Bob gazed through the gates.
It was a huge house, and there was no sign of Miranda. But he knew which bus she caught, and he knew roughly what time she would have to leave the house to catch it.
Suddenly there was a man standing there. He was about forty, with long light-brown hair and a long black coat.
‘What are you doing here?’ he asked.
‘I’m waiting for Miranda,’ Bob said.
The man stared at him, watching him for something.
‘I’m… you know, a friend. I’m not a stalker or a murderer or anything.’
The man’s eyes narrowed. ‘I didn’t say you were. Why are you waiting for my daughter?’
‘You’re the Doctor, yeah?’
‘Don’t you recognise me?’
‘We’ve never met, have we?’
Bob was surprised how young Miranda’s dad was. Forty wasn’t too implausible: he’d have been twenty-four when Miranda was born; so he’d have been right in the middle of his doctorate. Then Bob remembered: Miranda was adopted, so he could be even younger.
If he hadn’t known she was adopted, he’d never have guessed. She looked just like her stepfather – same height, they stood the same way, very upright.
They had the same blue eyes and pale skin. The Doctor also had that same unnerving stare. Miranda could look into his eyes and it was as if she was staring into his soul.
Bob wriggled, a little uncomfortable under the Doctor’s scrutiny, and tried desperately to think pure thoughts.
‘I’m Bob. Miranda might have mentioned me,’ Bob said, wincing a little: this was the point where he was castrated for betraying this man’s daughter. ‘I’m her boyfriend,’ he added, when it became clear that her dad didn’t know him from Adam.
‘Miranda doesn’t have a boyfriend,’ the Doctor stated, with absolute certainty.
‘It’s OK, it’s just Bob.’
They both turned to see Miranda standing there with her schoolbag slung over her shoulder.
‘Can we talk?’ Bob pleaded.
The Doctor looked at them, from one to the other.
‘Your boyfriend?’ he asked.
Miranda bit her lip, obviously unwilling to explain. ‘A friend who’s a boy.’
The Doctor was grinning, mistaking her reticence for coyness. ‘Splendid! Bob, I was going to give Miranda a lift to school. Why don’t you come with us?’
Bob agreed. Miranda glared at him. The Doctor opened up the gates and let him in.
The Doctor’s car looked like the poor cousin of a Lada, Bob thought.
‘You get in the front, Bob,’ the Doctor suggested.
Miranda took her place in the back. Bob wriggled to get comfortable in the passenger seat, but he could sense the hostility boring into the back of his head.
The Doctor seemed totally oblivious to it.
‘What do you see yourself doing, Bob?’ the Doctor asked brightly.
Bob gulped, then realised he was talking about his life.
‘I’m only sixteen, I’ve not really decided.’
‘Quite right,’ the Doctor said. ‘I’m over a hundred years old, and I’ve got no idea yet, either.’
‘He’s not really over a hundred years old,’ Miranda said quickly. ‘He’s –’
‘Thirty-six,’ the Doctor said.
‘Forty-one,’ Miranda finished.
Bob forced himself to laugh. ‘Nice one.’
‘Miranda hasn’t had a boyfriend before,’ the Doctor declared. Bob could feel her skin burn red. ‘How many girlfriends have you had?’
‘A few,’ Bob admitted. ‘Two,’ he conceded, finally.
The Doctor looked over at him.
‘Two isn’t that many,’ Bob said awkwardly. It was an embarrassingly low total, he’d always thought. ‘And we only kissed, yeah?’ Not strictly true, but near enough.
‘He stays in touch with them, don’t you, Bob?’ Miranda said, with a voice that would freeze nitrogen.
‘That’s good,’ said the Doctor.
They had, mercifully, arrived at the school.
The Doctor parked just outside the gate, blocking it. ‘Here we are,’ he said joyfully. ‘Enjoy yourself at school. But not too much!’