With relief, in the half light afforded by the street lamp on the other side of the street, he recognised the outline.
“Lizzie?” he blurted out.
She jumped so violently she crashed into him and gave a muffled scream.
“What are you doing, lurking behind the door?” she asked almost hysterically.
“It’s a long story,” he answered. She dragged in a suitcase and shut the door behind her. He gave her a hug. In spite of the way he had been talking to Paris, the way he remembered Lizzie, he found he was pleased to see her and not just because she had turned out not to be an intruder. It was not just relief but a warmer feeling of comradeship. He had often wished it had been possible for him to feel for Lizzie the same attraction he felt towards Stolid or any of the other men he had lusted over. His life would have been so easy then. Paris would not have been left feeling she had no family. He would not have felt the scorn of society around his neck like a millstone and he imagined that he would not have gone through his life always yearning for something that seemed unattainable. But he could not change the way his mind travelled. He had tried to steer it, to force it, just to find it always springing back to the way it was meant to be. And if you forced a spring too hard he knew it would break not become the thing you wanted it to be.
Still that didn’t mean he was not grateful for her company now although he was surprised.
“I thought you were in France?” he said as he ushered her into the living room. “Do you want a drink of anything, by the way?”
“Oh make me a tea if you can,” she said as if he had offered her a diamond. She followed him into the kitchen and sat on a bar stool watching him prepare the tea.
“I was in France. I told Paris I’d get on the ferry. I got an earlier one than I thought I’d be able to.”
“Why were you so desperate to get to us?” he said mockingly.
“It sounded like you were having fun without me,” she replied winsomely but with a hint of pathos.
“You were bored!” Timonthy said triumphantly. “I knew you would be, stuck there in the middle of the countryside, surrounded by Frenchmen.”
“I was a little bit,” Lizzie admitted. “The French men were alright although usually unavailable. I think I might have to revise my plans a bit. Life there is perfectly acceptable as long as you don’t spend more than three months without some sort of break. I overdid it. I was enjoying myself but then I got bored almost without noticing. It’s so easy to do.”
“Everyone needs a challenge, a goal. We’ve sort of slipped out of the current into our own eddies, which is a thoroughly pleasant but uninspiring fate and getting us nowhere,” Timonthy said decisively.
“I do understand you but then I think there is actually nowhere to get to, no metaphorical sea and even if you did make it to the sea, how different would that be to the eddy anyway?”
They looked into each other faces with a wry amusement. ‘I always thought that the sea was death,’ Timonthy thought to himself, ‘and the current a way of learning to accept that fact or even just a distraction to hide that fact,’ but he did not share that with her.
“We’re getting older,” Lizzie said with discontent.
Lose the ‘er’ and you would be right, Timonthy thought with amusement but he understood how she fought it. Yet she still looked good. She still kept the same slim figure she had always had. Her hands were unblemished; her face without obvious wrinkles and her hair was still flowing coloured as it always had been to her shoulders. He was envious thinking of his own slight stoop, his jutting features and grey hair.
He brought two cups of tea over and sat on the other bar stool.
“So why were you behind the door?” she asked.