Chapter 2

Chapter 2

A Chapter by livspen

In the second chapter of the novel, Tiff finds out more about Robert Grey and his life.


“You’re a writer?”

My Uncle regarded me, his cataracts pale blue in the morning light. He resembled his son immensely, except his eyes - his missed the warmth of Robert’s. He threw me a supercilious frown, then turned his eyes back where they belonged, onto the bare wind-bent trees outside, perhaps searching for a worthier niece.

I didn’t ever ask him why he wasn’t a doctor any more, and why he and his wife and son lived out here, but I wondered. I stared for a split second at him, his granite chin, his narrowed eyes, his arrogant lips. He was a cold man, unfeeling towards everything around him. There was something humane he lacked. Nothing like Robert.

Crisp winter wind blew in through the crack in the window; the net curtains billowed up like smoke. I shivered, thinking of the dreams.

My Aunt pretended she was clearing the breakfast dishes, merely placing them noisily by the sink and craning her long neck around for Robert. She always wore long pleated skirts that swished about her ankles and frilly blouses which instead of giving her the appearance of a school girl, made her seem incredibly old, like the network of grey lines about her face and hands. Yet her voice was young, strong.

Christmas was two weeks away, but were it not for the marble white skies and sad flowers calendar hanging in my room, you never would have known. According to Robert, who traipsed down the stairs late that morning, his hair a soft black nest, the sole decoration would be the tree, which they always chopped down themselves.

“We might go tomorrow. Mum normally decorates it. Needs a woman’s touch, Dad says,” he explained dully. He rubbed his eyes with his index finger and yawned wider than I ever thought possible for a young man. “Christmas is magical here.”

Robert let me in his room for the first time that morning. It was a floor up from mine, but not as big, with one small, square window. Everything was strewn everywhere; open books, socks, pens, paintbrushes, tapes, trousers, cuttings, scissors, towels, boxes, pages, bottles, cans, rubbish, painting studies. His bed was a mound of stuff, his table submerged in Robert Grey. Thick white light fell over the surfaces but the shadows stung my eyes. Faces seemed to emerge among the piles of things. It smelt of brown tobacco.

“It’s a boy’s room,” he said instinctively, with a small shrug.

I didn’t tell him I’d never been in a boy’s room before.

I asked him about his painting and he mumbled in reply, bunging on a jumper and some jeans. The studies were exquisite, beyond photographic, light and dark at one across the paper. You could not make out the strokes and each colour melted into the next flawlessly. He mostly did landscapes, with winter trees, their branches reaching up and round each other, black and horned, convulsing. But I found one of a young girl’s profile. Her white blonde hair swished across her eyes, and a playful frown fell on her face, her pink lips apart. This was my favourite one. I started asking him about it, but he was bounding out of the room, so I placed it back on the pillow quickly.

“We’re going for a walk,” he said with a winning smile as we trotted down the stairs.


“Where? Anywhere, my dear cousin. Absolutely anywhere.”

So we burst out in our wellies, his a dull khaki, mine borrowed from my Aunt and pinching at the toes. And he was right. A vast expanse of ragged plain and undulating hills surrounded the house, reaching on and on until you were seemingly able to scrape the silver horizon - anywhere. It was difficult to keep up with Robert’s long-legged pace, even though he was just strolling along, his eyes roaming, sometimes landing on me as we spoke. 

We were walking for hours. We talked so deeply we seemed to exchange lives. He told me about his school, a boy’s boarding school he went to until he was 16. He told me about the spotty boy he shared a dorm with and his obsession with tidiness, the masters who still surreptitiously used the slipper, the dinners, hiding cigarettes under the mattress. There was a nurse they all used to adore, who would give them a fleshy plaster if they fell over on the rugby pitch.

The sky was beginning to fade into darker grey, like paint water, he said. That seemed to be his only love, painting and drawing, to the disappointment of his parents.

“What are yours like? Your parents?” he asked me. The word parents faltered on his charming voice.

The bitter wind cast hot tears out of my eyes. I pictured their empty laughter, the front door slamming. Some things they’d said as I left. I’d never had to explain this feeling before, but Robert extracted it from me. Or maybe the lonely landscape.

“They don’t try to know me. They work and talk about money. I go to college, I come home, we speak and nothing more. I spend most of my time alone, so…when we’re together, I don’t even feel like they’re my parents.”

My words drifted on the wind so all the trees could hear them. Robert turned to me, a something on his face I’d never seen before from anybody. True empathy.

“I believe you.”

And from his face I knew he believed me because my family was a shadow of his own. But now I had him, and I suppose he had me.

© 2010 livspen

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Added on May 10, 2010
Last Updated on May 18, 2010



Brighton, Sussex, United Kingdom

Im Liv. I'm from Brighton, England. I write, constantly. Enjoy. more..

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