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Marshall said, “That’s put you in your place.”
“I suppose I’d better pick on someone smaller.” Leon smiled at Briony by his side. “Have you done something bad today on account of the terrible heat? Have you broken the rules? Please tell us you have.” nike air max 90 He took her hand in mock-beseeching, but she pulled it away.
She was still a child, Robbie thought, not beyond confessing or blurting out that she had read his note, which in turn could lead her to describe what she had interrupted. He was watching her closely as she played for time, taking her napkin, dabbing her lips, but he felt no par cheap nike air max ticular dread. If it had to, let it happen. However appalling, the dinner would not last forever, and he would find a way to be with Cecilia again that night, and together they would confront the extraordinary new fact in their lives—their changed lives—and resume. At the thought, his stomach plunged. Until that time, everything was shadowy irrelevance and he was afraid of nothing. He took a deep pull of the sugary lukewarm wine and waited.
Briony said, “It’s boring of me, but I’ve done nothing wrong today.”
He had underestimated her. The emphasis could only have been intended for him and her sister.
Jackson at her elbow nike air max spoke out. “Oh yes you have. You wouldn’t let there be a play. We wanted to be in the play.” The boy looked around the table, his green eyes shining with the grievance. “And you said you wanted us to.” nike air max 1
His brother was nodding. “Yes. You wanted us to be in it.” No one could know the extent of their disappointment.
“There, you see,” Leon said. “Briony’s hotheaded decision. On a cooler day we’d be in the library watching the theatricals now.”
These harmless inanities, far preferable to silence, allowed Robbie to retreat behind a mask of amused attention. Cecilia’s left hand was cupped above her cheek, presumably to exclude him from her peripheral vision. By appearing to listen to Leon who was now recounting his glimpse of the King in a West End theater, Robbie was able to contemplate her bare arm and shoulder, and while he did so he thought she could feel his breath on her skin, an idea which stirred him. At the top of her shoulder was a little dent, scalloped in the bone, or suspended between two bones, with a fuzz of cheap nike air max shadow along its rim. His tongue would soon trace the oval of this rim and nike air max sale push into the hollow. His excitement was close to pain and sharpened by the pressure of contradictions: she was familiar like a sister, she was exotic like a lover; he had always known her, he knew nothing about her; she was plain, she was beautiful; she was capable—how easily she protected herself against her brother—and twenty minutes ago she had wept; his stupid letter repelled her but it unlocked her. He regretted it, and he exulted in his mistake. They would be alone together soon, with more contradictions—hilarity and sensuousness, nike air max 95 desire and fear at their recklessness, awe and impatience to begin. In an unused room somewhere on the second floor, or far from the house, beneath the trees by the river. Which? Mrs. Tallis’s mother was no foo cheap nike air max trainers l. Outdoors. They would wrap themselves in the satin darkness and begin again. And this was no fantasy, this was real, this was his near future, both desirable and unavoidable. But that was what wretched Malvolio thought, whose part he had played once on the college lawn—“Nothing that can be can come between me and the full prospect of my hopes.”
Half an hour before there had been no hope at all. After Briony had disappeared into the house with his letter, he kept on walking, agonizing about turning back. Even when he reached the front door, his mind was not made up, and he loitered several minutes under the porch lamp and its single faithful moth, trying to choose the less disastrous of two poor options. It came down to this: go in now and face her anger and disgust, give an explanation which would not be accepted, and cheap nike air max most likely be turned away—unbearable humiliation; o nike air max 90 sale r go home now without a word, leaving the impression that the letter was what he intended, be tortured all night and for days to come by brooding, knowing nothing of her reaction—even more unbearable. And spineless. He went over it again and it looked the same. There was no way out, he would have to speak to her. He put his hand over the bell push. Still, it remained tempting to walk away. He could write her an apology from the safety of his study. Coward! The cool porcelain was under the tip of his forefinger, a nike air max classic nd before the arguments could start around again, he made himself press it. He stood back from the door feeling like a man who had just swallowed a suicide pill—nothing to do but wait. From inside he heard steps, staccato female steps across the hall.
When she opened the door he saw the folded note in her hand. For several seconds they continued to stare at each other and neither spoke. For all his hesitation he had prepared nothing to say. His only thought was that she was even more beautiful than his fantasies of her. The silk dress she wore seemed to worship every curve and dip of her lithe body, but the small sensual mouth was held tight in disapproval, or perhaps even disgust. The house lights behind her were strong in his eyes, making it hard to read her precise expression.
Finally he said, “Cee, it was a mistake.”
“A mistake?”
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 interruption that caused her to step back and ope nike air max n 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.”
“Yes. nike air max sale
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 had 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.” ③

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