He was trying very hard not to get his hopes up too much but as she said, it looked more likely than it had done in the last few days that they would find Stolid.
No! He was trying to live in the present. His skin was warm next to the fire and his stomach was content and full.
Gerard’s smile lay across him like a caress: tonic to the blood and balm to the soul.He had sipped at his second pint with more moderation. Had he considered Timonthy’s point about the heroes of legends and found that he could accept his own role in that light?
“Yes I’m feeling optimistic too,” Timonthy confessed
“Would you say that we were right to be optimistic, Gerard?” Lizzie said. She sounded unsure.
“You are almost certain to see Stolid tomorrow and to be reassured that he is happy,” Gerard said solemnly.
“That is a very specific guarantee,” Paris said in a worried tone. “What is it you’re not telling us?”
“I don’t understand,” Gerard looked innocent. “That’s what you wanted isn’t it?”
“Never mind that,” Lizzie interrupted. “What I want to know is the probability that Peter and Will are up there bonking each other’s brains out?”
Timonthy stared at her in surprise, not so much for the thought as for the way she had expressed it.
“It’s just that I have a terrible track record for that sort of thing. I just wanted to know if I’m wrong again,” Lizzie said humbly.
“Both Peter and Will are very much attached to their wives,” Gerard said with a grin.
“I can guarantee that Peter is talking to his wife right now. Will would be too if he could get through, so I suspect that what he’s doing is thinking of her.”
Gerard said this with such a quaint emphasis that they were left with no desire to know what he might be doing.
“I don’t know if you know what is it like,” Gerard said quietly while looking at Lizzie, “when you have every intention of being faithful to someone, when your whole world depends on that faithfulness and then you meet with someone who you just know that you could love if you were able?”
“You have to tear yourself away with regret and remember why it was you loved your first love. Deny yourself the company of the new friend and hope they will never know.
That’s ridiculous, Timonthy thought: if he is saying that Will could love Lizzie. Is that what he is saying? But she is an old woman.
Then he remembered that Lizzie was a year younger than him and Will about the same age as Gerard and he was ashamed.
He also thought about his suspicions about Paris and Will that morning and they were only making breakfast together. The man was just over-friendly and Timonthy was too suspicious.
At least Gerard was convinced that Peter loved his wife. That relieved Timonthy in so many ways.
He trusted Gerard’s judgement on the matter and believed he understood Peter and Will, had worked with them and spent leisure time with them in whatever weird way passed for pleasure in their little world.
Still Timonthy suspected from Gerard’s reticence and Paris’s reserve that tomorrow would hold surprises but he was happy to wait for these now and happy for the mystery to unfold in its own way.
Lizzie had gone silent now. She was thinking pensively, her skin glowing a delicate shade of pink in the firelight, like an ear rendered translucent by the sun.
Timonthy was sympathetic It would be a tragedy if Lizzie finally had found a real man she wanted who appreciated her but he was young enough to be her son and married with children.
There was a god in that situation, a god who delighted in tormenting people.
Dressed as Dionysus. he would say, ‘yes I will dangle all you desire in front of your nose and then whisk it away with a light laugh, just to watch your face.’ Dionysus would be an apt god for Lizzie.
He lightly pressed the hand that rested on the armchair. Although he knew she didn’t want sympathy he couldn’t ignore her. What else could he do?
“I am tired now too,” Lizzie said. She pushed herself up.
“You should stay here,” Timonthy said. “In the warmth and with company.”
He was worried that she wouldn’t go to her room and contemplate her loss but instead she would fight it and make an effort to gain that thing she had always wanted.
He couldn’t see that situation ending well.
She settled back down again, “Maybe you are right but I will expect you to entertain me.”