Mum's friend Gavin
What had started out as ‘Mum’s new friend Gavin’ escalated far too quickly for Chloe’s liking.
He wasn’t like Mum’s friend Sue, or Mum’s friend Lisa. They just drank coffee and giggled in the kitchen on a Sunday morning. These days Chloe couldn’t even go for a Toby Carvery with Mum without Gavin being there.
At first Chloe pretended it was like mum had said, even though she knew it wasn’t really. When Gavin came over they didn’t drink coffee in the kitchen, they curled up on the sofa or ordered food that Chloe heard being delivered after she’d gone to bed.
But when Gavin came and found her in her wigwam by himself, Chloe knew things were definitely different.
He crawled inside, still wearing his leather shoes and smelling of the thick, spicy smell that Mum liked and sat beside her, looking all hunched and silly. He nearly pulled too hard on one of the more integral blankets and collapsed the whole structure in on them by accident, but he managed to stop himself, just in time.
At first Chloe thought that if she didn’t look up from her book then he might think she was rude and go away. Maybe he’d go away from the house altogether and she could have Mum back.
But he didn’t.
“You like books, don’t you Chloe?”
She didn’t answer.
“What are you reading now?”
She didn’t even look up from the page.
“My favourite was always Sherlock Holmes” Gavin continued, unfazed “There’s one about escaped convicts and stolen treasure and a murder.”
Despite herself, Chloe felt herself listening.
“Is that The Famous Five?” he asked and Chloe felt herself nodding despite herself.
“Maybe one day we can swap - you can lend me one of your Famous Five Books and I’ll lend you a Sherlock Holmes. He’s a detective too.”
“I like detective stories” Chloe told him, allowing her eyes to slide from the page up to his face. She held the book out for him to see. Gavin took it from her and studiously read the back.
“This looks great. Please can I borrow it? When you’ve finished of course.”
Slowly Chloe nodded and Gavin smiled at her.
When he left the wigwam she heard him go down to Mum and their voices drifted up the stairs to her.
“Did she let you in?”
“Yup. She even promised to lend me a book.”
“Not a Famous Five?”
“How on earth did you manage that?”
“I told her about Sherlock Holmes. We’re going to swap.”
“Wasn’t Conan Doyle some kind of rampant fundamentalist? Will he be alright for an eight year old?”
“The man just believed in fairies, Han, but Sherlock Holmes is very logical - great stories.”
Their voices faded as they moved into the kitchen. Sherlock Holmes sounded interesting, especially if he believed in fairies. And she liked detectives, even if she wasn’t sure what a reluctant thunder mentalist was. Maybe Gavin wasn’t so bad; Lisa had never asked Chloe about books.
Next time they went to meet Gavin at the Toby Carvery, Chloe remembered to take her newly finished copy of Five Got To Smuggler’s top for him. And, waiting for her when they arrived, Chloe saw a brand new copy of The Sign of the Four on the table