A case of Knives by Peter Rose

By Peter Rose

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Thank god they knew nothing about Babs’s affair with Julia. That would have been too much. My memories of those times are vivid. Babs was famously gregarious. Hers was the sort of bohemian kitchen that people used to write about in novels. Nothing was private — awkward for an introvert. Did that ratty place even have doors? When Julia took a bath she always left the door open. Once I found her in the kitchen without any clothes on. Sucking a mango, she raved on as if it was perfectly normal. Strangers were always welcome and stupendously fed.

I wandered through the grounds and began to feel alien. We could go home soon, once Candy had sung for the birthday boys. I began to miss Valhalla, our cloistered home. I walked past the old white floodlit house and suspected I was being filmed. Inside the front room Hal Hutton’s children were staring at a television as if someone had been assassinated. I drifted into the walled garden and pissed on the lemon tree. To see how drunk I was, I recited Shakespeare’s twentyninth sonnet backwards — my party trick.

I’d never seen Ursula in such vivacious form. Catching my eye, she sat on Roman’s lap and raised a triumphal glass. ‘What a tart,’ Julia hissed. She’d been watching the pantomime too. I remembered Julia’s prediction that Ursula would marry Roman in the New Year. Ever since Candy (who had heard it from Ursula) had let slip that Roman would receive a tidy sum from Philip Anthem when he turned twenty-one, Julia had been adamant about Ursula’s designs. ‘She’ll marry him in a flash,’ she insisted. ‘Ursula’s not the marrying type,’ I insisted, looking away.

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