Every night Mother leaves a bath-towel by the kitchen fire, in case Oliver finds his way home. ‘He must be chilled to the marrow,’ she says. The rest of us lie in the dark of our double bed, top-to-tail-to-top, and wait for the thrum of the rain and the thrash of the trees and the crunch of his boots on the gravel path. Every morning, Mother buries her face in the still-warm, still-dry towel. ‘I can smell him,’ she whispers. No one wants to tell her: it’s the stench of the river, seeping up through the floorboards.
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