I am not sure whether I am more driven to write this because my holiday has been on the whole lovely, or because my partner has been acting most oddly and I am worried. I can’t keep asking him, ‘don’t you think that’s just a little bit crazy?’
That doesn’t seem to be helping at all.
He is keeping his own account, but he won’t let me read it. Just shuts himself away, ignoring me as though we are not on holiday together. Writes feverishly and fast, hunched over the table.
We have this friend Charteris. Well, M. has a friend called Charteris. It is a friendship based on the fact that they went to school together and were insanely competitive around most of the same things. It’s been some time since one of them published something, which always seemed to serve as their unspoken excuse for getting in touch and discussing their favourite bits of arcana and sometimes the cricket.
We were surprised when Charteris invited us up for a bit of a summer holiday. We didn’t really want to go, at least I didn’t. Charteris is so often gloomy. He is sarcastic without kindness or wit, and he smells funny. There’s something about the pasty face and the black clothes and the awkward conversation. He’s totally on the spectrum.
I said to M., please let’s go to Italy, I still haven’t been to Italy. I think we can afford it.
But then he bet our holiday savings on the greyhounds, so overnight you can see that Charteris’s invitation started to look wonderful. The Peak District, I said. The Peak District can be a lovely place. As long as you don’t let Charteris ruin everything it will be wonderful.
M. looked up from that musty old manuscript he’s been working on for months and nodded his head. Even then, I confess, there was clearly a strange gleam in his eye. That gleam has become a positive sparkle over the past few days.
He spoke hardly a word during our journey. I tried to break him out of it, take his mind off of whatever held it trapped like a little bird. I held his hand in mine, tried out a few puns. Nothing. That last leg up the Derwent Valley was fucking beautiful, but he didn’t even see it.
Then we got there and I had to make small talk with Charteris while M. sat mute, and only interjected to talk about squirrels. Fucking squirrels. Charteris shook his head. I almost wished for his friends to arrive, though I could not see how we would all possibly find room in his cottage. But at least there would be some end to the silence, I would not be alone with these two…
I looked forward to a new dawn, but first, at my insistence, we were going to head into the village.