Monday, December 18, 2017

Character Spotlight: George Morley (Hiding Behind The Couch)


Another CV / character profile from the Hiding Behind The Couch series.

Profiles posted so far:

Hiding Behind The Couch is an ongoing series about a group of friends—‘The Circle’ (the original main characters in the series), which has expanded and changed over time to include the ‘extended circle’ (additional main characters, below the circle on the right).


George is up today. He’s been in the series since the beginning and is quite close to the centre of The Circle, which means…there’s only one more Circle profile to go—next week. :) (I will do some of the other main characters next year, though.)

You can find both the writing and suggested reading order for the series on this page: deb248211.blogspot.co.uk/p/hiding-behind-couch.html

NOTE: if you haven't read as far as Season Six/Seven, this WILL contain spoilers.

George Morley
Name: George Sandison-Morley
Eyes: Green
Hair: What hair? It was blonde and curly (like an Afro)
Complexion: Dark
Height: 6’
Weight: No idea
Build: Wiry
Tattoos/Piercings: None now - both ears pierced when I was younger
Education: BA (Hons) Agricultural Studies
Accent: Northwest English - a bit of a mix, apparently
Languages: English

Quickfire Questions:
Place of Birth: Manchester, England.
Siblings: Two half-brothers - Joe and Gray.
Children: Libby (adopted daughter).
Places lived: Northwest England; Colorado, USA.
Jobs: Farm hand, rancher, farm hand
Interests: sketching and painting, watching TV, football.
Pets: Blue (German shepherd dog), Jinja (ginger tabby cat).
Greatest Success: Not sure. My high school footy performance, I guess.
Worst thing you've ever done to someone: Moving to Colorado.
Biggest Trauma: Not sure how to answer that.
Do you have a secret: Nope. Open book.
Favourite Book: Not a reader, but if I have to pick one...probably Great Expectations.
Favourite Food: All of it. :D
Favourite Drink: Don't have one. I like lager, but whatever. Go with the flow.
Strength: Protectiveness.
Weakness: Temper.
Best way to spend a weekend: Dog-walking, footy, time with family and friends.
Closest Friends: Kris, Sophie.
Love of your life: Do you need to ask?

And here are some excerpts featuring George. I went to town a bit, so…there are quite a few! My favourite HBTC character changes depending on what they’re up to, but George is probably my all-time favourite.

Again, warning: spoilers ahead.


Beginnings

(Setting: Mrs. Kinkade’s primary school classroom. Age 8.)

“This is George,” Mrs. Kinkade announced, her hands still resting on the shoulders of the child standing in front of her. “Now, George, as you can see, there are lots of free chairs. Where would you like to sit?”

Several of the children automatically spread out to claim ownership of the space beside them. George looked around, bewildered, and pointed at the square formed by two tables to his left.

“Excellent. Off you go, then. Joshua will show you where to find everything, won’t you, Joshua.”

***

Josh tried again to secure a piece of blue tissue to the card, with the end result of the tissue being stuck to his hand instead. He flopped back in his chair and scowled.

“It’s stupid anyway,” he said, rubbing at the glue sticking his fingers together.

George walked around to the other side of the table and picked up Josh’s card. It had a cutout of a kite and was in a dreadful mess, with some parts covered by tissue paper, some not.

“What you’ve got to do—” George sat next to him “—is put the glue on the card. Like this.” He picked up the glue stick and rubbed it around one cutout section of the kite shape. “Then you get your tissue paper—” He held up a pre-cut red triangle and awaited approval. Josh nodded. “—And you press it down, like this.” George laid the tissue on the card and pressed down gently. “See?”

Josh sat up straight and picked up the glue stick. “Thanks, George,” he said. He smiled.

“It’s OK,” George replied and went back to his own side of the table.

***

(Age 9.)

“What’s it about?” George held up the book so Josh could read the cover.

Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens.”

“Who’s Charles Dickens?”

“Have you never heard of Charles Dickens?”

“No,” George admitted cautiously. He turned the book around and flicked through the pages. “It’s got very small writing. And lots of words.”

Josh tutted. “That doesn’t mean it’s hard to read, George!” He took the book from him and went to put it on the top of the pile.

“Read it to me, please?” George asked.

Josh spun on his toes and looked at him. “Really? You want me to read to you?”

“Please.” George nodded enthusiastically. Nobody had ever read to him before, not until he came to this school and became friends with Josh.

***

“Have you ever wished you had a brother, Josh?”

“Not really. Have you?”

“Yeah. Sometimes I think it’d be nice to have someone to play with.”

“But—”

“I mean, when it’s raining and stuff, and you can’t go out with your friends to play.”

“I like being your friend, George.”

“I like being your friend too. You’re kind of my best friend.” George started rubbing at his knees, embarrassed.

Josh was overwhelmed. After a couple of false starts, he managed to continue reading.

***

Chain of Secrets

(Setting: leaving primary school for the last time. Age 11.)

“Bye, Josh!” Shaunna called, as he and George passed by. Josh smiled quickly and kept his head down. George started giggling.

“Shush,” Josh whispered.

“Why? Do you fancy Shaunna?”

“No.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes! Why did you nudge me at lunchtime?”

“Did I?”

“When she said she hated Dan.”

“Oh, yeah. Because Dan won’t let her play footy.”

“Because she’s a girl?”

“Yep. She’s amazing at football.”

“Amazing,” Josh repeated. “Are you sure you don’t fancy her?” Now both of them were giggling. “Plus, Dan is Adele’s boyfriend,” Josh added.

“What’s that got to do with anything?”

“Why Shaunna hates him, I mean.”

“Oh. So, like, she’s jealous?”

“I don’t know.” Josh glanced sideways at George, and watched him for a while. He was frowning, deep in thought. “You like him?”

“Dan?” George asked. Josh nodded. “We’re not even friends, really.”

They continued to walk, both in thoughtful silence, until they reached the road where Josh lived. George paused at Josh’s gate. He was still frowning.

“What’s the matter?” Josh asked.

“Just thinking. I don’t think I’m ever going to have a boyfriend. It’s too complicated.”

“It probably gets easier when you’re older.”

George looked at him doubtfully.

“When you’re a teenager, not a grown-up,” Josh clarified.

“Who cares?” George shrugged. “Do you want my book voucher?”

***

(Setting: walking to high school. Age 14.)

Josh was already waiting at the gate and studied George intently. “Are you all right?”

George nodded, and they set off, instinctively falling into step, no sound other than their feet hitting the pavement. It was quite a nice morning—or would have been, if Josh wasn’t still watching him out of the corner of his eye.

“You don’t look all right to me,” Josh said.

“Kris Johansson.”

“Yes?”

“You know you said you’d be able to tell—”

“Yes, he does fancy you.”

“How do you know?”

“He’s in my English Literature class.”

“And?”

“And he’s talked to me about you.”

“What’s he said?”

“Nothing much. He really likes your sketches. I think he was fishing for information. I didn’t tell him.”

“Thanks.”

“George?”

“Hm?” When Josh didn’t say anything else, George looked up and saw how serious his expression was.

“I’d never betray your secrets.”

“I know. He’s worked it out, hasn’t he?”

“Yes. Do you like him?”

George thought about it rather than answering the question. He didn’t know Kris well enough to say he liked him as a person. Did he fancy him? Yes. Could he imagine kissing him? Far too well.

“You should ask him out,” Josh said.

“How are we supposed to go ‘out’ with each other? You saw what the girls did to him. They forced him to confess.”

“It’s not a crime, George.”

“You know what I mean, and it’s not just the girls. If he wasn’t best mates with the footy captain, I’m pretty sure the boys would’ve been giving him a much harder time.”

“You could meet up outside of school,” Josh reasoned. “Just make sure he understands you don’t want people to know about you.”

***

(Setting: art classroom. Age 14.)

Kris walked back to George’s desk and leaned over his shoulder. “Wow, that’s really good.”

“Thank you. How did yours turn out?”

“Well, I was very happy with it until I saw yours.” Kris laughed, and his breath moved George’s hair, making him shiver. Kris pulled out the chair next to George’s and sat down, his knee touching George’s outer thigh. There was no mistaking the contact as an accident.

“You know that I’m…” Kris paused, giving George room to respond. He nodded. “Are you?”

“Yeah.”

“I like you.”

“Same.”

Kris released a heavy, shaky sigh. “I’ve never had a boyfriend before.”

“Me neither.”

“So…do you, err…want to come to my house one day next week?”

***

(Setting: Josh’s house. Age 14.)

“What did you get up to yesterday?” George asked, popping open packets of sweets to fill the large bowl Josh had put on the kitchen table.

“Not much. I went to Ellie’s in the afternoon and stayed for dinner.”

“Did you have fun?”

“Yes. Sort of. It’s a noisy house.”

“Why?”

“Well, Ellie’s the eldest, then there’s Ben—he said hi, by the way—then there’s Charlotte, who’s nine, Luke, who’s seven, Tilly, who’s five, and Teddy, the baby.”

“Wow. Six of them?”

“Yes. They’re Roman Catholics.”

“Ah, yeah. I knew that.”

“Did you?”

“You told me.”

“Did I? I don’t remember. It’s probably a good idea you don’t mention to Ellie you’ve got a boyfriend, though.”

George’s stomach flipped.

Josh turned slowly and looked him in the eye. “You have got a boyfriend, I take it?”

“Um…” George knew he was blushing and couldn’t get his mouth to cooperate, so he answered with a nod.

***

Ruminations

(Setting: university halls of residence, talking to George via pay phone. Age 18.)

“What’s the matter?”

Josh sighed. “Nothing. I just miss…everyone. That’s all.”

“Jess―”

“Is a pain in the neck. She’s trying to set me up with new friends.”

“She must be worried about you.”

“More like she feels guilty for abandoning me for the first piece of hot property she met.”

“Oh really? What’s he like.”

Josh huffed in response. George laughed.

“I love how easy you are to wind up.”

“Yes, well maybe I’ll introduce you to Xander and then you’ll understand why.”

“Is that Jess’s crush?”

“No. One of my new so-called friends,” Josh lamented. “Honestly, George, I give up.”

“Tell her you don’t need her help.”

“I don’t.”

“That’s what I said. Isn’t it?”

Josh didn’t answer. The question was likely rhetorical.

“You know what you need to do, don’t you?” George asked―and again it was a question that wasn’t really waiting on an answer.

“What’s that?”

“Take matters into your own hands.”

“Strangle Xander?”

“Is he that bad?”

“I suppose not. Take matters into my own hands how, exactly?”

“Make a new friend.”

“What do you suggest? I go up to someone and say, ‘Hey. I’m Josh. Would you like to be my friend?’”

“Sure. Why not?”

“There’s clearly less oxygen north of the border and it’s addled your brain. Are you mad? I really can’t do that.”

“It’s that or spend three years being hounded by thingy―”

“Xander,” Josh provided.

“Yeah, him, and people like him.”

“Or I’ll just talk to you.”

“Um… Isn’t it expensive?”

“Yes, but―”

“And I’m three hundred miles away.”

“You don’t want me to phone you.” Josh tried not to sigh, but it happened anyway.

“No,” George countered crossly. “That’s not it at all. It’s always great to talk to you. What I mean is I’m not there and you’re not here, so we’ve got to make new friends.”

Josh felt defeated. He didn’t know why. Maybe he’d been expecting George to tell him that he was right to soldier on alone, and instead he was taking Jess’s side.

“Just remember,” George said, interrupting Josh’s slide into misery, “it’s only for three years, and then we’ll be home again.”

“I might stay on to do postgraduate study,” Josh argued obstinately, but they’d known each other too long for George to be fazed by his stubbornness.

“You might, that’s true.”

***

No Time Like The Present

(Setting: George’s rented house—formerly rented by Andy—with Dan. Age 36.)

Dan sipped at his whisky, frowning thoughtfully at the boiler. “I’ve no idea what Andy did, but I can’t fix it. And it’s a cold one tonight. You might want to give Josh a call, see if you can kip there.”

George nodded, thinking that would have been a great idea, if he hadn’t already asked so many favours of Josh. Still, George didn’t mind the cold much, seeing as he’d spent more than enough nights in his shack of a house in the States with no power of any sort, let alone heating. The wood burner was all well and good, but it required him to go outside and chop logs, a skill it had taken him some time to acquire, in order to complete a task which took almost as long again, especially with numb fingers and a blunt axe. Woolly jumpers and blankets had served him well then; there was absolutely no reason why they shouldn’t now.

***

(Setting: Josh’s house, with Josh.)

“You’re doing it again,” George stated, as Josh grabbed his gloves and his car keys. “Running at her beck and call.”

“What would you have me do, George? Leave her stranded? James has been arrested for murder, or didn’t you hear that bit?”

“Yes. I did, but why do you need to be there? What you gonna do? What can you do? Ring the police and be told that he’s being questioned as part of their investigation? That’s pretty much it.”

“And if that’s all I can do, then at least she won’t be on her own. I’ll ask again. What do you think I should do?”

“What you think is right, I guess. Which is to go running to Ellie each and every time she wants you to, whether she gives it back or not.”

Josh took a deep breath and blew it out loudly. “Look. I’m going. You can stay here if you like, or come with me, or go home—whatever. We can deal with your wise thoughts on this matter later. If need be, I’ll drive her to Birmingham, because that’s what friends do, not because they expect it back, but because they care for each other. I thought you, of all people, would understand that.”

“That’s not fair!” George looked hurt but had nothing further to say. “I’ll lock up for you and go home. Maybe see you later?”

“You might,” Josh said, flinging the door open and then exiting with a slam.

***

(Setting: a university café, with Sophie.)

“So, what about you and Josh?” Sophie asked. “Been together long?”

“What?” George nearly choked on his muffin. “Me and Josh aren’t together!”

“You act like you are. When he gives the lectures, it’s like you’re digesting his every word.”

“Hey, that’s not fair. I listen attentively to everything. I love this course, and Sean’s a great lecturer.”

“That’s very true. So is Josh, although sometimes I get the feeling he doesn’t want to be there.”

“That’s because he doesn’t,” George said, feeling the heat in his cheeks subside slightly.

“I’m sorry I embarrassed you. I just thought you looked like a couple. I’ve noticed you going to his office a few times and stuff.”

“Well, we went to school together,” George explained. Sophie gave him one of those looks that pressed for more information. “We are very good friends. Been through a lot.”

“And you would like more?”

“Nah. I used to, but not now. It’s much better this way.” George wasn’t sure if he’d convinced her. Then again, he wasn’t that convinced himself.

***

(Setting: George’s house, with Kris.)

Kris returned to the living room and flopped onto the sofa. George followed him in.

“So, I think,” George continued hesitantly, “the best thing really is for me to ask you to leave. That’s not to say I’m going to throw you out in the cold and never have anything to do with you again. But you have to tell Shaunna how you feel. It isn’t going to be easy, I know, but you owe it to her.”

“Right. I understand.”

“I’m not sure you do,” George said, more gently this time. He took off his coat and sat down. “I care for you, Kris. You’ve been one of my closest friends for such a long time. But Shaunna’s my friend as well. And so is Josh.”

“I suppose he knows now, does he?”

“No. I promised I wouldn’t tell him, and I haven’t. But I almost had to lie to avoid doing so, and I’m not doing it again.”

“I wouldn’t expect it of you, George. And I appreciate everything you’ve done. Really, I do.”

***

The Harder The Fall

(Setting: Josh’s house.)

George tiptoed into the hallway and placed the brand new suitcase against the wall. In the time it took him to close the door, Josh had put the old suitcase next to the almost identical one George had just bought. He turned back and nearly tripped over it.

“Oh. You found it.”

“Yes. It was in the shed, along with three others.”

“What were you doing in the shed?”

“Looking for a paste brush. More to the point, what were they doing in the shed? Any idea?”

“I, err, well I guess I must’ve put them there.”

“And you didn’t happen to notice them, right in front of the lawn mower, you know, the last time you mowed the grass? Now when was that? Last weekend?”

George had nothing to say. Of course he’d known the suitcases were in the shed. He’d fully intended to dispose of them at the first opportunity, but with Josh taking a few days off work, he hadn’t got around to it. Now here was the evidence, right in the middle of the hallway, and he’d been caught out. On the plus side, the key was safely hidden away, so at least he knew the contents hadn’t been discovered.

“I’ll take it upstairs, shall I?” George reached for the handle without waiting for an answer. Josh put out his foot and folded his arms.

“Not so fast, Morley. What’s inside?”

“Nothing important. In fact, so unimportant I can’t remember exactly what. Old documents. That sort of thing?”

***

(Setting: a bar, with Kris and Josh.)

“Shaunna tells me you got an interesting text this morning.”

“Yeah,” George said, taking out his phone and loading the message up. He passed it to Kris to read.

“Wow! That’s unexpected! Have you had a good day?”

“The best day of my life—so far.” He couldn’t stop smiling.

“I’m so happy for you, George, but I won’t hug you, just in case there’s any misinterpretation.”

“Thanks. It does mean that I want to skip the wedding now and get to the holiday part, though. We need some time to work things through, you know? Somewhere away from here.”

“Yeah, well, you’ll have plenty of opportunity in Wales. There’s absolutely nothing to do there, other than walk hills or sit in cabins looking at hills. Or if you’re Andy, jump off hills.” They both laughed, and were still laughing when Josh returned from the toilet. He eyed them suspiciously, interpreting what had taken place. He frowned at George.

“You told him.”

“Yes. I did. That’s OK, isn’t it?”

“I guess it’ll have to be,” Josh said sulkily, but his heart wasn’t in it, and he had to turn away to hide his face.

“Joshua! Don’t be so mean!” George poked him in the back, and he turned around again.

“I’m just so totally happy for you guys. I might actually start crying in a minute,” Kris said, and he really looked like he would, too.

***

Crying in the Rain

(Setting: at a party, talking to Kris about Ade—Kris’s new boyfriend.)

“But you do like him?”

“Yeah. He’s kinda…cute.” George was watching Ellie, who had approached Josh, whispered something in his ear, and then walked away. Josh followed her with over-exaggerated reluctance, giving George a sulky scowl as he passed by.

“Not as cute as Josh,” Kris remarked.

“I didn’t say that.” George followed Josh with his eyes, until Josh disappeared down the corridor to the rear of the atrium and out of sight.

“But you thought it,” Kris said. George gave him a sheepish grin. He was blushing. Kris hugged him. “I’m so happy for you, George.”

“I know. You told me weeks ago.”

“OK. I’m still happy for you. And you’re definitely OK with me and Ade?”

“Yep. You know what they say—first time for everything.”

“Us agreeing on something, you mean?”

“Well, yeah, that,” George said, “and us both having boyfriends at the same time.”

“We’ve done that once before,” Kris reasoned. George tutted.

“OK, wise guy. Boyfriends that aren’t each other.”

Now Kris grinned. “You said the B word, in public. Twice.”

“I did, didn’t I? Guess we’re both finally getting it right.”

***

First Christmas

(Setting: Josh and George’s living room.)

“What I said before about your present wrapping? It’s all true, not that I mean to insult you by saying it, and actually, I think it’s really nice you take so much care over it, because—”

“Nice?”

“What?”

“I love your little waffling explanations, George, but you really need to plan them out in advance. Nice?”

“OK, it’s lovely and very considerate of you to take so much care, especially when you hate doing it. Is that better?”

“Lots.” Josh took George’s spoon from his hand and loaded it with a marbled mound of orange sorbet and white chocolate ice cream. “Here. Stop jibber-jabbering.” He fed the dessert to him, watching in satisfaction as George melted back into the sofa and then slid down so that his head was in Josh’s lap.

“Mmm,” he groaned. “Gimme more.” Josh laughed and did it again. The way George put his mouth around the spoon confirmed his earlier suspicions that ‘bliss’ definitely wasn’t the right word for it, especially after what he did next, when Josh caught a stray drip of orange syrup and guided it back to George’s mouth with his finger.

“You can do it yourself now,” he said, pulling his finger free of George’s lips, “and hold that thought until after the presents are wrapped.”

“You’re so mean.”

“Yep.”

“You’re also…” George shuffled up so that he could eat his dessert, but still with his head against Josh’s thigh.

“I’m also what?”

“A tiny bit excited—about Christmas, I mean.”

“Yes, I am. A lot excited, in fact. I was going to tell you before, when you accosted me in the hallway. And not just about Christmas.”

“Oh, really?” George put his head back so he could see Josh’s face.

“Just eat your dessert, Morley. We haven’t got all night. Well, we have, but I get the feeling you don’t want to spend it wrapping presents.”

***

In The Stars Part I

(Setting: an abortion clinic.)

“Room two,” the sow on the reception desk said without so much as a glance. George walked over to the desk and stared down at her, waiting for her to look up from her screen, which she had to do eventually. She examined him disdainfully. He smiled, and noted the crucifix on the chain around her neck.

“I’m sorry to say this,” he said in a polite, measured tone, “but I find your attitude quite appalling. In fact, I’m so appalled that I’m considering making a formal complaint about you.”

The woman blinked slowly at him and sneered. George’s phone vibrated against his thigh. He reached into his pocket and pushed the button to dismiss the call.

“What’s the problem, exactly?” the woman asked.

“The problem is you. You are extremely rude. This is a traumatic enough experience for these women without you treating them like they’re irresponsible teenagers who did this on purpose. And so what if they were? It’s not your business to judge them. You only work here, so do your job and do it properly. Would it cause you any hardship to treat them with a bit of respect?” He turned to walk away, but then turned back again. “Oh, and if you don’t agree with abortion, then go work somewhere else.”

“Is that all?”

George could feel his temper fraying past the point of return and backed off.

“Room two, did you say?” he asked quietly. She nodded.

***

(Setting: a bingo hall, with Kris, George’s mum and her friend Pauline.)

“Your accent’s gone a bit Mancunian since we got here, by the way,” Kris observed. “Did you know that?”

“Seriously?”

“Yeah. You sound totally different.”

“Do I ’ecker’s, like,” George said.

“Sorry?”

“It means ‘no I don’t’.”

Kris mouthed an ‘oh’.

“Although you probably won’t hear many people say it for real, and you definitely won’t hear my mum say it. She’s, err, well, she swears. A lot.”

“Say it again.”

George did as requested. Kris tried to repeat it and failed.

“And again.”

“No! I don’t even have a real accent!”

“Please?”

“No, lad! It’s bobbins.”

“Huh?”

“Rubbish. Bobbins.”

“Ah. OK.” Kris laughed. “I should maybe write all this down.”

“I wouldn’t, unless you fancy a clout ’round the ear ’ole.” George grinned.

“George! That’s fabulous! You’re so going to give me lessons.”

“I’m so not.”

“So are.”

George’s mum and Pauline were heading back; the men stopped talking and shifted their chairs in to let them pass.

“Bit nippy out there,” Pauline said, rubbing her hands together.

“Nippy? It’s f**kin’ Baltic, Paul!” George’s mum said. Kris was drinking his beer and had to spit it back into the glass. George exploded with laughter.

“Did I say somert funny?” his mum asked curtly.

“Erm, no.” He was still giggling. His mother eyed him carefully.

“You’re a bloody barmpot, you are,” she said. “Anyhow, as I were sayin’…”

***

Josh chewed his lip thoughtfully. “August the twenty-fourth, did you say?”

“Yep.”

“OK. That gives us six months to talk him round. What do you think?”

“I’m the birth partner.”

“I know.”

“I’ll think about it,” George said very seriously. He went upstairs and started running a bath.

“It’s not your baby,” Josh shouted after him.

George came back down, collected the ultrasound image and went back up the stairs again, holding it against his chest. “Poor little fella. Did that mean man frighten you?”

“Still not your baby,” Josh called.

“Don’t care.” George closed the bathroom door.

Josh shook his head and went to sit down, muttering under his breath. “Just be careful that you don’t throw the baby out—” The bathroom door opened again.

“And I don’t want to hear any smart remarks about babies and bathwater.”

***

In The Stars Part II

(Setting: at Jess’s house, with Rob Simpson-Stone and Adele.)

“May I come in?”

George shook his head. “No, you damn well may not.”

The smile wavered a little. He adjusted his stance. “She asked me to come.”

“How?”

He took a breath, preparing to answer, but George continued.

“And when? How and when?” Anger was threatening to get the better of him. He knew because the words weren’t there. That couldn’t happen.

“She called Lois a couple of weeks ago, asked if she’d seen or heard from me.”

“A couple?”

“A month or so. I don’t recall. I was coming back this way, so I thought I’d drop by and say hi.”

George was rooted to the spot by disbelief, both at what he was hearing and that Rob had the nerve to turn up here at all. What if Andy had been home?

“So are you going to let me in?” Rob asked, then added a smarmy, “Please?” and laughed.

George flew, slammed right into him and shoved him to the ground. Rob’s motorcycle helmet hit the concrete path with an almighty bang—loud enough for Adele to have heard and come running out to investigate. She froze in the doorway, in shock, trying to figure out what was going on, continuing to delay once she’d realised, because Rob deserved everything he got. However, George had just got hold of the helmet and raised it above his head. Adele screamed out as the helmet came down once, twice. She grabbed George’s arm as it rose a third time and held on with all her might.

“Stop it. Stop it! GEORGE! STOP IT!”

***

(Setting: Farmer Jake’s, with Adele and little Shaunna.)

“Goat!” Shaunna said.

George shook his head and laughed. “Can I take her out of the pushchair?”

Adele shrugged. “Be my guest.”

George unclipped the straps and lifted Shaunna clear. “Wanna come see the ponies?”

“Ponies!” Shaunna repeated perfectly.

“That’s what we’ve been doing wrong!” Adele said. “All those normal, everyday words, like milk and juice? Not a chance. Show her some farm animals, and she’s away!”

George smiled. “Come on. Let’s go say hi to Dolly.”

Shaunna frowned at him, not understanding.

“See there?” George pointed at the Shetland pony in question. “Her name is Dolly.”

“Doy-eee!” Shaunna attempted, bouncing up and down in anticipation. They went over, and George reached out his hand, stroking the side of the pony’s neck.

“Gently,” he said.

“Genkee,” Shaunna mimicked, also copying his movement.

“That’s it.” George smiled. “Dolly likes being stroked, especially just behind her ears.” He tickled behind Dolly’s ear, and Shaunna did likewise, but then sharply jerked her hand away, pointing into the distance.

“Goat!” she shouted. George glanced past Dolly and saw Bo, her front legs up on the edge of the ponies’ food trough. He sighed.

“Naughty goat,” Shaunna said crossly.

“Yes. I’ll take you back to Mummy so I can go catch that naughty goat.” He carried Shaunna over to Adele. “I’d best get on,” he said. “Got to try and get that—” he thumbed at the pygmy goat “—back into the enclosure. She’s a pain in the you-know-what.”

“OK, George. See you soon.” Adele gave him a hug and a peck on the cheek. “Once we get next week out the way, you’ll have to come round for dinner again.”

“Awesome.”

***

A Midnight Clear

(Setting: a village street in winter.)

“Do you know anything about animals?” she asked.

This time her question had the opposite effect, seemingly liberating his words. He laughed lightly. “A little. Why?”

She unzipped her coat and looked at him meaningfully. He took a step closer. She tensed up.

“I promise I won’t hurt you,” he said. He waited, and she came to him, shifting Jinja upwards with her arms.

“He’s sick,” she said.

George leaned over and peered inside the girl’s coat at the listless young cat. “Yeah. He is. Come to the pub with me.”

Her eyes widened in fear, and she backed off. “How do I know you’re not trying to lure me into some paedophile ring?”

George shrugged. “You don’t, I guess. But if I was, I’d be the one showing you baby animals.”

She narrowed her eyes at him for a moment. He was grinning at her.

“I’m in the pub with my friend, and there are other people in there too.”

“They might all be in on it. Or maybe you just want me for yourself.”

“OK. Would it help if I tell you that you’re, um, not my type?”

“You might just be saying that.”

George was so cold now he was beyond shivering and getting a little impatient.

“Right. Listen. My name is George. I work at Farmer Jake’s, which is why I know a bit about animals, although mostly horses and ponies. I live with Josh, just up the road. After I saw you the other night, I couldn’t sleep, worrying about you out in the cold, and dragged him around town for three hours, searching for you. I’ve just left a roast dinner, because I felt guilty eating it, because of you. I’ve been drinking and Josh has got the car, but if you come with me, I’ll call him and get him to take us to the vet.”

“But I’ve got no money.”

“I’ll pay.”

“Why?”

“Because…because it’s Christmas.”

“And you’re a nice person?”

“I try to be.”

“Look, George, if that’s actually your name…”

“It is, honestly.”

“I really want to trust you, but…I’m sorry.”

“Don’t apologise. You don’t know me.”

***

Two By Two

(Setting: at Farmer Jake’s—where George works—with Sophie.)

“Fine! Run away!”

George slammed the gate of the goat pen and stormed across the yard, watching Little Bo duck between the slats of the paddock fence and head straight for the ponies’ feeding trough, even though George had fed the goats not more than half an hour ago. He really couldn’t be bothered with this today, or yesterday, or any other day since Libby went back to her parents. The annoying thing was that he’d mastered the art of extracting himself from the goat enclosure with all of them, including Little Bo, on the inside, but a split-second lapse in concentration was all the little tyrant needed to put Operation Fleeing Pygmy Goat into action. George leaned his arms on the paddock fence, resting a boot on the slat Bo had just cleared, and gazed through hazy eyes as she dodged around the ponies’ hooves, snatching mouthfuls of hay. She was waiting for him to give chase. He wasn’t in the mood to play.

“Is this a private mope, or can anyone join in?”

George jumped. He hadn’t realised he had company. “Hey, Soph. What you doing here?”

“I was on my way to Sean’s and thought I’d drop in and see a good friend of mine.”

“OK?”

“Yeah. He’s about six foot tall, got a kind of sexy cowboy thang going on? Big happy grin, sparkling green eyes? Don’t suppose you’ve seen him around, have you?”

“Can’t say as I have,” George said, attempting a smile. He sighed. “Sorry, Soph. I’m being a miserable bastard.”

She nodded in agreement and leaned her head on his shoulder, blinking up at him. “Yes, you are, but it’s to be expected in the circumstances. And I do understand why you keep it bottled up, but you don’t have to.”

“I don’t want to call you just to moan. It’s not fair.”

“Would I be here now if I thought it wasn’t fair?”

***

Reunions

(Setting: at Shaunna and Andy’s house.)

Something was amiss, but George didn’t push it. Instead, he wandered past them and peered out of the patio doors. “Where’s Andy?”

“Taking a shower,” Shaunna said.

“Ah, OK. The garden’s looking better.”

“Yeah, it is, isn’t it? Did I tell you we’re getting a pergola?”

“No?”

“It’s gorgeous, George. When Josh is finished, I’ll show you the pictures.”

“I’m done,” Josh said, taking that as his cue to stop. He picked up his coffee and moved across to the sofa.

George made eye contact with Shaunna, and she mouthed, “He’s been fine.”

George gave a subtle nod of acknowledgement.

“Where’s that brochure?” Shaunna spun on the spot, looking around the room, and spotted her target. She pulled a glossy catalogue out from under a pile of children’s books and wet her thumb to flick through the pages. “This is it.”

George took the brochure from her. “Whoa. That’s not what I was expecting when you said pergola.” The photo was of, essentially, an outside living room, with a wood-burning stove, cushioned wicker chairs and a latticed roof with tiny lights fixed to the cross beams. “That’s awesome. And expensive, I bet.”

“Err, well…Jeffries and Associates…”

George laughed. “Must be a big lorry that fell off the back of.”

“Megatron,” Andy said, coming up behind him. “Alright, mate?”

***

Thanks for reading!
Deb x

3 comments:

  1. Seriously, though...I could comment on every one of these snippets. I do love George. Even though this is supposed to be about George, I have to mention that my two favorite covers are Ruminations and Chain of Secrets, possibly for obvious reasons. ;)

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    1. Weirdly, your comment was marked as spam! :o It took me a while to figure out why it wasn't displaying.

      I don't think George will mind your reasoning.

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  2. Well, George may or may not have the same reasons, and I think he knows he's safe. ;)

    I've been having issues logging in, so that's probably why it got marked as spam. Still weird.

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