The Digital Age
The early 1990s saw Nelson
Mandela released from prison, the onset of the Gulf War and outrage at genocide
James decided to let Number Seven rather than sell it. By doing so, he didn't have the bother of disposing of furniture although he put a classified in Friday-Ad advertising Anthony's collection of suits - all too large for him since James was a much slimmer version of his cousin. When he found a box of Jasper's theatrical costumes and masks - presumably left behind by mistake - he locked it away in the attic box room intending to get rid of it later. The Sanders Menswear Shop was put on the market as a going concern but failed to find a buyer. This was largely due to its old-fashioned sartorial stock and the fact that business had dropped off, the majority of its regular clientele having dwindled due to the passing of the years.
At the start of the school term, four students from the local college moved in. Simon and Max arrived first, claiming a bedroom each. Holly and Mel came two days later, agreeing to share the largest room. The girls already knew one another as they were second year students but for the boys this was their first time away from home.
'I hope you realise you've got to muck in with the chores,' announced Mel.
'Of course…' Simon winked at Max.
'We're not going to let you off because it's your first year. Your mothers may have done everything for you at home but me and Holly aren't going to step into their shoes.'
Holly looked a bit uncomfortable as she listened to Mel laying down the law although, having three brothers herself, she knew how easy it would be for the boys to get away with not pulling their weight.
Thus with four young residents Number Seven took on a new lease of life.
As friends go, Mel and Holly were miss-matched. Mel was the only child of divorced parents and it hadn't taken her long to learn how to manipulate them. She only had to ask for something and one or other would provide it. Holly, on the other hand, had been brought up in a large family and was used to mucking in and doing her bit.
'Look Mel, the garden's lovely!' Holly exclaimed after they had unpacked and found time to go and inspect outside. 'The landlord must have got a gardener in to tidy it up before we arrived.'
'It says in the contract that we can help ourselves to all the fruit and vegetables but we've got to mow the lawn and do a bit of weeding. The boys can do that.'
'I don't mind doing it,' said Holly. 'I like gardening. We're lucky, the house has been spring-cleaned; it's much better than the place I rented last year.'
'Mine too,' agreed Mel, 'and we've got to keep it like this; we've got to start off on the right foot with the boys.'
However, her good intentions came to
nothing. Both Simon and Max left unwashed plates and dishes on the worktops and
forgot to clean the hob after they had used it. They hogged the television and
left coffee stained mugs on every available surface. It became clear that
neither of them had ever used a
'What the hell's going on?' she demanded.
Simon looked up from his kneeling position. 'I'm mending a puncture.'
'Well this isn't the place to do it.
'Don't fuss, I'll be finished soon.'
'I'm not fussing. You should mend your bike outside in the garden.'
'I couldn't, it started to rain.'
'That's your problem. I dread to think what the landlord would say if he could see you. Don't splash that water and make sure you don't get grease on the carpet. We don't want to forego our deposit.'
Simon lost his cool. 'I've spread newspaper over the precious carpet so it won't get damaged. What more do you want?'
'I would just like to know where we're supposed to eat this evening?'
'Off our laps?'
'You can but me and Holly are civilized and we want to eat at the table.'
'Stop going on, Mel, you're worse than my mum.'
'Well, I'm not your mum and as we all have to share this house, you've got no right to bring your bike indoors. Trouble is with you Si, you've been mollycoddled.'
Simon stood up and waved his spanner at her. 'Shut your face!'
'Don't threaten me!'
Simon took a step forwards, obliging Mel to back away.
'What's going on?' Holly stood in the doorway. Looking from one to the other, she repeated her question.
'Simon and I were having a little altercation,' said Mel, her tone rife with sarcasm. She gave a sniff of disdain as Simon sank to his knees again.
Holly dropped her rucksack and pointed at the dismantled bike. 'What's that doing in here?' As she spoke, she realised her words were the echo of her mother's on the day she had come home from shopping to find one of Holly's brothers cleaning the engine of his motorbike on the kitchen worktop.
'You may well ask,' replied Mel.
Simon opened his mouth to explain when Max turned up. Looking over Holly's shoulder he raised an enquiring eyebrow.
Mel lost patience. 'Get that fucking thing out of here a.s.a.p. and don't bring it in again.' She stamped her foot, reminding Holly of a naughty toddler. 'Never again, got it?'
'I could hear you shouting halfway down the road,' said Max.
Simon stood up and pointing at Mel, said, 'That bossy bitch is laying down the law again.'
'Well, if she's objecting to bike parts being spread out in here, she does have a point.'
'Okay, okay,' said Simon realising that he wasn't going to get support from Max. Sinking down onto his haunches, he spread out his hands, palms upwards. 'I'll clear it up and finish off outside.'
For the time being, the squabble was over but as the weeks passed tension between Simon and Mel developed into outright warfare. The other two kept their distance although occasionally they found themselves drawn into the arguments. Quite often Holly or Max would go the extra mile and tidy up after Simon in a bid to avoid yet another confrontation.
By Christmas the atmosphere was so tense that they were all relieved to go home to their families for the festivities.
After the Christmas break, Holly returned to Number Seven with mixed feelings. During the vacation she described the situation to her mother, who advised her to take a softly-softly approach.
'I expect it will blow over,' said her mother, 'but of course if you're not happy staying there then find other digs.'
'I don't want to move out,' explained Holly, 'I like the house and I like the other students most of the time. Actually, I like Max all of the time and I'm prepared to put up with Simon's couldn't care less attitude so long as the arguments stop. Maybe I ought to have a word with Mel.'
'Well dear,' said her mother, 'just don't get too involved.'
But Holly was determined to sort things out and the opportunity arose that evening when Mel arrived home ahead of Simon and Max.
'Can you go easy on the boys, Mel, especially Simon…' she said after they had exchanged their news.
'He's a bloody troublemaker, that one,' sniffed Mel.
'He's all right as long as you don't rub him up the wrong way.'
'He rubs me up the wrong way, you mean.'
'Whatever. But we've all got to live together and it doesn't help if you and Simon are at loggerheads.'
'I can't bear the way he takes advantage, he's lazy, he's rude…'
'He's been better lately.'
'I'm simply sticking up for our rights as sharing tenants; there's nothing wrong with that. Sorry, Holly, I won't let him get away with it.'
Holly gave a shrug, knowing there was no way she could change Mel's attitude. She decided to have a word with Max but it was tricky trying to catch him on his own. As luck would have it, she bumped into him in the corridor at college the next day.
'Hi, Max, have you got a moment?'
He grinned at her and she warmed to his friendly smile.
She briefly explained her worries about Mel's obdurate standpoint.
'Yeah, I know what you mean but what can we do about it?'
'Erm, I was wondering whether you could talk to Simon, get him to ease off a bit; you know, fall in with Mel's rules whenever possible. Actually, her rota system is pretty fair.'
Max nodded. 'I'll have a word.'
Over the Spring Term things improved and Holly could only imagine that Max had worked his magic on Simon. She never got around to asking him because the explanation was unexpectedly revealed. One night she woke up feeling thirsty and decided to go downstairs to get a glass of water. Without switching on the light, she crept past Mel's bed so as not to wake her. On her way back, on hearing voices as she passed Simon's door, Holly paused to listen. They had all agreed that there would be no overnight visits from girl or boyfriends. She heard giggles followed by a high-pitched 'shhh' then the unmistakable sound of noisy bedsprings. With a gasp, she hurried along the landing to her own room. It seemed that once again Simon was breaking the rules.
In her haste, she accidentally knocked her leg on the end of Mel's bed. 'Sorry,' she whispered, hoping she hadn't woken her room-mate. There was no response.
Climbing into bed, she drew the duvet up to her chin and glanced towards the other bed squinting as her eyes became accustomed to the darkness. The bed was empty. Suspicions arose: had Mel and Simon become more than flatmates?
For the next few days, Holly kept her suspicions
to herself. She didn't want to admit it but she felt jealous of Mel, who seemed
to have everything: long blond hair, large grey eyes, a figure to die for added
to which she seemed to sail through her course work without any trouble. Now
she had gained the attention of Simon who oozed charm despite his argumentative
nature. He was tall and athletic with fair wavy hair and had the good looking
square-jawed features of a
Holly studied herself in the wardrobe mirror and grimaced at her sleek black hair and well-defined eyebrows. Her skin colouring was quite dark, a throwback to her Sri Lankan grandfather. Her mother, who was light-skinned, assured her that she was lucky because she didn't get sunburnt but Holly didn't see this as a great consolation.
She kept her suspicions about Simon and Mel's relationship to herself, surprised that their friends hadn't spotted it. One day after college, a group of students decided to meet for a BBQ on the beach. It was a pleasant evening and the tide was out. As the light began to fade, Holly noticed that Simon and Mel were no longer in the midst of the gathering. This was unusual since Simon was nearly always the life and soul of any party. All at once, she saw them running towards the pier, hand-in-hand. Unable to contain her curiosity, she slipped away unnoticed and followed them. On reaching the pier instead of heading for the entrance, they sneaked underneath it and, although by then the sun had set and it was quite dark, Holly couldn't miss seeing Mel leaning against one of the stanchions with Simon pressed close to her. His hands pushed up her skirt and then he lifted Mel off the ground so that she could wrap her legs around him. Holly gave a little gasp: she had seen enough. Turning on her heel, she raced back along the beach to rejoin the others.
Holly continued to behave normally towards Simon and Mel. It was easy with Simon because he seemed so besotted by Mel that he didn't seem to notice her anyway. As for Mel, Holly deliberately avoided girlie chats with her, claiming that she needed to study. At college they went their separate ways since Mel was doing geography and biology and Holly, English literature. Then one day Mel cornered her.
'Do you fancy changing rooms, Holly?'
'What d'you mean?'
'Well, you must have gathered that Simon and I are an item.'
'We…?' Holly wasn't going to make it easy for her.
'Me and Simon thought you would like to have a room to yourself. I mean to say, you'd have more privacy and you wouldn't have to worry about me chattering on all the time.' She gave a laugh. 'You know how you like to get your nose into those books of yours.'
Holly took time to reply. Obviously it would be more convenient to have a room to herself. 'I'll have to think about it,' she said. She was taken by surprise when Mel rushed over and gave her a hug. 'I haven't said yes,' she muttered, pulling away.
'No but you said you'd think about it, and that's great.'
Of course, in the end Holly agreed to change rooms and the swap went without a hitch except that Max looked a bit surprised when he came home and found everything different.
'I didn't know they were together,' he said to Holly. 'Why didn't you tell me?'
'It's up to you to notice things for yourself,' she retorted, then felt guilty when she saw the hurt look on his face.
Everything continued smoothly until the middle of the Summer Term when Mel came home from college with a furious look on her face.
'What's up with you?' asked Holly, backing away as Mel strode though the dining room into the kitchen.
'You'd better ask that bastard Si,' she stormed.
'Why, what's he done?'
'The two-timing moron is chasing after that ginger-haired Scotch bitch…'
'Scottish,' corrected Holly automatically.
'…whatever, that airhead in Biology.'
'Who? Tamsin Kennedy? She seems nice to me.'
Mel grimaced. 'She's sugary sweet, behaves as if butter wouldn't melt in her mouth but underneath she's a bitch.'
'Are you sure they're seeing one another?'
'Of course I'm sure.'
'What are you going to do?'
'I'm going to have it out with him. He's in deep shit I can tell you.'
Mel flounced out of the room and stomped upstairs.
Holly got on with cooking her omelette but she couldn't help flinching when Simon came in.
'What's up?' he asked, seeing the expression on her face.
'You'd better ask Mel?'
'Oh shit, she's seen me and Tamsin. What mood is she in?'
'A not very good one,' replied Holly, adding grated cheese to her omelette.
They both jumped when they heard a thump from upstairs.
'What was that?' said Simon.
Holly checked her oven chips. 'I think you'd better go and find out,' she said, switching the oven off.
Simon dashed through the dining-room bumping into Max on the way. 'What's going on?' he demanded.
Holly rolled her eyes. 'Mel's having a tantrum.'
'It sounds more like a revolution.'
By now they could hear the fighting pair's shouts and more thumps on the landing.
'I think she's chucking him out of her bedroom,' said Max, 'it looks like you might have to move back in with her so that Si can have his room back.'
Shovelling her omelette and chips onto a plate, Holly snapped, 'She can't do that.'
'No way, I'll not stand for it.' She tossed her head. 'I like being on my own, why should I jump to Mel's command?'
'I agree with you,' Max said with a grin. 'Look, if it comes to that, I mean if they don't patch things up, I'll back you all the way, Holly.'
'Thanks Max,' she said impulsively planting a kiss on his cheek.
For a moment he looked surprised. Then he grinned and took off his glasses to give them a wipe and, as he walked away, Holly couldn't help thinking that without them, Max was a good looking boy.
The next morning things turned out differently to the way Holly expected.
'You'd better hurry up, Mel or you'll be late for college,' she said when Mel trundled downstairs still wearing her pyjamas.
'I'm not going in,' she said.
'Why not, don't you feel well?'
Mel shrugged. 'What's the point I'm not interested in either geography or biology. I only stuck it out because of Simon. Honestly, I never wanted to do further education, my dad made me.'
This surprised Holly. Perhaps when his daughter reached the age of eighteen, Mel's indulgent parents had decided to put their foot down and force her to take her studies more seriously.
Holly tried to cheer her up. 'You're just feeling low. Why don't you come to college with me and later on today, maybe you and Si will make it up.'
Mel glowered. 'Not likely, yesterday he made it perfectly clear that we're finished. And do you know what…' She jutted her chin. 'I'm glad because now I can leave college with no regrets.'
'But surely he was only flirting with Tamsin. You're far prettier and more fun than she is, Mel. He won't last long with her.'
This wasn't quite true because
Tamsin Kennedy was a very attractive red-head with green eyes and pale freckles
across her nose. She was quietly spoken with an
Mel shrugged. 'I'm not interested in Si any more. He's history...' She paused, '…but out of curiosity, where did he sleep last night?'
Holly wasn't sure about Simon being history. Mel's interest in where he slept last night didn't seem like idle curiosity, but she kept her opinion to herself. 'He kipped down on the floor of Max's room. Anyway, get dressed and come to college with me. You'll feel better later on.'
But Mel couldn't be persuaded, so Holly went off on her own.
At four o'clock she went home hoping Mel would have changed her mind but once inside Number Seven, the house seemed unusually quiet.
'Hello Mel,' she called up the stairs but there was no answering greeting.
She went out to the garden but although there was an open Danielle Steel novel on the grass beside a garden chair, Mel was not there. Going back indoors she went upstairs and knocked on the bedroom door. No reply. Tentatively, Holly opened the door and peered inside. The room was empty and it didn't take her long to realise that all Mel's possessions had gone. Rushing back downstairs, she found a note on the dining room table, which said: Dear Holly, can't hack it, gone home, now you can have your old room back, love Mel.
Holly sat down at the table with the note in her hand. She hadn't taken Mel seriously enough. She had been confident that Simon and Mel would soon be back together again. They were an ill-assorted couple but they had seemed genuinely fond of one another. She wondered how Simon would react when he heard the news.
In the event, both Simon and Max were shocked to learn that Mel had left.
'Why on earth does she want to give up now when she's nearly finished her course?' said Max.
'She told me she doesn't want to do either geography or biology,' said Holly.
'She wanted to do a beauty and hairdressing course but her father wouldn't let her. She dreamt of opening a beauty salon one day,' mumbled Simon. 'She told me she hated what she was doing and the people on the course.'
'But why wait until now to leave?' asked Max.
Simon lowered his head into his hands. 'This is all my fault.'
Holly cast him a searching look. 'Don't be dramatic, Si, how is it your fault?'
'I let her down. The Tamsin incident didn't mean anything. I told her that but she wouldn't believe me. She might have stuck it out if I hadn't messed around.'
Holly shook her head. 'No, Si, it would have come to a head eventually. She's never been happy here. Look how she bossed us around when we first moved in; it was because she didn't want to be here. It's got nothing to do with your relationship.'
But Simon wouldn't be convinced. Shaking his head, he said, 'No, I'm responsible.' He went to the door then stopped and said, 'If you want to move back into the big room, Holly, it's all right with me.'
There was a strained atmosphere in Number Seven during the last few weeks of term. To cheer them up, Max suggested throwing a party before they left to go their separate ways and it was arranged for the following Saturday.
Thirty students descended on Number Seven, filling the rooms and overflowing into the garden. The music which started at a reasonable level soon reached untenable decibels and it wasn't long before the neighbours started to complain. Holly did her best to pacify them. But worse was to come. Vodka and lager flowed like water and when one or two of the students were seen sprawled on the lawn out of their heads she got really worried.
'It's time you left,' she shouted above the din but nobody heard her.
Max joined her. 'This wasn't a very good idea was it?' he said. 'I didn’t count on so many gatecrashers.'
'Yeah, head bangers too! Where's Simon?'
Max looked at her with soul-full eyes. 'He's upstairs with Tamsin.'
'Oh God, thank goodness Mel isn't here.'
She spoke too soon.
'Hi…hi every…everybody.' Mel stood in the kitchen doorway with a bottle of Vodka in one hand; the other was planted on the wall to steady herself. 'I heard you were having an end-of-term shindig so I thought I'd come along.'
'She's well tanked up,' Max whispered to Holly, who hurried over to the latecomer.
'It's lovely to see you, Mel,' said Holly. Taking her arm, she led her to the patio and sat her down on one of the garden chairs.
'I don't know.' Holly looked pleadingly at Max, hoping he would take the hint and warn Simon.
It was too late. At that moment, Simon and Tamsin came into the garden. His arm was draped around her neck and she was giggling, her head leant on his shoulder. They were clearly drunk.
Mel stood up. 'You bitch,' she shouted at Tamsin, who looked back at her with a vacant expression on her face. But Simon was not so far gone and he quickly ushered Tamsin back into the house. Mel picked up her bottle of Vodka and stumbled after them.
'Stop her, Max!' cried Holly.
Max reacted quickly and ran after her but he was stopped when she slammed the kitchen door in his face. He wrestled with the door handle but Mel's back was pressed against it and through the window, Holly saw Mel smash the Vodka bottle against the worktop. What followed was like a slow motion scene from a movie. Simon stationed himself in front of Tamsin to protect her and because of this he took the full force of the broken bottle as Mel brandished it in the air and brought it down on the side of his head.
He fell to the floor, blood pouring from a wound on his forehead while Tamsin screamed hysterically. Shocked by what she had done, Mel dropped to her knees beside Simon, whimpering, 'I'm sorry, I'm sorry…'
Max pushed the door open and he and Holly rushed inside. Taking out his mobile, he called for an ambulance while Holly ran upstairs to fetch a supply of towels in order to staunch the blood. All the while, the music gained momentum and the other students continued to drink, smoke and chatter, oblivious to the drama unfolding in their midst.
While waiting for the ambulance, Max took charge. Switching off the stereo he told the party-goers to leave. Some of them were so far gone that it was up to the more sober amongst them to organise their departure.
By the time the ambulance arrived there were only half a dozen people left. The paramedics carried Simon out. The police came too, wanting to question Mel but she seemed unable to comprehend that she wasn't allowed to go in the ambulance with Simon and it took a long time for a WPC to calm her down. They took her away in a police car leaving another policeman to talk to Holly and Max.
'Do you know what motivated the young lady to do this?'
'It was an accident,' said Holly, casting a sideways glance at Max.
He backed her up. 'Yes, the bottle got broken and Mel, being a bit the worse for wear, picked it up and dropped it accidentally hitting Simon on the head.'
'I doubt that she actually dropped it,' said the policeman.
Yes, thought Holly, Simon's six foot two and Mel is only five foot six so she could hardly have dropped it on his head.
Max tried to explain. 'Well, she kind of flourished it but she didn't mean to hurt him.'
The questions went on and on but at last the policeman left.
'Do you think they believed us?' asked Holly. 'I mean, that it was an accident.'
'Time will tell,' replied Max.
'We'll be off now,' said one of the lingering partygoers and the others followed him out.
'Let's ring the hospital,' said Holly. 'God, I hope Simon's all right.'
Their enquiry revealed that Simon had a slight concussion and needed stitches to the wound on his forehead
'Phone again tomorrow and we'll know more,' the nurse advised.
'Have his parents been told?' asked Holly.
'Yes, they're by his bedside. I expect they'll want to have a word with you tomorrow.'
Holly's heart sank. Suppose Simon's parents blamed them for what had happened! She looked around at the chaos left since the departure of the students and then gasped, 'What happened to Tamsin?'
'I haven't seen her,' said Max.
'You look in the garden, I'll look upstairs,' said Holly.
She found her curled up asleep on one of the beds in the front bedroom and even though she shook her several times, it was clear that Tamsin would have to stay there until she woke up the next morning.
Neither Holly nor Max was able to sleep that night. At two o'clock Holly went downstairs to find Max nursing a cup of tea.
'So you couldn't sleep either,' he said, 'the kettle has only just boiled if you want one.'
'I would never have believed Mel could do something like that,' said Max.
'I know; it was an awful shock.'
'You've known her a while, was she always hot-tempered?'
Holly shook her head. 'To tell you the truth I hardly knew her at all. We were casual friends at college last year but we weren't in shared digs. I suppose you only really get to know someone when you live under the same roof as them.'
'I suppose so.'
'Well,' said Holly, finishing her tea, 'we'd better go back to bed. I hope Tamsin doesn't wake up too early tomorrow morning.'
'So do I.'
'I keep wondering what the repercussions are going to be,' said Holly.
They found out the next day when Simon's parents came to call on them. Graham Bellingham was a daunting figure. He was a mature version of his son but several stones heavier, his hair which must once have been fair was grey where it existed for it encircled his pate like Friar Tuck's. His wife, Marjorie, was a small mouse-like woman who remained mute throughout most of the encounter, content to let her husband do the talking.
'Simon tells me it was your idea to have a party, young man,' Graham Bellingham said, addressing Max.
'Everybody agreed to it,' replied Max defensively.
Mr Bellingham looked around the room, taking note of the chaos from the night before. 'It looks more like a pub brawl than an end-of-term party,'
'It's still early and we haven't had time to clear up,' protested Holly.
'I don't think your landlord is going to like the mess you've made of his premises.'
This thought had occurred to Holly too but she didn't want to face that problem yet.
'How is Simon?' she asked.
Graham Bellingham's frown deepened. 'He's recovering but he'll have a permanent scar on his left temple.'
Holly clapped a hand to her mouth. 'Oh dear, I'm so sorry; poor Simon!' She rushed on, 'Please give him our love…'
Max nodded in agreement but Mr
'We didn't,' said Max, 'they were gatecrashers.'
'You should have been more careful about the people you let in,' thundered Mr Bellingham.
Holly shivered as his voice reverberated around the room.
'Can I get you a cup of tea?' she asked in an endeavour to calm the situation.
'Yes please.' Marjorie Bellingham spoke for the first time. When Holly started towards the kitchen she found her close on her heels.
'Can I give you a hand?'
She was about to refuse the offer of help then realised that Simon's mother wanted to speak to her on her own. From the other room, her husband was still grilling Max, who surprised Holly by patiently standing his ground. She felt sorry for him and nervous too and she had to make a conscious effort to stop her hand from shaking as she filled the kettle.
'His bark is worse than his bite,' said Marjorie in a soft voice. 'You see, Simon is our only child and he's the apple of his father's eye.'
Holly lit the gas then said, 'You know, Mrs Bellingham, we had no idea that Mel was delusional and we didn't expect her to turn up at the party.'
'Yes, I've heard the police are referring her for psychiatric treatment. Poor girl, I'm sure she didn't mean to injure Simon. Did she show any signs of her condition when she was living here with you?'
'None at all,' replied Holly although several scenarios where Mel had seemed somewhat unbalanced flitted through her mind. 'But she was a bit possessive of Simon.'
When the kettle boiled, Holly made the tea and went back into the dining-room, followed by Mrs Bellingham. Both Mr Bellingham and Max were sitting down now and although the former still looked annoyed, the atmosphere seemed to have cooled. Over a cup of tea, things improved even more and by the time the couple left, Graham Bellingham's expression was less disgruntled. He strode off without a backward glance but Marjorie Bellingham hesitated. Taking Holly's hand she addressed them both, saying, 'Despite what my husband told you, I don't think Simon's scar will be permanent.'
After they had gone, Holly and Max looked at one another with relief.
'We'd better start clearing up,' said Holly, 'and I think Mr Bellingham is right, our landlord is not going to take kindly to the damage…' She glanced around at the stains on the walls and the scratches on the table. 'We'll lose our deposit.'
Several days later, the landlord, James Sanders, came to inspect the damage.
'Of course, you'll lose your deposit,' he said, 'but I realise what happened wasn't your fault. The police have kept me informed and from what they've told me, you two tried to keep order. I gather that the young lady who made the attack was of unsound mind. It's lucky she didn't cause more harm to your friend.'
'She didn't know what she was doing,' said Holly. 'We're really sorry about the mess. We've cleaned up as best we could.'
'I can see that,' said James. He smiled. 'As a matter of fact, I have teenage children of my own so…'
'Thank you for being so understanding, sir,' said Max.
'Just the same, young man,' replied James, resuming a more serious expression, 'you will have to forego your deposit.' His gaze went to the suitcases standing in the corner of the room. 'Are you leaving today?'
'I am,' said Max, 'but Holly's dad is picking her up tomorrow.'
'Well, you're welcome to stay until Monday; that's when your lease runs out.'
'Thank you,' said Holly and Max together.
After James Sanders had left, the pair looked at one another and burst out laughing. 'Well, that wasn't too bad, considering…' said Max.
'I thought he was very reasonable,' said Holly. 'What time is your train?'
Max hesitated before replying. 'It's at six o'clock but I don't have to leave today. I could stay and we could spend our last weekend together.'
'God, Max, you make it sound like a final farewell, who knows we might bump into one another again some time.'
Max looked doleful. 'I doubt it, after all, you've graduated and you'll soon be busy job-hunting.'
'You're coming back next year, aren't you?'
'Yes, my final year.'
'I don't live all that far from here, Max and my dad's promised to buy me a car now that I've passed all my exams; I could drive down to see you sometimes.'
'I'd like that.'
'Will you rent a room here in Number Seven again?'
'Oh, I don't think I'd want to, Holly, it wouldn't be the same without you and Simon.'
'I know.' Holly did a mini-pirouette, swinging her arms. 'I've loved living here despite the ups and downs.'
'So have I.'
Max went to pick up his suitcase but Holly stopped him. 'Please stay. You're right, we could have a lovely weekend together just to wind up the college year. I'll ring my dad and tell him not to come until Monday.'
Next up: ‘The New Millennium’