At dinner time Susanna asked Uncle Mack’s permission to do something with Joel again. Their latest idea of a way to spend time together was slightly startling.
“Can I go to Oxford with him on Saturday?”
Uncle Mack looked surprised. It was the first time she had asked to leave the county since coming back from her gap year a couple of months before her university course would start.
“Oxford? To do what?”
“Look around, be tourists, shop. It’s just a place I’d like to visit, and Joel said he’s always been interested in going as well.”
‘Such similar likes,’ I thought, vaguely wonderingly.
Uncle Mack shrugged.
“I guess that’s fine. Why don’t you take Jennifer along too - I’m sure she’d get something out of it.”
“I’m sure Joel wouldn’t mind. D’you want to come, Jennifer?”
I did, actually. Oxford seemed like such a romantic place: home of one of the two top universities of the country, a city radiating intellect (well, when I thought about it, anyway) and interesting enough to be the filming site of TV mystery dramas.
“Yes, please,” I answered, smiling back.
“Cool, I’ll let Joel know after dinner. I’m so excited - even though it’s four days away!”
Uncle Mack smiled.
“How will you get there - d’you know? It’ll be a long journey.”
“We’re going to go by bus: that way we don’t have to keep changing train. I think the journey’s a bit less than three hours.”
“That’s not so bad, I suppose,” Uncle Mack mused.
“No, it’s not really.”
When I left the table at the end of the meal, I went upstairs to read a book while Uncle Mack and Susanna moved to the living room to watch a horror movie on TV.
As I left my uncle and my sister, I remembered the notepad in my pocket and Kenny’s request for me to inform him of the details of when Joel and Susanna would next hang out. Once in my room with the light turned on, I pulled the notepad out of my pocket, went to sit on my bed and, feeling vaguely stupid, opened it to the first page. As I did so, I noticed something glint on my finger, reflecting the light above me. It was the ring Kenny had put on me - the one that I thought had disappeared. I wondered how it had reappeared on my finger without me noticing. But that wasn’t important.
Taking the pen out of its pouch, I wrote ‘Susanna and Joel are going to Oxford on Saturday.’ As an afterthought, I added ‘I’m going too’.
As Kenny had said it would, the notepad vibrated a few seconds later, and below my message to him appeared a message in a different script, reading ‘Thanks. Can you meet me tomorrow in the park without arousing suspicion? Let me know the best time to meet up. K’
‘I think that will be okay’ I wrote: ‘I’ll ask my uncle at breakfast tomorrow - it would be weird to go down and ask him now.’
‘Brilliant. Night then.’
As I closed the notepad and put it back in my pocket, I began to feel like I had just been dreaming: similar to how I had felt when Kenny had left me in the town square. I picked up the book I had been reading recently and opened it at the bookmark, not at all concerned by how I had just let a stranger know when my sister was going to hang out with her boyfriend, not at all worried about meeting up with the same stranger tomorrow: in fact, I was barely thinking about Kenny, instead focused on the fictional events I was reading as I became re-immersed in the story.