Peter awoke with a streaming cold and all the plans to eat Sunday lunch at the Hurlingham club were abandoned. Pamela went off to spend the day with her friend Monica, Tony left without breakfast after a barely civil ’Good morning’, Arthur left to play his golf tournament and the house settled down to a comfortable Sunday stillness. Taking advantage of Juli’s presence, Marion went to the late communion service while Juli happily prepared lunch for the three of them remaining at home.
They ate in the kitchen, Peter in his dressing-gown. Marion fussed round him, closing the kitchen windows and checking to see that he was warm enough. He said nothing, having drawn his invisible mist about him like a cloak, and there was a remote, faraway look in his eyes.
“I’d like to go and see if Rita is at home this afternoon Marion, unless you need me for anything,” Juli said as they were sipping their coffee at the end of the meal.
“But of course, dear. Don’t worry about us. You’ve been more than helpful today. We shall just stay here quietly and if Peter isn’t better tomorrow I’ll call the doctor.”
“Napoleón,” Peter said abruptly. He looked at Juli with an expression of intense concentration, a slight frown creasing his forehead. “Do they have a dog called Napoleón?”
“Yes,” Juli said, catching her breath, staring at him.
“They talked about him when they came to visit you Peter, remember?” Marion interposed quickly
“Oh? Yes,” Peter agreed and fell back into his inertia.
Juli sighed, remembering Peter’s remarks at the bar the day before. Could it be possible that Marion really did not want Peter to regain his memory?
“Well, I’ll be off then,” she said, once she had washed up. She kissed them both, picked up her anorak and handbag and left the house, hoping that she would be able to find her way. It would be rather silly to spend the afternoon wandering around Martinez looking for Rita’s house. However, her innate sense of direction and good memory led her without trouble to Rita’s street. It was a warm humid day which hung heavily over the city, cloudy and unsettled. The Argentine Government had just cancelled the entry of all British tourists, and British residents were not allowed to travel round the country.
“What shall I do?” Juli had asked Arthur at breakfast.
“Nothing,” he had shrugged. “Just carry on quietly. You can pretend you are Dutch or Danish if you find yourself in difficulties.”
“Deny being English,” she thought. “Deny my heritage like a coward so as not to get into trouble. Pretend I belong to another people simply to avoid unpleasantness. What am I doing in Argentina? Why did I say I’d stay? I should have done what Dereck told me to do. I should have left right away.”
How easy to become a traitor, how easy to let convenience and comfort rule one’s principles. But this was not a fair war she argued with herself. Here was no clear-cut ‘bad’ and ‘good’. In fact the British had apparently turfed out the Argentines living on the Islands in 1833 and taken over. Not a very ethical way of behaving, even for those buccaneering days and Argentina’s fledgling independence from Spain. And ever since then the Argentines had been trying to get them back through diplomatic channels, to no avail whatsoever. No wonder every single Argentine heart had rejoiced and felt that the landing on April 2nd had in no way been an act of aggression, but rather a necessary procedure by a nation whose patience had finally worn out.
What was behind it all? What forces? Which minds? Why had the Kelper’s rights become suddenly so very important to the British public and the members of Parliament? Who had persuaded the British press to fan the flames of indignation during March and April, making any diplomatic settlement almost impossible when only a couple of years or so previously Britain had been trying quite seriously to solve the problem of the Islands and come to terms with Argentina?
In 1981 the British Government had even passed a law naming the Kelpers second-class citizens which meant they had no rights and couldn’t even go and live in England! As if 1.800 people would have made the slightest difference! Crazy! It was all crazy; upside down. Perhaps she should go and apply for Argentine citizenship after all.
‘Are you out of your mind?’ A voice within her cried, as scenes of London; the south of England; the Lake District and Scotland, rose in her mind’s eye. ‘Give up England for this empty, pretty corrupt, extremely young country where democracy is something which no one of your age has ever experienced and where everyone speaks Spanish?’
“I sound like a true Briton,” she sighed ruefully
She arrived, at last, in front of Rita’s house and felt a rush of delight when she saw that the windows were open. She rang the bell and heard Napoleón’s deep bark in response. Rita opened the door after a minute or two and let out a cry of delight.
“Juli, come in, come on in. What a wonderful surprise! Quiet Napoleón! The house is a mess but please try not to notice. How divine. When did you arrive? Our ‘phone has been out of order for days.”
She had been washing her hair and had twisted it quickly into a towel; trickles of soapy water ran down her cheeks wetting the turned-in collar of her blouse. She drew Juli into the sitting room, throwing the disordered cushions into place, gathering up the newspapers strewn on the floor together with empty mugs sitting stranded between them, and emptying the overflowing ashtrays into a wastepaper basket as she did so. Some very dead flowers drooped in brown surrender from a Chinese vase and a pair of shoes lay on the carpet as they had been kicked off. “Coffee?” Rita asked, as she pushed them under a chair.
“Finish washing your hair, Rita,” Juli laughed. “I can wait, I’ll talk to Napoleón.”
“Bueno, I won’t be a minute,” Rita disappeared into the bathroom and Juli drew Napoleón to her, stroking him lovingly, thinking of Dobbie. Napoleón raised a front paw and laid it on her lap, pushing his cold wet nose against her hand in response, his brown eyes brimming with love. A few minutes later Rita reappeared, her hair cascading about her face in a tumble of damp black curls. She went to make the coffee and returned with two steaming mugs.
“Now,” she said. “Tell me everything. Isn’t this war terrible? Do you realize I haven’t seen you for four months? Wasn’t it incredible about Peter? We went to visit him, did he tell you? He simply couldn’t remember us at all, Nothing! It was awful, his mother said that perhaps it might be better not to visit him again, not remembering gave him so much stress. She was with us all the time.”
July nodded solemnly. “I know,” she said. “I’m in a funny position with regard to him. I belong to his NOW and I also belong to his THEN. We were talking about it yesterday.”
“He is so changed, isn’t he? So thin and quiet and … docile. His mother dotes on him. One wonders if she’ll let him get his memory back if he’s so manageable now, somehow,” Rita said perceptively.
“Where’s Quique?” Juli asked
“He went to see his parents. His brother is down south. He’s a pilot in the airforce, you can imagine the state his family is in.”
“Dino is there too. It’s awful, isn’t it?”
The two girls curled up on the sofa and talked, pouring out all that had happened to them during the months they had not seen each other. Rita wanted to know every detail and listened with rapt attention as Juli answered all her questions and filled in most of the gaps her letters had left. She did not, however, mention Hernán. It seemed unnecessary and somehow unfair to Hernán himself, since he had no idea of the identity of his real father.
“Just imagine,” Rita cried. “How terrible to have to leave your job just because you are English. But one can understand Lena and Dereck. There is never missing some mad type who’ll go off and do some crazy thing like burning a house or a stable out of vengeance. So you are going to work for Peter’s father now?”
“Yes. Isn’t it amazing? At the end of June I shall decide, or rather shall have decided, where I want to go and what I want to do. It all just works out beautifully. It’s back to office work which I don’t like too much, but I just didn’t want to leave Argentina. I’m too involved to just rush away and look on from the sidelines. It’s nuts but I have really come to love this country.”
“I know, despite all its deficiencies one does love it, doesn’t one?”
“But how humid Buenos Aires is. I hadn’t realized. Tony told me that it’s been 90 odd percent humidity for days.”
“That’s why we often wonder why it was called Nuestra Señora de los Buenos Aires. The first place which was founded must have been even worse I suppose,” Rita chuckled.
Napoleón raised his head and his tail began to thump on the floor. A key grated in the lock and Quique opened the front door. “Juli,” he exclaimed with pleasure. “Qué tal? How good to see you, when did you arrive?”
“She’s come to live in Buenos Aires. She’s going to work for Peter’s father and live at the Carlies,” Rita cried and once again Juli had to go through all the explanation of why she had left the Birnham’s. Quique sank into a chair and shook his head disbelievingly. “Que cosa, eh what a thing?” he exclaimed as Rita hurried off to fetch him a mug of coffee.
“The Malvinas have always belonged to Argentina,” Quique declared. “It is incredible that your Mrs. Thatcher should act like this. The French named them Les Malouines in 1750 and founded a colony there. They later sold the Islands to Spain. Obviously when we declared our independence from Spain the Islands were included, and Louis Vernet was sent to found a settlement there which the British then liquidated in1833 and just walked in. Then, with regard to our islands in the south which are in litigation with Chile, the British handed them over to the Chilenos on a plate when they were asked to litigate. Incredible! They just refuse to recognize that Argentina is not a banana republic, that it is a country with its history and honour. Argentina has always respected International Law … why can’t the English?”
“Anyway,” Rita said as she brought in a loaded tray. “The excuse for not agreeing to give a definite date for the transfer of sovereignty over the Islands to Argentina was because the Islanders didn’t want it. As if the British Government had ever bothered before over what the islanders wanted, or not!”
“But I think taking them by force like that won’t help Argentina much in the long run,” Juli said pensively.
“We’ve got 11.000 troops on the Islands. A couple more direct hits and the British Navy will have to start re-thinking a landing. If we could just sink the Hermes …” Quique said with burning eyes. “Anyway, we had to take them otherwise the British would have said they’d been there for 150 years and so, by law, they were theirs! He thumped the coffee table in front of the sofa with his fist, making the mugs clink.
“Oh, Quique, don’t get cross my love, please!” Rita urged as she came in with the coffee pot. “Juli, did I tell you we have a chance to sell the motorbike and buy a car? Second hand of course. We’re so thrilled …” The conversation, steered into safer channels, continued on the merits and deficiencies of Fiat 600’s, Renault 4’s and small Citroens, or Ugly Ducklings as they were often called.
Juli arrived back at the Carlies a little after seven. Hearing voices she glanced into the sitting room where Marion and Arthur were sitting chatting to some friends. Seeing her, Arthur beckoned to Juli with a smile and said,” Viviana, Tom, let me introduce you to Juli Lane. Juli, Dino’s parents. They have just arrived from Santa Fé.”
Tom Miller rose and turned and Juli was struck by his likeness to Dino. The same long thin face, lank hair, and pale blue eyes. He looked much older than his wife for his face was very lined and seemed to sag here and there from sheer lack of energy. He held out his hand and shook Juli’s with a firm grip which surprised her.
“How do you do?” he said smiling. “Dino talked about you several times when he was at home.” He spoke with an impeccable Oxford accent.
Juli moved over to Viviana noting her dark-blond hair and tired blue eyes behind her steel-rimmed spectacles. She was plump and wore a tight-fitting green dress. Viviana rose quickly and they kissed lightly. “I understand English,” she smiled. “But I do not speak it.”
“Help yourself to a drink, dear,” Arthur said, waving his hand towards the tray with the drinks on it. “I think you’ll find everything there.”
“Thanks, I’ll just pop upstairs first though,” Juli said, and slipped away with a quick nod towards the guests. Upstairs she met Pamela, her arms piled with sheets and towels. “Have they come to stay?” she asked.
Pamela nodded with a grin. “Grand Hotel Carlie,” she said. “All we need now is Uncle Dereck!” And added, “Come to fetch you back to Los Alamos.”
“Ha ha that’s what you’re hoping is it?” Juli said, making a face at Pamela. “Come on, I’ll help you.” Together they made up the twin beds in the guest room and laid out the towels neatly.
“They just dropped out of the sky, or rather off the bus,” Pamela elucidated. “Tom says he wants to become an Argentine Citizen, but he still calls the Malvinas the Falkland Islands, can you imagine? Viviana told me he has given up drinking ever since Dino was sent south. He’s made a promise, she says. They came to consult Daddy and ask him to help them with the formalities. It’s quite a complicated business apparently, in this country anyway.”
“Your poor mother, she certainly has been landed with ‘company’ this week end, hasn’t she?” Juli sighed. “Peter?”
“I don’t know, I only came in a little while ago.”
“How’s your Simon?”
“Divine. Oh Juli, I do love him so much. We held hands today.”
“Weren’t you going to spend the day with Monica?”
“Och. That was just a smoke screen. Mummy would never let me go out with Simon alone so I just tell her I’m going to Monica’s. She’s so wrapped up with Peter, that’s enough to keep her quiet.”
“You little devil!” Juli exclaimed trying not to look shocked.
“So what,” Pamela retorted airily. “Are you going to tell on me?”
“No, I’m going to think out a way of hanging you from a very high branch by one heel in the garden.”
Pamela burst into giggles as she said, “I must put a vase with some of my paper flowers, Mummy says there’s nothing in the garden just now, but I’ll add a few real leaves.” She departed cheerfully and Juli went to her bedroom.
“Lies,” she thought. “How is it possible that they all tell lies to each other?” Then she remembered her outings with her father, so carefully hidden from her mother’s knowledge, and felt a deep melancholy fill her heart. It seemed impossible to live a perfectly clean and clear life open at all times for anyone to read.
On her way back to the sitting room she heard Viviana and Marion talking in the guest room and walked on pensively thinking of Dino and wondering where he was at that moment. Was it possible that he was actually on the Island? Would he survive? What did Viviana feel in this ever-so-British home? Would Tom be able to keep his promise?
She ran noiselessly down the stairs, stepped into the sitting room and stopped short. Tom was just setting down the bottle of Scotch whisky on the tray and the glass in his hand was half full. Their eyes met and for three ageless seconds they stared at one another in silence. Somewhere, at a level neither of them consciously knew existed, they met and mingled. Tom sensed no disparagement in Juli, no derision or bitter disillusion, merely surprise and, obscurely, understanding. Juli, in her turn, felt a wave of panic flash through her, a silent cry for courage and strength. As they stared at one another Juli found herself saying, in her heart. “Please don’t. For Dino’s sake, please don’t.” She noted the fine red veins which formed a network around his pale blue irises, and the dark circles under Tom’s eyes. Their expression of hopeless helplessness filled her with profound pity. So few seconds and yet at that level time did not exist. There was no actual sequence of events or feelings, everything seemed to occur simultaneously.
Breaking up the moment Juli forced herself to walk on. She turned on the TV nonchalantly and heard the glass clink behind her and Tom rush out of the room. Turning, she saw that he had set his glass down untouched. After a moment’s hesitation, she went over, picked it up and took it to the kitchen where she threw its contents away, and returned to the sitting room setting it back on the tray with the others. Then she went and watched TV.
After a while Arthur came in and said, “We’ve decided to go out to dinner, since it’s María’s day off.”
“Do I have to go?” Juli asked.
“Of course not my dear, if you don’t want to.”
“I can stay and see to Peter, or is he going too?”
“No. I’ve just been in to see him. He says all he wants is a little clear soup. Out of a packet will do, and some dry toast. If you really want to stay at home that would mean Marion can come with us.”
“But Arthur, of course.”
“Good. Well, that’s settled then.”
After a little hesitation and some urging on the part of Tom and Viviana, Marion agreed to go out to supper and leave Juli in charge. “Tony phoned to say he’s coming in late,” she said. “The soup cubes…”
“I know where they are,” Juli assured her.
Marion smiled and patted her hand. “Very well then,” she said. “We’ll leave everything in your hands. ‘Bye ‘bye. We won’t be very late.”
They all left and Juli went upstairs to see Peter.
“How are you feeling?” she asked.
“Headachy and stuffed up,” he replied. “Have they all god.”
“Well, I’ll come dowd thed.”
“But why? Much better stay in bed.”
“I wan’t to. I’m sick of lying dowd.”
He clambered out of bed and put on his dressing gown. She noticed it was a new one, navy blue towelling with a white design on the pocket. His pyjamas were also new.
“You look even smarter than Tony,” she grinned.
“Add then, quite suddenly, just like us, wud got better add the other got wuss.”
“ …bad bear learnt his twice times two and good bear … how did it go on?”
“Can’t rebember. Let’s go dowd stairs.”
While Peter watched a film on TV which had already started, Juli prepared his supper. The telephone rang just as she brought in his tray. She laid it in front of him and ran to pick up the receiver, filled with the baseless hope that it might be her father.
Dino’s voice, speaking in Spanish, crackled over the line. “Hola, hola? Familia Carlie? Hola, es 792 …?” he named their number.
“Dino, it’s Juli. Dino, where are you?”
“I’m in Rio Grande in Tierra del Fuego. Is Arthur there?”
“No. He’s gone out. Your parents arrived this evening and they have all gone out for supper.”
“My parents? Oh no! Tell them, Juli… can you hear me?”
“That I’m fine. Warm and safe and …” The thunder of what sounded like dropping bombs and the crackle of anti-aircraft fire drowned his voice for a moment. “…I’m going to write.”
“OK. I’ll tell them that, but Dino, you’re on the Islands aren’t you? I can hear bombs and things. Tell me Dino, I won´t let on.”
“Yes, but tell them what I said, please Juli.”
“I promise. Are you OK?”
“Hellish cold. I must cut off now. There are lots of guys who want to call home.”
“OK. ‘Bye Dino. Good luck. God bless.”
“Thanks. Hey Juli.”
“It’s wonderful to have spoken to you. Pray for us. Pray for us all. It’s not going to be easy.”
The line went dead and Juli stared at the receiver in her hand for a moment or two before putting it back gently in its cradle. Dino was on the Falkland Islands, cold and hungry, the son of an Englishman fighting for Argentina.
“That was Dino,” she said at last.
“How is he?” Peter asked without taking his eyes off the film. She was startled. Was it possible that he had not heard the conversation? But of course, Dino was a stranger, a person who had spent two nights about three weeks ago and left. Dino meant nothing to him. Neither did the war. He never spoke of it.
“He’s in Rio Grande in Tierra del Fuego.”
“Good. He’s lucky.”
Juli walked blindly back to the kitchen, her eyes full of tears. She found it difficult to bear the reality of Dino’s plight and Peter’s amnesia. She drank a cup or soup but found she had no desire to eat anything. “Pray for us. Pray for us all…” From the sitting room she could hear advertisements, light-hearted laughter, vapid jingles and the familiar voices reiterating the wonders of this pudding and those cigarettes. “It’s not going to be easy. Pray for us. Pray for us all…” How would she be able to tell Viviana and Tom what he had said and see their joy and relief when she knew it was a lie? Why had she asked him where he was?
Peter came into the kitchen. “What’s the batter?” he asked.
“Nothing. I just don’t feel like watching TV, that’s all. Do you want anything else?”
“Doe thank you. I think I’ll go to bed. Thank you for supper.”
She smiled. “Good dight Peter. I hope you’ll feel better tomorrow.” He nodded, waved his hand vaguely and trailed off to bed. She washed up their things and went to the sitting room to plan her act for Dino’s parents. Her face felt like old leather, her eyes small and pained. Angrily she got up and went to the mirror in the hall where she made faces at herself in it to loosen up her muscles.
On hearing the family arriving she darted back into the sitting room and then, when they opened the front door she rushed into the hall and delivered her message as breathlessly and excitedly as she could. She need not have worried. Apart from making her repeat the message four or five times, their emotions, excitement, joy and disappointment at not having been there quite made up for her rather pallid effort. Viviana wept. Tom kept repeating, “He may not have to fight at all. It means he may have some job in Tierra del Fuego. Warm and well fed. Thank God. Thank God.”
Marion hugged Viviana. Pamela went to make coffee and Arthur asked Juli if the connection had been clear. She helped Pamela serve the coffee and they had all just sat down when Tony arrived. He greeted the Millers gracefully and heard Dino’s news with real pleasure. “Could you hear him clearly?” he asked. Juli nodded. “How wonderful. That’s great news. What luck you were in Juli. Did he say what he was doing?”
“No, he could only give the shortest of messages. There were…”
The telephone rang and they all jumped. Arthur moved over to it quickly, picked up the receiver and answered. They all watched him for his replies were simple affirmatives and the conversation all in Spanish. “Good-bye,” he said. “God be with you.”
“Who was that?” Marion asked.
“María’s brother,” Arthur replied. “He’s also in Tierra del Fuego. He asked me to tell
María that he is quite well and sends his love to all the family.”
“They must have given all the fellows there permission to ‘phone home tonight,” Tom exclaimed.
“I think if you don’t mind, I shall go to bed,” Viviana said. “This news has made me so very happy. If only we had not been out but at least we have been able to get the message right away.”
The Millers bade their goodnights and went to their bedroom. Marion packed Pamela off sternly. Arthur, who had sat down, stared at a picture on the wall with a serious faraway look in his eyes. Tony said goodnight and disappeared upstairs, and Marion began to put out the lights. “María will be so pleased. Think, both boys in Rio Grande, what a coincidence! What a pity the calls were not inverted, it would have been so wonderful if Tom and Viviana had been able to speak to Dino personally. Did Peter have his soup and toast, Juli? Thank you so much for looking after him. We had a very nice meal, didn’t we Arthur? That’s quite a good restaurant, we must remember it.”
“”Yes,” he said. “Yes, we must. Well …” looking at Juli. “I’ll take you in the car tomorrow and introduce you to Constanza and so on and we’ll work out your schedule. She went to Northlands and speaks good English, her mother is Argentine and her father… Oh, I told you didn’t I? I’m sure you’ll get on well together.”
Juli nodded and said, “I’ll wash up the coffee cups.”
She stacked the cups on the tray and took them to the kitchen while Marion looked on approvingly. It was all very well for Arthur to be so generous and open-handed with his home, but it entailed a lot of work and the house guests who were helpful were always rather few and far between. She sighed and thrust aside a growing urge to have a nice glass of neat whisky. Thinking of Tom she decided it might be best to put all the drinks out of the way and lock the cupboard. He may have made a promise, but knowing Tom …
Sitting in the car beside Arthur the following morning, neatly dressed in skirt and blouse, her anorak over her arm, Juli felt as if she were driving into a tunnel and she was not at all sure that she would like where it led. She had escaped offices, jangling telephones, clattering typewriters, and that indefinable odour of dust, cigarettes and liquid eraser, to say nothing of human jealousies, competitiveness and petty squabbling, and here she was heading right back into the middle of it. The only ray of hope was Isobel’s offer to spend weekends at her little holding. If she had meant it then at least it would mean fresh air, perhaps a little riding, and the flat gently undulating world she had come to love with its enormous skies and ever-changing cloudscapes.
Arthur cleared his throat and said,” When Dino ‘phoned, was there a lot of … noise in the background?”
“Yes. There was.”
“I think the boys were phoning from the Islands. There must have been a raid going on.”
“At that hour?”
“Why not? Any hour is good if it harasses and lowers morale. You don’t seem surprised.”
Juli shrugged and then blushed. “I gave his official message. But yes, he is on the Islands. He said he was hellish cold. Before he cut off he said ‘Pray for us, it’s not going to be easy.’”
Arthur shook his head sadly. “How will all this end, Juli, how will all this end?”
“Do you think it will turn into World War III?”
“No. The British will land and sooner or later the Argentines will surrender. Our army is too young and too inexperienced, the officers quite untried, our arms inferior.”
“Yes, our army, I find I am becoming more and more Argentine by the day. I may seem more British than the British but I was born here and I love this country and its somewhat unworthy people.”
Arthur’s offices were pleasant, carpeted and had plenty of light. Constanza was a friendly, dark-haired young woman of twenty-seven, somewhat talkative but quite ready to accept Juli with no hidden resistance. Juli decided that it would not be so bad working in an office after all, and set about learning her job diligently.
She phoned her father the following day from the office as Arthur had direct dial from there. A luxury; not many offices had had the system installed. He sounded very happy to hear her and noted down her telephone number in order to be able to get in touch should he wish to speak to her.
“Did you get my letter?” she asked. “Asking about Susan?”
“Yes, yes,” he replied a little evasively. “She loves modelling, we only let her do it now and again of course, and only with one photographer. Now don’t start fussing Juli, Paula …”
“Alright, I understand Dad. I just … well I got quite a shock when I saw her in the magazine as you hadn’t mentioned anything about it.”
“You’re not going to come back then, I take it?”
“Well, as I said, not until after the end of June.”
“No danger of being interned is there?”
“There are about 17.000 British subjects in Argentina, I don’t think they’d know where to put us all or how to cope.”
“Look after yourself for God’s sake.”
“I will. How’s Ann?”
“No idea. She never ‘phones.”
“Will you phone her and tell her you’ve spoken to me and that I’m fine and send her my love and that I’ll be writing?”
“And love to Paula and Susan and Bernard.”
“Yes, yes. Tell me, is the Colón still going strong. Has this fuss in the south affected its programmes much?”
As usual, when she had cut off, Juli felt a deep sense of frustration, a desire to dial his number again, to hear his voice and try once more to reach him and force him to care, to really care! What did it matter if the Colón’s programmes had been affected by the stupid war? Why mention the Colón at all? Of course he loved her, she knew he did, but why-why-why? She felt nervous and unsettled for the rest of the day.
News from the South Atlantic wavered back and forth between the announcements by the British and Argentine Governments.
The Naval Force had attacked Port Stanley. Enemy ‘planes had sunk an Argentine fishing boat, and strafed the lifeboats. The 139 servicemen and 39 metal-salvage crew, from the South Georgia Islands, would be returned to Argentina via Ascension Island supervised by the International Red Cross.
Tom and Viviana returned to Santa Fé. After talking it all over with Arthur and his lawyer, and really facing his record of heavy alcoholism, Tom decided not to apply for citizenship. Arthur gave them a generous cheque to help them set up a kiosk in order to have a greater income. Tom accepted it, a little shamefacedly, and wondered why Arthur was always so unfailingly generous to him. He decided it was perhaps because Arthur was not a ‘Varsity man’ and felt a little inferior, and that was his way of showing that he hadn’t done all that badly despite the gaps in his education. The fact that he, Tom, had gone to Oxford was the one and only pole to which he could attach the tattered flag of his self-esteem.
Money was pouring into the recently created Patriotic Fund and Donation Tubs attended by women from different Welfare Institutions appeared in key places all over the city of Buenos Aires. The whole country yearned for victory, to see Argentina gloriously, magnanimously triumphant over Great Britain, vindicating thus all its past shortcomings, its revolutions, its economic chaos, terrorism, and the dirty war this had provoked. Argentina; finally showing the world what a truly great power she obviously was, and always had been. Argentina; the first to have broken the back of the invincible Anglo Saxons! People donated blood and jewels and money. They wanted to win the war so badly they actually believed they would, despite the news that the Queen Elizabeth II had left England for the south with 3.000 troops aboard to help with the imminent British invasion: despite the U.S. and European support for the British government: the trade sanctions and the soaring national deficit.
A Spaniard tried to kill the Pope with a dagger in Portugal on the steps of the Fatima Basilica, exactly one year after the first assassination attempt against him in Rome. The news caused a ripple of consternation through the devout Catholic Argentine souls, but the incident was soon forgotten. The Pope was trying to use his forthcoming visit to England – the first Pope in years to step on British soil – to stop hostilities, but to little avail. The Argentines did not feel they needed his intervention very urgently anyway.
Argentine ‘planes attacked the task force and damaged H.M.S.Hermes. The possibility of a mass landing of British troops was played down by an Argentine Naval source.
Rain brought a welcome relief from the unusual heat and humidity. On Saturday morning Gavin ‘phoned Juli from France.
“Juli, telephone … it’s Gavin!” Pamela called her breathlessly.
“Gavin’s voice sounded astonishingly clear. “Juli? I just got your letter … how are you?”
“Fine thanks, really well. All settled in. I like the work and I feel I shall be able to manage fairly well when Constanza goes.”
“Thanks for how you explained things to Dad. It covers everything neatly. So Hernán went to an agricultural college?”
“Yes. Thrilled. It was what he really wanted to do, but he didn’t dare mention it.”
“No … I just took your push and passed it on.”
“I miss you chèrie, my sparring partner. How is everybody in the Carlie family? Peter?”
“The same. Everybody’s fine, Pamela is making mad signals for me to send you her love. Peter still has amnesia but he’s OK. Tell me Gavin about you.”
After they had talked for about twenty minutes Gavin said, “Give my salutations to everybody. By the way I have just posted you a long letter. Will you ‘phone me when you get it.”
“Yes. ‘Collect’ if you are short of money.”
“You’re bats. Well, I’ll see. Thank so much for ‘phoning.”
“Are you really alright? Marion isn’t fussing is she?”
“Honestly Gavin I couldn’t be better.”
“Ring me if you need anything. ‘Bye chèrie. Look after yourself.”
Juli felt very happy after they had cut off. Cared for and causing concern, how nice! She wondered what was so urgent in his letter that he wanted her to ‘phone him for an answer, obviously something to do with Hernán. Dear old Gavin, how sweet of him to have called her right away like that, he must have realized she had been feeling rather down when she had written. Of course living on the farm was much nicer than living in Buenos Aires, but there was a lot to be said for life in B.A. too, especially, perhaps when one lived with a family like the Carlies and not in some lonely bed-sitter eating hot dogs off a plastic plate for one’s supper.
She wondered how Tishy and Marina were, Dereck had phoned and been advised of Juli’s plans, but he had not given any details with regard to the children. Just that they were all fine. Her mind slid quickly over her memories of Dereck and hovered lovingly over those of Mariposa and Dobbie, of Tishy and Marina singing, of Toffy laughing and waving his arms. How nice to have been able to call Lena up and have a chat. When would the telephone lines reach Los Alamos?
“What did Gavin want?” Pamela asked her later.
“To know how I was and what my plans are,” Juli replied.
“Is he in love with you?”
“Don’t be silly, Pamela, of course not!”
“I’ll bet he is,” Pamela maintained stoutly, and Juli burst out laughing. Pamela began to dance languidly round the sitting room singing: “I’m in love with a wonderful guy,” and waving her arms about her head in a vague imitation of a ballet dancer.
“We’re going to a party tonight,” she sang softly. “But don’t tell Mummy or she’ll say I’m too young. I‘m supposed to be spending the night with Helen Jackson and her telephone is out of order, tra la. Luckily, luckily. I’m going to dance and dance all night!”
“Wouldn’t you like to be Gavin’s girl friend?” she said suddenly, stopping and looking at Juli with interest. “Or at least have a boy friend?”
“Not really,” Juli grinned. “I’m fine as I am thank you.”
“You’re not normal!” Pamela exclaimed just as Peter came into the room, back from his ceramics and quite recovered from his cold.
“Why?” he asked.
“She doesn’t want a boy friend!”
“Oh Juli … what a crime against humanity,” Peter teased her.
“You see,” Pamela chided Juli and left the room in a series of tiptoe twirls.
“Are you free this afternoon?” Peter asked diffidently.
“No, I’m going to see ‘On Golden Pond’ with Rita and Quique. Katherin Hepburn and Henry Fonda. It’s won all the Oscars.”
Peter, disappointed, nodded. He went over to the window to look at his bird table and said, “There’s a Benteveo having a meal.” Juli joined him by the window and watched the brown and yellow bird with its black head and white eyebrow, pecking busily at the seeds and crumbs he had provided. “Would they mind if I went with you?” he asked.
“To the cinema? Of course not. They’d be delighted.”
“How to persuade my mother.”
“Whatever you decide I shall have to side with your mother Peter, otherwise she’ll blame me and then I shall be to blame for everything. You know how she is … if you really want to go you’ll have to insist in spite of both of us.”
Peter looked at her quizzically. “But underneath?” he ventured.
“I think it would be wonderful. It’s time you started breaking the bonds of love and fear. But you can do that only when you feel strong enough.”
Peter gave her ear a tweak. “So you’ll side with my Ma will you? You’re a real friend!” he chided her with a grin.
At lunch Peter looked across at Juli with a purposeful look in his eye and said again, “Are you free this afternoon, Juli?”
Startled, she was about to say ‘But I told you …’ when she realized he was working out a carefully planned strategy, so she repeated her previous reply almost word for word.
“That film has had some excellent write-ups in the Buenos Aires Herald,” he said. “May I go with you?”
“Well …” Taken aback she looked at Marion. “May Peter accompany us, Marion.”
Arthur glanced from Juli to Peter sensing conspiracy, and braced himself. Marion’s reply was as expected. “Oh I don’t think so, it’ll be too tiring for you Peter dear.”
“But I want to go.”
“What time will you be back?” he said, frowning.
“We’re going to the five o’clock session.” Juli clarified.
“Which means you should be back by nine at the latest, unless you had other plans after the film.”
“Not that I know of,” Juli bit her lip. “But I agree with Marion. It might be a bit too tiring for Peter.” She looked straight into Arthur’s eyes, willing him to understand.
“If all Peter ever does is rest,” Pamela declared stoutly. “He’ll never be anything but tired.”
“Arthur …” Marion glared at Arthur who went on unperturbed. “I think it’s a very good idea, Marion dear. He’ll be with his best friends and they can all come back here for a pizza if they want. It’s time Peter started getting out and about a bit. Pamela’s quite right.”
“I sound like a prize specimen of some very peculiar species of insect,” Peter said. “Dad’s right Mother. I must start facing the world whether I have amnesia or not.”
“Arthur,” Marion cried, her face crimson with fury. “How can you encourage Peter like this? He’s already been to Ceramics today. I …” Words failed her.