To think! I mean, really! We’re back to the school in just a few weeks time and today I met the person who may ruin the first term, then the second, and then every term God deems fit to send after it. Well, I suppose the number of terms is actually limited, but a year with him is bad enough!
We were driving into the country to spend the day with the entire Colthurst St. Barleigh family (of course when I say the entire family I actually mean just one particular branch of the Colthurst St. Barleigh tree). I’d never met any of them before, but apparently Father had been up at Oxford with one. I think, secretly, they were rather hoping that Gertrude (sister) and one of the older sons would hit it off. We’ve got a fair bit of money, and so have they, so it seems rather practical. Personally, while wishing her all the best and visiting often and all that, I like to think that her future husband could cope better than me with the sounds of her eating a boiled egg. Apart from that, I can’t remember having any particular feelings about the visit. I’d just try to be sociable and get on with it.
The real point of all this blabbing didn’t enter into the story until about an hour after we’d arrived. Lady St. Barleigh met us outside the house, and Father was soon dragged off with his old college pal to look at a new art acquisition inside. The rest of us joined the large party that was mulling around the grounds. I was asked whether I would be going to Oxford in the next few years. That was about it really. In a little while, one of the daughters (can’t for the life of me remember her name) took me off to look around. I’m sure it was perfectly lovely, but I wasn’t paying much attention until we stopped a few yards away from a figure who’d been walking up to meet us.
My eyes were opened. I saw a vision before them.
When I say vision, I don’t want you to think that I was hallucinating. He was really there, I assure you. It’s just how… Writers talk about visions of beauty, of loveliness, don’t they? I’ve never really paid much attention to all that stuff myself. But now, as I said, my eyes were wide open, taking in all of George Colthurst St. Barleigh. He was smiling, beaming brightly at me…
“This is my brother George,” I heard a voice say wearily, “George, this is Anthony Melchett. Of the Melchett family who you were supposed to be meeting today.”
“Hello.” I think it was the most cheerful ‘hello’ I’ve ever heard.
He stood there, still smiling, for a moment. Then he added, slightly more seriously, “This is Flossy Bunny,” Showing off the armful of fur he was carrying.
I decided not to ask where Flossy Bunny was, supposing that the recognisable features of a rabbit were hidden somewhere in the mound of fluff. I could see something that looked like a foot… Or maybe it was an ear…
From that point on, the whole day seems as if it has been a bit of a blur. I don’t think I saw him again after that, or maybe I did. I’ve been thinking about talking to him ever since his sister took me back to the house for lunch. Up until a few minutes ago, driving home has seemed full of sadness and regret. I’ve been trying to think where I could have taken the conversation from pet rabbits. We’ve only ever had dogs. Still, the broken heart mends, doesn’t it? There are still things worse than seeing the most beautiful creature you have ever laid eyes on for only a few minutes in a county that you very rarely visit. I expect one of them is finding out that such a being is going to be in close proximity to you over the coming year, and may not think that you’re that special at all.
“Anthony,” Mother said as we passed Little Bridgecombe about half a mile back, “I told Lady St. Barleigh about you being Head Boy next year at St. Bartholomew’s. Her youngest son, George Colthurst St. Barleigh, I think you met him, is going to be a prefect there. Won’t that be lovely?”
And now I have three weeks, two days and… oh I can’t be bothered with the hours. I was never much good at mathematics…
…I wasn’t even aware that George went to St. Bartholomew’s. He must be in another house, maybe a year below me. Definitely a year below me, because he was not a prefect last year. Simply put, I may have a more difficult time back at school than I’d previously thought…