This is the next part of Mitigating Circumstances. The previous chapter of this story is here. I thought it was time to get some backstory on Truman and Evie. We join him as he struggles to sleep in the abandoned Morrisons, where he has been staying after being thrown out by Evie.
Tonight I sleep in shallow waves, like telephone wires alongside a motorway, never quite letting go. I briefly dream of Evie and then wake with a start as Norris starts hurling abuse at an arguing couple one aisle down. As he threatens to cut them into ribbons, I lie on my back staring at the cavernous roof of the stripped-down Morrisons, lit by the flickering orange light of several fires. I think of the day I first spoke to Evie, when I didn’t know how much I didn’t know and the world was full of thrilling promise; when I had nothing better to do than stare at the same page of The Divine Comedy for hours at a time.
When libraries were a thing.
The heavy oak door opens, leaking loud voices from the corridor outside into the library, and then there she is, framed angelic by the golden light of the window behind her. Evie Edwards. I return to my book and stare at the words, readying myself for a surreptitious glance as she walks past. A few seconds pass as her footsteps grow louder. Then, a hand on my shoulder and a whispered ‘Hi Truman, I’m Evie.’
She knows my name. She actually knows my name. And she thinks I don’t know hers, as if I haven’t watched her every move for the last two years. Her wide eyes stare down at me. She knows my name. The butterflies inside my stomach are puking. I garble a response, but it’s not even words, just a series of noises that emanate from deep, very deep. It is not attractive. Evie glances at the book.
‘It’s Dante,’ I bluster.
‘Quiet,’ snaps Mrs Vintner, staring straight at me over her reading glasses with narrowing eyes. Evie giggles before doing something I have often thought about, but never actually dared to believe might happen. She sits next to me.
‘Well done at the cricket,’ she whispers.
Seven for fifteen. Evie likely hasn’t a clue what seven for fifteen even means, but she knows it represents good. I have done good here is my reward; to sit next to Evie Edwards in absolute silence.
‘What happened to your nose?’
I instinctively run my finger over the cut caused by Rawlings’ flying wooden board cleaner. My right eye is bruised.
‘Nothing I can’t handle,’ I say, almost believing it myself.
‘Don’t let him get to you.’
Mrs Vintner shushes us again.
‘Last chance van Poortvleit, or you’re out.’
I nod in acceptance as Catherine places onto the desk some library books, an exercise book and a pencil case. She opens the pencil case and picked out an expensive-looking fountain pen. I imagine being that pen, gliding across the page, writing perfect sentences sprung straight from her perfect mind. She opens up one of the library books – something about the war – and starts to write. As she does so, her hair drops down over her shoulder and touches the table, obscuring her face.
I pretend to read. I could just touch the hair, pretend it was a mistake, say sorry. No one could take that moment away from me. The moment I touched Evie Edwards’ hair. But my nerve – my pathetic nerve – fails and I return to my book in defeat. A distant game of British Bulldog filters through from outside and slowly, my concentration returns to Dante, who continues to throw himself at holy feet. Then, a note, passed over by Evie.
‘Do you like the stars?’
Being out after dark is suicide now. I can’t remember the last time I saw the stars.
I’m going to have a reorganise of this story to make it easier to get up to date and follow before it gets too big, but for now, here’s the order to read these chapters.