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by Ian John Copeland

Chapter 9

Easter 1968

As the boys came downstairs with their things, Mr Wallace took charge of the boys as they prepared to start the long journey home that afternoon.

"We only have two cars so you boys will have to split between my car and Mr Durrant's."

Instinctively most of the boys made a move towards Mr Durrant's Audi. In the rush to get the front seat Peter seemed to forget Sacha who was left at the back of the knot of boys.

"Easy, easy. I can only take five. The rest of you will have to go with Mr Wallace."

Pip seeing where Sacha was, stood back also, as did Owen and the Johnson twins. Mr Wallace looked proudly at his less than new car as he put their bags in the back, carefully fitted in amongst the various pieces of games kit. It was going to be a long journey.

"I wouldn't wait for me, John," Mr Wallace signalled to Mr Durrant as he pulled on his black leather driving gloves. Mr Durrant looked relieved at avoiding the need to travel in convoy. He was looking forward to steering his car alone along the many roads which lay between Skye and Cornwall, without having to worry about Mr Wallace and his car. He turned to the eager boys gathered around his car.

"Four in the back and Morgan, you had better map read." He raised his head briefly to Mr Wallace. "I suggest we rendezvous at the ferry in Armadale. It is some way from here. We won't reach Fort William until mid evening, I'm afraid."

Pip looked at Mr Wallace's car, not much room in the back. Mr Wallace answered the boy's question before he even raised it.

"I guess two in front and three in the back." He looked at Owen's bulk and then at the other boys in his group. "Sorry Owen, you will have to stay in the back, but you two can do turn and turn about with the Johnson twins. All right, boys, climb on board. Cox, you navigate and Morgan, you squeeze in with him. All right?"

Relieved at this organisation of the seating, Pip climbed in first. Sacha waited until he had put the carefully ordered maps on the dashboard and then without even asking sat on Pip's lap, his knees still muddy from a last minute game of football. Sacha was a warm welcome weight on Pip's lap. Christopher and Mr Porter came down the steps of the centre to see them on their way with Captain Porter.

"Good luck, boys. Sorry it is so soon."

With a scrunch of gravel they began their long journey down south, Jonathan and Clancy remaining behind to be picked up by their parents. Pip kept the map open all the way, studying it intently. Sacha, warm on top of him, was silent. By the time they passed through Portree, Sacha's head was leaning against Pip's shoulder, his hair tickling Pip's right cheek. There was not much talking after the first few minutes. Sacha wriggled a bit to make himself more comfortable and then a minute later wriggled again.

"Sacha, keep still!"

Pip was trying to keep his eye on the map, but with Sacha moving about it was easy to lose his place. Mr Wallace looked over.

"Morgan, if you are going to be a nuisance you can sit in the back."

"Oh, I am all right, sir. I've just got a numb leg."

"Really? Settled now?"

"He's fine, sir, I am sure."

Pip stepped in. He did not want Sacha switched for one of the twins. Mr Wallace checked. Sacha was now still. Silence ensued. So Mr Wallace put on his radio. Up here there was not much to listen to, just the BBC's long-wave service. As they drove south, the rain began to pick up and batter the windscreen as dusk set in. The map was unnecessary. Pip had memorised the villages they had to go through. Nevertheless, he kept the map open on Sacha's lap. To keep the younger boy in position, Pip had his left arm under Sacha's. Sacha shifted his weight to make himself more comfortable. He turned his head sideways, his thick eyelashes now visible, his eyes reduced to slits. He seemed to be settling down for a doze. Pip slowly wrapped his arm around the younger boy, conscious that he was holding him in a protective embrace.

Suddenly the car ground to a halt in the straggling village that was Broadford. A question from Mr Wallace startled Pip from his reverie.

"Well, which way, Cox? You were doing well until now."

"Sorry, sir. Straight ahead, through Broadford."

He quickly sneaked a look at the map one handed. Kyeleakin one way, Armadale the other. He looked for Armadale and estimated the distance.

"Yes, only twenty miles to the ferry. I think Mr Durrant said the last one was at eight o'clock."

Mr Wallace looked at his watch. Pip could see him looking worried. "Less than hour, okay?"

He shifted into gear and they travelled on through Broadford. The houses began to thin out; they carried on. On the right an isolated signpost appeared 'Ferry' written on it. Pip looked behind to check, but could not see what else it said. The road entered a village; houses appeared all around them. A sign came up on the roadside. This was Kyleakin; they were heading to the Kyle of Lochalsh Ferry and not the Armadale ferry. At first Pip said nothing, aware that Sacha was no longer just feigning sleep, his right hand slipped to the side, his breathing long and deep. Pip looked at the map again worried. Perhaps there was another road to Armadale along the coast? They came into the village. It quickly became clear; the road to Kyleakin was a dead end, just leading to the ferry. Pip could always tell. Now worried that he might be wrong, Pip could see Mr Wallace sneak a sideways look at him. The car slowed and stopped.

"I don't want to doubt you map reading abilities, Cox, but I think I had better check." He started to reach for the map. Pip cut him off, now sure that they needed to turn around and head back north to find the turning.

"I thought the turn was here. It's not. It must be back in Broadford. I think we are going the wrong way, sir. We need to go back to Broadford, don't we?"

He looked at the map again. They had driven straight ahead when in fact they should have turned right in Broadford. On the map it was clear and there was no alternative route other than to return to Broadford.

"We have to turn around, sir. I can see it now. It was a right hand turn three miles back."

Mr Wallace peered at the map over Pip's shoulder. The master checked Pip's assessment of the situation and conceded the boy was correct. Pip was still in charge.

"You're right. We go back and turn left and I think I would have made the same mistake. It's hidden in the fold of the map."

Reassured, Mr Wallace turned the car around and they headed back up the road they had come down until they were close to Broadford where they turned left and headed westwards towards the ferry to Mallaig. The other boys slumbered whilst Pip read the map more closely. Once they made it past the turning, it was straight on to the ferry at Armadale, but they still had about 15 miles to go on a narrow and twisting road. For a few miles Pip kept checking the map against the tiny hamlets they passed through. This was the right way. Confirmation received and checked by Mr Wallace, the boys could relax a bit as the car began to cover the miles to the ferry. Once again Pip wrapped his left arm around Sacha's sleeping form. Pip felt protective of his sleeping friend and let himself nuzzle the back of Sacha's head, his hair prickling Pip's nose and face, but Pip did not mind.

Mr Wallace rounded the next corner. The little ferry port of Armadale came into view. A few lights around a small harbour and a row of houses, nothing much else. In the middle of the bay was another set of lights moving away from them. The last ferry was leaving the harbour.

Without warning, distracted by the lights of the ferry, Mr Wallace jammed on the brakes at an unexpected kink in the road. The car skidded then lurched off the side of the road and the passenger's side of the car suddenly sunk down with a scrunch of gravel. Sacha shot forward and thumped loudly into the dashboard, Pip's grasp broken by the abrupt stop.

"Ow!" Pip cried out more in alarm than pain as he put his hand up just in time to stop a similar fate, but hit his knee. Behind him he was aware of the startled cries of the other boys hitting the back of the front seats.

"Sorry, boys, sorry." Mr Wallace was alarmed. "I am sorry. I could see the ferry. I'm afraid we have missed it."

Pip looked up, a sharp pain in his knee, eyes blurry with the impact. Sacha was slumped forward his head on the dashboard, a hand slowly reaching up, the only other sound being the ticking of the hot engine and some muffled groans and exclamations from the back of the car.

"What's happened?"

"We've hit something."

"I was asleep."

"I think we've just skidded off the road and ended in a ditch." Pip used his front seat location to tell the boys in the back what had actually happened. In the distance the lights of the ferry were already one quarter of the way across the sound. Sacha finally stirred and held up his hand. It was shaking. He was breathing rapidly and erratically.

"Oh damn!"

Mr Wallace looked across at Pip who was wincing with the pain in his knee. He restarted the engine, stalled a couple of times and then using high revs, crashed the gears into reverse, but it was useless. The wheels span in a high-pitched whine and then the car stalled. They were mired in a ditch. In the silence the other boys began to react.

"Sir, what are we going to do?"

"Where are we, sir?"

The voices from the back sounded frightened. In between Pip felt Sacha lean back, still staring at his hand. The boy made a small sound. It was not a word, instead a low-pitched murmur emerged, unformed in meaning. It was enough of a signal for Mr Wallace to stop his fruitless efforts to escape the ditch and turn on the ceiling light. The weedy yellow light revealed enough. With a single glance Mr Wallace realised that one of his charges needed urgent attention. Sacha was leaning back, hand to face; blood was seeping through the boy's fingers. Ominously Sacha was shaking, silent apart from his laboured breathing. Mr Wallace started with an apology.

"I am sorry, Sacha, that was my fault."

Then Mr Wallace stopped himself. Sacha wasn't listening. The boy was too dazed; he needed medical attention. Mr Wallace looked out of the window and could see lights. "Look, I am going to have to go and get help straight away. Pip, stay here and look after Sacha and you as well, Owen. Kit, Robbie, you two run along ahead and go to the first house with lights on."

Shocked at their first names being used, the boys obeyed the orders. The Johnson twins got out on the driver's side and raced down the hill ahead of Mr Wallace, calling for help.

"Help, help, there's been an accident."

The first house was in darkness. The twins went straight onto the next house, which did show lights and banged violently on the door. Mr Wallace followed them, his black mackintosh flying in the wind and rain. Owen stayed in the back of the car, his bulk ruling out any role in their rescue. Pip took charge.

"Get your handkerchief, Owen." He couldn't reach his own handkerchief just now. Owen fumbled too long without result. Pip sighed and decided to reach for his own, fortunately clean, and gave it to Sacha.

"Here, Sacha, take this." Sacha did not respond. So Pip gently pushed down Sacha's arm to see what was happening. "Come on, I'll do it. Let me see." There was blood trickling down Sacha's right cheek from above the eye. Cleaning off the blood revealed a cut over his right eye. Sacha remained quiet, trembling in shock, his breathing rapid like his heartbeat. Not able to do anything else, Pip wrapped his left arm around Sacha, muttering encouraging noises to the younger boy. "Come on, Sacha, the village is very close. I am sure Mr Wallace and the twins will be back very soon."

Owen had at last freed his own distinctly grubby handkerchief and proffered it to Pip.

"A bit too late, Owen. Still, full marks for trying."

Owen tried not to look too upset. He knew he had failed. While Sacha snuffled in shock, Pip and Owen looked towards the village keen to see help arrive. Eventually, swaying lights appeared. Two torches rushed rapidly towards them, the twins at the run. Behind them with Mr Wallace were two other adult figures walking fast. The driver's door to the car opened and the twins looked in.

"Help's here. We found a house with lights on."

Mr Wallace came next. He was explaining to a middle aged couple what had happened.

"I was concentrating on the lights of the jetty when suddenly the road veered. We went into the ditch."

"It's a nasty bend this one. You're not the first."

The woman looked nice. She peered into the car with concern.

"Let's have a look shall we?" Gently she prised Sacha's blood smeared hand away from his face. "It looks worse than it is, laddie. Here, Malcolm, give me something to wipe the bairn's face with."

The man produced a handkerchief. She wiped the blood from Sacha's face.

"I think we had better call Dr McLeod to have a look, just to be on the safe side. Let's get him into somewhere warm and dry. We had better go the inn. They have a telephone so we can call Dr McLeod from there."

"I'll have to take you from this side. There's not enough space the other side."

The man opened the door wider and started to reach into the car for Sacha, his hands under Sacha's armpits.

"Come on, laddie."

"Mmph," was as much as Sacha felt like saying as he was gently prised from Pip's hands by the man who picked Sacha up in his arms.

"Here, laddie, rest awhile with me."

The warmth of Sacha suddenly gone, Pip started to ease himself out over the gear stick, helped by Mr Wallace, all stiff and sore. Owen followed without help. The man looked at the car, Sacha cradled in his arms.

"That will have to stay off the road for tonight. I am sure McLaughlin will help you pull it out tomorrow with his Land Rover. We had better take you to the inn. Mrs McGregor will have some spare rooms, I am sure."

Mr Wallace stepped in to carry Sacha, his eyelids fluttering in and out of semi-consciousness.

"You three, get the bags out of the boot and bring them along."

"Pip, can you walk?"

"I'll try, sir."

"Good boy"

The party walked to the Ardvasar Inn, which was just beyond the ferry dock. Pip, limping with a badly bruised knee, found himself being supported by the man who, despite his protestations, soon picked him up and carried him the rest of the way. The lights of the inn looked very welcoming in the rain. Inside the bar were the landlord, some regulars and the pub cat, lounging in front of the fire. On seeing the party, Mr McGregor, the landlord, took charge.

"Oh dear, looks like we have had a bit of a do."

"Aye, they have, car came off the road and I think we need Dr McLeod to come out. This bairn has had quite a knock."

"I'll call him directly. The rest of you come over here where it's warm. We'll get things sorted. Take him through to the kitchen. The light is better there."

The regulars quickly moved things out of the way so that their new guests could make themselves comfortable.

"Marie, come down. It looks like there's been a bit of an accident. I'm calling Dr McLeod."

It didn't take long for the doctor to be called and the remaining boys to be seated at a big table in the corner. The Johnson twins got there first. They had a bottle of Coke each and a packet of crisps that they were sharing out rigidly one at a time in turn. Owen looked hungrily at this scene, but knew better than to ask for food from the twins. Reluctantly Pip sat next to Owen, his knee newly bandaged by Doctor McLeod. Mr Wallace was in the kitchen with Mrs McGregor, the inn's landlady, and Mrs Malcolm who was busily clucking over Sacha with Dr McLeod who was staring into Sacha's eyes with a torch for a second time. The doctor stood up.

"Mild concussion, and a nasty bruise. The cut looks worse than it is. I don't think he needs stitches, but I will have another look tomorrow morning. Here is some aspirin if he needs it tonight."

Sacha sat pale faced and silent, wrapped in a blanket, slumped in a large wooden chair that completely dwarfed him, his feet off the floor hanging limply. Dr McLeod left Mrs Malcolm cleaning the blood from his face and hair with a wet flannel.

"You had better keep an eye on him. If he is still as groggy as this in the morning, then we will have to take him to Portree to have a further look."

Mrs McGregor came out to the boys at the table.

"Look at you all, as glum as anything! Well, I have some food. Would you like some pie and chips followed by ice-cream?"

Owen, always looking to further increase his bulk, answered for them all. "Yes, please, Miss, we don't get chips at school."

Owen's answer caused a chuckle around the bar. One of the regulars leaned over and spoke to Mr McGregor who was behind the bar. He reached behind himself, produced a half dozen bags of crisps and some bottles of Coke, then came round to the front of the bar and put them all on the boys' table.

"Mr McLaughlin has taken pity on you. Here's something to keep you going for a wee while until to my wife returns with something more substantial."

Owen, now increasingly reassured, turned to their benefactor. "Thank you sir. I needed that!"

Mr Wallace came out of the kitchen with Mrs Malcolm and spoke to the other boys.

"Sacha will be all right. He just banged his head and got a cut on his forehead. He'll probably have a bit of a headache in the morning. I want to keep him quiet until then. The local doctor will look in on him tomorrow to see if he is still concussed."

Sacha wasn't coming out into the bar. Pip could see him sitting at the table, a glass of milk in front of him and a sandwich, which he reluctantly took a bite from under the watchful eye of Mrs McGregor who alternated between the stove and her new charge. Mr Wallace, after being invited, sat at the bar with some of the regulars consuming a pint of beer and some sandwiches. This he followed rapidly with first one whisky and then another. There was not much talking at the boys' table. Once the food arrived, the boys tucked in. Owen finished his plate, then started on the remains of Pip's half finished meal and then the plates of Kit and Robbie. He burped in a satisfied way and then started to yawn. In truth all the boys were yawning. It was now nine-thirty at night after a long day. In a lull between orders Mrs McGregor came out to the boys at the table.

"There's just the two rooms, a family room with a double bed and a single bed and another smaller double on the half landing."

She looked at the twins.

"You two can share, I think?"

The twins nodded agreement. They were used to sharing a bed.

"I can make up a bed on the sofa in our living room downstairs and we have a camp bed, a bit primitive. That just leaves three of you."

Mrs McGregor weighed up the options. The rather large boy looked like he would probably need more than a camp bed. Not wishing to cause any further trouble to their kind benefactor, Mr Wallace spoke up.

"Oh, I am fine with the sofa. I am sure we can manage without a camp bed if there is a double bed."

Unexpectedly Sacha stood at the door to the kitchen wrapped in his blanket. He looked pale and shaky, but he listened to the discussion, propping himself against the door. Mrs McGregor continued. "Well it's barely a double bed even." There was a pause whilst the party contemplated the alternatives. Sacha could go in the single bed along with the twins and Owen and Pip could share or… Mrs McGregor knew it was a very small double bed. The large boy would take it all up by himself. She considered the situation further and looked at the still dazed looking little boy nominally in her charge.

"Perhaps it would be better if someone was with this one."

She looked around the table and then at Mr Wallace, now downing yet another whisky. A drunken teacher sharing a bed with the injured boy was perhaps not the best choice right now, she thought. She then looked at Owen. He would hog all the space. Then she eyed Pip. Sacha got there first. "How about Pip?" Sacha turned to Pip. "Do you mind?" All eyes turned to Pip. Owen was particularly keen on this arrangement he did not want to share with anyone, least of all Morgan.

"Okay, just for one night." Pip answered quickly before any other answer came to people's minds. Pip hoped he had sounded neither too pleased nor too appalled by the prospect of sleeping with Sacha.

The boys went upstairs. The twins and Owen went ahead to discover that they were in the attic, always something of an adventure. The room Pip was to share with Sacha was on the half landing. It was very small, as advertised, at the back of the inn. Sacha was still downstairs being fussed over. After brushing his teeth, Pip climbed into his pyjamas and almost fell into the old fashioned bed choosing the side by the wall in the small cramped room. Sacha sleepwalked into the room five minutes later, almost carried by Mrs McGregor, a fresh sticking plaster on his forehead and hair slightly wet from being flannelled clean. He sat on the side of the bed as Mrs McGregor opened his kit bag.

"Where are your pyjamas?"

Sacha was not going to answer. His eyes were beginning to close in tiredness. Pip looked at the kitbag. It had the initials PM on it.

"That is his brother's bag. That belongs to Peter. I think they must have got them mixed up earlier on when we got in the cars."

Mrs McGregor reached further into the bag and still found no pyjamas. "Doesn't your brother have any pyjamas?"

"He didn't bring them it looks like."

Mrs McGregor hmmphed to herself and looked at Sacha, a boy she clearly thought needed pyjamas since he was sharing a bed. Sacha sat quietly, stupefied with tiredness and still pale with shock. Eventually Mrs McGregor reached in and pulled out a clean rugby shirt that Peter had not worn. She eyed it to the small boy sitting on the bed in front of her.

"This will do, won't it, Sacha?"

"Yes, miss." His lisp more pronounced by tiredness. Sacha attempted to undress, but his hands were still shaking. Mrs McGregor, seeing the feebleness of his efforts took charge.

"Stay still. I will see to you."

Mrs McGregor started pulling on Sacha's jumper and then took over unbuttoning his check shirt as the boy sat unresisting on the bed. The rugby shirt was put over his raised arms and then over his head until his dishevelled hair emerged. Shoes and socks were quickly removed.

"I had better have your shorts as well. They will get all creased in bed." Peter's shirt was two sizes too large for Sacha. It came down to his thighs. Sacha, encouraged by Mrs McGregor stood up, facing her as she took his shorts from him. Sacha stood until Mrs McGregor pulled back the bedcovers on Sacha's side of the bed. He needed no further encouragement. Sacha fell gratefully into bed and lay next to Pip on his stomach, all energy leaving his body instantly, his left arm draped over Pip's chest, holding Pip's pyjama jacket. Mrs McGregor smiled at them both.

"A long and rather adventurous day for you two, I think. I suggest you get a good night's sleep. The first ferry is not until just after 10 o'clock tomorrow." She turned to Pip. "If Sacha needs any aspirin or anything, I will leave some out on the next landing on the right. Mr Wallace will be downstairs. We won't be going to bed for at least a couple of hours or so. We have the bar to clear up."

Mrs McGregor bent down and looked into Sacha's eyes. They were already shut. She pulled up the bedclothes further until just some of his hair showed and then tucked both boys in tightly. They were going nowhere that night she was sure. As she left the room, she turned the light off. Both boys were already asleep.

Pip awoke in the middle of the night. It was still dark and quiet apart from wind buffeting the window. Sacha's back was to him. Pip gently ran his hand down Sacha's back. The boy was warm, his shirt half way up his back. Pip lay silent to see whether Sacha made a move. The quiet slow breathing from his companion confirmed that Sacha remained in a deep sleep. Slowly Pip echoed Sacha's position turning over onto his side, putting his hand on Sacha's shoulder and moving closer so he was right behind the boy's warm form. After a while Pip slipped his left arm under Sacha until he felt Sacha's hands resting together on the pillow. The four hands were now together, Pip's enclosing Sacha's. The boys lay still until Pip felt Sacha stretch, pull his hands free and put them between his legs, to make himself warmer. Pip responded by bringing his legs up behind Sacha so that he completely encircled him. The younger boy did not resist. Instead he snuggled ever closer into Pip's body to increase the warmth and contact. The silence was total. Pip lay awake. A feeling of warmth as his arms embraced Sacha, his hands gently enclosing Sacha's in a gentle massage. Pip's young companion did not stir other than when he stretched briefly and then curled up dead to the world once more. Pip remained tightly bound to the sleeping boy that lay with him once more as if to protect him from everything else in the world around him. Not a word was said between the two boys. Sacha remained cocooned by Pip, comforted by the warm strength encircling him. They slept in each other's embrace until morning woke them with the sounds of activity outside the door and the smell of bacon.

Sacha gently eased Pip's hands apart and sat himself up to a thumping headache, turning his legs until he was sitting on the side of the bed. Sacha looked back to the still sleeping Pip, quickly removing his brother's shirt before standing up to put his shorts on. As he did so, he looked at himself in the mirror. He could see that yesterday's misadventure had left him with a big plaster above his eye. Pip took advantage of his friend's absence, turned over and settled down again. Still no sign of waking, so Sacha gently rocked the sleeping form.

"Pip, we'd best get going." Pip finally stirred himself awake as Sacha finished dressing. "Morning already?"

"Can't you smell breakfast?"

Reluctantly Pip rose and started to dress, hiding his modesty as Sacha slowly piled Peter's rugby shirt back into the kit bag, conspicuously not looking as Pip dressed. Just as the boys finished dressing, Mr Wallace came in to the room to call the boys down for breakfast.

"Sorry, we almost forgot you two. How's our walking wounded? I can see the beginnings of a black eye there, Morgan."

It was back to surnames again.

After breakfast Sacha was given a check-up by Doctor McLeod as the other boys went to help with pulling Mr Wallace's car out of the ditch. Happy that Sacha appeared his normal self, Doctor McLeod announced the boy was fit to travel. On leaving the inn, the boys walked down to the shore, led by the Johnson twins and with Owen alone in between. Sacha followed Pip out, deep in thought, hands in pockets. Pip paused and waited by the harbour wall. Did Sacha remember anything about last night? If he did, Pip feared that he might tell Mr Wallace, but Sacha followed obediently like a dog with its owner. Unspoken, Sacha was acquiescent to Pip's invitation to be close to him. The two boys walked down to the jetty to a point where they could see the mainland opposite. The first ferry was visible, still loading over in Mallaig.

The two boys stood slightly apart from the other three. Pip stood behind Sacha as if to shelter him from the brisk breeze, leaning into the younger boy. He pointed at a bird on the horizon.

"Look, I think it is a hawk of some sort."

It was an attempt to conceal the real reason for Pip's closeness to Sacha, an attempt once again to share the warmth of his body in close proximity. Sacha in turn leaned back and broke the slightly awkward silence.

"I was real tired last night. I don't remember much."

"You were probably concussed. That's what the doctor said last night. You nearly fell into your food. I think Mr Wallace was getting ready to carry you off to bed at one point."

"What, in front of everyone?"

"Everyone. You were swaying. I think you were asleep with your eyes open."

"I've got a splitting headache to go with it."

Sacha was clearly not feeling all that bright. The two boys stopped talking, not sure what to say next. Out in the water a ship's horn sounded. It was the ferry approaching the harbour. Pip eventually broke the silence.

"Time to go."

The ferry back to the mainland took just thirty minutes. Apart from Sacha who slumped in a corner, the rest of the boys celebrated by playing tag until brought to order by Mr Wallace. Mr Wallace was not in a good mood. His driving into the ditch last night had resulted in one injured pupil and a car that would need a significant amount of money spent on it. That morning Mr Wallace had been on the telephone to pass on the news to Captain Porter and Mr Durrant. They agreed to meet the Morgan family at a rendezvous near Birmingham where the party would split. Sacha and Peter were now going to go direct to London Airport from Birmingham with their parents and sister Sam to catch their flight to Hong Kong. The other boys would then drive back to Cornwall.

The drive back was long and dreary. To catch up, Mr Wallace resolved to drive all night to get to the rendezvous at 11 o'clock the next day. The boys themselves were tired after their adventure. Owen now sat in front, the other four in the back. The presence of the Johnson twins kept Pip away from Sacha.

Sacha felt little other than a thumping headache. He felt sick and feared throwing up. Unable to control his current state, Sacha put himself into a state of suspension, sleeping most of the way down south. The rest of the time his mind kept going back to what happened the previous night. His memories were jumbled and intermittent. He could not remember much after leaving Staffin Lodge other than a strange intense dream, a pleasant dream, a dream of touching, of one of Sam's friends he sometimes played tennis with. He dreamt of her sharing a shower with him, a feeling of intense pleasure building up and then a surging sensation. Sacha then recalled waking up from that dream, encircled in Pip's arms, impossibly snug, aware something enjoyable had happened, but what was it? Ever so often Sacha looked over to Pip as if to seek an answer.

Pip avoided Sacha's glances and kept staring out of the window as if avoiding him, consumed in his own feelings of guilt at what he had done whilst Sacha had been asleep.

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