I turned to poetry as a consolation.
I wrote red-bloodied, rhyming sonnets
for Imogen, then crammed them away
at the back of a drawer. I would write
her an epic novel instead. My dedication
would be wrenching. The collective soul
of the world would melt. Fame would be
incidental. I imagined Imogen flying back
to me, dazzled by my literary mastery. It
would be a gigantic redemption. But the
words simply withered on the page, like
so many broken leaves.
This was a ragged end to a beautiful time.
Beatrice and Uncle consoled me with
scalding tea. We didn’t say much. I knew
Beatrice would be sad to lose her friend.
Uncle had been over the moon about
Imogen. It was like happiness had
derailed in our lives. Uncle toyed with
the idea of e-mailing Jack Davenport.
Persuading him to be more reasonable.
But I said it would only open an appalling
can of worms. The man was completely
inhuman, one hundred percent fake.
I shivered to think how Imogen would
fare. I had nightmares. The desert,
sandstorms, bellicose camels. Imogen
crying, hunched over a guttering candle.
A big manilla envelope arrived by urgent
courier. Uncle signed, opening it. I could
tell at once it wasn’t good. He read. His
jawline fell. After a time he sighed. He
passed the letter on to me. We have
instructed our daughter, wrote Jack
Davenport, to sever all connections
with your ward Augustus. Their bond
is inappropriate. Imogen is a vulnerable
young girl, who is being dragged into an
unwholesome communion. We absolutely
forbid it. My head reeled. I felt nauseous.
I groaned aloud. The Davenports were
A sense of outrage burgeoned in me.
I’d had my girl spirited away by wicked
parents. I was alone, bereft. I checked
my phone constantly. No messages
came. She had sworn to text me.
It was as if Imogen had been swallowed
by the desert. I began to think someone
was restricting her freedom. Discouraging
Imogen to contact me. I asked Uncle what
he thought. Give the girl some time, he
said in a throwaway tone. It’ll all be new
to her. Augustus, I’m sure Imogen is
missing you like crazy. This consoled.
I would suppress my terrible anxieties,
wait a little longer.
It wasn’t nice, waiting like sitting ducks,
for the Davenports to make to their move.
I felt powerless, desperate. Gloom had
descended on my world. It was corrosive.
It wound itself like a fat snake around my
heart. Beatrice wouldn’t accept things.
She grew apoplectic. Father, why are we
all idling about, doing nothing? Imogen is
going to be carted away at any moment,
and you just lounge around doing bugger
all! It’s not right. She stormed dramatically
from the room, slamming the door.
Uncle sighed. He looked brow-beaten.
He had no answers.
Nobody would allow Imogen to be
forcibly bundled onto a plane, against
her will. Delivered into the hands of
indifferent, ghoulish parents. This
was cruel, preposterous. A Judge
wouldn’t permit such vandalism of a
person’s rights. If we want to fight,
Uncle warned, it could get very ugly,
messy, grubby. But I could tell that
he was spoiling for a scrap. Imogen
nodded. I want to stay here. My mind
is made up. I hugged her, feeling wildly
victorious. We would be invincible.
But they are my parents, Augustus,
protested Imogen. Isn’t it proper that
I should wish to stay with them? But I
don’t. I want to be with you, and your
beautiful Uncle and scatty cousin. Am I
so abnormal? I didn’t like to bad-mouth
her parents, but frankly they’d done little
to deserve their daughter’s affections.
We sat close together. Imogen clasped
my hands. I couldn’t imagine us ever
apart. The chemistry between us bound
our very souls. The Davenports would
lose this battle. Because they hadn’t
reckoned on the gravity of our love.
The Davenports were leaving. They
made their lingering cheesy goodbyes.
I shall instruct my assistant to enrol
Imogen for next term. It’ll be absolutely
perfect. Imogen shall be able to
commence school during the cooler
months. This was totally outrageous.
I gazed at Imogen. She looked cowed.
Her shoulders were slumped forward.
As if she’d been struck. My world was
spinning wildly, like a busted gyroscope.
Let’s have some tea, and chew this over.
I need to ruminate, Uncle said defiantly.
Hope flared in me. Maybe he’d formulate
a watertight scheme that would liberate
I ushered the Davenports into our front
room, where Imogen was waiting.
There were no hugs or warm greetings.
Instead the Davenports made absurd
waves at their daughter, grinning horrible
plastic smiles. Imogen squirmed
awkwardly. I suggested drinks.
I would kill for a crème de menthe,
Jack Davenport bubbled. This was
absurd. I went to the kitchen to make
some instant coffee. Where Beatrice
was struggling valiantly over pots
and pans. I had a sudden beautiful idea.
It would be simply lovely to spike
our visitors’ meals with arsenic.
Imogen showed no immediate signs of
falling into a morass. In fact she was
upbeat, bouncy, constantly nattering
about small, happy things. My fears
began to dissipate. The persecuting
phone calls to Uncle had also abated.
Since he’d declared himself insolvent,
the bank had loosened its stranglehold.
They were going to wipe his debts.
We no longer had to live in abject fear.
Things were relatively hunky-dory.
Until, wholly unexpectedly, Uncle
received a brief, excitable e-mail.
Sarah and Jack Davenport were
back in the country. They wanted
to see their daughter.