I moved to Barnes the following weekend. I don’t remember much about it except my stuff fitting in the one car. Whether it was Jack or Lily’s car, I’m unsure. They both came with me. I can’t even remember if Henry was there. Henry is Lily’s younger half-brother, then sixteen. I’d also met him in the hallway the previous weekend. He’d seemed a bit embarrassed by the whole affair. Although I think that’s because Lily asked for some sort of reaction in response to the idea that I might move in. It’s hard for anyone to muster up excitement for a stranger to move in let alone possibly sharing a house with a stranger. I think Lilac might’ve been pottering upstairs in her room. She’d potter a lot. I remember one day, she locked herself in her bedroom to paint her furniture. The fumes stunk out the entire house. I went upstairs to check she was OK.
‘Can you really smell it?’ she asked, popping her head around the door. Lilac was wearing her nightie and slippers and had her glasses on, worn only when real concentration was necessary.
‘I’m glad your windows are open. I really think you should keep the door open, too,’ I said.
‘I’m hoping I’ll get high on the fumes,’ she said, laughing to herself.
I only stayed in Barnes for about two months, which is strange because it felt like home for much longer. Although Crazy Yank was a prominent figure before we even met.
‘People call him Shark Attack. He’s a lot of fun to go out with. But we’re just friends now. He’s going to love you. He’ll be after you,’ were the first impressions Lilac gave me.
‘Why is he called Shark Attack?’ It seemed a disturbing nickname for a middle-aged man let alone one raising two kids on his own.
‘Because when he’s in bar, he fishes out the talent,’ she said, laughing.
Lily and Henry didn’t find their mother’s friend quite so amusing. One day, I picked up the landline to this broad New York accent:
‘Hey, is that Lilac or Lily?’
‘It’s Saskia actually. I can go and get Lilac for you?’
‘Cool. I’m coming over to pick her up. We’re going drinking.’
‘Great. I’ll just get her for you.’ I passed the phone to Lilac who didn’t say very much. She giggled a lot.
‘He told me he digs your British accent,’ Lilac said after she got off the phone.
Ten minutes later, Crazy Yank was circling the front door. I opened it and introduced myself. He was tall and broad, wearing a dark polo shirt and long chino shorts with a handsfree phone piece stuck to his right ear. His black shades matched his head of receding hair, which was swept back. I can’t remember what we talked about but I remember Lilac coming home and telling me that he had told her: ‘I dig that hippy chick.’ Granted I had short hair at the time and nothing on my feet but I didn’t realise this made me Sandy Shaw.