Need I stay, Mummy?
He said: ‘I’m ravenous, Rosie. I say – visitors coming?’
Rose said: ‘Yes, dear. Eve Graham and her mother.’
‘Must I stay to tea?’ Lance asked. ‘Please, Mummy.’
‘You must learn not to be frightened of things,’ she said. ‘Deformities are always rather unpleasant because we are unused to them. But it is ridiculous to run away from what seems unpleasant.’
‘Let him go out, Rosie,’ Gordon said. ‘No point in keeping him in against his will. She can be a bit disconcerting, especially over a meal.’
Lance shivered, remembering the deformity; the crooked arm ending in that claw hand, the short twisted leg and foot. Gordon talked about it so casually, as though it were not he who had been driving the car that day but some other person. Lance tried to shut his mind against the picture of that drive. The car leaping along the road. Two people laughing and talking. And then Gordon waking up, miraculously unhurt, to find the girl beside him cradled in twisted metal, spouting blood, and screaming … But Gordon never seemed to worry about it, even to avoiding the subject. He would sit with the girl and her mother at tea as though they were just ordinary visitors.
Lance said: ‘Need I stay, Mummy?’
She replied: ‘Have your tea in the kitchen if you feel you really cannot stick it. You disappoint me a lot, Lance. Go on, then. They will be here any moment.’
‘I hope so,’ Gordon said. ‘Lord, but I’m hungry.’