And there she was. Harry. Sitting beside a small table, pen poised over a large note book while she turned the pages of a catalogue. Everything was still; clear, white light on pale vases and polished wood. There were three paintings; abstract shapes, gently angular - shy colours in thin silver frames. The cheerful clatter of knives on plates floated in from the other side of the corridor. There were bursts of laughter, snippets of conversation. But peace stayed. Undisturbed. It was as if sound and silence were co-existing. He didn’t want her to look up. Not yet. Not till he spoke - and he wanted to breathe first.
Winter sun fell through tall windows, lighting the room and glossing her hair - straight, black, thick, flat, pushed back and loose - all the way to her waist.
She didn’t move but he could see a slight pinkenning on the cheek nearest him.
Skin darker than cream. Long, thin fingers holding firmly to her pen.
“If you’re busy. I mean, I wouldn’t like to disturb you.”
Her lips twitched into a smile.
“Not that busy.”
She looked up and round. Brown eyes.
“Are you buying?”
“No way, Harry! Not at your prices! And I've no-where to put anything yet. I’m only just back. That's why I'm here."
“You want to stay here?"
He glanced around uneasily, pretending to look at the exhibits; the wooden bowls, iron figurines, the pictures. Harry poised, staring into a gap in the light. She didn't want company; not company every day. She was to herself the only exception.
“No. Well. Just for a bit. Bed and breakfast? That kind of thing? While I . . . ” (He could explain about sheep dung later.)
It wasn't the right answer. Stephen was her best friend. Of course he would want to live here if there was no-where else to go. And she was glad he was seeing it as a practical arrangement; bed, breakfast. But she was a little hurt as well that he was thinking it would be a short stay only. Contradiction. She didn't want him around. But she didn't want him not to be here either, not now he'd arrived.
"What about your flat?"
"What about Rosemary?"
"I want to be here." He was definite. She frowned. "I mean 'round here'. King's Hampton."
“You’re in trouble?”
“No. But I think . . . . .”
So she laughed too, and stood, and hugged him.
Loose cream jumper. New jeans. Long silk scarf - pinks threaded with gold. Sri Lankan and English. British and exotic. In King’s Hampton.