When sixteen-year-old Portia is orphaned she is plunged into the sophisticated and politely treacherous world of her wealthy half-brother's home. There she encounters the attractive cad Eddie. To him, Portia is at once child and woman, and he fears her gushing love. To her, Eddie is the only reason to be alive. But when Eddie follows Portia to a sea-side resort, the flash of a cigarette lighter in a darkened cinema illuminates a stunning romantic betrayal - and sets in motion one of the most moving and desperate flights of the heart in modern literature.