For several weeks Metropolitan passed on to me a variety of crank calls from readers about my mind-control article. Several people claimed to have been subject to brainwashing while in perfectly ordinary hospitals, one woman insisted she had been attacked by a plastic daffodil that wanted to kill her and a farmer wanted to talk to me about how deadly nightshade was not deadly at all, if taken in small enough doses. What this had to do with mind control, he could not say, but he believed propaganda was just another form of mind control and he was sick of the campaign of propaganda against deadly nightshade.
These calls I humoured as best I could and investigated those worth even a second glance, all without success. Just when I was beginning to despair of ever learning more about the Glasshouse, I received a letter that had been sent to me care of Metropolitan. The letter had been written in a halting, hesitant scrawl with many erasures and additions. While the missive carried no surname or postal address, the content was enough to convince me the writer was certainly worth meeting. Her letter made mention of several different incidents I had been trying to tie together.
The writer, a young girl calling herself Dodo, had included a telephone number where she could be contacted during evenings only, and I spent an impatient day waiting to ring her. Finally, I got through to what proved to be a halfway house for the homeless. A new innovation to London, such places had been set up by the charity Shelter, which was formed after a controversial television documentary called Cathy Come Home had publicized the plight of the homeless.
‘Hello? I wanted to speak to a woman called Dodo?’ I asked, suddenly feeling foolish. Was this strange name real, a nickname or a codeword? For all I knew, the letter was an elaborate hoax or even an attempt to entrap me. The voice on the other end of the phone was confused for a moment before responding.
‘Oh, you mean Dorothea! I'll just get her.’ Less than a minute later a quiet, nervous woman spoke to me.
‘Who is this?’
‘My name is James Stevens, I write for Metropolitan magazine. You sent me a letter?’
‘I'm not sure I understand...’
‘It was about the Glasshouse.’ A long pause followed. I almost thought she had hung up but I could still hear background noise from the hostel. Finally, she spoke again.
‘I remember now, you wrote an article about mind control. I need to tell you about what happened to me at - that place...’ She hesitated, almost saying the name but stopping herself, as though afraid of even speaking it aloud. What was she frightened of?
‘The Glasshouse?’ I asked.
I wanted to press her further, but it was obvious she felt unable to talk over the phone. She seemed even more paranoid than me. We arranged to meet at a small café near Clapham Junction train station, late the next morning. ‘How will I recognize you? I don't know what you look like,’ I pointed out.
‘Carry a copy of the latest Metropolitan. I'll find you,’ she promised. In the background the level of noise in the hostel swelled to a crescendo. ‘I've got to go now, it's dinner. We're having mince tonight!’ She sounded excited, as if mince were the culinary highlight of her week. What kind of woman was this mysterious correspondent, who stayed in a hostel for the homeless and called herself Dodo? What did she know about the Glasshouse and why did it scare her so much?
So far I had only received warnings and threats about the Glasshouse. Its inclusion in the mind-control article had been a shot in the dark, now it seemed I might be close to a breakthrough. What happened at the Glasshouse, and why did the few people who were willing to even acknowledge its existence clam up when it was mentioned? Even my anonymous telephone informant who was happy to talk about UNIT at length had warned me away from the Glasshouse - why? Perhaps Dodo could provide the answers to at least some of these questions.
The next day was bitter, the start of a typical pre-Christmas cold snap. As I travelled to Clapham Junction, the papers were full of the Queen signing a state of emergency declaration about the power crisis. Industrial disputes with electricity workers were causing power cuts across Britain and it was going to be a long, hard winter unless the problem was resolved soon. I had already stocked up on candles for the house and was thankful the heating and kitchen were mostly gas.
Getting to the café thirty minutes early, I ordered a mug of scalding tea and read through the latest issue of Metropolitan. Around me the early morning trade of construction workers piled into plates of eggs, beans and chips with toast and tea, while office workers rushed in to grab two slices of toast and coffee to take away. The café was an archetypal ‘greasy spoon’, complete with a shouting cook in the kitchen and blousey manageress behind the counter who seemed to know every customer on sight.
The half-hour passed quickly but there was still no sign of Dodo. Not knowing what to expect, I had envisioned a wild-eyed woman in her late forties looking for a quick hand-out in exchange for some gossip she had picked up on her travels. On the phone it had been difficult to assess Dodo's age and origins, because her accent seemed to shift between well-educated Oxbridge tones and a coarser smattering of Cockney.
Nearly another hour passed and still I waited, nursing another tea and some toast to placate the loud, blousey Italian manageress. Earlier she had pointedly wiped down my table twice, in an effort to move me on, but now the early morning rush was over she seemed content just to glare at me from behind her counter. Only a handful of customers remained besides me, and most were lingering over morning papers, delaying the unhappy journey into work as long as possible.
Finally, I despaired of my appointment ever arriving. I started rising to leave when a quiet voice to my right startled me.
‘I'm Dodo.’ The speaker was a young woman, in her early twenties, 25 at the most. She had been sitting at the table on my right for at least 45 minutes and I had hardly noticed her because she did not match my preconceptions of what the mysterious Dodo would look like. Now, she stood up and approached me nervously. Short and slim, she was wrapped up in a heavy hounds-tooth duffel coat that had seen better days. Most of its buttons were missing and a blue silk tie wrapped around her waist held the coat together. Her feet were only partially protected from the cold by broken leather boots, at least one size too large for her feet.
I invited her to sit down and called the manageress to take our order. She was unhappy about Dodo's presence in her café. ‘I've seen this one around before; she is a trouble maker!’ the manageress said in a stern Italian accent.
‘There'll be no trouble,’ I assured her, before ordering a full cooked breakfast for Dodo. The young woman sitting opposite me quietly said she had no money and could not pay. I handed the manageress a five pound note and told her to keep bringing food until my guest was sated. Dodo did not react hungrily to this rather crass display, so I guessed she was not simply after some quick cash. As she ate in delicate, small bites, I took the opportunity to study her more closely.
Her oval-shaped face was pale and without any make-up. Her dark hair was in a short, untidy bob and had not been washed for several days, the greasy fringe masking a few pimples on her forehead. Strong black eyebrows arched over her hazel-green eyes, which kept darting nervously towards the doorway of the café. Her mouth was wide with thin lips and opened to reveal slightly crooked teeth.
Her hands were small and delicate, with broken fingernails that had been bitten back to the quick. She wore no jewellery and had no watch, glancing up at the clock above my head every few minutes. I guessed she originally came from a well-to-do family in the suburbs, judging by the very proper way she held her knife and fork. Her upright posture too spoke of many lessons spent learning the correct way to sit and stand. Someone had brought Dodo up to be a proper young lady, although a trace of Cockney in her voice suggested she had not always lived in the suburbs.
She ate heartily, as if the simple fare were a rare treat. After two full breakfasts, she placed her plate to one side and carefully wiped the corners of her mouth clean with a paper serviette. Clasping her hands around a chipped enamel mug of steaming tea, Dodo looked at me. ‘Well, what do you want to know?’
I shrugged. ‘What do you want to tell me? You wrote to me, remember, you have something you want the world to know.’
‘I don't know where to start,’ she said nervously.
‘How did you see my article?’ I asked.
‘The magazine, I found it on a park bench, someone had left it there. I saw the cover about mind control and read your story inside. I knew I had to talk to you, to tell you what happened to me.’
‘What did happen to you?’
‘I'm not sure.’ She put a thumb to her mouth and began biting at a jagged nail as she spoke, keeping her voice to a murmur that no one else would be able to easily overhear. ‘I suffer from blackouts, memory losses. Sometimes I have flashbacks to events I couldn't possibly have witnessed, strange visions I can't explain.’
‘I imagine myself in the Wild West during a shootout, or else I'm on some sort of ship where there are monsters with only one eye. Sometimes I have dreams where I'm being attacked by dancing dolls.’ She watched me to see how I was reacting. ‘I know, I know, it sounds like I'm crazy, but these visions - they're as real as this café, as real as the chair on which I'm sitting.’
‘When did these blackouts and visions start?’
‘That I can remember clearly - 16 July 1966.’
‘C-Day, when all the computers in the world were going to be linked up to the one in the Post Office Tower,’ I said.
‘That's right. I visited the Post Office Tower just before C-Day and something happened to me - I don't know what. I had a breakdown and spent several months in the country afterwards, trying to sort myself out. I came back to London, hoping to get a job, but then the blackouts started. I would be walking down the street and start feeling faint. Next thing I knew, I would wake up in a hospital bed. The doctors would tell me I had collapsed and been brought in by ambulance.
‘That happened several times. Eventually, I was sent to a psychiatric hospital for treatment,’ she said, her head bowed. The admission was obviously one of great shame to her.
‘Did something happen to you there?’ I asked Dodo gently, handing her a handkerchief. She nodded, tears running down her face, her lower lip quivering. She blew her nose before continuing.
‘I think they gave me shock therapy. I get flashbacks of being strapped to a table, having electrodes put on me and - and -’ It was too much for the young woman, who collapsed into a fit of sobbing. I let her cry, waving away the café's manageress who was coming over to discover the cause of this heartache.
After a few minutes Dodo had regained her composure. I glanced at my watch - it was nearly midday. ‘Look, I know this is difficult for you,’ I said. ‘I'm very interested in what you have to say. But I need to take notes about what you're telling me, or get a recording of it. Would you be willing to come to my office so we could do that?’
‘Where's your office?’
‘It's at my home, off Wandsworth Common.’
‘I don't know,’ she said, biting her lip.
‘Look, I don't blame you for being nervous, but I promise you can leave anytime you want. Bring a friend along for your own peace of mind if you want,’ I suggested.
‘I don't have any friends anymore. And I haven't had any peace of mind since they sent me to - that - place.’ She pondered before answering my offer. ‘Okay, I'll come to your office but I need to be at the hostel by six or else I won't get a bed for the night.’
We caught a black cab back to my house. I turned up the gas heating, put on a pot of tea and let Dodo wander through the rooms, looking at my possessions which spilled out of as yet unpacked crates in corners. Mostly the boxes held souvenirs from my time as a daily newspaper journalist, but Dodo did discover a framed photograph of Natasha.
‘Who's this? She's pretty.’
‘That's my wife. Soon to be ex-wife. Natasha.’
‘That's okay,’ I said, handing her a cup of sweet tea. ‘We got married for all the wrong reasons. Why don't you take your coat off?’ Dodo carefully unknotted the silk tie around her waist and folded it into a pocket before slipping out of her overcoat. Beneath she was wearing a thick blue jumper and workman's denim jeans. The jumper was riddled with burn holes around the edges. Dodo looked embarrassed about her clothes, her face red from blushing.
‘I got these from the Salvation Army. The jumper used to belong to an old sailor who smoked,’ she said, sheepishly poking a finger through one of the holes in the wool. ‘He used to fall asleep and the cigarettes would burn holes in his clothes.’ There was a mischievious twinkle in her eyes for a moment that I found very appealing, but I quickly remembered why she was in my home.
‘Well, shall we get started?’ I led her into my office. While Dodo made herself comfortable on an amply padded sofa in the corner, I busied myself setting up a recently purchased dictaphone to record our interview. ‘Don't be nervous of the microphone, it's just so I can get the facts straight,’ I assured her. ‘You were telling me about being sent to a psychiatric hospital...’
Haltingly, between swallows of tea and long pauses, Dodo told me the story of what had happened to her since C-Day, more than four years previously. She was sent to a succession of psychiatric hospitals and institutions, each one grimmer than the last. Instead of making her better, the brutal methods were actually pushing her sanity further away. A doctor at one hospital near Colchester in Essex used electro-shock therapy on her, giving her dozens of electric shocks over a fourteen-month period.
‘He told me I could leave the hospital any time I wanted but when I tried to go he had me put in a mixed sex ward for the severely disturbed,’ she said, her knuckles white as her fingers clutched at the now cold cup in her hands. ‘I had only been there a few hours when one of the male patients tried to... to...’
The tears came again. Between sobs Dodo said one of the men had tried to rape her. She screamed for help but none came. She shouted to the other patients to aid her but they screamed or cried or laughed or turned away, rocking themselves gently backwards and forwards.
‘The man, he was tearing at my gown, trying to hurt me, trying to -’ The young woman pulled her knees up to her chest, folding her arms around her legs. ‘I kicked out at him, screaming at him to leave me alone. I managed to kick him in the face. He fell backwards and smashed his head on the end of a table. When he hit, it made a sound like an egg cracking open, only much louder. The blood started coming out of his mouth and his nose and he was writhing around on the floor and then - then the bastard wasn't moving any more. Ever.’
She looked up at me, her eyes blazing with anger.
‘I killed him. I killed him and I was glad.’
The dictaphone clicked off loudly as the tape spool ran out. ‘Now seems like a good time to stop,’ I said. ‘Do you want something to eat? You must be starving, because I certainly am.’
‘What time is it?’ Dodo asked, looking out the window into the early evening darkness. Snowflakes swirled in flurries of wind beneath the streetlights - it was going to be another cold night, with a power cut very likely. I looked at my watch and was startled to find it was nearly seven o'clock.
‘Dodo, I'm really sorry, it's well after six.’
‘Hell! I'll never get a bed in the shelter now,’ she cursed.
‘Is there anywhere else? I'll happily pay for a taxi,’ I offered limply. She just shook her head wearily.
‘No, they'll all be full on a night like tonight.’ She stood up and started putting her coat on, then paused. ‘I know it's asking a lot, but I couldn't stay here for the night? I'll sleep on the floor...’
‘Of course you can stay here,’ I replied. I had not dared suggest this myself, fearing she might misinterpret my intentions. ‘But there's no need for you to sleep on the floor! I've got a spare bed, and plenty of sheets and blankets. You're welcome to stay, especially since it's my fault you've missed getting a bed at the hostel. Look, I'm going to cook some food - why don't you have a bath? There's plenty of hot water and I've put candles and matches in the bathroom in case there's a power cut.’
‘A bath? Ohh, I haven't had a good soak for months - at the hostel you have to share the hot water,’ she said with distaste.
While Dodo was in the tub I hunted out some of Natasha's forgotten clothes and left a pile of them outside the bathroom door. My ex-wife was several inches taller than Dodo, but they were of similar build, so something from the pile ought to fit my guest. The power cut out a few minutes later, leaving me grateful for a gas stove on which to finish cooking supper. Once it was ready I hammered on the bathroom door.
‘I'll be out in a minute!’ shouted my guest. When she emerged in a cloud of steam, the transformation was astonishing. Her lank, greasy hair was now shining and clean, pulled back with a hairband to reveal her face, smiling and red-cheeked. From the selection of clothes, she had chosen a simple charcoal- blue dress with a delicate lace blouse worn underneath.
‘Sorry, there's been a power cut so it's dinner by candlelight I'm afraid - nothing intended by it,’ I said. Dodo's eyes twinkled wickedly.
‘I bet you say that to all the girls!’ As we ate, I realized I did not even know Dodo's last name, so I asked her. ‘It's Chaplet, actually. My proper name is Dorothea Anne Chaplet, but for some reason everyone just calls me Dodo.’
‘Chaplet - that's a French name, isn't it?’
‘Yes. I remember doing a school project about family trees once and I traced ours back to the Huguenots, who came to England from France fleeing religious persecution.’
‘That's right! They settled round here, in the Wandsworth area, around the River Wandle.’
‘It's strange,’ Dodo said sadly. ‘I can remember doing that school project, but I can't remember my own mother's name, or what colour her eyes were. I've lost great chunks of my life. I know they're locked up somewhere inside my head, but I can't get at them. It's very frustrating.’
We talked for several hours about growing up and our respective childhoods, carefully skirting around what had happened to Dodo in the last four years. Somehow, that was separate, as if it belonged to a discussion only to be held in the study. Finally, after midnight, we said goodnight and went to our own beds.
The next morning I was up early, transcribing the recording of our interview from the previous day. I let Dodo sleep on well into the day, guessing she had probably not had a good night's rest in months, even years. She roused just after eleven and emerged blinking into my office.
‘God, I slept so well, it was so quiet. You don't know how much noise people make in their sleep until you have to spend every night in a dormitory with 35 others.’ She yawned. I sent her to the kitchen in search of breakfast before we resumed the interview. It was time to move on to the subject I really wanted to know about - the Glasshouse. Even as I mentioned the name, Dodo tensed up again.
‘I know this is difficult, but just take your time,’ I said, doing my best to reassure her. ‘For a start, why don't you try telling me how you ended up there?’
Slowly, painfully, she recounted her travails after the death of the male patient who tried to rape her. Declared a hopeless case, Dodo had been transferred to what was described to her as ‘a radical new centre for psychiatric treatment’ outside London. She never knew its proper name or location, just that it was nicknamed the Glasshouse and only the worst cases were being sent there.
‘I woke up to find myself in this ward full of empty beds. I was strapped down on a bed, unable to move. The walls and floor were all gleaming white, but the ceiling and roof - they were made of glass, like a conservatory. There were cameras sticking out of the walls, watching me. It was like being trapped inside a giant goldfish-bowl,’ said Dodo, shuddering at the memory.
There were nurses and orderlies, but they all wore masks, so she never saw the faces of any of the staff. Several times Dodo was wheeled through the hospital on her way to ‘treatment’ sessions, still strapped to her bed. She saw dozens of other wards, all with only one or two patients in each room.
‘I couldn't understand how they could run a hospital like that, even a psychiatric one. It just didn't make any sense.’ She was kept heavily sedated and much of her time in the Glasshouse was a drug-soaked blur, but she did remember a few key incidents. ‘One time I overheard a nurse and an orderly talking about the patient in the next room. He was a soldier who had just been sent to the Glasshouse by something called UNIT. The director wanted to see this soldier immediately.’
‘A soldier from UNIT? Are you sure about that?’ I asked. This was the first real link I had between the covert intelligence taskforce and the Glasshouse. I wanted to know more, but was mindful that I could not press Dodo too hard. She wanted to help me, but she had to be allowed to do so at her own pace.
‘It was definitely UNIT. I thought they had meant the soldier's unit, as in the squad he was posted with, but the name came up another time, when I had my session with the director,’ she explained. Dodo could not remember his name, but said he seemed to have a hold of terror over the inmates and even the staff. ‘When his name was mentioned they nearly crossed themselves, like Catholics in church.’
‘What can you tell me about the director?’
‘It's hazy. I remember his eyes, they were jet black and seemed to burn right into your soul. He kept asking me about UNIT, what did I know about it, and what did I know about doctors. I thought he was asking me about the doctor who gave me the shock therapy but when I tried to tell him about that, it just made him angrier.’ She shook her head, as if she were under interrogation again.
‘Dodo? Dodo! It's okay, you're safe now,’ I said, snapping her back to reality. ‘Look, I've got other things to do for the next hour, why don't you make some lunch until I'm finished. We can go on with this later.’ She smiled and wandered out, the dark memories of the Glasshouse seemingly banished for a while. While she went into the kitchen I made an urgent phone call to Catherine in the Chronicle's clippings library.
‘Catherine, I'm really sorry to call you at work, but I was wondering if you could do a careful search for me. The name I'm after is Dorothea or Dodo Chaplet - anything you've got.’
‘Dodo? As in the extinct bird?’ Catherine asked. Less than half an hour later she called back. ‘Sorry James, nothing on either name.’
‘That was quick! Haven't you got anything better to do with your time? Chronicle not keeping you busy?’
‘In case you hadn't noticed, there's been a snowstorm overnight and most of the roads and rail lines into London are shut. Most of the bosses are working from home, and we certainly won't be seeing any freelancers in the building today. Us mere mortals had to struggle in anyway,’ she replied tartly. I sometimes got the impression she had never forgiven me for leaving the Chronicle. ‘You were one of the last surviving specimens of intelligent life in captivity here,’ she had said when I told her I was leaving. ‘Now it's just me again.’
I went into the kitchen to find Dodo had prepared a thick, meaty soup for lunch. As we ate in silence, I noticed she had begun unpacking and finding home for the crates of saucepans, plates and cutlery that had stood untouched in the kitchen since I first moved in months before.
‘I hope you don't mind, I had to start unpacking to find anything to cook with,’ she said, grinning. I said that was fine: it was nice to see the place being turned into a real home at last. An idea was starting to form in my mind, but I kept it to myself for now.
After lunch we went back to my office for a final interview session. I asked Dodo to tell me how she got out of the Glasshouse, if security was so tight. She had already described the barred windows and dozens of locked doors which kept the patients firmly imprisoned.
‘Inmates would be a better description. It was curious. I got the impression there were psychiatric sessions going on but only a handful of patients took part in them. When the director couldn't get what he wanted out of me, the staff almost seemed to forget I existed. Once I spent nearly three days strapped to my bed unattended: no food, no bedpans, nothing. It was terrible, degrading having to lie there in my own...’
After a few moments to compose herself, she resumed. ‘It was like we were there to suit the purposes of the director and his staff. The Glasshouse wasn't about helping people or curing them of mental illness, it was more like a prison or a concentration camp.
‘Anyway, after what seemed like weeks or even months, the director came to see me for a final visit, this time in my own ward. He tried asking me the same old questions again, but I just screamed at him to leave me alone. He shook his head and ordered a nurse to unstrap me. The director said I could leave any time I wanted and had some clothes brought in. They both watched me while I dressed and then the director escorted me out through a series of security doors and gates.
‘We stopped outside a plain-white wooden door and this evil man, who had been interrogating me and then ignoring me for weeks, he said something strange to me. I can still remember word for word: "You are a very obdurate young woman; you've been trained very well. But I will make sure you never trouble me again." The next thing I knew I was wandering around in a shopping centre on the outskirts of London.’
‘And you can't remember anything about where the Glasshouse was or what the building looked like from outside?’
Dodo shook her head. ‘The director did something to me, took my memories away about the - about that place. I think I was there several months ago, but I'm only just starting to remember it all now. The blackouts and holes in my mind keep getting worse, not better.
‘Since then I've been wandering around London, with no real home, nowhere to go for sanctuary. The hostel is okay, but some of the people there are not much better off than the other prisoners I saw at the Glasshouse. Their minds are in pieces. I suppose I'm a bit like that too.’ Her eyes clouded over, as if she had lapsed deep into her own private thoughts. Leaving her to ponder, I began fixing some dinner and did some thinking of my own.
Dodo was a bright, intelligent woman who had been deeply screwed up by a series of incidents. Despite these, I did not believe she was in any way dangerous or deranged. She could be charming and funny and had a natural innocence that even the events of the past few years had not completely extinguished. God knows, she was a better cook than I could ever hope to be and brought some warmth and sparkle into my functional but dreary home. I made up my mind and put a proposition to her over dinner that night.
‘Dodo, I was wondering... instead of going back to the hostel, would you like to stay here? I've got plenty of spare rooms. Of course if you do stay, you're under no obligation to me in any way and I understand, of course, if you'd rather not -’
‘James, shut up!’ she chided. ‘I'd love to stay here -’
‘Oh, well that's -’
‘- on three conditions. One, I pull my weight around here by doing some cleaning and other work. Two, you let me sort out some of the rooms. Most of your possessions are still packed in the boxes in which they arrived here and the whole place needs some decorating and fixing up. Three, if at any time either of us is unhappy with the arrangement, I can leave or be asked to leave at two day's notice,’ said Dodo, before finally stopping for breath. She had obviously been thinking along the same lines as me, but had gone much further. ‘Well, what do you think?’
‘It's a deal!’
We celebrated with a bottle of red wine and talked long into the night, getting to know more about each other. I did most of the talking, regaling my new house guest with tall tales from my time as a daily newspaper journalist.
After a long, relaxed evening, saying goodnight to each other proved to be a nervous, stuttering moment. Dodo stopped outside my bedroom door and looked hard at me. ‘Thank you for letting me stay, James. You don't know how much it means to me to have a home again. I've been alone for so long,’ she whispered, on the verge of tears. She balanced precariously on tip-toes to kiss me on the cheek before disappearing into her own room.
Over the following weeks we grew to be the best of friends. While I worked on my research into UNIT and Doctor John Smith, Dodo was busy sorting out the house. She put up shelves and lined them with my books and photographs (although all pictures of Natasha remained boxed away), and she built wardrobes for clothes. For a fortnight the floor was a sea of stripped wallpaper as she redecorated the rooms one by one. Next, she repainted the ceilings, doing my bedroom and the study while I went out of London to chase interviews with several people I knew had experience of UNIT or the different operatives known as the Doctor.
I returned to discover the house transformed. She was painting the ceiling of her bedroom when I came back and half-jokingly complained I was not due back for another day. ‘I wanted to have it all done before you got back, but the paint fumes in here are almost overpowering.’
I took her out for a meal to celebrate and we both laughed when the maître d' thought we must be recently married. After one too many bottles of wine we staggered back to the house, where Dodo's bedroom was dense with fumes from the drying paintwork.
‘Guess I'll have to sleep on the sofa tonight,’ Dodo giggled. I nearly said something but kept my silence. It had been a wonderful evening and I did not wish to ruin it or our friendship. Instead I playfully threw some blankets at her and headed for the bathroom.
When I emerged several minutes later, Dodo was standing in the hallway outside, struggling to undo the catch at the back of her dress. She was wearing one of Natasha's old black-sequinned minis, but on Dodo it reached down to her knees. ‘Could you undo me, please? I can't seem to reach it.’
She turned around and held her lengthening hair up away from the zip with her hands. I fumbled with the recalcitrant catch for a moment, tugging hard without success until it fell apart completely. My hand holding the zipper slid down Dodo's back, brushing over the smooth white skin beneath, lingering over the fastening on her black, silky bra.
‘You can undo that too, if you like,’ she whispered.