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Hexagon - Chapter 1

As the massive bulk of the aircraft carrier edged away from the flag-waving crowds on the quayside, Robbie Ogilvy reached across the table for another slice of bread.
‘A month.’ His brother Jacko’s eyes were fixed on the screen. ‘Give it a month. Two at most. It’s just the Argies, after all, we’ll beat them easy.’
‘Since when were you a military expert?’ Robbie said.
‘Shut it, dork!’
‘So make me, muscle brain.’
‘Stop it!’ their father snapped. ‘Both of you! Eat your soup or the set goes off!’
‘It shouldn’t be on at mealtimes anyway,’ Mrs Ogilvy said. ‘You’re as bad as they are, George. When Katherine arrives tomorrow we’ll have no TV until dinner’s finished.’
The boys looked at her, appalled. Their father didn’t seem too happy, either.
‘Come on, Mum! It’s only for the news,’ Jacko said. ‘Ten minutes, max. And Katherine won’t mind, she’d want to watch it too. Her dad’s probably on board, if they’ve brought him back.’
‘That’s beside the point. Having the TV on at meals kills conversation.’
‘Doesn’t show much sign of doing it, then, does it?’
‘Less of your cheek, laddie,’ Mr Ogilvy growled. He got up, walked over to the TV set and pressed the off switch. ‘Your mother’s right. We’ll catch up later. It’s not as if anything’s happening yet. They’re just on their way.’
‘Beats me why they need to go at all,’ Robbie said.
Jacko grinned. ‘Why don’t you phone Thatcher and tell her? I’m sure she’d be fascinated.’
‘Look, just because you can’t wait to -!’
‘Now that’s enough, both of you!’ Mrs Ogilvy put down her spoon. ‘If you can’t sit down together for five minutes at a stretch without bickering, go and eat in the kitchen!’
They finished the soup in uncomfortable silence. Mrs Ogilvy took away the bowls and brought in the main course.
‘So what’s this Katherine like, then, Mum?’ Robbie said finally, when she had ladled the stew onto the plates and sat down.
‘You know very well. She and her mother were here six summers ago. You can’t have forgotten.’
‘Come on! I was nine! And she was what, twelve?’
‘Eleven. Her birthday’s a month before Jacko’s. Even so.’
‘You saw her last year, didn’t you, when you went down for the funeral?’
‘Getting excited, are you, Robbie?’ Jacko said, helping himself to potatoes, his eyes on the spoon. ‘Don’t bother. She won’t even look at you, boy.’
Robbie turned on him. ‘You can just -!’
‘Now that is it!’ Mr Ogilvy’s hand hit the table, hard. ‘You’ve been told already. If the two of you can’t take part in a civilised conversation you’ll eat elsewhere and give us some peace for a change. Is that clear?’
They stared at him.
‘He started it,’ Robbie said sullenly.
‘And I’m finishing it. If it was Jacko tonight it’d be you some other night.You’ve been acting recently like a pair of five year olds. Worse.’
Jacko picked up his plate. ‘Fine by me,’ he said.
‘Stay where you are!’ his father snapped.
Jacko shrugged and set it down again. ‘Okay,’ he said. ‘So what was she like, Mum?’
‘Just an ordinary girl,’ Mrs Ogilvy said. ‘Quite pretty, very like her mother when she was young to look at, although that wouldn’t mean much to you. Quiet, but then she would be, under the circumstances.  I didn’t see much of her, actually. She came home for the funeral, but her father thought she’d be better off going back to school straight away, to be with her friends.’
‘Par for the course,’ Mr Ogilvy muttered, reaching for the vegetables.
‘Now that’s not fair, George,’ his wife said. ‘Bob couldn’t stay long himself. He’s quite senior, remember, and he had a lot of arrangements to make before he went back out.’
‘Oh, yes. I know that. But it was a strange setup to begin with, him on posting abroad, his wife in London and the girl away at boarding school most of the year. They didn’t even meet up for holidays, half the time.’
‘None the less. And with Pauline gone now, not to mention this Falklands business, things are even more difficult for him. Having Katherine for the Easter holidays is the least we can do. She is a relative, after all, however distant.’
Mr Ogilvy grunted and concentrated on his stew. Then he looked up and pointed his fork at Robbie and Jacko.
‘I’ll tell you now, though, you two,’ he said. ‘There’ll be none of this nonsense while the girl’s here. You can be at each other’s throats again every minute of the day if you like after she leaves, but while she’s under this roof you’ll behave in a civilised manner. Is that clear?’
Jacko scowled at him, then shrugged. ‘Sure,’ he said. ‘No problem.’
‘There had better not be. Robbie?’
‘Yes. It’s clear.’
‘Just remember, then.’
‘Besides,’ Mrs Ogilvy said, ‘it’ll be good for you to have someone your own age in the house. Barring that one visit I don’t think Katherine’s been to Scotland very often. Not to this part, anyway. You can show her around.’
‘Oh, great,’ Jacko murmured.
‘And don’t forget, she isn’t used to boys. She’s an only child and she’s spent most of her life in an all girls’ boarding school.’
‘Which doesn’t mean you can take any liberties,’ their father said. ‘That’s another thing I want you to remember.’
Jacko grinned. ‘Hear that, Robbie?’ he said. ‘Hands off, little brother. As if you need the warning.’
‘I’m talking to you both,’ Mr Ogilvy growled. ‘Just remember she’s a guest, and behave accordingly.’
‘I’m sure she’d be interested in the stone, for a start,’ said their mother. ‘She’s seen it before, I know, but she’s probably forgotten.’

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