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At that moment Donald came from the direction of the kitchen, holding a tray of tea and coffee things, and spotted Hugh in the hallway. ‘Ah, you’re home, Hugh,’ – everyone seems to state the obvious on such occasions – ‘come and meet Raine and Tyrentia.’
Suddenly conscious of the fact that he had a rather rumpled appearance following his climb, leap-and-roll, and dash for the bus, Hugh shambled into the sitting room. Mother and daughter stared at him, and he stared back. Both had long, very black hair. Both had extremely fair complexions – in the case of Tyrentia, startlingly white. Both, surprisingly, had blue eyes. Tyrentia’s were of a particularly vivid shade.
The most noticeable thing about them, though, was the difference in expressions. Raine’s was sweet, serene and humorous. Tyrentia’s looked exactly as disagreeable as she had sounded.
Raine smiled and rose from her chair saying, ‘Hello, Hugh; how nice to meet you at last,’ and came over to give him a hug. The boy wasn’t sure how to respond, but ended up by dropping his bag on his foot and mumbling, ‘Dja do.’
Tyrentia didn’t get up. She gave Hugh the sort of look one would normally reserve for rotten fish, and said, ‘Hello. Right; now we’ve met. Can we ****-well go to Granny’s, now?’
Her mother frowned at her, resumed her seat, and then said to Hugh, ‘Tell me about yourself. What are your favourite sports?’
Hugh was looking at the tea things, and the sight reminded him. ‘Cupcakes!’ he blurted.
Donald glared at him and jumped in with, ‘Oh yes, Hugh baked some cupcakes for us this morning. Let me fetch them.’
‘Oh, for ****’s sake! It cooks! Look, I’m just going for a walk in the **** garden.’ Ignoring her mother’s protests, Tyrentia let herself out.
Perhaps deliberately, Donald seemed to be bringing the cupcakes back via a trip round the block, judging from the time he took. Left alone with Raine, Hugh was put at his ease in a matter of minutes, though, and was soon chatting to her as he hadn’t chatted to anyone except his father for ages. He could see it wasn’t an act with her; she was genuinely interested in what he had to say. When he told her, ‘I’m really glad Dad has met you,’ he really meant it.
Her face lit up. ‘That’s sweet of you to say so. I hope you’ll make some allowances for Tye; you see she’s been very … she’s been terribly badly …’ At that moment, Donald finally returned with the cakes so Raine went to call her daughter in to tea.
‘She’s completely lovely, and she’s utterly horrible,’ Hugh muttered to his father, who burst out laughing.
Raine unstintingly praised his cakes, and Tyrentia, brought back under great protest, ate four in quick succession, which Hugh supposed was as much praise as was ever likely to come from her. ‘Can we go, now?’ she asked as soon as she had drained her cup.
Raine shook her head and said, ‘There’s no hurry,’ whereupon the girl scowled and flounced back out into the garden.
Hugh went to his room and changed out of school uniform, and when he returned to the sitting room his father said pointedly, ‘We have quite a lot to talk about; why don’t you go and join Tyrentia for a while?’ It seemed a better idea to pay a visit to a snake pit, but he obediently went outside. He was hoping to find a part of the garden free of bad-tempered girls, but she spotted him from where she was seated on a swing-seat and beckoned at him in a demanding sort of way.
‘Look, you,’ she began (he was sure it was a ‘you’ and not a ‘Hugh’) ‘it seems as if we are going to be stuck with your stupid father and my mother teaming up, so the way it is ****-well going to be is that you keep out of my **** way, and I’ll keep out of your **** way. Can that find its way into your **** sick brain?’
Any number of insulting replies rushed up in his mind based on pointing out that she was way out of line, but they all got in the way of one another and tripped up. What came out was, ‘Um.’
(To be continued with Section (iii) of Chapter 3)
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