In the distance, three men appear. A rifle is raised. A head is thrown back. A hip flask glints in the dying afternoon light. Three hunters celebrating their kill. The end of a successful hunt.
From somewhere out of sight but somewhere nearby I hear the sound of vomiting. Then nothing. Silence. And slowly, bit by bit, the pieces begin falling into place.
At long last, I finally understand.
"You're right. Ok, this is the thing. I think I'm a dad."
Silence follows his words, until there's only the sound of the wind moving through the huge beech tree outside the window. And the sound of two friends breathing, when they suddenly find themselves in a place beyond words.
I don't know what to say. 'Congratulations' doesn't seem appropriate. But then neither does saying 'I'm sorry' either. Time passes, then i look at him and ask the only thing i can think of. "Who's the mother?"
"What's happening on Friday?"
I lift my hands out of the washing-up and turn to look back at Eva. Her eyes are facing the far wall and I follow them there, to the calendar, to where red circles circle Friday the 19th of August.
"It's...it's a deadline I set," I say carefully, drying my hands on the front of my t-shirt. "I was planning to go and find Gabriel. To get answers."
She listens, her eyes fixed on mine, her tongue licking her bottom lip. "He doesn't know that I know."
Ok. "So it wouldn't have worked?"
I give him a wave and watch him go, the oldest twelve year old in the world. Smoker, tractor driver, carer. Winner of a national peotry competition. Owner of one of the most photogenic faces i've ever seen. Son to an eccentric, intellectual, alcoholic father. A boy who can make me happy and sad at exactly the same time, and in equal measure. I fear for him growing up so different in a world where so many want to be the same. But then the thought of him changing to fit in scares me even more.
I look back at her. I want to lie. I want to smile a big smile and laugh it all away. Make a joke about something I saw, but there's no way I can make that happen. Under her gaze, my decision to not say what I've seen crumbles away to nothing. "I saw a pile of photos on the bed and started to look though them...I saw the portrait photo of you. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."
She says nothing. Her eyes move to somewhere beyond me, over my shoulder and into another world, and the lump in my throat grows.