Tim was on the phone trying to make sense of the torrent of words coming down the line.
“Slow down, Cal. Tell me again what’s happened.”
He listened intently as Cally recounted the morning’s disastrous events.
“So I think I’ve lost all that information, all our records. The computer crashed, taking it all with it. I knew it was old and it’s been a bit glitchy, but I never expected anything like this.”
“Did you have it all backed up anywhere?” Tim asked, though he knew the answer already from how devastated Cally sounded.
“No,” she said quietly. “I know, a basic error. You never think it’s going to happen to you, and you don’t realise how catastrophic it’ll be until it does.” She sighed wearily. “Hindsight, eh? Gets you every time.
“This is where you make my day by telling me the Army trained you to be a computer whizz,” she pleaded.
“I’m afraid not. Computers just aren’t my thing.”
The silence between them stretched down the line. Tim felt for her. He longed to be the one to come to her rescue, but computers were a mystery to him. He racked his brain for a solution.
“Wait a minute,” he said slowly.
She’d phoned him on his mobile and caught him as he was cleaning out one of the old out-houses which he had an idea to turn into a training space. In his opinion there were no such things as bad dogs, just dogs who’d been allowed to develop bad habits. But that wasn’t the only bright idea sparking in his brain.
“Cally, give me ten minutes and I’ll phone you back. I need to check on something.”
“OK,” she said, and he could tell from her tone that she thought he was falling back into his old habit of not supporting her when she really needed him.
He walked as quickly as he could back to the house, to the kitchen where there was still a tall column of boxes in the corner – belongings that he’d never yet got round to unpacking.
“Which box, though?” he muttered, and began to unstack them.
He’d forgotten that he’d scrawled brief descriptions of their contents on each, and when he found the one bearing the word Mates in red letters, he nodded.
“You beauty! That’s the one I want.”
He took it to the table and started to excavate its contents.
Cally had given Tim ten minutes and twice that again, but half an hour later he hadn’t rung back, and her impatience was making her tetchy.
“He shouldn’t say he’ll ring when he has no intention of it.”
She was muttering furiously as she stood alongside Marna painting one of the fences. They had left the inert computer, naïvely hoping that it just needed a rest, and had distracted themselves with the task of sprucing the place up ready for inspection. But Cally just couldn’t get Tim’s rushed tone out of her head.
“He made it sound like I was getting in the way of something more important he had to do.”
“Oh, Cally.” Marna paused in loading up her brush with more paint from the pot on the ground between them. “You know that’s not what he’s like. He has animals, too. You know how they come before anything else when there’s a problem.”
“Well, yes, but –”
“But?” Marna echoed, twisting to slosh the paint from her brush on to the wood before it dribbled down her wrist. “I don’t understand why you’re always so quick to believe the worst of him. He’s a really decent bloke.”
“I know,” Cally agreed.
Marna put down her brush and turned to face her.
“Have you been let down by a guy in the past? Is that it?”