "Oh! Good morning," I say.

"Hallo." She looks at me with a strange mix of sombreness and febrility.

I pull the door closed behind me and approach her. "Well ... I assume you overheard all that?" She nods. "So we're meeting him at two. I wonder—d'you think you could call Bedford Pickering III and tell him what's happened? I don't think I can deal with him at the moment. He should phone Marc right now, before we get there." She takes her phone out. "Thanks." I sit down beside her.

After ten minutes of her talking on the phone, during which I stare at the white wall opposite me as if I'm in a trance, she ends the call. "How d'you feel?" she asks me.

"Flat," I state. "Clear, dry, colourless, inert. Like a fact or a number." I take the mug from her, have a sip of coffee and return it. "Thanks for coming with me on this strange journey."

"Thanks for having me!" Then without warning she reaches up and strokes my face, very gently.

I stare at her in surprise.

"Bold action," she murmurs.

As I stare into her admiring eyes, my right hand rises to touch her warm, sleek forehead for the very first time, and a simple, full, radiant truth raises its hand and is noticed, at last: I'm in love with her.

I'm in love with her...

I've fallen in love with Alaia!

"Alaia, I love you," I hear myself say.

"I was wondering when you'd notice."

We stare at each other. So this has been the oddness between us, these last few days... I'm at a loss for words to make proper sense of this. "What happens now?" I ask.

She shakes her head slowly. "I don't know... But it's exciting, isn't it!"

I frown in concentration, thinking this through. "But—do you love me?"

"Yes. I love you, Jaymi... I was wondering when you'd notice that too."

I stroke her hand. "Since when?"

"Since I was in the sound booth for those ten minutes when Rik had us sitting there in silence, before Sound & Vision. For ten solid minutes I watched you on the monitor, right in front of me—in full 4K definition. Or going further back, I think the very beginning was probably when you hypnotised me on my roof at home."

"Which won't be happening again now. You're aware of that?"

"Oh yes. I'll cope with that. In fact I think I'm rather glad of it."

"I've probably loved you since that time on the roof too. I've just been way too busy to notice it."

"Jaymi ... d'you remember my statue of black icing-sugar?"

I laugh aloud. "How could I forget it?"

"You came to visit me in my clearing and ... it was beautiful together. Remember?"

Her eyes are clear and calm and warm, from close.

She rises to her feet, my hand in hers. "Let's go for a walk," she says.

I stand, and she leads me across the breakfast room.


For some nice reviews and interviews about The Imagination Thief, in The Guardian and elsewhere, see http://www.rohanquine.com/press-media/the-imagination-thief-reviews-media/

For a quick synopsis of it, see http://www.rohanquine.com/home-the-imagination-thief-novel/synopsis-and-characters-list-the-imagination-thief/

For the 12 Films in The Imagination Thief, see http://www.rohanquine.com/video-books-films/12-films/

For the Audio-book version and the Video-book version of each of its 120 mini-chapters, see http://www.rohanquine.com/home-the-imagination-thief-novel/audiobook-tumblr-wattpad/

For links to the retailers, see http://www.rohanquine.com/buy/the-imagination-thief-novel-ebook/ and http://www.rohanquine.com/buy/the-imagination-thief-novel-paperback/

And for its Amazon pages, see http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Imagination-Thief/dp/0992754909 and http://www.amazon.com/The-Imagination-Thief/dp/0992754909

The Imagination Thief is about a web of secrets, triggered by the stealing and copying of people's imaginations and memories. It's about the magic that can be conjured up by images of people, in imagination or on film; the split between beauty and happiness in the world; and the allure of various kinds of power. It celebrates some of the most extreme possibilities of human imagination, personality and language, exploring the darkest and brightest flavours of beauty living in our minds. 

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