The exam period has been very busy indeed and my head is a terribly disorganised mess at the moment. Leonard called on Friday evening to inform me that he would be leaving Birmingham first thing on Saturday morning for a short stay in London so that he is not tempted to disturb me during my final set of exams, which is a very sweet thought. He will use the opportunity to tour some exhibitions in the city and, most importantly, to visit his son and his granddaughter Sophie.
Leonard regularly takes the train to London at weekends to visit the British Library or to speak to his financial advisors and, although he by no means leads an affluent lifestyle, I have gathered from these frequent business trips and the obsessive manner with which he follows the share index in the newspapers that he has a healthy financial portfolio or substantial cash savings hidden away in the depths of a bank vault somewhere at the very least. I often wonder whether this hint of a significant financial standing is the reason why Luke indulges him so obediently. Leonard tends to travel late at night or very early in the morning in order to avoid the rush-hour crowds and I recall him once telling me that he sleeps for only three or four hours each night because his body does not need to rest for any longer and 'sleep is a waste of painting time'. He does not drive because it feels ‘unnatural’ and he detests air travel because it makes him seriously ill so he travels by train or coach whenever possible (‘I like to maintain my grounding with mother earth at all times’, he once explained). I realise that I have only known him for six months but I worry that something dreadful will happen to him during one of these trips to London. He is a vulnerable elderly man after all...no matter how much he protests!
During our phone conversation I accidentally let slip that I would be grateful for a short break from our sessions because I was followed home by a stranger after my last visit to Elmfield House and this has made me somewhat nervous when leaving my flat. Leonard was extremely distressed by this revelation and he asked a number of questions about the man who had followed me home, but there was very little that I could tell him. He apologised profusely for keeping me at the house so late in the day and he insisted that he paid for taxis from this point onwards, but I reassured him that I was fine and pointed out that Alex would undoubtedly ask questions if I started taking taxis home and I did not want Alex to think that our work together was putting me in danger.
Our conversation must have dominated Leonard’s thoughts for the remainder of that evening as the postcard that arrived yesterday morning was date-stamped in Birmingham and it mentioned nothing of Leonard’s plans for his visit to London, but instead it contained a reassuring message and a quotation from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner:
‘Like one, that on a lonesome road
Doth walk in fear and dread,
And having once turned round walks on,
And turns no more his head;
Because he knows, a frightful fiend
Doth close behind him tread…’
Keep yourself safe, Helen. I will not be gone long.