And so. The end of my story. I'd like to tell you that my parents got back together again and we all lived happily ever after. That didn't happen. At least the bit about my parents getting back together again didn't happen. Mainly on account of Dad being married to Jo. But I do see him more often now. We go fishing. You can laugh if you like. Plenty of other people have. But I'm good at fishing. Dad says I have “nimble fingers”. We go to Shoreham beach and fish from the rocks. Depending on the time of year, we might catch flounders, plaice, dabs, codling or whiting. If we need a hook on the line, or a new lure, Dad gives them to me to tie. I can do them faster than he can. All that experience with needles and knots and feathers, you see. The first time he saw me moistening the nylon to get the knot secure he said: “Who taught You that trick?”
I just shrugged. He never asked me about the sewing. Never really asked why I was crying that night at the Sharing. That's also why fishing is so good for us, we can be together, be companionable, without really having to say much.
“Can you do me a tucked half-blood knot?”
“What would you say to a sandwich, Robert?”
Previously it would have made me furious. I would have thought we were drifting by. But there are some things that don't have to be spoken. Maybe can't be spoken. His love for me. It's quite clear. As clear as Ernest's love for Mrs Sorrel. And I'm not in the business of pushing Dad away, burying him, blaming him. I want him close by. As much of him as he can give. And he gives what he can, when he can, I know that. And I make it enough. One day, when I know how, I'll tell him how much I love him. But then again, maybe I won't. Maybe he knows already.
As for Ernest, I'd like to say that we keep in touch. More than that, that we've become close, a grandfather, grandson relationship. But that hasn't happened either. I think Ernest has spent so long inside his own stern prison he finds it difficult to walk free. We meet occasionally, at the graveyard, him with flowers, me with my thoughts, and we nod and smile and he asks how I am and I say “I'm fine.” There's a new stone by David's. It has Edith's name on it and her dates and one word “Reunited”. The pigeons sit on this stone and I don't shoo them away. Edith wore the coat of feathers in her coffin, was buried in it. That was Ernest's choice. So I reckon the pigeons have a right. As for the hot chocolate, Ernest never repeated his offer and I’ve never mentioned it. I'm not at all sure what we'd say to each other over hot chocolate. All I know is that he's glad of me and I'm glad of him.
The papers got bold of the story. There was a journalist there that night at the Sharing, as well as the photographer. Dick Miller. He claimed to have heard Mrs Sorrel singing. I always wonder whether it wasn't actually Niker who told him about it. Niker who needed to download, to talk about the song because it was so extraordinary and so raw and didn't make any sense. At least to him. In any case, when Miller found out who Mrs Sorrel was, he dredged up the “tragic boy” story of thirty years ago, then added in Chance House and the new developments there and then he had a story. His story. A newspaper story. He missed the Firebird connection completely and I didn't tell him, though he asked for am interview.
“Did she think you were her son? Did she think you were David, is that why she sang, after all these years?”
I told him nothing. The paper ran the story anyway. They got David's age wrong and also Ernest's name. They called him ‘”Eric”. I was glad about that. It made the story what it was - nothing to do with anything. But they did mention how David died of asthma and how he had, all those years ago, attended the school that became my school. Which I didn't know, and maybe it wasn't true, but it gave me an idea. Maybe our school should honour David, the memory of him, what be stood for. I mentioned it first to Mum.“What a good idea,” she said. “You could link it to asthma awareness. Maybe even link it to the National campaign. The David Sorrel Asthma Awareness Day”
I stopped the idea right there. Because of course I didn't want that at all. I wanted what Mrs Sorrel would have wanted, “A Boy Who Can Do Anything Day”. And I realised you can't really have days about that, it's something that comes from inside. Something that comes from a touch or a belief or a hope. Something that takes root when you stand up and say “No” to a boy like Jonathan Niker.
Jonathan Niker. I'd like to say that we became, if not fiends, then respectful of each other. That did happen. Not, finally because of any action of mine, but because of something he did. The day after Mrs Sorrel's funeral, there was a knock at my door. I answered it to find Niker and Kate standing on my doorstep.
“Johnny has something for you,” said Kate.
As soon as Niker reached for his pocket, I knew what it was. What they were. The feathers. Niker brought them out, the grey and broken Chance House feather and the white one from the beach.
“He did have them,” said Kate. “Clenched in his hand when he fell.
Niker extended his hand, palm open and presented the feathers. “And others say,” Niker said, “that when he awoke the following morning he found two golden feathers shining on his pillow, and these feathers brought him, courage and love and luck for all of his life.”
He said it gently, seriously, and I knew he meant the gift not just for me but also for Mrs Sorrel. “Thank you,” I replied. And then I added, just in case: “It wouldn’t have made andy difference. She would have died anyway. You know that?”
Later I took the feathers to my room. Love - I am blessed enough in that. Courage - I plan to learn more of. And luck. Luck. If Mrs Sorrel taught me anything, she taught me that you make your own luck. I put the feather in a drawer.
And then there's Kate. I expect you want to know what happened between me and that angel with the dimple? Sorry I can't tell you that. At least not right now, because, well, it's kind of a long story…