If you need to refresh your memory as to what has been going on in St Andrews, click here.
For those of you who don’t need a refresh, here is chapter seventeen.
Julian sat on the beach, on the same rock that he and Sally had sat on a few weeks ago when they had all been exploring the rocks on the beach, the same rock that they had observed one of the strange exchanges between Thomas Ainsworth and Anthony Pilkington. He had just come out of an appointment with the university’s sister who had removed his shoulder strap. She had warned him not to do anything strenuous otherwise he would injure his shoulder even more. Julian had frowned at her for that. He frowned now as he realised that if he and his friends were right, that it was possible that Ainsworth had been trying to get information of the paper’s whereabouts from Pilkington. It was safe to say that the missing papers were playing heavily on Julian’s mind. He had never taken so long to solve a mystery before and the time it was taking him to track down the papers was worrying him. However that wasn’t all that was on his mind.
Julian hadn’t had much contact with women while he had been at school apart from his sister and his cousin, and they did seem a bit alien to him. Julian was learning however that some seemed more sensible than others; Darrell and Sally were two of the girls that Julian had met who seemed incredibly sensible.
There was just one problem however; Sally was beginning to mean more to him than he would have ever imagined. If Julian had mentioned these feelings to anyone, the word they would have used to describe his situation would have been smitten. He was completely smitten with this blonde woman who seemed to alternate between treating him as some silly school boy and then seemed quite interested in impressing him and asking his opinions. He found it thoroughly confusing.
Julian frowned at his thoughts, wishing that there was some way he could sort them out like his previous adventures; methodically, with a clear answer at the end that left him in no doubt what the right answer was, like everything falling into place like a jigsaw puzzle. Julian was beginning to realise that women, and indeed life, was not like that. He had no idea that the object of his thoughts was walking along the beach behind him and had spotted him.
Sally stood where she was for a moment, having a fight with herself in going over and joining Julian on the rock. She was confused enough as it was by her feelings for Julian and she had no idea whether to approach him now. She was beginning to wish that she had put on her thicker jacket as the clouds sculled across the sky bringing with them a strong cold breeze from the sea.
After a moment of internal conflict Sally decided to join Julian on the rock, and started to walk over. She could feel her heart race and there were butterflies in her stomach. She scrambled over the seaweed covered rocks towards the tall rock that Julian was sitting on. She took a deep steadying breathe as she walked around so she was standing in front of him, before calling up to him, above the roar of the waves;
“Ahoy up there!”
Her smile was as natural as she could make it. She had to cup her hands around her mouth to make sure he heard her.
“Permission to come aboard, Skipper?” she added teasingly to Julian.
Julian jerked out of his thoughts at Sally’s shout and looked down at her on the sand between the huge boulders on the beach. He smiled brightly down at her.
“Of course you can come aboard!” he called back with a grin. “Do you need any help?” he added, making to get up to help her.
“No! I should be all right,” Sally called up to him, the wind whipping her hair over her face. “I’ll just make my way around! Be there in a moment!”
She moved out of Julian’s sight, around the back of the rock he was sitting on and scrambled up, using handy nooks in the stone as foot holes and handholds.
Soon enough she had climbed up to the top and was making her way carefully to sit next to Julian. He half turned in his seat and held out his good arm to her so she could take his hand and not fall. Sally gratefully accepted his hand, while trying to ignore the way her heart thumped against her chest, when his fingers grasped hers.She smiled at him as she settled herself down on the rock next to him, her fingers refusing to let go of his. Julian didn’t seem to mind and simply adjusted his hand so he was holding hers in a more comfortable manner before letting their hands rest on his thigh as they sat close for warmth.
“What brought you out here?” Julian asked Sally as she settled herself into a comfortable spot on the stone, and after a moment of uncharacteristic silence from both of them.
Sally shrugged. “I needed a break from all that work,” she lied, well aware that her true answer may make things awkward between them. “What about you? Why are you out here in the cold?” she added when he nodded in response to her answer.
Julian gave a Sally a little smile when she asked him what he was doing out. He settled for telling her the partial truth.
“I just wanted to be away from people so I could go over everything that has been happening so far this term,” he told her quietly, his mouth next to her ear so she could hear him over the roar of the wind and waves as they crashed noisily onto the sand.
Sally lowered her eyes as she felt Julian’s warmth breath against her ear. She tried not to look down at their hands, still joined, resting against his leg. She gave her fingers a little experimental twitch to make sure that she was really still holding on to Julian’s hand, and then she squeezed his hand a little. Julian smiled a little and squeezed back.
Sally tried to pull her mind back into the realms of rational thought, to be able to speak once more to him. The blush on her cheeks was fading as well, although Sally hoped she would be able to blame that on the bracing winds. She hoped that Julian hadn’t noticed that they were still holding hands; she liked feeling his hand holding hers.
Julian had realised that he was still holding Sally’s hand. He had wondered if he should let go but he was rather enjoyed holding her hand in his. He debated whether he should say something about getting back to their halls, when the rain that had been threatening suddenly started to pour down from the heavens in great big drops.
Sally raised her face to the sky and closed her eyes as she felt the raindrops begin to fall, and then she extended her free hand, palm up to catch the rain. She laughed.
“It never rains, but it pours,” she quoted, as her hair was plastered down against her face as the drops fell thick and fast. Julian smiled at her and looked down around them for shelter. He spotted a rock a little way away with a hole worn away out of the middle that would provide shelter for them until the rain had passed. He pointed it out to Sally.
“Over there!” he called above the rain. Reluctantly he let go of Sally’s hand and slithered off the rock to the sand below; the sister would not have approved, given his shoulder.
He stood below Sally as the rain fell down heavily now and called up to her over the deafening din of the wind, the waves and the rain;
“Come on! I’ll catch you!”
Sally looked sceptical, not sure that his shoulder would hold up to such an act. Still it was that or try to clamber down the now incredibly slippery rock.
“Brace yourself then!” Sally shouted down at him, and with a deep breath, hoping that she wouldn’t send him flying backwards or push him over; she pushed herself to the edge of the rock and slid down to the sand. Julian caught her around her waist with his good arm and steadied her. She took a deep breath to calm herself and looked up at him.
Julian grasped her hand her hand once more and pulled her along the sand to the rocky shelter. Sally gasped as she was pulled along in a rather undignified way and under the shelter of the rock. She fought for breath as the rain beat down around them and her eyes adjusted to the gloom. Then she looked up at Julian and shook her head at him.
“You could have warned me that I was going to be dragged along like that!” Sally told him firmly, once again aware that he had not let go of her hand; the thumping in her chest was uncomfortable at this realisation which she was certain had little to do with the mad dash for shelter that they had just made.
“You are mad, I knew it!” she added teasingly.
Julian laughed, leaning back against the rock. He was also very aware of Sally’s hand in his.
“Well I’m glad that we cleared that little matter up for you,” he said with a grin.
Sally chuckled at his tone, aware that she was beginning to shiver. The rain had soaked through her coat and with the fierce wind she stood no chance at keeping the cold out. Julian noticed her shivering and shook his head at her a little.
“You certainly picked a good coat to wear for this weather didn’t you?”
Reluctantly Julian let go of Sally’s hand and pulled his own waterproof coat off.
“Get that jacket off and put this on for the time being,” Julian told her firmly. Sally looked a little dubious at his suggestion.
“You can’t stand there in a wet coat, can you? You’ll catch your death of cold if you do!” Julian carried on. “Come on, off with it.”
Sally came up with the weakest argument she could think of in protest;
“You on the other hand will get cold!”
She pulled her jacket a little more firmly around her in attempt to win the argument, even though she knew that Julian had a point. Her wet jacket was so wet that it was really giving her the shivers and she knew she would catch a horrendous cold if she didn’t do something about warming up. The rain was still too heavy to make a dash to the nearest cafe to warm up.
“I’ve got a blazer and jumper on under, I’ll be quite all right. Also I’m not wet through, you look like you’ve had a bucket of water tipped over you,” Julian said gently. “Look,” he added, pulling at his jumper. “Quite dry.”
He paused and looked down at her, and ran his hand through his own sodden hair making it stand on end slightly.
“Come on, old girl,” he coaxed. “Will you at least humour me?”
Sally sighed and took off her wet coat off, secretly thankful that she didn’t have to wear it any longer, and pulled on Julian’s fleece lined jacket over her shoulders. She smiled thankfully at him, hoping that the gloom would disguise her blush. She felt embarrassed that all she seemed to do around Julian was blush.
“Are you any warmer now?” Julian asked her a moment later, smiling.
Sally nodded. “Yes, thank you,” she said quietly, as the wind whipped around them, and blew some rain into their shelter. Sally took a small step towards Julian as a huge splash of water landed behind her.
“It’s no problem,” Julian said gruffly. “You will have to start remembering that this isn’t Cornwall,” he chuckled. “There is no nice warm gulf stream current to keep things mild. We’ve got a nice chilly breeze straight from the Arctic here!”
Sally stuck her tongue out at him in an unladylike manner at his teasing. Julian chuckled at her and in a deliberate move, put his arm around her shoulders and hugged her, pulling them closer in their small shelter.
“If only you knew how easy you were to tease,” Julian laughed, as Sally stepped closer into his hug. They found themselves very close together, with Sally’s cheek resting against the lapel of Julian’s blazer.
In an unusual moment for both of them, neither said a word or broke the hug, closer than they had been before. This time there was no one else; no Darrell and David smirking at each other behind their friends’ backs, just the sounds of the wind, rain and sea. Julian looked up at the rocky roof of their shelter and swallowed awkwardly, hoping that Sally would not protest to their continued hug for a couple of reasons; for one she was keeping him warm.
Sally smiled to herself, as she faced away from Julian, her cheek resting against his chest still. She allowed her guard to drop for a moment, enjoying the feeling of being close to him. Her right arm had curled around his waist when he hugged her and now her hand gripped the fabric of his blazer. Sally knew that given half a chance she could quite happily stay this way all day.
After a few moments of silence, Julian noted with regret that the rain was easing off. It would soon be clear enough for them to leave without getting soaked to the bone.
Julian wasn’t sure that he wanted the rain to stop. There was something comforting about standing there with Sally in his arms. She felt like she belonged there.
As they stood and watched the rain ease off around them, Sally tried to make conversation.
“Have you had any ideas about those papers yet?” she asked quietly. “Such as if you even still think they’re in this country!”
Sally felt that in this intimate territory, that it might be best if the conversation was fairly neutral. Although she was almost certain that he would be able to feel the thumping of her heart and that would give away all the emotions she was feeling.
Julian was fairly glad that the shelter gave way to little like because otherwise it would have been unfortunate for Sally if she could have seen the look on his face as she asked her question.
He had hoped to have a meeting devoid of the missing papers for once, but that didn’t seem likely to happen. He gave a little sigh.
“No, I haven’t,” Julian said quietly. “I just can’t work things out properly. I’m not even fully convinced that we’re following the right man for the papers. It is just such a muddle!” he added in a frustrating tone.
Sally hooked her fingers about the lapel of Julian’s blazer while the other gripped tighter at the his back, pulling herself closer to him as the wind picked up. She sighed, a little as she remembered what she had seen a few days ago and the promise she had made to herself when she had seen Thomas and that friend of his having an argument in the courtyard by the library. She hadn’t wanted to tell Julian about it, but she felt that now, when he admitted to her that he was still confused about everything that was happening that she couldn’t keep quiet about this any longer.
“I’ve got something to tell you Julian,” Sally said, quietly, resting her cheek against his chest, looking away from him.
Julian looked down at her , confused. His good arm, pulled her a little closer, a little too vigorously as his dislocated shoulder ached under the pressure of being lent on.
“What is it Sally?” he asked quietly.
Speaking slowly, and clearly so that Julian would hear everything, Sally recounted the episode she had witnessed, where Ainsworth and his friend James had been having an argument in the court yard by the library. She recounted every detail she could think of until she ran out of things to say.
Julian listened very carefully, following her words closely, trying to fit them into the jumbled up facts in his mind. He was so busy trying to fit the pieces of the jigsaw together that he forgot to ask Sally any questions about the encounter she had witnessed. He looked down at her as she finished speaking and managed to ask;
“Why didn’t you tell me this earlier?”
Sally shifted away from Julian ever so slightly, which was about all she could manage in their shelter.
“Well it was just after that spat we had had, when I told you that this was all ridiculous,” Sally said awkwardly. “Also, until now, I didn’t really think about it!” she lied.
Sally hated lying, like Darrell, she was a very honest person and little white lies left her uncomfortable.
Julian studied what he could see of her face in the gloom as the wind whipped around them and blew some of the last rain into the shelter. Sally automatically moved towards Julian again, who without thinking hugged her close again.
‘If only because it’s warmer than not hugging her,’ he justified to himself.
They lapsed back into silence and Julian began to consider this new information in relation to everything else they knew.
Julian had almost convinced himself that Pilkington was the culprit, but there had been that reluctance to agree to his friend’s consensus that stopped him chasing after the other boy, desperate to prove him guilty. Pilkington had had as much opportunity as anyone else to steal the papers and he seemed to be the most likely person to have stolen the papers. However Julian’s pre-disposition to dislike Thomas Ainsworth had left him with a little doubt in his mind that he was chasing after the wrong person.
Ainsworth seemed to have been nothing but trouble for him since he had arrived at university, the dislocated shoulder, vying for Sally’s attention, the overall oily attitude he had sometimes. David had told Julian of his and Darrell’s encounter with Ainsworth that day when tempers had been running high. David had also told Julian of Darrell’s confession after they had escaped Ainsworth, and the clear fact that she didn’t like him.
Julian considered everything. Sally’s evidence wasn’t very damning but could it be possible that, Thomas Ainsworth, the son of a lord, really be the true traitor?
Julian bit his lip as he considered this; it certainly left a nasty taste in his mouth at the thought of an Englishman betraying his own country.
Things seemed a lot easier when he had younger, Julian decided, things had always seemed to fall into place when it came to a mystery.
Sally wasn’t sure how to proceed. She wanted to ask Julian if what she had told him had been helpful, but she was not entirely sure that this was a conversation she wanted to have with Julian right now.
Julian broke out of his thoughts and managed to smile warmly at Sally. Instead of asking her why she hadn’t told him earlier again, he just settled for something entirely different.
“Thank you for telling me,” he said, giving her a little squeeze. “It is something else to consider in all of this. As you well know, this is all very confusing!”
Sally couldn’t help but laugh.
“What is so funny?” Julian asked, feeling a little spike of annoyance.
“Oh just the fact that you, the great detective, is saying that this is all confusing,” Sally said, patting Julian affectionately on the lapel of his coat.
Julian managed to laugh, although it wasn’t whole hearted.
“You would be surprised at what I’ve found confusing in the past,” he told her quietly as the rain stopped, leaving the sound of the waves crashing on the beach once more. “A lot of what I accomplished when I was younger, now that I look back at it, feels like guess work and luck. Part of me also believes that I’m too old for this adventure hunting,” he admitted to Sally, his voice very quiet.
Sally paused before she spoke again; maybe that was why Julian seemed quite slow in his decisions at St Andrews compared to what she had read in the newspapers. He was actually looking into this, searching things out, researching, and keeping his options open, instead of just letting them turn up in front of him. Sally suddenly saw a different side of Julian. Suddenly she understood why he was being so slow and steady, he wasn’t sure whether as a grown-up that he should be having adventures and chasing after things like he had when he was younger. The curse of growing up was reaching forward to claim him, and he wasn’t sure how to fight it.
“Oh Ju,” Sally said softly. She looked up at him and hugged him closer, both arms around him now, pulling her closer. This hug was different to the others that they had shared that day and so far. This hug was one were they both realised they were with someone who would be very important to them, whatever happened in their lives.
“You silly boy,” she added affectionately. “All of this is much more than simply good luck. If anyone around here has half a chance of finding those papers it is you.” She patted him gently on the back.
“I have faith in you,” she added quietly as the wind whipped around them once more. She looked up at him and smiled reassuringly at him as he looked down and smiled back at her.
Sally really did make Julian think; she seemed to be his reality check and life saver all rolled into one. Julian was grateful for her friendship that was certain.
“A few days ago you were telling me to stop all of this,” Julian reminded her quietly, holding her tighter with his free arm. Neither of them made a move to leave the shelter now that the rain had passed over.
“Well,” Sally said, quietly. “I never said that you weren’t good at what you can do. I just thought that we weren’t really getting anywhere with chasing up those papers. We had plenty of dead ends that is for sure.” She didn’t like to think about the fact that she had reacted so strongly to his ideas about finding the papers just to give herself a reason to have such strong feelings about him.
Julian wasn’t entirely convinced by this explanation, but he was careful not to show it and it didn’t help him solve any mysteries because his ego and confidence had taken a bruising at Sally’s words. He wouldn’t let her know that, his pride stopped him from telling her.
Julian turned to check the weather and sighed a little when he realised that it had stopped raining.
“Looks like we can break cover now,” Julian said quietly to Sally, reluctantly letting go of her. Sally peeped outside, not quite willing to let him go just yet, hoping that it would suddenly start raining again. She smiled at him over her shoulder as she made to get out of the shelter. She let Julian help her down off the ledge where they had been standing on to the sand and then stood close by in case he needed her help getting out of the shelter with his arm still strapped up.
“We should get back,” Julian said quietly. “Darrell will probably be wondering where you have gotten to without a coat,” he added with a smile. This reminded Sally that she was still wearing Julian’s warm fleece lined jacket. She slipped her arm through Julian’s good one and smiled up at him.
“I’m sure Darrell has been working too hard to notice the rain and wonder where I’ve got to,” Sally said, trying to sound cheerful. She noticed the slight chance in Julian’s manner towards her as they walked out in the open. Suddenly he was more proper, a bit more distant. She wondered whether it was because their argument had come up in conversation. Sally admitted to herself that she was probably in for a little coolness after that; Darrell had told her that Julian had been upset by her words, in fact they had all seen how upset he had been when Sally had told him to stop searching for the missing papers. Sally sighed a little and stopped walking, pulling Julian around to face her.
Taking a deep breath she said, apologising for a second time;
“I’m sorry about what I said to you a few days ago.”
“Sally, we’ve been over this,” Julian said softly, raising an eyebrow at her, slightly confused as to why they were going over this again.
“We will be all right though, won’t we?” Sally asked, squeezing his arm desperately, willing him to give her an answer. She wasn’t all too sure why this was so important to her.
Julian put his free hand on her shoulder and gave it a little squeeze.
“Sally, whatever gave you the idea that we were not all right or were not going to be?” Julian asked, pretending to be unsure on what she was talking about.
Sally regarded him with an icy stare. “Well you were very quiet after the argument came up,” she said stiffly. “I just wanted to know that our friendship isn’t going to suffer, that was all.”
Sally realised her error as soon as the words left her mouth. The word friendship was one that didn’t aptly describe their dynamic. Sally knew that by saying that she didn’t want anything to damage their friendship was defining what they had, almost making sure that it didn’t progress. She bit her lip in the awkwardness of the moment.
Julian felt the same as Sally did when she spoke of nothing changing in their friendship.
‘So that is as far as this will go,’ Julian thought sadly. He forced himself to speak however, keeping things light between them, trying not to show that he was upset. If all she wanted was for them to be friends then Julian could certainly keep up that, even if he did feel a little squashed.
“Oh Sally, of course nothing’s going to change,” Julian said, trying to sound upbeat. He hated himself for saying it, but it seemed to be the only thing that he could say. “As I said the other day, it shocked me a little. No one has ever said things like that to me before and I just wasn’t expecting it. Now let’s forget about it, and get you back in the dry before it starts to rain again.”
Sally felt her heart sinking, but thinking that Julian really meant it, decided that she had to try and accept it and from his tone, he sounded like this was the last time he was going to talk about it willingly. Friendship was all they were going to have.
Sally slipped her arm through Julian’s again and looked up at him, giving a small smile.
“All right skipper,” she said gently, giving his arm a squeeze. “I just got a little worried about it that’s all,” she added quietly to him.
Julian pulled his arm from hers and put it around her shoulders and gave her a hug.
“Don’t worry, friends are supposed to have the occasional spat,” Julian said with much more brightness than he could really muster.
Sally managed a smile at his words, and as he pulled his arm from her shoulders and she slipped her arm back through his, she tried to reconcile herself with just being his friend as that was what she seemed destined to be.