Chapter Six

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September passed quietly, and October brought a sudden change in the weather. On a rare sunny lunchtime, I took my chicken sandwich outside to eat at a picnic bench, and passed the rest of my break idly sketching a student who was sitting on the low wall near the path reading a book. Nearby, a couple were making out against a cedar tree. My mobile buzzed in my pocket. It was Mum. Great. I let her do all the talking.

“You promised not to leave it so long between calls, darling. It’s been a month.”

“Sorry.”

“So. What’ve you been up to?” she asked excitedly.

“Studying,” I said, studying the amorous couple.

“I hope so. And?”

“Nothing.”

I could feel her exasperation oozing down the phone line. “I miss you sweetheart. I’d really like to see you, spend some time with you, and speak to you properly instead of listening to one word answers.” She paused waiting for a response, but I didn’t have one that she’d want to hear. “And even though I know he’d never admit to it,” she continued, “Todd’s missing you too.” Missing me doing his homework most likely! “Could you not spare us some of your precious time? Haven’t you got half term coming up?”

“I’m busy, Mum.”

“Busy doing what?” Her voice now held an edge of anger.

“Look, I’ve got to go. Class is starting. Bye, Mum.” I snapped my phone shut and threw it on the grass.

Beth skipped up to join me. “Making yourself jealous?” She raised her eyebrows and cocked her head in the direction of the ardent pair. “Or are you watching him?” She turned, scanning the grassy mounds. “Oh…he’s gone.”

“Who’s gone?”

“Sebastian. I swear he was over there, under that weeping willow, and definitely staring in this direction. You must have seen him.”

I hadn’t. Although, it wouldn’t have been the first time he’d been caught staring at me. It was becoming quite disconcerting, but Beth thought it amusing.

She continued, “Anyway listen. Guess what, you’ll have a great opportunity to get to know him better in a couple of weeks.” My stomach lurched, and I started to feel weak and nauseous. What on earth was she on about? I listened, open-mouthed as she carried on. “LovellTowers is going to be the venue for the annual Halloween fancy dress ball. I have it on good authority, from Marie, that Mr Lovell senior has offered to hire it out, for free. He’s going to have the great hall fitted out with a stage, and there’ll be a live band and fancy decorations and everything. Isn’t that great?”

Not exactly my thoughts. Actually, I was thinking that I might be about to reacquaint myself with my lunch. Also, that there were already enough cobwebs in that place not to necessitate any Halloween decorations. But she didn’t wait for an answer.

“Obviously I’ve bought us some tickets.”

Wonderful. I hated dressing up. I had about two weeks to come up with an excuse not to go.

“Speaking of nights out, can you take a break from studying and come out with us tonight, please?” Beth grabbed my hands together in hers and fluttered her eyelashes emphatically.

“Okay. Okay. Just stop doing that, people are watching.”

“Ooo, goody. You’ll get to meet Tom.”

Tom turned out to be a tousled blonde, surfer dude with a very buff body but not much going on upstairs. Beth had met him last weekend on a day trip to Abertreath and decided to bestow her ample charms upon him. Their relationship was a purely physical one, but then Beth’s usually were.

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