That night Banks lay in Ginger’s bed and stared at the ceiling, feeling desperately lonely and confused. The room was filled with Ginger – his childhood toys, model airplanes, aircraft recognition charts from the last war, a shelf with books, even his clothes. The collection of things hinted at an individual with many facets Banks had not had a chance to learn about. Ginger and he had not had that much time together, and the war had dominated everything. They had shared their thoughts and feelings about flying, fighting, the Germans, the war, other members of the squadron, even their views about God and death. But what did he know about the Ginger who collected stuffed animals? The Ginger who read Treasure Island and Rudyard Kipling?
He could never replace Ginger to Mr Bowles, Banks reflected, any more than Mr Bowles could be a father to him. Their worlds were too different. Pretending he was ‘home’ here was even more ludicrous than pretending he was ‘home’ in Hamburg. He was an orphan, drifting alone through life, trying to make friends but unable to hold onto them. His memories of Ulli, Joachim and Andreas were fading. He remembered them as youths, and they were now men. Ginger would always remain twenty, of course, but how long would he remember their few weeks together? And how much of Ginger had he known at all?
Very gradually, but unavoidably, Banks started to feel something strange. He sat up and looked around the room. He had the strong feeling that someone was in the room with him. The boards creaked as though someone was moving around slowly. The model airplanes turned gently on the air as if someone had walked by. Banks remembered what Mr Bowles had said: Ginger had shaken him out of a deep sleep to tell him to go to East Grinstead.
Banks had never believed in ghosts. He didn’t want to believe in them. He resolutely dismissed his feelings. They were nothing but the after-effects of so much morphine, he told himself. They were the product of emotional and physical exhaustion. He was imagining everything.
Banks turned over and pulled the bedcovers over his shoulders. The cottage might have been cleaned and tidied, but it was still draughty. This was England at the end of April, and the air was chilly and damp.
Banks drifted off only to wake again with a start. Something had awoken him. He looked around the room as fear held him in a rigid grip. There was a noise outside the door, and Banks went stiff with terror. No, it was just the dog, Bessie. She slept with Mr Bowles in the bedroom across the landing. She had apparently slipped out and had just returned.
He closed his eyes, but his ears strained for other noises. He heard footsteps, and sat bolt upright, searching the darkness. There was no one in the room.
Ginger spoke from right beside the bed. “Thank you for coming, Banks. I know you could have gone to Colin’s Aunt.”
The voice was completely human. It was not breathy, quavering, echoing or distant. It was clear and resonant.
This cannot be happening, Banks told himself, not daring to move. Surely, if it were a ghost, he’d see something? But the room was utterly empty; there were no eerie lights, shadows, or transparent figures. Banks closed his eyes and lay down again, his heart thundering in his ears.
“Dad doesn’t expect you to replace me,” Ginger continued reasonably. “He knows better than to think anyone can do that. He knows you have your own life and will go your own way. Just stay for a day or two, or as long as you like. I think you’ll like the moors.”
Banks sat up again and searched the room, but Ginger was gone. He lay down on his back and stared at the ceiling for a long time. Before he could make sense of what had happened, exhaustion overwhelmed him, and he fell asleep.
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