Saturday 24th December 2011
The author’s friendship with Frances
PLAN the moves, then move the plans, as we are often told.
What can I say about Frances? Always polite, considerate, attentive, forgiving and generous, she did all she could to alleviate my gloomy disposition with gestures of sympathy, tokens of affection, and seemingly sincere answers to my queries.
“Barren Ness says the Americans are coming to see you tomorrow… there was another bit in the paper this morning: apparently you’ve got new-moan-ya… checked with chef and they’re definitely free range… might try getting a message to Arthur for you, if you can remember where he lives…”
The experts, I assumed, were happy for me to be talking to Frances about matters I never discussed with Isobel. They would be thinking that I had been fooled into thinking I had a genuine friend, to whom I might, in time, reveal some inner secrets.
She alone knew, for example, that I was considering agreeing to the giants’ demands simply to gain release from custody. Likewise, she was the only person to whom I had admitted the damage done to my wing was so severe that I would never again be able to fly.
Many and amusing were the stories Frances told of brawls in school dormitories and training camps, though she spoke not of her family, only of being ‘one of the lads’ and how she could drink large quantities of alcoholic beverages, which, apparently, impressed her male associates just as much as her ability to pitch a tent in a blizzard or crawl blindfold through a sewer.
She was certainly swift-footed and strong, proven by the speed with which she prevented my one foolish attempt to escape: a sudden dart away from my escorts, only to be brought to the ground mere seconds later.
Whereupon Isobel announced that I would have to wear a wrist manacle at all times when not inside my locked quarters.
Nevertheless, the walks and talks with Frances were entertaining and her friendly overtures of value to me – as she would one day come to understand.