Arungula, third member of the household after Del and Mikey, met Blue as he was having a cup of tea in the kitchen. She shook his hand and asked him if he was replacing Tommy.
"Apparently," he said.
"Good," said Arungula. "I'm sure you'll be right at home."
But as she went on through to the garden she contemplated. Tommy had left after a series of bizarre pranks which might have been just because he was a bit strange. He would follow people around with a recording machine, and make strange pronouncements usually preceded by,
"Hi! I'm Tommy."
At one point he attempted to climb into bed with Arungula and her boyfriend Deezo. There was apparently nothing sexual about it, he just wanted to talk to them. Deezo didn't last long after that; last she heard he was back at the University working as a janitor and living in a small room above the lift shaft. He hadn't been the best of boyfriends after all, and his quirks suggested that Tommy was obsessed with him, not her - he had never shown that kind of interest in Aru after all. Deezo shared Tommy's love of pretending to be falling to his death, arms windmilling, a look of horror on his face as he pitched from a stricken aircraft in the late evening ten thousand feet over the Atlantic.
Arungula was a painter and liked to colour things in. It began when one day, not feeling creative enough to draw anything new, she hauled out some old notebooks containing line drawings she'd done over the years and set to bringing them to life with colour. She'd been known to drawl,
"There are more than fifty shades of gray, y'all,"
in what turned out to be her home accent: she was born in Lawrence, Kansas, the town William Burroughs spent his last years in, but rarely referred to it and was not entirely sure it was still in existence. Although the natives hadn't been unfriendly she did get a lot of questions as to her origins (Pakistani father, half-Native American half-Irish mother; enough to confound most people). Upland was her home now, the trees and lakes and the ringing, beautiful sky.
"If I stay here," she once told Del, "for the rest of my life I will never get tired of that sky."
Especially at evening, when the western aspect was often golden and crimson and salmon-pink, either layered perfectly like a tequila sunrise or mixed in dramatic swirls of colour. Sometimes patches of the most astonishing indigo shone through.