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.

Then darkness.


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

destroying everything.


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

my Imogen.


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.