The new covenant

Wednesday, 23 June

Wow, this is difficult. I feel as though I am in a confessional booth but I know with absolute certainty that no-one will believe my confession. I will try my best to describe what happened yesterday afternoon, to preserve the memory for my own posterity if nothing else (incidentally, I realise that by saying this I have become the hoarder of memories that I despised so intensely only a few months ago, but please forgive me for my transgression because this is a memory that I do not wish to quickly forget).

I asked no questions as Luke set the pipe down on the table once again and then leapt out of his chair, took a firm grasp of my wrist and wrenched me out of my seat, partly because I was excited by the nervous anticipation that swirled around inside my stomach and partly because I had grown impatient that he was taking so long to act on the obvious chemistry between us. And he didn't waste any time. The pomegranate bounced off my lap and rolled across the floor and my heels clattered on the wooden floorboards as he dragged me out of the room, both of us giggling like children at our over-eagerness. The very second that we entered into the darkness of the hallway his face took on a stern expression and his eyes became incredibly dark, which prompted me to giggle nervously and twist my hand in an attempt to loosen his grip on my wrist. He gently pushed me backwards until my back hit the wall and I felt the soft huff of his breath against my face as he repeated "it’s ok, it’s ok" to calm and reassure me.

“Do you like riddles?” he whispered as he began to unbutton his shirt with his free hand.
I smiled. He was more like Leonard than he realised.
“Has Leonard ever asked you what unites the hunter and his prey?” he enquired.
“Yes, he has...”
“And do you know the answer?"
“No” I replied, shaking a little as his grip squeezed even tighter on my wrist.
“The answer is desire. The hunter has a desire to catch the prey and the prey has a desire to escape the hunter. Actually, if you ask me, I would say that the sentiment is stronger than ‘desire’ since both ‘desires’ are absolutely fundamental to their survival. I would prefer to call it a vital need. Besides, it’s astonishing what the human body is capable of when it needs something badly enough…”
He smiled mischievously as he said this, which reassured me a little and prompted a shy smile in response. I steeled my nerves and braced myself for the inevitable, but I had not prepared myself for the unthinkable that was to come.

I was transfixed by the mesmeric allure of Luke’s dark brown eyes, but I saw a flicker of nervousness in them that was entirely unexpected given his normally robust self-confidence and I knew that something was seriously amiss. He was doubting himself for some reason, or maybe he was just exposing his vulnerable side for once. We stood only inches away from each other but by chance I happened to glance down and a glint of white light caught my eye. At first I thought that Luke held one of Leonard’s blunt palette knives in his hand, but then I recognised the reflective blade of Leonard's sharp penknife. A weight fell in the pit of my stomach and a cold wave of sickening nausea swept over me. What did he intend to do with it? Panic flooded through my body but before I could struggle or scream he lifted the penknife up to his chest and pushed it into his own skin. I looked away, repulsed, and tried to step away from him, but his hand kept a firm grip of my wrist and the shock of the moment had frozen me to the spot.

My silent approval is what continues to haunt me the most; the way in which we both waited patiently in silence until it was done. When I looked back I saw that he had made a small incision below his left collar bone and there were no questions and nothing was spoken between us as he dropped the knife and released his grip on my wrist, then snaked his right hand around the back of my neck and pulled me slowly towards him. At first I rested my head against his shoulder in order to give myself time to gather my thoughts, but I knew what he wanted. In fact the whole process felt surprisingly natural and I moved instinctively as though I had been in the same situation thousands of times before. 

Resting my cheek against the warmth of his chest, I allowed my lower lip to graze across the small incision. It was not deep enough to weep profusely but tiny droplets were starting to blister from it and when I pressed my lips against the wound a coppery taste smeared across my tongue. A dull ache formed in the centre of my forehead and it quickly swelled into an unbearable pain and so I paused and waited for it to pass, but rather than abate the pain seemed to intensify and the sound of rushing blood began to pound through my ears. No matter how many times I rerun the scene in my mind - and I have replayed it every second of every hour that has passed ever since - I cannot describe the intensity of the uncontrollable and violent rage that possessed me at that moment. A surge of aggression and unnatural strength coursed through me and in a desperate attempt to increase the pressure of his body against my mouth I took hold of Luke’s arms and pushed hard against him until he fell backwards against the opposite wall. He protested a little, but I would have used every last ounce of my strength to hold him down if necessary. The complete loss of self-control was terrifying and never before had I felt such a capacity for cruel brutality - I just wanted to keep pushing, pushing, pushing until I had pushed him right through the wall.

Luke was entirely submissive to my violent assault and he tried his hardest to accommodate my wild attempts to find a comfortable position against him and then, once we had secured ourselves awkwardly in a corner, an intense feeling of relief washed over me like the consolation of running into the arms of a lover. It was a womb-like sense of envelopment, certainly not a sensation that I expected to experience with Luke, and I would do anything - anything at all - to recreate that feeling again. Every muscle in my body relaxed to the point of surrender, all sounds were reduced to a dull and distant vibration and my vision blurred to the extent that it was difficult to focus on my fingernails as they scratched against his chest. The air in the hallway became noticeably thin and I began to withdraw into myself as though drifting off into sleep (I can only imagine that the gradual loss of consciousness and feeling of ‘slipping away’ could be compared to the early stages of drowning, but without the accompanying sense of terror).

We held each other in that passionless embrace for what must have been only a matter of minutes but felt like hours. Luke’s breathing was shallow and laboured and stealing a glance up at his face I saw that his eyes were tightly closed, his brow was knitted in concentration and he was repeating “I’m sorry” over and over in a barely audible whisper. However I wasn’t listening. I was filled with a selfish and utter disregard for his thoughts, emotions and safety, but at the same time there was a warm dampness against my cheek and I knew that I was crying because I cared so incredibly deeply for him. 

We stayed that way until the wound had stopped weeping, the anger inside me had subsided and a heavy sense of dread was starting to permeate through me. It was a feeling of extreme physical vulnerability and I honestly felt as though my skin had been flayed away and my internal organs were exposed to every germ that was floating in the air around me. I found myself clinging to Luke no longer out of selfish desire but for the safety of his protection and, although this might sound strange, I was convinced that I had alerted someone or something terrifying to my presence and I had an overpowering urge to run away and hide until the sound of the alarm that I had triggered had died away. And, all the while, as I clung tightly to Luke’s body I was afraid that at any moment I would be consumed by the overwhelming surges of aggression that were still buzzing through my veins and I would lose control once again. I was afraid, but for once I was not afraid of Luke, I was afraid of myself.

As these fears passed and I gradually became aware of my surroundings once again, Luke peeled me away from his chest and held me shakily by the shoulders, peering deep into my eyes as though searching for something. I remember my extreme embarrassment and how I desperately tried to avoid his stare. “Do something for me, Helen,” he whispered in a trembling and breathless voice, “ask Leonard about the faith teaching. You are more than ready for it and it would be a shame to keep it from you.” I had no idea what he was talking about but I was in such a state of shock and confusion that I nodded in agreement without fully understanding what he was asking of me.

Leonard returned to the house only minutes later to find Luke and I sat at opposite ends of the workroom like exhausted and bloodied contenders in the aftermath of a fight. The situation felt very surreal and I would have questioned the reality of our intimate encounter myself had it not been for the taste of Luke’s aftershave, salt and old pennies in my mouth. I had expected congratulatory celebrations for my exam results that day, but instead the three of us worked for the remainder of the afternoon in a knowing silence like some kind of guilt-ridden trinity.

Hallowed be thy name

Tuesday, 22 June

The most memorable romantic encounters are usually those that involve an element of the unreal or the absurd; for instance, they might involve a foreign location or exotic clime, an individual that you would least expect to feel any affection for you, or maybe an unusual fetish or request. My encounter with Luke this afternoon will no doubt prove to be highly memorable for similar reasons, but the extraordinary nature of the moment is proving difficult for me to comprehend and even more difficult for me to share with you, my anonymous reader. I’m not sure how to begin writing about what happened between us today, so please bear with me while I try to explain because my time is limited; Alex is in bed, it is very late in the day and I am extremely tired, but I must write while the memories and emotions are still fresh in my mind.

I arrived at Elmfield House at 1pm this afternoon as agreed during my last phone conversation with Leonard. The neighbour’s dogs greeted me with their customary wailing (I have started speaking to them in the vain hope that they will learn to recognise my voice) and I rang the bell three times and waited patiently but no-one answered. I was about to leave when I noticed that the front door was slightly ajar. Perhaps Leonard has forgotten our arrangements, I thought, and he is expecting Luke to arrive at the house instead. 

I knocked gently on the door and shouted “hello?” through the gap and my heart leapt when a familiar voice answered “c’mon in, it’s open!”. I pushed the door open to find Luke sat cross-legged on the hallway floor and dressed in full portraiture costume like a groom awaiting the arrival of his bride: white shirt, smart grey trousers and the most magnificent silver damask waistcoat that complimented his sun-caramelised skin and sun-bleached hair. Hooter was lying on the floor beside him and he was fussing and rubbing the dog’s stomach. Luke summoned me into the house and explained that Leonard had left on an urgent errand but he was expected to return in about an hour so, obligingly, I stepped into the hallway and closed the front door behind me, then took off my coat and tossed it onto the banister rail. He jumped to his feet and the dog hauled itself up and followed him into the workroom. I was reluctant to follow them at first because this would be the first time that Luke and I would be alone together, but I was too far across the threshold at that point to make my excuses and leave.

The workroom had been cleaned as though a dignitary was coming to stay; there was a distinct smell of polish in the air and the books on the floor were stacked in neater piles than usual. Leonard had clearly been preparing for Sophie’s arrival. 

“So you’ve come for your next lesson…I mean ‘sitting’, then?” Luke asked, his voice echoing around the room. His body language was much more confident than usual and he waltzed around the workroom picking up items from the shelves as though he owned the house. I explained that it was just a social visit and hurried past him to take a seat in the leather armchair, resting my bag on my lap and gesturing with my hand towards Hooter who padded over and fell down with a heavy thump at my feet. My nervousness must have been evident in the extremely guarded - and yet somewhat highly flirtatious - conversation that followed.

“Do you enjoy coming here?” Luke asked as he set about shuffling the books on the lower shelf by the door. Although the books did not appear to be in alphabetical or subject order, the fact that he was rearranging Leonard's books in his absence infuriated me.
“Do you?” I laughed, “you always seem to be here!”
A broad smile crept across his face upon hearing my defiant answer and his arrogant facade softened for a second before he returned to his interrogation.
“So what do you talk about when I’m not here?” he enquired. He was beginning to sound like a jealous lover so I was deliberately cautious with my answer.
“Not much, the same general chit-chat as when you are here, I suppose. Why do you ask?”
He huffed. “He doesn’t tell you everything y’know….he holds back on things, important things...”
“Does he?” I asked, “And how do you know this?”
“Because if he didn’t then you would be different by now...”
“How would I be different?”
“You just would be,” he answered, “and it’s such a shame, because I think that he should tell you...”
“Tell me what exactly?” I persisted, exasperated at his childish game-playing.
“Lots of things…”
“Like what?”

Luke finished meddling with the books and straightened up to full height. He had a domineering swagger about him that concerned me, but I was determined not to be intimidated by him. He strode over to me and sat down in Leonard’s chair and we held each other's gaze for a few moments, just looking into each other’s eyes. Luke is a fascinating individual and it is impossible not to be mesmerised by his graceful movements, his poetic but brutal language, his soft and flawless complexion and his hypnotic dark-brown eyes. The words from the enchantment spell that I was testing on him whipped through my mind and for a second I wondered who it was working its magic on!

He said that Leonard is doing an admirable job of teaching me about 'the three Ds’ - the dead, the demonic and the divine - however he is concerned that Leonard is avoiding the 'really important stuff'. I was interested to learn what exactly this 'really important stuff' is that Leonard is supposedly hiding from me and Luke was more than willing to fill me in. 

He explained that Jesus was not the only miracle worker of his time and many other individuals in the first-century AD also performed healings, exorcisms and resurrections of the dead. He told me about the amazing feats of Apollonius of Tyana (a miracle-worker and contemporary of Jesus) and he named a number of other miracle-workers who performed miracles similar to those attributed to Jesus in the Gospels. He then asked me to consider whether these individuals were divinely empowered like Jesus or whether they were magicians who had cleverly mastered the art of manipulating the spirit world in order to fulfil their desires. I reached down to fuss Hooter while I contemplated my response. Should I play dumb and allow Luke to believe that he is a marvellous teacher? Or should I tell him that this is all old news? If he had not behaved so arrogantly towards me then I would have chosen the former option, but instead I answered that his question reminded me of a similar question that was posed by the philosopher Celsus and I recited the following quotation word for word just to add extra punch to my reply:

“Since these men do these wonders, ought we to think them sons of God? Or ought we to say that they are the practices of wicked men possessed by an evil demon?”

Luke was visibly aggrieved to learn that this was not the shocking revelation that he had hoped for, but I could tell from the smirk that crept across his face that he was pleased to discover that I was not as easily scandalized as he thought. Reaching across to the fruit bowl on the table to his left, he picked something up, weighed it in his hand for a few seconds and then shouted ‘clever girl!’ and hurled it at me like a fast bowler. I was pleased by my fast reactions and I caught the projectile without fumbling and losing my dignity, nevertheless Luke found my shocked expression to be very amusing and he broke into a fit of hysterical laughter. I realised that the seemingly playful act was, in truth, an aggressive display that was intended to destabilise my defensive attitude towards him, but rather than exacerbate the tension between us any further, I fought back the sharp words that were on the tip of my tongue and calmly thanked him for – what at first I thought was a red apple but under closer inspection turned out to be a pomegranate - then cradled the pomegranate delicately on my lap and explained in my most sarcastic tone that I had just eaten lunch, besides I was reluctant to eat it in case it was an object from one of Leonard's still-life drawings.

Luke sat forward in his chair and unbuttoned his waistcoat, then carefully removed it and laid it over the arm of the chair. “Right, before we begin, let me see…” he said as he perused Leonard’s old pipe rack, selected the nearest pipe, put it to his lips and sat back in his chair, sucking on the dry pipe like an old professor contemplating a complex philosophical problem in his study. I laughed at his comical impression and the tense atmosphere in the workroom relaxed for a moment. Maybe Luke doesn’t mean any offence after all, I thought to myself, maybe this is just his awkwardly pretentious attempt at being an entertaining host. He took a second to puff dramatically on the pipe, causing me to giggle unintentionally, and then he set it down on the table to continue our discussion. 

“Well then, as you are evidently familiar with the ‘other Jesuses’ of the ancient world,” he said, “let me ask you this....has Leonard ever mentioned the spirit of Jesus?”. I looked down at the pomegranate in my lap and ran my fingers over the thick red skin of the fruit. “The spirit of Jesus? Not that I can recall...” I replied. It wasn't a lie, I genuinely couldn’t remember, but Luke gave me a suspicious look nonetheless and mumbled that “it’s not the kind of lesson that is easily forgotten”.

He said that the New Testament writings reveal that the disciples, the Jewish exorcists and a number of other individuals (many of whom were not followers of Jesus) exorcised demons using Jesus’ name during Jesus’ lifetime and this practice continued long after Jesus’ death. Since many anonymous exorcists successfully employed this method of exorcism, Luke argued that the relationship between the exorcist and the person of Jesus appears to be irrelevant and the name itself must have possessed magical properties. I asked how the name ‘Jesus’ could be singled out as a magical word since it was a common name in the first-century AD and Luke agreed that ‘Jesus’ was a common name during the period, however he said that the names of popular individuals or gods were often accorded a magical status and this was achieved through a process known as glorifying - or hallowing - a name until it was transformed into a magical word. It appears that by associating the name of a god or a well-known individual with the performance of miracles and wonders, the name of that god or person would gradually assume a mystical quality over time and it would eventually be accepted as a magical word of power in itself, which explains why the names of individuals considered to be successful exorcists - such as Jesus and Solomon - were used by the magicians and miracle-workers of the New Testament era in their exorcism rituals and these names frequently appear in the exorcistic texts in the magical papyri.
Luke then pointed out that some exorcists/magicians may have used the name of Jesus not because they believed that the name itself held magical powers or they hoped to ‘piggy-back’ on the reputation of a successful exorcist, but because they genuinely believed that they were employing the spirit of Jesus in their magical operations. He asked me to recall what Leonard has taught me about the spirits of the dead - particularly the fate of the violently and prematurely killed – and he drew my attention to the fact that Jesus’ violent and premature death on the cross satisfies all the criteria for the creation of an extremely powerful biaiothanatos spirit. This was quite a shocking thought, but Luke said that the magicians of antiquity were fully aware of this and they attempted to exploit Jesus’ spirit as a valuable biaiothanatos for their magical operations (he mentioned a report in the Martyrdom of Pionius which states that magicians competed for the spirit of Jesus following his crucifixion because they considered him to be a biaiothanatos and readily accessible through magical means).

Although Luke was prone to drift off into humour and bravado at every turn, I could tell from his terminology and his enthusiasm for his argument that he had spent a lot of time in Leonard’s company. It was like hearing Leonard speaking through him and I was beginning to enjoy listening to him speak, however Luke’s enthusiasm for our discussion waned at that point and he seemed distracted, glancing over to his side and snatching the pipe from the table and inspecting it carefully as though it had called his name or sounded a silent alarm. The sudden movement made me flinch, but I tried my best to maintain composure. He was lost in his thoughts as he studied the pipe and then he exhaled loudly and said “unfortunately for these magicians, Jesus had absolutely no intention whatsoever of becoming a miserable and wretched spirit simply waiting to be plucked out of the underworld by an ambitious magician. He was much, much smarter than that. But be honest, Helen…wouldn’t you give everything...and I mean have the spirit of Jesus, or another powerful spirit, at your beck-and-call? Just imagine it...complete control over your own personal spirit that is obedient to your every whim....”
“Well I expect it would come in very handy indeed…” I answered, maintaining an air of indifference.
He smirked, then fixed on me with an unnerving stare and began to sing: “Your own…personal…Jeeesus…”

My apologies. I am eager to tell you about everything that took place this afternoon but I fear that I may get upset if I attempt to explain what happened next. Besides it is almost midnight now so I will write again in the morning.

Postcards from the Parlour

Friday, 18 June

Apologies for the bleary-eyed late-night post but it has been a very busy day and I cannot wait until the morning to tell you my good news…

The undergraduate degree results were announced this morning…and I have been awarded a first!! How amazing is that?! I dashed home from the university to tell Alex, to call my parents and then to call Leonard. Leonard was entirely over-the-top with his congratulations (as expected) and he has asked me to visit Elmfield House as soon as possible ‘so that I can congratulate you properly on your achievement, once you have celebrated with your family of course!’ During our telephone conversation he asked about my future plans with an anxious tone of voice which suggested that he has concerns about the future of our work together, so I reassured him that I am not emigrating to a distant part of the world and I revealed that I have been accepted on a postgraduate course studying Greek manuscripts in the Department of Theology and Religion (I cannot tell him that I will be conducting research into magic in the Gospels and the character of Jesus the Magician because, as I have mentioned before, he would no doubt be extremely upset if he discovered that I am revealing his secrets).

My first class honours degree has rounded off a marvellous week at Elmfield House. The gloriously sunny weather has lifted our spirits immensely and the mood in the house has been relaxed and almost bohemian at times. Leonard has been keen to take advantage of the long hours of good light and we are producing a substantial amount of good work (although Alex is not impressed when I arrive home later than usual). I have particularly enjoyed spending the last few days parading around Elmfield House in a brown floor-length evening dress with a gold masquerade mask. Leonard's original intention had been to produce a series of studies of the dress and the mask but he has been so captivated by the overall look that he has been obsessively sketching and taking photographs of me wearing the dress at every given opportunity – which reminds me, I have noticed that Leonard’s obsessive tendencies are getting a lot worse recently and his compulsive and indecisive nature is starting to interfere with our work; for instance, he will arrange the pastel sticks in the biscuit tin in order of size and if Hooter kicks the tin or it is accidentally knocked over then he will spend several minutes strictly reordering the pieces before we can continue. He also has an irritating habit of positioning my hair to one side or placing pieces carefully over my shoulder and then sitting down in his chair, only to deliberate for a second and then come over and return the hair back to its original place. This tiresome ritual can go on for a while...

We postponed our work on the brown dress until later in the week because it was far too warm to wear the dress in the tropical temperatures that we enjoyed in the early part of this week. Monday was a lovely sunny day and it was also Leonard’s birthday so we opened all the curtains, windows and doors in Elmfield House and sunlight streamed in through the windows, breathing new life into the entire house. Leonard insisted that Luke and I did not buy him a birthday present as ‘the house is already stacked to the rafters with clutter on a monumental scale’, but Luke predictably chose to ignore Leonard’s request and he bought him a bottle of his favourite plum brandy which Leonard opened and shared with us. I decided to treat Leonard by bringing my violin along with me and I played his favourite piece - Gluck’s 'Mélodie' - in the hallway so that it reverberated all around the house. Leonard was delighted and we spent our entire lunch break trying to record it on his old cassette deck. 

When the sun reached full strength we moved our chairs into the back garden and Leonard wound an extension lead out from the house so that we could play music on the back porch. Although Luke is not normally a fan of Leonard's choice of music and he invariably puts his earphones in and plays his own music when Leonard starts reeling out the extension lead, Luke and I have both fallen in love with two pieces on Leonard's 'summer tape’: Edvard Grieg's 'Wedding Day at Troldhaugen' and Peter Warlock's 'Capriol Suite'. We can play our music as loud as we like in the garden because Elmfield House backs onto woods and fields and so we are very rarely disturbed, aside from the occasional rambler and a beautiful but painfully nervous stray black cat (Leonard fills a red plastic bowl by the back door with food scraps for this regular feline intruder and Hooter looks nonplussed when it tiptoes into the garden to drink from his water bowl).

I enjoy working outside on sunny afternoons, not only because I can't hear the unnerving creaks and groans that echo around inside the house but also because Leonard allows me to move freely and completely unrestricted in the garden, although the way that he sits watching me from a distance with his sketchbook in hand makes me feel a little like an observed animal in the wild. In order to entertain myself I have been taking armfuls of books from the shelves in the workroom and piling them on blankets on the lawn and I have been reading about all manner of esoteric subjects from Gnosticism and Egyptian mythology to Hermeticism and herbalism. I am currently reading The Phenomenon of Man by the philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and I intend to read John Donne’s Biathantos at some point in the hope that Luke might give me some private one-to-one lessons on it! Leonard has recommended that I read the Egyptian Book of the Dead in its entirety, which is a daunting task given the size of the book, so I have borrowed a copy from him in order to continue reading it when I am at home (he has several copies and I have noticed that Luke always has a copy to hand). When I get tired of reading, I sit on the grass and watch the ants scurry around on the paving. There are several ant nests located near to the house, but Leonard would sooner let them infest the house than put down ant-killer powder (a merciful attitude that Luke can never quite understand).

Luke and I have had a number of amiable conversations this week and – dare I say - I think we have finally overcome the awkwardness that existed between us. In fact he has been watching me almost as much as Leonard has, which makes me blush even to think about it. Luke spent the early part of this week sat in the shade of the yew tree with his notepad and writing poetry, making sketches of plants and experimenting with automatic writing. It has been pleasant to see him wearing normal t-shirts and jeans for once and he looks particularly handsome as the sun has bleached flecks of sandy-blonde highlights into his hair and his skin is so deeply tanned that it resembles burnished gold. He would not allow me to read any of his poetry but he did encourage me to try my hand at drawing on the premise that ‘musical types are usually gifted at other creative arts’ (I copied one of his concept designs for a tattoo entitled ‘conjunction’ and although he assured me that it was perfectly drawn I knew that he was only humouring me). Luke is very fond of tattoos and, although his ballet work forbids him from having visible tattoos, I have spotted a very small, discrete one on him that is exactly the same as the character on the front of the Omega Course book - I must remember to ask him about this when we meet again... 

It was uncomfortably warm in the garden on Tuesday afternoon and so Luke and I offered to assist Leonard with tidying up the back room. The black and white chequered floor tiles in the back room were awfully cold against my bare feet and I instantly regretted our offer, but Leonard laid out towels for us to stand on and our efforts were rewarded by some very interesting finds in the old cupboards. Leonard retrieved a large box from the back of one cupboard that contained a number of vintage costumes and wigs and several masks from the Commedia dell'Arte. The masks from the Commedia were fascinating and Leonard has promised to tell me more about the routines and characters - he calls Luke and I the ‘Innamorati’, which is flattering if not a little embarrassing! 

Luke made another discovery in the same cupboard that was very intriguing indeed. It was a red felt box containing fifty funeral cards, or ‘death cards’ as Luke rather grimly called them (Leonard called them ‘postcards from the parlour’, which I much prefer). Each one was a delicate and fascinating piece of old ephemera and some were even complete with their small, white envelopes. Leonard seemed reluctant to discuss the identity of the deceased and I did not want to pursue the matter in case he had a personal connection with them, so Luke and I have been speculating wildly about their identities between ourselves. At first I thought that they were Leonard’s ancestors but, as Luke pointed out, there is no obvious relation between the surnames. Luke thinks that they are Leonard’s friends or individuals who have attended portraiture sessions and for a moment I wondered whether they were the faces that I had seen in the portraits in the storage room upstairs. But surely not every one of these portraiture subjects had passed away? That’s quite a terrifying thought given that Luke and I are Leonard’s current muses! I believe that it is unlikely that Leonard would stay in contact with each one of his sitters over such a long period of time, besides some of the deceased are children of only a few months old. 

I have been having the most amazing time at Elmfield House recently and I wish that I could spend every summer for the rest of my life in Leonard’s back garden. And today’s degree result has been the juicy cherry to top off the perfect week. But for now I’m afraid I must abandon my reader, shut down the computer and go to bed for a well-earned sleep!

Denn die Todten reiten schnell

Friday, 11 June

Yesterday evening I received a phone call from an extremely over-exuberant Leonard who had returned from his trip to London. He was desperate for me to visit him as soon as possible and so I agreed to drop into Elmfield House at lunchtime today on my way home from the university. When I arrived at the house he seated me in the cream leather armchair and presented me with a purple gift bag and from the way that he stood at the opposite end of the room with his hands clasped excitedly together I expected that the bag would explode in my face when opened at the very least! The bag contained two individually gift-wrapped items: a thin rectangular shape and a small box. The first was a copy of Henri Matisse’s Jazz that Leonard had stumbled across at a book fair in London and the small box contained a silver ankh on a delicate chain that he had bought from the Egyptian exhibition at the British Museum. I chastised him for buying something so beautiful and expensive, to which he smiled and replied “well, I didn’t know what to get you. I was tempted to buy you a crucifix but I thought that would be a little…predictable.” He clipped the chain around my neck and made me promise never to take it off.

We sat in the workroom eating cheese sandwiches and talking about the traffic congestion in London, the interesting Egyptian exhibition that he had visited one afternoon and how Sophie has grown since he last saw her. He was particularly keen to show me the contents of a battered old box that he had bought for Sophie's next visit. At first I thought that the box contained a doll but upon closer inspection I discovered that it was an antique witch marionette with a shiny wooden head, cotton-wool hair and delicate, spindly limbs wrapped tightly in a web of multicoloured strings.

Leonard explained that Sophie has fallen in love with the old puppet named Fidelio that sits on a high shelf in the workroom and he had promised to buy her a puppet of her own one day. I hadn’t noticed the Punch-like face staring down at us from the corner of the room until Leonard pointed him out and I was surprised to learn that Luke has fallen for Fidelio’s charms too, so much so that he has written a poem about him. Luke? A poet? This was news to me and I refused to believe it until Leonard showed me a sketchpad with a pencil drawing of the puppet and a poem written underneath in Luke’s handwriting. Fortunately I was able to scribble a copy of the poem into my notebook when Leonard left the room to feed Hooter.

Fidelio the Marionette

Who makes you dance, handsome grotesque,
With your ruddy hooked nose
And thin-lipped grin?

You collapse with a clatter.
A bitter clown,
Wretched and frail,
Staring in vacant hope to the skies.

But we are free.
Garishly painted golems
Feeding on your heartbeat
And dancing for our queen.

I pity your bones
When the termites creep near

So let us cut more strings
And see who stands.

I find it very difficult to convey the nature of Luke’s character to you, my dear reader, but this poem encapsulates his personality far more successfully than any attempt that I have made so far. Luke is extremely eloquent and he has an impressively flamboyant vocabulary, but his language often takes a macabre and menacing tone which suggests that his gentlemanly facade is somewhat misleading. Although he is relaxed and good-humoured most of the time, his temperament is unpredictable and once in a while his face falls into the chilling stare of the strictest authoritarian, his speech takes on the condescending firmness of a school-master and he can become both physically and intellectually domineering when he feels that he is not in control of a situation. He also has a tendency to make outrageous sexual comments and jokes at the most inappropriate times and - although I’m certainly not a prude by any stretch of the imagination – these comments are quite shocking given his innocent appearance and I can see that they make Leonard feel uncomfortable. He might sound like a monster of a man, but in truth Luke is a glorious and terrifying jumble of contradictions, which makes him all the more appealing to me.

Right, I must dash because Alex is taking me out to dinner this evening. He thinks that my ‘pre-exam results anxiety’ is showing on me and I am in desperate need of a night out…and I’m not complaining!