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Voices reached him across the hallway through the open door of the drawing room. He heard Leon’s voice, then Marshall’s. It may have been fear of interrupt cheap air 1 ion that caused her to step back and open the door wider for him. He followed her across the hall into the library which was in darkness, and waited by the door while she searched for the switch of a desk lamp. When it came on he pushed the door closed behind him. He guessed that in a few minutes he would be walking back across the park toward the bungalow.
“It wasn’t the version I intended to send.”
“I put the wrong one in the envelope.”
He could gauge nothing by these terse replies and he was still unable to see her expression clearly. She moved beyond the light, down past the shelves. He stepped further into the room, not quite following her, but unwilling to let her out of close range. She could have sent him packing from the front door and now there was a chance of giving an explanation before he left.
She said, “Briony read it.”
“Oh God. I’m sorry.”
He ha nike air max 1 leopard d been about to conjure for her a private moment of exuberance, a passing impatience with convention, a memory of reading the Orioli edition of Lady Chatterley’s Lover, which he had bought under the counter in Soho. But this new element—the innocent child—put his lapse beyond mitigation. It would have been frivolous to go on. He could only repeat himself, this time in a whisper.
“I’m sorry . . .”
She was moving further away, toward the corner, into deeper shadow. Even though he thought she was recoiling from him, he took another couple of steps in her direction.
“It was a stupid thing. You were never meant to read it. No one was.”
Still she shrank away. One elbow was resting on the shelves, and she seemed to slide along them, as though about to disappear between the books. He heard a soft, wet sound, the kind that is made when one is about to speak and the tongue unglues fro cheap air max 1 m the roof of the mouth. But she said nothing. It was only then that it occurred to him that she might not be shrinking from him, but drawing him with her deeper into the gloom. From the moment he had pressed the bell he had nothing to lose. So he walked toward her slowly as she slipped back, until she was in the corner where she stopped and watched him approach. He too stopped, less than four feet away. He was close enough now, and there was just enough light, to see she was tearful and trying to speak. For the moment it was not possible and she shook her head to indicate that he should wait. She turned aside and made a steeple of her hands to enclose her nose and mouth and pressed her fingers into the corners of her eyes.
She brought herself under control and said, “It’s been there for weeks . . .” Her throat constricted and she had to pause. Instantly, he had an idea what she meant, but he pushed it away. She drew a deep breath, then continued more reflectively, “Perhaps i nike air max 1 grey t’s months. I don’t know. But today . . . all day it’s been strange. I mean, I’ve been seeing strangely, as if for the first time. Everything has looked different—too sharp, too real. Even my own hands looked different. At other times I seem to be watching events as if they happened long ago. And all day I’ve been furious with you—and with myself. I thought that I’d be perfectly happy never seeing you or speaking to you again. I thought you’d go off to medical school and I’d be happy. I was so angry with you. I suppose it’s been a way of not thinking about it. Rather convenient really . . .”
She gave a tense little laugh.
He said, “It?”
Until now, her gaze had been lowered. When she spoke again she looked at him. He saw only the glimmer of the whites of her eyes.
“You knew before me. Something has happened, hasn’t it? And you knew before me. It’s like being close up to something so large you don’t even see it. Even now, I’m not sure I can. But I know it’s there.”
She looked down and he waited.
“I know it’s there because it made me behave ridiculously. And you, of course . . . But nike air max 1 premium this morning, I’ve never done anything like that before. Afterward I was so angry about it. Even as it was happening. I told myself I’d given you a weapon to use against me. Then, this evening, when I began to understand—well, how could I have been so ignorant about myself? And so stupid?” She started, seized by an unpleasant idea. “You do know what I’m talking about. Tell me you do.” She was afraid that there was nothing shared at all, that all her assumptions were wrong and that with her words she had isolated herself further, and he would think she was a fool.
He moved nearer. “I do. I know it exactly. But why are you crying? Is there something else?”
He thought she was about to broach an impossible obstacle and he meant, of course, someone, but she didn’t understand. She didn’t know how to answer and she looked at him, quite flummoxed. Why was she crying? How could she begin to tell him when so much emotion, so many emotions, simply engulfed her? He in turn felt that his question was unfair, inappropriate, and he struggled to think of a way of putting it right. They stared at each other in confusion, unable to speak, sensing that something delicately established might slip from them. That they were old friends who had shared a childhood was now a barrier—they were embarrassed before their former selves. Their friendship had become vague and even constrained in recent years, but it was still an old habit, and to break it now in order to become strangers on intimate terms required a clarity of purpose which had temporarily deserted them. For the moment, there seemed no way out with words.
He put his hands on her shoulders, and her bare skin was cool to the touch. As their faces drew closer he was uncertain enough to think she might spring away, or hit him, movie-style, across the cheek with her open hand. Her mouth tasted of lipstick and salt. They drew away for a second, he put his arms around her and they kissed again with greater confidence. Daringly, they touched the tips of their tongues, and it was then she made the falling, sighing sound which, he realized later, marked a transformation. Until that moment, there was still something ludicrous about having a familiar face so close to one’s own. They felt watched by their bemused childhood selves. But the contact of tongues, alive and slippery muscle, moist flesh on flesh, and the strange sound it drew from her, changed that. This sound seemed to enter him, pierce him down his length so that his whole body opened up and he was able to step out of himself and kiss her freely. What had been self-conscious was now impersonal, almost abstract. The sighing noise she made was greedy and made him greedy too. He pushed her hard into the corner, between the books. As they kissed she was pulling at his clothes, plucking ineffectually at his shirt, his waistband. Their heads rolled and turned against one another as their kissing became a gnawing. She bit him on the cheek, not quite playfully. He pulled away, then moved back and she bit him hard on his lower lip. He kissed her throat, forcing back her head against the shelves, she pulled his hair and pushed his face down against her breasts. There was some inexpert fumbling until he found her nipple, tiny and hard, and put his mouth around it. Her spine went rigid, then juddered along its length. For a moment he thought she had passed out. Her arms were looped around his head and when she tightened her grip he rose through it, desperate to breathe, up to his full height and enfolded her, crushing her head against his chest. She bit him again and pulled at his shirt. When they heard a button ping against the floorboards, they had to suppress their grins and look away. Comedy would have destroyed them. She trapped his nipple between her teeth. The sensation was unbearable. He tilted her face up, and trapping her against his ribs, kissed her eyes and parted her lips with his tongue. Her helplessness drew from her again the sound like a sigh of disappointment.
At last they were strangers, their pasts were forgotten. They were also strangers to themselves who had forgotten who or where they were. The library door was thick and none of the ordinary sounds that might have reminded them, might have held them back, could reach them. They were beyond the present, outside time, with no memories and no future. There was nothing but obliterating sensation, thrilling and swelling, and the sound of fabric on fabric and skin on fabric as their limbs slid across each other in this restless, sensuous wrestling. His experience was limited and he knew only at second hand that they need not lie down. As for her, beyond all the films she had seen, and all the novels and lyrical poems she had read, she had no experience at all. Despite these limitations, it did not surprise them how clearly they knew their own needs. They were kissing again, her arms were clasped behind his head. She was licking his ear, then biting his earlobe. Cumulatively, these bites aroused him and enraged him, goaded him. Under her dress he felt for her buttocks and squeezed hard, and half turned her to give her a retaliatory slap, but there wasn’t quite the space. Keeping her eyes fixed on his, she reached down to remove her shoes. There was more fumbling now, with buttons and positioning of legs and arms. She had no experience at all. Without speaking, he guided her foot onto the lowest shelf. They were clumsy, but too selfless now to be embarrassed. When he lifted the clinging, silky dress again he thought her look of uncertainty mirrored his own. But there was only one inevitable end, and there was nothing they could do but go toward it.
Supported against the corner by his weight, she once again clasped her hands behind his neck, and rested her elbows on his shoulder and continued to kiss his face. The moment itself was easy. They held their breath before the membrane parted, and when it did she turned away quickly, but made no sound—it seemed to be a point of pride. They moved closer, deeper and then, for seconds on end, everything stopped. Instead of an ecstatic frenzy, there was stillness. They were stilled not by the astonishing fact of arrival, but by an awed sense of return—they were face to face in the gloom, staring into what little they could see of each other’s eyes, and now it was the impersonal that dropped away. Of course, there was nothing abstract about a face. The son of Grace and Ernest Turner, the daughter of Emily and Jack Tallis, the childhood friends, the university acquaintances, in a state of expansive, tranquil joy, confronted the momentous change they had achieved. The closeness of a familiar face was not ludicrous, it was wondrous. Robbie stared at the woman, the girl he had always known, thinking the change was entirely in himself, and was as fundamental, as fundamentally biological, as birth. Nothing as singular or as important had happened since the day of his birth. She returned his gaze, struck by the sense of her own transformation, and overwhelmed by the beauty in a face which a lifetime’s habit had taught her to ignore. She whispered his name with the deliberation of a child trying out the distinct sounds. When he replied with her name, it sounded like a new word—the syllables remained the same, the meaning was different. Finally he spoke the three simple words that no amount of bad art or bad faith can ever quite cheapen. She repeated them, with exactly the same slight emphasis on the second word, as though she had been the one to say them first. He had no religious belief, but it was impossible not to think of an invisible presence or witness in the room, and that these words spoken aloud were like signatures on an unseen contract.
They had been motionless for perhaps as long as half a minute. Longer would have required the mastery of some formidable tantric art. They began to make love against the library shelves which creaked with their movement. It is common enough at such times to fantasize arriving in a remote and high place. He imagined himself strolling on a smooth, rounded mountain summit, suspended between two higher peaks. He was in an unhurried, reconnoitering mood, with time to go to a rocky edge and take a glimpse of the near-vertical scree down which he would shortly have to throw himself. It was a temptation to leap into clear space now, but he was a man of the world and he could walk away, and wait. It was not easy, for he was being drawn back and he had to resist. As long as he did not think of the edge, he would not go near it, and would not be tempted. He forced himself to remember the dullest things he knew—bootblack, an application form, a wet towel on his bedroom floor. There was also an upturned dustbin lid with an inch of rainwater inside, and the incomplete tea-ring stain on the cover of his Housman poems. This precious inventory was interrupted by the sound of her voice. She was calling to him, inviting him, murmuring in his ear. Exactly so. They would jump together. He was with her now, peering into an abyss, and they saw how the scree plunged down through the cloud cover. Hand in hand, they would fall backward. She repeated herself, mumbling in his ear, and this time he heard her clearly.
“Someone’s come in.”
He opened his eyes. It was a library, in a house, in total silence. He was wearing his best suit. Yes, it all came back to him with relative ease. He strained to look over his shoulder and saw only the dimly illuminated desk, there as before, as though remembered from a dream. From where they were in their corner, it was not possible to see the door. But there was no sound, not a thing. She was mistaken, he was desperate for her to be mistaken and she actually was. He turned back to her, and was about to tell her so, when she tightened her grip on his arm and he looked back once more. Briony moved slowly into their view, stopped by the desk and saw them. She stood there stupidly, staring at them, her arms hanging loose at her sides, like a gunslinger in a Western showdown. In that shrinking moment he discovered that he had never hated anyone until now. It was a feeling as pure as love, but dispassionate and icily rational. There was nothing personal about it, for he would have hated anyone who came in. There were drinks in the drawing room or on the terrace, and that was where Briony was supposed to be—with her mother, and the brother she adored, and the little cousins. There was no good reason why she should be in the library, excep nike air max 1 black t to find him and deny him what was his. He saw it clearly, how it had happened: she had opened a sealed envelope to read his note and been disgusted, and in her obscure way felt betrayed. She had come looking for her sister—no doubt with the exhilarated notion of protecting her, or admonishing her, and had heard a noise from behind the closed library door. Propelled from the depths of her ignorance, silly imagining and girlish rectitude, she had come to call a halt. And she hardly had to do that—of their own accord, they had moved apart and turned away, and now both were discreetly straightening their clothes. It was over.
The main course plates had long been cleared away and Betty had re nike air max 1 sale turned with the bread and butter pudding. Was it imagining on his part, Robbie wondered, or malign intent on hers, that made the adults’ portions appear twice the size of the children’s? Leon was pouring from the third bottle of Barsac. He had removed his jacket, thus allowing the other two men to do the same. There was a soft tapping on the windowpanes as various flying creatures of the night threw themselves against the glass. Mrs. Tallis dabbed at her face with a napkin and looked fondly at the twins. Pierrot was whispering in Jackson’s ear.
“No secret cheap nike air max 1 s at the dinner table, boys. We’d all like to hear, if you don’t mind.”
Jackson, the delegated voice, swallowed hard. His brother stared at his lap.
“We’d like to be excused, Aunt Emily. Please can we go to the lavatory?”
“Of course. But it’s may, not can. And there’s no need to be quite so specific.”
The twins slipped from their chairs. As they reached the door, Briony squealed and pointed.
“My socks! They’re wearing my strawberry socks!”
The boys halted and turned, and looked in shame from their ankles to their aunt. Briony was half standing. Robbie assumed that powerful emotions in the girl were finding release.
“You went in my room and took them from my drawer.”
Cecilia spoke for the first time during the meal. She too was venting deeper feelings.
“Shut up, for goodness’ sake! You really are a tiresome little prima donna. The boys had no clean socks so I took some of yours.”
Briony stared at her, amazed. Attacked, betrayed, by the one she only longed to protect. Jackson and Pierrot were still looking toward their aunt who dismissed them now with a quizzical tilt of her head and a faint nod. They close cheap max 1 d the door behind them with exaggerated, perhaps even satirical, care, and at the moment they released the handle Emily picked up her spoon and the company followed her.
She said mildly, “You could be a little less expressive toward your sister.”
As Cecilia turned toward her mother Robbie caught a whiff of underarm perspiration, which put him in mind of freshly cut grass. Soon they would be outside. Briefly, he closed his eyes. A two-pint jug of custard was placed beside him, and he wondered that he had the strength to lift it.
“I’m sorry, Emily. But she has been quit e over the top all day long.”
Briony spoke with adult calm. “That’s pretty strong, coming from you.”
“Meaning what?”
That, Robbie knew, was not the question to ask. At this stage in her life Briony inhabited an ill-defined transitional space between the nursery and adult worlds which she crossed and recrossed unpredictably. In the present situation she was less dangerous as an indignant little girl.
In fact, Briony herself had no clear idea of what she meant, but Robbie could not know this as he moved in quickly to change the subject. He turned to Lola on his left, and said in a way that was intended to include the whole table, “They’re nice lads, your brothers.”
“Hah!” Briony was savage, and did not give her cousin time to speak. “That shows what little you know.”
Emily put down her spoon. “Darling, if this continues, I must ask you to leave the table.”
“But look what they did to her. Scratched her face, and gave her a Chinese burn!”
All eyes were on Lola. Her complexion pulsed darker beneath her freckles, making her scratch appear less vivid.
Robbie said, “It doesn’t look too bad.”
Briony glared at him. Her mother said, “Little nike air max 1 red boys’ fingernails. We should get you some ointment.”
Lola appeared brave. “Actually, I’ve put some on. It’s feeling a lot better already.”
Paul Marshall cleared his throat. “I saw it myself—had to break it up and pull them off her. I have to say, I was surprised, little fellows like that. They went for her all right . . .”
Emily had left her chair. She came to Lola’s side and lifted her hands in hers. “Look at your arms! It’s not just chafing. You’re bruised up to your elbows. How on earth did they do that?”
“I don’t know, Aunt Emily.”
Once again, Marshall tilted back in his seat. He spoke behind Cecilia and Robbie’s h nike air max 1 ebay ead to the young girl who stared at him as her eyes filled with tears. “There’s no shame in making a fuss, you know. You’re awfully brave, but you have taken a bad knock.”
Lola was making an effort not to cry. Emily drew her niece toward her midriff and stroked her head.
Marshall said to Robbie, “You’re right, they’re nice lads. But I suppose they’ve been through a lot lately.”
Robbie wanted to know why Marshall h nike air max 1 ad not mentioned the matter before if Lola had been so badly harmed, but the table was now in commotion. Leon called across to his mother, “Do you want me to phone a doctor?” Cecilia was rising from the table. Robbie touched her arm and she turned, and for the first time since the library, their eyes met. There was no time to establish anything beyond the connection itself, then she hurried round to be by her mother who began to give instructions for a cold compress. Emily murmured comforting words to the top of her niece’s head. Marshall remained in his seat and filled his glass. Briony also stood up, and as she did so, gave another of her penetrating girlish cries. She took from Jackson’s seat an envelope and held it up to show them.
“A letter!”
She was about to open it. Robbie could not prevent himself asking, “Who’s it cheap air max 1 addressed to?”
“It says, To everyone.”
Lola disengaged from her aunt and wiped her face with her napkin. Emily drew on a surprising new source of authority. “You will not open it. You will do as you are told and bring it to me.”
Briony caught the unusual tone in her mother’s voice and meekly walked round the table with the envelope. Emily took one step away from Lola as she pulled a scrap of lined paper clear. When she read it, Robbie and Cecilia were able to read it too.

We are gong to run away becase Lola and Betty are horid to us and we want to go home. Sory we took some frute And there was’nt a play.

They had each signed their first names with zigzag flourishes. ③

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