Volume 2

Chapter 3

He woke early, nervous with the energy of impending travel. To be loved when one leaves is a selfish comfort but to leave England without love, he could hardly bear it. What anguish, in the intimate hues of the early morning with the curtains in a breeze, to call out ‘darling’ knowing she was not there. He writhed feeling the space between twisted sheets, grasping at nothing but the covers. Missing those heavy kisses, there was no arm to pull close, no hand to squeeze, no breast to rest his head against or her fingers through his hair; tracing his softly along her cheeks, her lips, all the parts he had grown to love which he could see so clearly in that lonely dawn. His legs tensed, outstretched into the bed without another’s warmth; the reassuring, loving warmth a mother’s had long ceased to be.

Darling Ophelia,

I am off this morning. The Zambian Hancocks had been flexing but a couple backhanders eased permissions. I leave for Heathrow in half an hour.

At a dinner with wine & berries, I found none of my passions excited as they were when I enjoyed those things with you. What I felt in those days may be a mad infatuation but it may be love as I can feel it.
  Never have I been in such confidence with another; understanding and being understood; disagreeing and reconciled. To focus so singularly on you, err at times and later walk by your side, enlivened by your person; you dignified my life. In your embrace I was at ease, I could let go; complain, explain, be heard and loved still. I was myself and a self fallen short, weak, apart and then rebuilt.

In the sallow light of early morn, as we lay perched up high on your mezzanine, I surveyed our little world from your breast; in those few days I had otherwise little time for solitude; I neither prayed and barely slept; my time was yours, my touch was yours, my thoughts were yours, my life was yours.
  I think of the weir, of you swanning with grace, then sitting by the cows and the sheep in that morning of green West Country summer. A place I cannot think I’ll find again without you. Walking past those Bath-stone villas and farmhouses, you spoke wistfully of your grandmother’s house. I indulged then in my own happy thought; a fine study, an orangery, a stream, a length of lavender, the willows and horse-chestnuts in bloom; sharing that with you, alone for weeks at a time.
  When you cut strawberries and indulged my nonsense as the train passed beneath the faraway manor or that day when we laughed in great fits under a shading oak; what I wanted to say in those moments, all the little things, I no longer felt needed saying.
  After three sleepless nights, asleep in your arms ‘sweet boy’ you whispered; the vespers of a hurtful bliss and more tightly I held you and lightly I kissed your hand and you held me closer still.
  Goodness, I feel if I were beside you now, I should whisper ‘Ophelia, I love you’ in your ear, my eyes tainted with soft honest tears. We were a blessed couple, blessed in the perfection of each moment, the happenings around and the timing of our lives. Sentiment so easily slips into the shallow and the saccharine, so I shall stop here.

Upended between my peace with you and my future, I feel no apprehension, no coursing excitement. It seems perfectly natural my life should move thus, with no reason not to, nothing to keep me. The time of university has passed and I come to think a young man is never a person but a state, constantly fulfilled, as we become ourselves; this gutting doubt is now my life again.

What you have written about us, about how you see yourself, what you assume is how I feel about you; it is true when I first brought you through our courtyard I was mortified, to present you and then make off like that. Just know I would happily share it all with you now without shame.

All I wanted was to care for you and to think I never will again mutes me in anguish. You wrote of rage; throat dry, cheeks and lashes sticky wet, head throbbing, every sinew strained, heart aching, furious pleading; it passes and only bitter resignation is left, mocking. These are the ugly complaints of a man stifled, pitiful, but in my weakest moments you reduce me so.

Though I remember from Zhivago ‘If it’s so painful to love and absorb electricity, how much more painful it is to be a woman, to be the electricity to inspire love.’



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