Sunday serialisation – Knight after Knight, 18.1

Knight after Knight250

In Knight & Deigh, Hannice Knight suffered a back injury that left him without the use of his legs. Sophie Deigh, physiotherapist and recent widow, devoted herself to supporting him.

As Hannice’s body recovered, he became ever closer to Sophie, and soon they found themselves in a relationship they had neither anticipated nor intended and for which neither was fully prepared.

A bump in the Knight followed Hannice as he juggled business, hedonism, marriage and ultimately parenthood.

Knight after Knight is the third and final part of the Hannice Knight story. Starting after the marriage of Hannice and Sophie’s only son, David to Jess, the only child of Jason and Noelani Reeves of Hawaii, it traces the Knight family’s progression through the generations.

Knight after Knight. Chapter eighteen, part one.

Time passed.

The one thing I had feared most; being inactive and vegetating, didn’t happen. David kept me involved by copying me in on everything he sent or received, even claiming at one time that I was de-facto co-Chairman of the group. Although I was less mobile than I had been, I was still able to walk. It was harder work, and I could no longer spend long periods on my feet. I had stopped driving beyond the gates of the estate when some tests showed that my reactions were no longer quick enough for me to drive safely at motorway speeds, and the deterioration of my eyesight meant that it was increasingly difficult for me to look at the road and the car’s instruments, even with varifocal lenses.

That didn’t mean I was housebound – far from it, in fact. I could make my way to the car unaided and one of the drivers could take me wherever I needed to go. I chose not to go to London, though. I was becoming less comfortable in crowded places. David did ask me to attend a number of Board meetings, where I was more an observer than a participant but was still able to exert some influence. Latterly, my attendance had been virtual, making use of the teleconferencing system that we had set up for the regions.

Sophie’s – I mean Hannah’s twenty-first birthday eventually came around and I was, of course, present. I had only recently passed my eighty-ninth birthday which went by with only a very small celebration, but no way was Hannah going to get away with that. The great hall at Knight Towers was decked out for a massive celebration and something like two hundred guests arrived. And what a mix of people they were: all ages from late teens to, well, eighty-nine.

I didn’t stay too long – there’s a limit to how long I can take three-digit decibels without pain – but during the time I was there, I had a great time. Sadly, I had outlived all my peers, so I couldn’t enjoy the company of any of the people I’d worked with during my active days. That’s not quite true; Lindy and Tanja were there. They had both retired by then; Lindy was approaching his seventieth birthday and Tanja was only a year or so behind. They had each run their own regions, Lindy looking after Africa from Dar-es-Salaam and Tanja covering Europe from Amsterdam, both with great and enduring success. Lindy’s husband, Roger, had died a couple of years before his retirement. Max and Mercy, their adopted children, were still in Dar, sharing a large colonial-era house, and invited Lindy to move in with them when he had to leave Nocturne. On her retirement, Tanja, who had never married, also moved in with Lindy – interestingly, on the same basis that Max and I had lived together. They were best friends of more than forty years standing and complemented and supported each other. When I said I needed to leave because the noise level was causing me discomfort, Lindy and Tanja said they’d like to come with me.

Although I had been on my feet for much of the evening, I’d used a wheelchair to get to the party – Hannah had pushed me there, leaving the chair in the lobby. Lindy offered to push me back, but Tanja pulled rank as the younger and, I suspected, the fitter of the two. She pushed me to the house and into the lift. She and Lindy took the stairs – there isn’t room for two people and a wheelchair in the lift – and we went through to my flat.

“How are you finding Africa?” I asked Tanja.

“Rather different from Amsterdam,” she said, “and not just the weather, either. I had a bit of culture shock. I think if it hadn’t been for LJ it would have been overwhelming, but he’s great.” She took Lindy’s hand and gave it a squeeze. The look they shared suggested that what they had between them was a little more, a little deeper than Max and I had shared.

“It’s great seeing you two together at last,” I said, “I think you should have been together a long time ago.”

“We couldn’t,” Tanja said, “there was no way on earth I would have done anything to come between LJ and Roger. They were so right together.”

“That’s very noble of you. I don’t know if I could have done that.”

“Max did,” Lindy said.

“What do you mean?”

“Didn’t you know? Max was in love with you.”

“When? I didn’t know anything about that.”

“Honestly, Boss,” Lindy said, his voice tinged with exasperation, “do you seriously think she would have held on to your job in Dar for you, and done so much to arrange for your care and all the other things she did if she weren’t in love with you? It wasn’t easy for her, you know.”

“It never occurred to me. She never said anything. Why?”

“I can answer that in one word. Sophie. Max would no more have come between Sophie and you than Tanja would between Roger and me.”

I was stunned. “I can’t believe I was so dim,” I said.

“I can,” Tanja said, “because LJ was, as well.”

“It looks like you and I have a few things in common, young man.”

“Ooh, thank you, Boss. I can’t remember the last time someone called me a young man. But yes, we do have things in common, particularly where our women are concerned. I think we’re both a bit obtuse. But I think that’s the only thing that’s alike about us,” he said, pursing his lips into a mock kiss. I don’t mind admitting that made me feel a little uncomfortable.

We had a grand chat, though. Lindy and Tanja were still in my flat when the party broke up and Hannah popped in to make sure I was okay.

“I’m fine,” I said, “Hannah, do you know Lindisfarne Aldredge and Tanja Voorwinde?”

“I think I may have met you when I was younger,” she said, turning to my guests, “but I’m afraid my memory of the meeting isn’t great.”

“Don’t worry,” Tanja said with a chuckle,” we were probably younger then, too. Not the pair of old codgers we are now. Happy birthday, by the way, Hannah. Did you enjoy your party?”

“I did, thanks. And thank you for rescuing Grandpa, I didn’t think he’d last too long down there.”

“Cheeky girl. I did more than an hour without baling. Anyway, can you see if there’s a spare room for my guests, please?” I turned to Lindy, “You will stay, won’t you? You shouldn’t need to drive back this late.”

“We’ve only got one spare room that’s not booked, Grandpa. Will that be okay? It’s a double.”

“I expect we’ll manage,” Tanja said, with a wink to Lindy.

“It’s the room next to yours, and it’s already made up,” Hannah said, “if you need nightclothes—”

“No need,” Lindy said, “I don’t know about Tanja, but I always sleep au naturel.”

Hannah blushed.

Moi aussi,” Tanja said, then she looked at Lindy and said, “voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir?”

Hannah blushed some more.

“That’s rather formal, isn’t it?” I asked.

“It’s a song.”

“I know.”

“Okay. Maybe I could say ‘voudras-tu coucher avec moi ce soir?’ Better?”

“Much,” I said, “aren’t you going to respond to that invitation, Mr Aldredge.”

Mais bien sûr, mon amour,” he said.

Poor Hannah. It’s a funny thing, young people have few inhibitions in their own relationships, yet have great difficulty with the concept of sexual behaviour in their parents or in people of their parents’ or grandparents’ age.