The Julian Calendar – excerpt

This unformatted excerpt is of the first five pages of The Julian Calendar by William Henry. The novel features alternate chapters in the voices of the two main characters, Daniel Jamieson and Julian Marriot. The excerpt includes the first ‘Daniel’ chapter (one) and the first ‘Julian’ chapter (I).


When he whom I love travels with me or sits a long while holding me by the hand,
When the subtle air, the impalpable, the sense that words and reason hold not, surround us and pervade us,
Then I am charged with untold and untellable wisdom, I am silent, I require nothing further…

Walt Whitman (1819–1892)


Prologue

Dearest Bridget,

At last, words you will want to read: I give up.

I cannot understand how a year of words has produced precisely nothing. I still don’t understand why you had to leave. I don’t understand why you love fear and not me. But I do understand that I have to stop.

I have failed. We are lost. Love does not conquer all. Communication is not omnipotent. I am disproved and you are free.

Really, I expect nothing from you. You cannot let me down. You’re ‘all clear’ for whatever it is that you don’t need us for. And I will get on with letting go of my old life — not the breathtaking one I spent so briefly with you because you have already taken that from me, but the paralysing one I have endured this past year imagining being with you. This one, I must stop.

I want you to know I have decided to return to London. Don’t worry, I’m not trying to return to our old world, I just need diversions and London is filled with them.

You are right. I loved you too much. I won’t make that mistake again.

Daniel


Summer

June 1992


one

Question. Have I returned to London so I can take a step forward, or a step back?
The answer, Daniel, is forward.
   I look at the number in my diary. This is a good idea. A forward-stepping sort of idea.
   I dial the number. I hear a click.
   ‘Six-four-eight-two.’
   ‘Mr Marriot?’
   ‘Speaking.’
   ‘This is Daniel Jamieson. I’m a friend of Terry’s.’

Terry Marriot is an old university friend. I don’t recall the first time he mentioned his uncle, but the circumstances were always the same. I would be raving on about some book or movie and Terry would say something charming like, ‘You’ve got to meet Uncle Julian one day. He’s just as ga-ga about all that arty stuff as you, ya big girl’s blouse.’
   Terry was one of those purposeful, career-minded students, loudly focused on his law degree and on drinking a small ocean of booze. I was one of those ‘arty’ generalists, happy just to soak up the whole higher-learning thing between travelling abroad during the long summer holidays.
   Terry’s uncle has invited me for afternoon tea and, as I make my way to his Holland Park address, I wonder what kind of man he will turn out to be.

I find the house without difficulty. It is a two-storey stone building, almost church-like, with a large, wooden front door. The door is Gothic-shaped and black with age, making it difficult to see the heads of the dozen or so handmade nails holding together the wizened planks. A thick iron ring hangs from the centre of the door and I thump it just as I notice the small buzzer to the side of the door.
   I wait a few moments.
   Nothing happens, so I press the buzzer. The muffled ring of a bell emanates from somewhere deep inside the building.
   A full minute passes before I hear the short phrase of sounds that is a key turning the inner metal organs of a lock.
   The door swings open.


I

“Hello. You must be Daniel. I’m Julian.”
   I made an effort to sound cheery and was quite sure the young man standing before me noticed the slightly artificial tone to my voice. He smiled (to put me at ease?) and I saw that he had an open, childlike quality, yet a grown-up presence and face; the face not old-looking, you understand, but showing a certain strength of character. I was instantly intrigued.
   By rights, I should have been intrigued from the moment of his call earlier in the day. Terry had never sent me one of his friends before, so I suppose I should have known Daniel would be special in some way. But I really wasn’t prepared for his … yes, his presence.
   He is tall, you see, and athletic, like a runner. His hair, neatly kept, is honey blond. His eyes dark, skin tanned, lips just so.
   “Come in,” I said.


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