Unknown

Unknown by Unknown

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had ever been wanted.
    Still it didn’t seem to have hurt him. Not one man in a million had as much going for him now as Duncan. She drank a little wine and said, ‘I read about here, this place. Did you really rebuild it?’
    He looked around with pride of ownership. ‘I restored it. You should have seen it. Another year or two would have been too late, any building here would have been a new building, but I got in just in time. When that first book took off I ploughed in all the royalties and put everything back.’
    ‘I wish I’d been here,’ she said. ‘Oh, I wish I had!’ ‘I wish you had,’ and he looked at her almost as though she had been around, helping to mix the mortar, handing up the bricks. A sharing look. He’ll let me come again, she thought, and was enclosed in a glow of contentment that contained herself and Duncan and the whole room.
    She said, ‘This is your second home?’ Perhaps she could pretend it was her second home too.
    ‘My first. I spend more time in the flat, but this is my bolt-hole.’
    ‘Where you can be alone.’ Only she had gatecrashed, and it was wonderful that he no longer minded. They were like old and loving friends. She felt she could ask anything, tell him anything. She could even reach across the table and touch his hand or run her fingertip over the small crescent-shaped scar on his cheekbone. She didn’t touch, but she felt it would be all right if she did. They ate and talked, and Duncan told her, ‘It probably dates from early days when I slept in a dormitory and ate at a long table and always seemed to be in a crowd.’
    ‘You’re not happy in crowds?’
    He shrugged. ‘Oh, I don’t mind getting jostled, most of the time.’ Nobody would push him far, that was for sure. ‘I travel around, getting material, meeting people.’ Pattie knew all about that, but when he smiled and said, ‘Then I come here,’ she felt that she knew him better than any of the other journalists who had written those articles.
    ‘Do your friends come?’ she asked.
    ‘In the summertime.’ Probably he only came alone when he had work to do. When the lodge had been pointed out to her last summer there had been cars around it.
    ‘Do you bring girls?’ she asked, and wished she hadn’t. ‘Well, of course you do.’
    ‘In the summer,’ he said. ‘There aren’t many women who’d go for this in wintertime.’
    Rubbish, she thought. They’d go for it fast enough if you were here, and she drawled meaningly with glinting eyes, ‘Oh, I’m sure there are compensations for the isolation.’
    ‘But of course.’ His grin made her giggle, hinting at all sorts of lascivious goings-on. ‘There’s me.’
    ‘You take their minds off it, do you?’
    ‘Try me!’ But while she laughed, over the sound of her laughter she heard the wind rising. She had heard it before in the big chimney and rattling the windows, but suddenly it seemed to have a voice like a lost soul, sighing and sobbing and indescribably lonely.
    She listened, head on one side, and Duncan watched her, listening too. She could imagine the white wastes out there, and at last she said, ‘It sounds as if it’s coming from a long way away.’
    It died down on a sigh, but a few seconds later rose again and went on and on, and he asked suddenly, ‘What’s your mother doing in California?’ Now that was a long way away. That was as far as another world. ‘Living there,’ she said, ‘with her husband. He’s a doctor, he’s very nice.’
    ‘A doctor and an accountant?’ He was probably laughing at her.
    ‘Oh, I’m like you,’ she said, ‘I’m never ill.’ In the last ten years she had never gone down with anything more serious than ’flu, but she wasn’t like him physically, she was nowhere near as strong. Nor mentally, come to that.
    ‘Do you see them?’ he asked.
    She said eagerly, ‘Yes, of course. Last year we met in the south of France for a couple of weeks. They got married two years after my father

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