Welcome to the Sunday blog! Tonight Summer Rayne from The Salisbury Key is talking to Susana, who said…
What a difficult question! There are so many of your characters I would like to meet… But as I can choose only one, it would be Rayne ( The Salisbury Key was the first book I read written by you, and it is very special), and I would like to ask him what he thought about Daniel the first time he saw him, when he was still with Jason…
Hi, Susana – Rayne here. Thank you for coming to meet me. I thought you might like it here in the riverside restaurant – it’s where I brought Dan on the day of Jason’s funeral, when we scandalised half Salisbury by having lunch together while the mourners went off to the pub. That was a hell of a strange day, and it got stranger and more scandalous after that…
But that’s not the day you wanted to hear about. The very first time I saw Dan, he was in handcuffs. I was on crowd control up at Stonehenge for summer solstice, and he’d just been arrested and carted off Salisbury Plain for trespass into the military zone. I’d felt his attention on me like a tug at my sleeve – hey, soldier-boy, everyone else is looking at me: why not you? Captain Marsh took the cuffs off, and he raised his arms and danced for the crowd, with his T-shirt riding up and his denim cut-offs so skin-tight you could tell he’d hoisted up his undies in a hurry.
I’m sitting here laughing about it now. And I wish I could take that moment, drop it in liquid amber and preserve it, because for all he was so absurd, such a mess – buttercup petals still in his hair – he was so bloody beautiful, so young and perfect. He’d had a tough childhood but the real terror of his life, the thing that would set marks on him, hadn’t happened to him yet. Jason was right there by his side.
Their story was just beginning. That look I shared with him shouldn’t have meant anything, but it did, for both of us. I filed him away in my brain as a beautiful nuisance I could never touch because our worlds were so far apart we’d likely never meet again, and just as well. He pissed me off. We were about the same age: how had he ended up dancing like a teenager while the hippies cheered him on, while I stood sweating in my uniform? I didn’t want to dance or wear cut-offs, but it would’ve been nice to have all those people laughing and on my side, not hating me as a symbol of authority. I had to remind myself that such popularity was cheap-bought, and it wasn’t the dancing boy they’d cry for if North Korea dropped the ball tomorrow and World War Three broke out.
Those were bitter thoughts for a sunny afternoon. And you know, when he looked at me, they melted away. He didn’t look as if he hated me, even if we were on opposite sides of the fence. He just looked… questioning, as if he’d seen something in me he hadn’t expected. And I saw something wholly unexpected in him – the look I know so well now, fastening on me across our hotel rooms, over tables in boring academic meetings when he’s had enough and just wants to drag me off home. I saw desire.
Yes, even though he’d just finished rolling on the plain with his professor. Ah, he broke his heart for that in later days, but it helped me open up the parts of him that were hurting the most and pull out some of his thorns. He believed – and it turned out not to be true, because Jason Ross was a big-hearted man, old enough and kind enough to forgive a lover thirty years his junior any amount of such small trespasses – that his awareness of other men, his appreciation, his desire – had contributed to Jason’s death.
And I held on to that moment too, that first glimpse. My world closed round me like a mantrap in the years that followed after. My ideals, my sense of duty, everything I’d hung on to in order to distance myself from that sunny, helpless hippie lifestyle – all of it went up in a blast of sand and dust in the desert. Somehow, for some reason, I kept Dan’s image tucked away. Jason’s, too – the way they’d looked together, Jason shadowed and sad even in the sunlight, but, oh, so bone-deep delighted to be there at Dan’s side, to know what his skin tasted like, to know how he sounded when he came. To know his adoration was returned. That first moment helped Dan, because I could tell him with absolute truth that if anyone could have saved Jason, he would; that he’d been the reason Jason had survived as long as he did. And as for me – I’d seen a pair of blue eyes, filled with such a love of life that I almost cried out in pain at the changes in them, the next time we met, in Colonel McCade’s office at Fellworth camp. I’d borne that sapphire blaze with me all the way across Afghanistan. In that one moment, I’d seen the future.
I just didn’t know it was going to be mine.
I’d better get ready to go and meet him now. He’s been off talking to my brother, who is so painfully excited about something or other that he dragged us all the way back from a post-dig holiday in Thailand. Dan knows I’m liable to strangle Winter for that, so he’s kindly gone to deal with the lunatic alone. I get on much better with Win these days, but he’s best in small doses… It’s been lovely to talk to you, Susana, and thank you for asking that very interesting question!
Well, Harper here, if I can get a word in edgeways. That was great fun, Suzanne – thanks again. Next week it’s Mandi’s turn, and she says she’d like to meet:-
Nichol from Scrap Metal. He had such a gentle and giving soul.
Your wish is our command, Mandi, and we’ll look forward to seeing you next Sunday.