“So you do not actually have a degree.”
He exhaled so that smoke curled out from his mouth and nostrils. “Not actually. No.”
I gazed at him for a long moment expecting more. But he continued to give me his half-lidded stare as he sat there smoking. I turned to Miriam. “We need to talk.”
“Not now. I’ve only just got here, I need to get settled.” She unpinned her hat.
“Miriam,” I said.
“Oh, all right.” She turned to her friend. “I won’t be long, dear.”
“Don’t mind me,” he remarked, fishing out another cigarette and lighting up. As he did so, he shifted position so that both long legs hung over the arm of the sofa. He gathered up a couple of plush cushions, put them against the other arm, leaned his long frame back against them, and closed his eyes.
Leaving him in that attitude, I followed my wife upstairs.
“Who is he?” I hissed as I shut the door of my room quietly behind me. Then I wondered why I was whispering. This was our home, after all. But there was something about having this alien presence downstairs that put me on edge, almost as if our words could permeate the thick brick walls and waft their way downstairs.
“His family are hatters from Dunfermiline.”
“Have you met them?”
She shook her head and turned away. For the rest of the conversation, I was talking to the back of her head.
“How did you meet him?”
“At the Women’s Liberal Association in Edinburgh. He was giving a speech. He’s so good with words.” There was a pause as she gazed out of the window for a moment. “Do you know,” she said softly, “I think he’s the most interesting person I’ve ever met.” [To be continued next week.]