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Shadow on the Sun Ch.7: Shadow on the Mind's Eye by Nils DurbanA somewhat out of place and foreboding grin appeared upon his face and vanished just as quickly. Sleet felt suddenly perturbed by this and untimely second thoughts surfaced momentarily at the forefront of his mind. He banished these with an almost imperceptible shake of his head and watched as Perry preceded to skip airily up the half dozen steps onto the terrace and navigated the handful of tables to where Sleet was sat.
Sleet adopted a premeditated nonchalance, choosing to sip once more at his coffee rather than acknowledge Perry's presence.
"Mind if I sit down?" Perry asked.
Sleet looked up at his boyish features and noticed once again the nervous tic which twitched away at the corner of his eye. For no reason that he could put his finger on, Sleet experienced a sudden feeling of pity for the younger man. What if he was as much a victim of circumstances as he was himself? He gestured expansively towards the three plastic chairs which were arranged around the table. "Help yourself."
Perry took the closest seat to his own and leant forwards conspiratorially, a somewhat desperate look in his eyes, as if he was struggling to contain whatever words of wisdom he had come to impart.
Before he could begin, however, he was distracted by the waitress who had also noticed his approach and was making her way towards them. Perry held up a hand to forestall her. "Nothing for me," he said, dismissively.
"We don't want any interruptions," he said, returning his attention to Sleet, "do we?"
Sleet looked him in the eye, "I suppose not, no."
His attention was then attracted downwards to where Perry's hands were wrestling uncontrollably with each other below the table. Perry self-consciously placed them both upon the table top before him and interwove his fingers, locking them together.
"There are things that you want to know, Sleet," he began, "I realise that. And there are things that I definitely need to say. All that I ask is that you allow me to say my piece and then, once I'm done, I will genuinely try to fill in any gaps for you. After that, I will tell you what's going to happen next and then we will arrange our next meeting. Does that all sound okay to you?"
"Not totally, no," Sleet replied. "I'm not overly impressed with you telling me what's happening next. I wouldn't assume that it's going to pan out like that if I were you."
Perry smiled at him, a trait which Sleet was rapidly finding unnerving rather than comforting. "I'm sorry, Sleet. I didn't mean to sound dictatorial. It's just the way it's going to be, that's all. I'm not going to force you into anything."
"I don't really see how you could."
"No," Perry glanced away across the street in the direction of the reservoir, "of course not."
"Start talking then," Sleet said, "I haven't got all day and I do want some answers."
Perry turned his attention to where his hands were folded together on the table top. "I have told you no lies, Sleet. I am, or was, a student, and quite a gifted one, or so I was repeatedly told - I'm not trying to blow my own trumpet, you understand?"
Sleet nodded impatiently, keen for Perry to get to the kernel of his story.
"I was invited to London to work for a short while with a friend of mine.