‘Um . . .’ He looked sheepish. ‘Can I refuse to answer that question on the ground that it might incriminate me?’
‘And did you think that you were going to spend the night with me, tonight?’
‘I hadn’t planned anything. And as I said, this, right here, is absolutely fine with me.’ He kissed her and although Emily was beginning to get cross with him, she couldn’t resist kissing him back. Losing herself for a few more minutes in a world where the rain didn’t matter, other people didn’t matter, tomorrow didn’t matter either.
‘In my defence,’ he said when they had finished, ‘I didn’t spend the night with Cynthia. As soon as I saw you again, all I could think of was you.’
‘So you spent the night in a park.’
‘Thinking of you.’
‘Robbie, you can’t spend the night in a park again.’
‘It doesn’t matter. I’ve spent the night in worse places. A little rain doesn’t bother me.’
Emily looked at the rain sheeting it down. As she made the decision, she was aware that it was probably the only rash one she’d made in her life so far.
‘Right,’ she said. ‘Come with me.’
She grabbed his hand and pulled him out into the rain. They ran together, through the empty streets, across the bridge and down Sidgwick Street until she saw the light above the porter’s lodge at Newnham. Then she stopped him and drew him into the shadows.
‘Can you climb?’ she asked him breathlessly.
‘All right. Go past the college, turn left, hop over the first wall you see into the gardens.’ She pointed along the side of the college. ‘Go right round to the back of the college, and wait. In a few minutes I’ll turn on my light and open the window and you’ll see which room is mine. It’s on the first floor.’
Robert grinned. ‘We’re doing a Romeo and Juliet, are we?’
‘We’re doing something bloody foolish and if I get caught I’ll most likely be sent down, so you have to be careful, Robbie.’
‘I will.’ He crossed his heart. ‘Swear it.’
‘So am I.’
‘Somehow I doubt you’re ever fully serious.’ Yet he appeared to mean it, and he couldn’t stay out here in the rain, so what else could she do? She kissed him swiftly on the lips and then ran to the lodge to sign in.
‘Got caught in the rain?’ asked Howard the porter, jovially.
‘The weatherman said it wouldn’t start till morning,’ Emily replied, and it was that exact moment that she realised she was still wearing Robbie’s jacket. ‘Goodnight, then.’
‘Miss Greaves!’ called the porter after her, and she turned around in dismay. ‘Almost forgot. Telephone message for you.’ He held up the slip of paper and Emily, hardly able to breathe, went back to retrieve it. Your mother rang to say your sister was home safe and sound and she hopes you have not fallen behind on work.
‘Could have told her myself, you’re never behind on work,’ said Howard, winking at her. She managed a smile in return and hurried out, towards her room.
What was she doing? She was risking her education and her career for a man she’d only just met? A man who slept rough and picked up women on a whim?
A man who kissed like an angel. But then again, he’d probably had quite a lot of practice.
She let herself into her first-floor room and turned on the light. Her essay was where she’d left it, on the bed. She could leave her window closed. She could pick up her essay and go through it one more time, as she’d planned to do. She could let Robbie take care of himself. He’d said he didn’t mind the rain, and he was leaving tomorrow, forever.
Emily went to the window. She couldn’t see Robbie outside, only darkness. Maybe he’d left anyway. Maybe he couldn’t get into the gardens. Maybe he’d had a better offer between the front and the back of the college – another student on the ground floor, maybe, with a more convenient window.
She opened the tall window and leaned out, into the rain, and he was there in the light cast by her lamp. ‘Romeo, O Romeo,’ he mouthed to her. She shook her head and pointed at the old lead drainpipe bolted to the wall. It was roughly halfway between her room and her neighbour Adrienne’s; she didn’t speak much with Adrienne, who was studying art history, but rumour had it that Adrienne had let in a boy last term.
Robbie slung his bag over his shoulder and began climbing immediately, hand over hand, like he’d been shimmying up drainpipes all his life. Perhaps he had. Emily assessed the drainpipe, wondering how he’d get from it to her window, but before she could consider it properly, he’d scrambled across using the ivy and was holding out his bag for her. She took it and pulled it in, and Robbie grabbed the sill with one of his hands and swung his leg over it.
Then he was in her room, dripping wet and smiling and hardly breathing heavily at all from his climb.
And oh dear, what was she going to do with him now?
She shut the window, drew the curtains, and put her finger to her lips. ‘You have to be very quiet,’ she whispered to him. ‘No one can hear you.’
He nodded. She took her towel from her peg and handed it to him, but he shook his head and pointed to her hair. She dried herself off first and then he took it. ‘Do you have any dry clothes?’ she whispered.
‘The stuff in my bag shouldn’t be too bad.’ He knelt and began to open it. Emily took off his sodden jacket and hung it from the back of her chair. She glanced down at herself and saw that her wet white blouse was stuck to her skin, revealing her white bra and the shape of her body.
Robbie’s shirt was stuck to him, too. He had broad shoulders and a dark shadow on his chest where there was hair.
She swallowed, for the first time really understanding what it meant that she’d done.
‘I’ll get changed in the bathroom,’ she said, grabbing pyjamas and a jumper from her chest of drawers. ‘There’s a spare toothbrush on the sink.’
She fled the room. The corridor was empty; she ducked into the bathroom she shared with four other girls and locked the door behind her.
In the mirror over the sink, her eyes were bright, her cheeks red. Her chin was pink from rubbing against Robbie’s beard stubble as they kissed. Her hair hung in damp rats’ tails around her face. She looked panicked and bedraggled, and . . .
‘Kissing in the rain,’ she whispered to her reflection. It was a thing that Emily Greaves did not do. Emily Greaves who was so busy studying, always trying to please her exacting mother and her admirable father. She’d never had time or opportunity to kiss in the rain. She’d never met a man whom she wanted to kiss in the rain.
What was she going to do with him?
She stripped off her sodden clothing; she was wet to the skin. Robbie must be too – he hadn’t even had his jacket – but he’d seemed happy to stay in that doorway with her all night, until he had to leave in the morning.
She changed hurriedly, the pyjamas sticking to her wet skin as she pulled them on. A slip of paper fell out of her skirt pocket: the telephone message from her mother.
Her mother. Her mother would kill her if she knew Emily had a strange man in her room at night. The depths of her mother’s disappointment would know no bounds.
Emily was surprised to hear herself giggle.