Days passed in what felt like moments. I had wandered around the place, finally discerning that it was little more than a hamlet, little more than a collection of houses, despite the fact that each was completely different from the next.
I was relieved to see the house we had somehow been assigned (for who could say how or for what reason the bus had stopped in this place exactly?) had a full fridge, and, though its closets almost bare, we had been provided with a number of spare clothes: couple of jumpers for me, for example, and, despite Meggie’s protests, a low-hemmed, sky-blue dress. She had worn the outfit for one day, but I could tell that she was still attached to the emerald dress, even though dark ruby smudges still fingered their way across it.
It was fortunate that our three-story cottage was blessed with two main bedrooms as well as a couple of smaller rooms, empty for the time-being; I had already once avoided the embarrassing situation of cohabitation, but I still wasn’t sure if Meggie could be trusted to keep her eyes on me alone. She was, nevertheless, a beautiful young girl, and her age might one day let her down.
On the bus I had taken a note to keep my eyes and ears open, and now I had a mental collection of those people who were our fellow ‘residents’ in this strange place. It turned out that the cottage Meggie and I now owned was situated approximately (for the roads in this place were barely formed) opposite Mog's house and a little way down from Lazarus'.
When I was observing the curve of the street one day, thinking, praying, I spotted Lazarus making his way to Mog's house. Curious, I found myself staring, just staring in their direction, no more concerned whether it was rude or not.
They were already good acquaintances, so it seemed, and guilt began to spread through me. I had spent no time on finding out the opinions of the other bus travellers, and it didn’t take three days of observations to see that I was the different one here. They could even be warm to Meggie, but to me, it seemed they were giving the cold-shoulder.
I too had my own local pub to go home to, and I wasn’t going to pretend that this one was better, despite all the temptations it could try and offer. I was glad that I had not been so tempted lately, as if here, in this strange land, I was becoming immune to the evils of the outside world.
“I still could do with a cold one some time soon,” I mumbled to myself meaninglessly, rubbing my forehead.
This ‘immune man’ standing watching his neighbours wasn’t like the disastrous me who had disregarded a once-cherished sister’s words, yet it was nothing like the old, Catholic me. I had left my Bible at my Oxford flat, but it was becoming clear that I was not going to get it back soon. If I could, I would soon buy another; otherwise religion we would have to do without here.
Suddenly my concentration on Mog’s house was broken. Meggie bolted out of the front door, her hair streaming behind her, her feet uncovered. Magic beauty, she looked as if she had just clambered out of bed. However I knew better. No matter how her hair looked, it would have already gone through several motions of combing.
"Hey, come back," she cried, and I turned to see who it was she was staring at: Isis gliding away from the bunch of houses. Still, Meggie was not soft of heart.