Chapter Thirteen

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The library door burst open, and a comforting pair of arms wrapped themselves around my trembling body.

“Grandpa! What’ve you been told about scaring the guests?” Connor scolded the translucent image of a man who now occupied the seat.

Grandpa? I exchanged looks between the image and Connor’s face, now unnervingly close to mine.

“But your grandfather’s…dead,” I said.

“And yet he hangs around like a bad smell, don’t you, Grandpa?”

I suddenly realised whose arms were wrapped around me and eased out of his hold, my eyes still glued on the apparition.

“You know I can’t leave, dear boy. Perhaps you should warn your guests of my presence, and my partiality for this chair, or maybe you could keep me properly informed when visitors arrive, so I don’t mistake them for burglars and treasure hunters. That is a rather valuable book, you know.”

Connor turned to face me, and I can’t have been a welcome sight. I’m sure my wide eyes and slightly salivating, gaping mouth must have been off putting. I was witnessing my first ghost. I tried to compose myself as Connor spoke.

“Sophie, this is…was Grandpa Joseph. Grandpa, this is Sophie…Seb’s girlfriend. She’s staying with us for a while.”

“Sebastian’s girlfriend, eh? Well that’s a first. I’d shake your hand, my dear, but that would be a pointless exercise. Eh what? Haw, haw. I’ll say one thing though; he knows how to pick them, my grandson. You’re quite the looker, girl.” He pondered. “Yes, lucky boy my grandson. You too, Connor.”

“Enough, Grandpa,” Connor said, cutting Jo off. “Here, Sophie.” He handed me the book. “Let’s go sort some grub out. Grandpa…later.” He bowed his head to one side, in Grandpa Joseph’s direction, and touched two fingers briefly to his nose, before dragging me out of the door.

Lounging on the rug in front of the fire a little while later, Connor reluctantly told me his brief life story.

He’d never met his biological mother. He was born out of wedlock after a one-night stand between her and his father, while they were still at college. She was a devoutly religious girl who couldn’t bear to have an abortion but didn’t want her future career ruining with a child, so she’d put him up for adoption. His father—Mr Lovell Senior’s brother—adopted him, but wasn’t ready for the responsibility of a child, and passed him from various nannies straight into public school, without giving him a moment’s thought. Only after Connor had learnt what he was, had he realised that he hadn’t been adopted because his father wanted him; he’d been adopted because his father couldn’t let anyone else have him. It was quite a depressing story, and I felt sorry for the poor motherless boy, as I stared into his older eyes and saw the sadness behind them.

After polishing off copious amounts of chicken fried rice and spring rolls, the already sparse conversation dried up altogether, and Connor made his excuses to leave.

I’d forgotten to pack my P.J.’s, so I kept my sweatshirt on and hastened to bed with my book, wrapping the blankets tightly around me to stave off any icy drafts. It hit me then, the loneliness. Being alone doesn’t bother me too much, but being alone in a strange house, a really strange house, did. I hoped that sleep would come soon. It didn’t. Lydia and Wickham had already run off to London by the time my eyes closed.

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