‘Faith, Hope and Love’ Part 11

“How long will you be away?”

“I don’t know, Marian, that’s what worries me. I have spent the last sixteen years nursing. D’you suppose I want to do it again? For Vivienne whom I hardly know? A man needs to get away from bodily functions every so often.”

We sat in companionable silence tinged with unease, while the potatoes baked and then, as I flung together a collection of cheeses, sardines, ham, chopped tomatoes, salad and some hummus, I wondered that Arthur had so recently come into my life. Already he felt a comfortable part of it. How would it feel if he went away?

He caught my eye, and said, “You know I don’t want to go. I may be able to stall for a few days. Would you like that?”

Of course I would, and my insides felt as though they had turned to water. I did not move too quickly to agree, though – it felt important to be polite – and now, I saw his impatience.

“If you would like that, perhaps you could just tell me?” It sounded crosser than he intended, but I was startled.

“Yes, I would love you to stay, but not simply for my sake.”

“Well, why would I stay, if not for you?”

“You might not feel like going, travelling, you know?” Something pulled me back from committing more.

“I suppose… There is that, yes.” His fingers were drumming ever so gently on the table top, fiddling with his cutlery.

“Let’s eat,” I said, noticing that the oven timer marked fifty minutes. Surely, these baked potatoes would be ready? Our silence felt edgy now. We ate with only the noise of our knives and forks, and Elaine’s music coming from upstairs, to ease the silence.

“Marian.” I lifted my eyes and saw that Arthur had been watching me as I was cutting a particularly stubborn piece of potato skin.

“Give me your hand,” he said, and immediately I stopped chewing, took a sip of water and offered him my left hand, which he held firmly.

“I would like us to get together more. I feel you are pushing me away but I am not sure why. Is it me?”

“No, it has nothing to do with you.”  I liked Arthur too much to beat about the bush.

“What is it then? Can you tell me? You know all my secrets, yet I know almost nothing about you, except that you drink weak tea and went to boarding school. Why do you insist on being so solitary?”

So there we had it. Now, I had to share my secrets too, which I had always felt so alone with. My secret fears. I was so frightened that I began to shiver. I feared that if I told the truth, Arthur would shake his head regretfully and walk out of the kitchen.

I gazed into Arthur’s face, and all I could see there was openness and love. Gently, I leaned over to him and whispered in his ear, “If I tell you, will you leave me?”

“No, I promise I will stay right here.”

***

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