I don’t trust Nate. I’ve just woken from a fractured sleep with that thought rattling around in my mind. I stayed at Granny’s again last night, I’m in the tiny single bed in the room that I grew up in. I can see the faded marks on the wallpaper where my New Kids on the Block and Jason and Kylie posters once were, the mark on the windowsill where Cara nearly brained herself leaping from the bookcase in the determined belief that if she just believed she could fly it would become true.
He came over last night. Nate. Granda. The three of us had dinner together, the weirdest family dinner ever, and I haven’t changed my impression that he – or at least whoever he is pretending to be – is a nice man. He has this easy warmth, and there’s an affection in his eyes when he looks at Granny that’s hard not to believe.
Over a wee after dinner sherry, Granny suddenly went off into fits of laughter at the thought that if anyone saw them out together they’d think she was the female Hugh Hefner with a fancy man seventy-odd years younger. Then we had to explain who Hugh Hefner is, because apparently Playboy didn’t start until the fifties when Nate was – wherever he was. A little shadow crossed his face at that, and I felt for him. If I’m a bit gutted at having missed last Christmas, how must he feel at having missed – the 20th century? All those things he should have lived through, Elvis and the Beatles and JFK being shot and the Wall coming down. The Wall going up, come to think of it.
“Oh the rationing never bloody ended,” Granny told us as she dished out Irish stew. “Mairi was at school before you could be confident of getting hold of an egg.”
By rights he should be an old man, with a long and happy life behind him. He should be sitting in his armchair by the fire with Granny, drinking endless cups of tea, reminiscing about Mairi’s childhood, about my childhood, shuffling down the road for his paper in the morning. Instead here he is, 24 and battle scarred from the Second World War – and with iPhones and ISIS to get his head around.
But he is lying about something.
I can’t even put into words quite what it is. Is there something a tiny bit too pat about his story? His wide eyed aww shucks innocence when he describes spotting the Coast Guard’s smartphone?
Or what if he is who he says he is, but he’s hiding something else? He says that he’s lost track of time, days all blend in to one another when you’re homeless, but thinks he’s been in Glasgow around three weeks. Has something happened in that time he’s keeping from us?
It just occurred to me I can check with Cara. He said he met her only a day or two after he arrived – if arrived is quite the right word – and she’ll remember down to the minute. Cara forgets nothing.
Such as her Gran’s stories. That story she told the other night, about the musicians, that’s clearly just a story, neither Nate nor I seem to be in any danger of turning in to dust. But what if there’s something to it? I mean, there must be – even if I don’t quite have my head around believing Nate completely, I believe myself. I know fine that the cut on my head was fresh over a year after my head was smashed into a rock.
Granny once told me that though people dismiss Old Wives’ tales as mindless superstition, they’re often based in fact. Like, it will be bad luck to eat something that is actually poisonous. And aren’t the old religions just explanations for things folk have seen? Just because thunder may not be Thor having a temper tantrum, doesn’t mean that thunder doesn’t exist.
I can hear Nate moving about in the living room. He must be up. He slept on the Z bed last night, Granny nearly took my head off when she discovered I had allowed him to leave the other night knowing he was going to his shelter by the golf club. But I’m not quite convinced that we’re responsible for him yet.
I need to go back to Ben Lomond. If I can understand what happened to me, maybe I can get a sense of what and who and why Nate is. I was on the right track with trying to recreate whatever happened with Roddy, but I need to go to the source. Because I was found miles away on the West coast, I’m not convinced the police have paid much attention to where I insisted the attack happened. I doubt there will be some eureka clue lying about the path after all this time, but maybe just being there will jog my own memory to – something. Anything.
I’ve just got classes this morning, so I could head out after lunch, especially if I can borrow Solveig’s car. Maybe Nate will come with me – in fact, I’m going to insist he does. He should want to figure out what happened as much as I do, right? If he’s reluctant, maybe that will tell me what I need to know.
Just as I’m about to jump out of bed and get to it, my phone rings. It’s Solveig. They’ve arrested the man who attacked me.