‘Faith, Hope and Love’ Part 7

I was quietly stunned by this confession. What astonished me was not so much what Arthur said, but the way he spoke, so calmly, so carefully. I am an emotional woman, and when I speak of things that tug my heart, my voice fills with tremors, my hands shake and my legs raise themselves of the ground. I cannot sit still. Yet speaking of abject misery there was he, calm, gentle and peaceful.

“Thank you for sharing that with me,” I said. I meant it. He looked at me, looked into my eyes. Silently he gazed over the wrinkles round my mouth, over my forehead. His hand was raised to my cheek, which he touched gently. He looked at my face like an artist might, examining curves, the fall of hair at the ear, the tilt of the eyelid. I let him lift my face to the side, bring it back.

“You are beautiful” he said.

“Thank you,” I answered.

“I wonder…” he whispered as the minutes ticked quietly past.

“What?” I asked, searching his face for clues.

“Would it matter to you if…?” he started, but broke off. There followed a long pause and then suddenly I clasped his hand, pulled it towards me and started to kiss it, first the palm, then the fingers, many small kisses coming unbidden from me. He did not pull away, but sat with a small smile on his face, which did nothing to discourage me. I kissed the palm again, let the hand drop and then looked for the other, lifting and kissing it too, first the soft folds at the back of the hand, then each finger, tip, hundreds and thousands. To say thank you. I was filled with gratitude that I didn’t know what to do with. Where could I put it all?

“You don’t have to, you know.” Arthur’s self-control maddened me.

“But you have such beautiful hands and I want you to know – you are – beautiful too.”

“And I thank you, too.”

He rose up from where he had been seated next to me, and resumed his seat over the way, in front of the window. I could not see the expression on his face.

***

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