And so I did. By the time I had finished, Corky had stopped his cussing and struggling and was sleeping peacefully.
Relieved that he had finally succumbed to the booze, I started to examine him properly. I asked Jeremy Stevens “Should he have different sized pupils?”
Stevens had never moved so fast. He zoomed him up to neurosurgery where they relieved the pressure by undoing my stitches and Corky woke up. The Casualty officer had to take the flak for that, but since no harm was done (apart from what the Indians had inflicted on Corky who survived for several more years before the cirrhosis got him),
I told the story to June with flamboyant humour. She was not impressed and called me callous and unfeeling. I lost my temper and stormed out. A week later I came back with flowers and we were ‘on’ again. That’s how it went; one month we were together, the next we were apart. We both had strong opinions and didn’t hold back for the sake of not giving offence.
We talked about getting married but in the end the strong emotions made harmony impossible. I was surprised that she was so upset when I told her that we had no future as a couple. Within a week she had resigned her job and flown to Hong Kong.
I was already a consultant when I saw her again. Time had passed. I was married with children and consumed with the busy-ness of life. My secretary buzzed and told me that a Mrs Thompson wanted to speak to me. None of my patients were called Thompson, so I had no special expectations.
“John? It’s June.”
June Thompson was not a name I knew. There was something strange about her accent. “I’m sorry, are you Scottish?”
“John? It’s June Peters.”
This was the last thing I was expecting. Frankly, I had never expected to hear from her again.
“I am in England. Can we meet?”
Of course, I should have said there was no point. But I was so full of myself. I was walking on water in my job. My practice was booming, my reputation burgeoning and my income swelling. I had bought a large house and I drove a smart car. I had even appeared on television. Fame was beckoning. I believed that nothing could go wrong and that I could get away with anything.
We agreed to meet at Winchester Cathedral. It was halfway between her and me, and I could manufacture an excuse to go to Winchester.
A few days later I parked my car in the nearby multi-story and walked to the Cathedral Close. She was late or I was early, and I panicked and thought myself a fool for agreeing to this when I couldn’t find her. I thought I must have missed her. Then I saw her. She hadn’t changed. She still had the rather short fair hair, the same tip-turned nose, the same earnest look. As we approached I wondered whether we would shake hands or just speak, but she threw her arms around my neck and kissed me. We held hands as we walked to the nearby pub where she drank lemonade; I drank shandy. We talked of what might have been, all the time our eyes locked as if they were beads strung on the same necklace.
She had married an Thai man and had two children. She was teaching eleven-year olds in Singapore. She was visiting her parents for the first time in seven years. She talked, I talked. We had adultery in our hearts and on our minds. We agreed to go to a hotel. “You drive,” she said.
We walked together back to the multi-story car park. As we reached the correct floor, I was perplexed to see my car hood open. There was a pool of water on the floor beneath it. I looked beneath the hood. The radiator was missing. A black, greasy handprint was on the wing.
This was in the days before cell phones and it took us some while to find a pay-phone. I called the police. “My car radiator has been stolen.”
“Your car radio?”
“No, not radio. Radiator.”
Silence. “Exactly where are you, sir?”
It took ages to get things sorted out with the police and the car towed away to the garage. The moment had passed. There was no more magic. I never saw her again until now.