A tear leaked out of his eye, rolled off his nose and hit the title page of the book. That just made things worse so he placed the book back on the side table and looked forward and blinked a lot.
He took a sip of the wine and realised that it tasted salty. He wondered why, but then he felt another tear hit his top lip and he knew. He never usually cried, in fact he hadn’t for years, in fact he knew the exact date, or rather the last time he had cried. He started thinking about it, and then he stopped. He consciously thought, loud enough in his head as though he’d said it, “no point raking over old coals.” So he thought about other things. Like how lovely his setting was. He’d arranged it all so that he could be found properly. So somebody would walk in from the hallway and see this kindly old gentleman (which is how he viewed himself and was actually accurate) reclined in an armchair by the fireplace, with a glass of wine, a bottle and fresh glasses within reach. But they never did come in, they hung around in the hallway and in the kitchen and in the dining room. Blast them, blast them and their continuous music and standing up.
And anyway, he thought, who would talk to him now he’d been blubbing. He probably looked really drunk. And anyway he had this theory that young people thought he was dead most of the time. Why did he have to go and find that book? Out of all of the ones on the shelves. There were so many to choose from, but it was his memory. It was starting to confuse things. Why hadn’t he realised it was that book? The book with the missing first page?
Even now he hated that boy. It was a blank page of a book. Why should it have mattered so much? But it did. Now every time he reached for his wine glass he saw it again.
He contrived a move of his body in the chair that would absolutely ensure the book fell on the floor. And it did. But it fell open right in front of him, displaying its wound. Celebrating it almost.
It had been almost seventy years since it had been ripped out. But the scar was just as severe today as it had ever been. That boy had forced him to give up everything. His tuck, his magazines, a slingshot and a Dan Dare badge. It seemed like nothing now, but then those were all the things that were his, and he took them all. The boy had taken everything that defined him. And all he had saved was the rest of this book. It was the only thing the boy had allowed him to keep, and he hadn’t dared show it to anybody. Because the scar revealed far to much of him.