His head sank on his hands, I got up and walked to the door. As I opened it he spoke without raising his head. “Show some sense, kid. She isn’t for you. We’re two of a kind, her and me.”
I closed the door gently and went outside.
Light streamed out through the latticed shutters as I ap-proached the house, golden fingers filtering into the darkness. I went up the steps to the veranda and paused. It was very quiet. Rain fluttered down, pattering on the tin roof. It was strange standing there, somehow on the outside of things, waiting for a sign that would probably never come, for the world itself to turn over.
I started to move away and on the porch a match flared pulling her face out of the darkness. There was an old cane chair up there, I had forgotten about that. She lit a cigarette and flicked the match into the night.
“Why were you going to go away?”
To find a reason or give one, was difficult, but I tried. “I don’t think there’s anything here for me, that’s all.”
There was a slight creaking in the darkness as she stood up. The cigarette spun through the night in a glowing arc, I was not aware that she had moved, but suddenly she was there in front of me, the scent of her like flowers in the night. She was wearing some sort of robe or housecoat, which she pulled open to hold my hands against her naked breasts. ‘There’s this,’ she said calmly. ‘Isn’t that enough for you?’ It wasn’t, but there was no way of explaining that, and in any event, it didn’t really seem to matter. She turned, holding me by the hand and took me inside.
Naturally it was nothing like that first time, perfectly successful as a functional exercise, but no more than that. Afterwards, she was strangely discontented, which surprised me.
“What’s wrong?” I- demanded. “Wasn’t I up to scratch?”
“Love,” she said bitterly. “Why does every damned man I meet have to breathe that word in my ear while he’s doing it Do you need an excuse, you men?”
Which was a hell of a thing to say and I had no answer. I got up and dressed. She pulled on her robe and went and stood at the window smoking another cigarette.
I said, “You’re a big girl now. Time you learned to tell the difference.”
I moved behind her, slipping my arms about her waist and she relaxed against me. Then she sighed, “Too much water under the bridge. I set my sights on what I wanted a long time ago.”
“And nothing gets in the way?”
“Something like that.”
“Then what are you doing here, a thousand miles from no-where?”
She pulled away from me and turned. “That’s different Anna is all I’ve got. All that really counts.”
And she was still speaking of her in the present tense.Iheld her arms firmly. “Listen to me, Joanna, you’ve got to face facts.”
She pulled away from me violently. “Don’t say it – don’t ever say it. I don’t want to hear.”
We stood there in the pale darkness confronting each other. Outside, someone called her name, there was a crash on the veranda as a chair went over. As I went into the living-room, the door burst open and Hannah staggered in. He was soaked to the skin and just about as drunk as a man could be and still stand up. He reeled back against the wall and started to slide. I grabbed him quickly.
He opened his eyes and grinned foolishly. “Well, damn me if it isn’t the boy wonder. How was it, kid? Did you manage to bring her off? When they’ve been around as long as she has it usually takes something special.”
No rage – no anger. I stepped back leaving him propped against the wall. Joanna said, “Get out, Sam.”
He went down the wall in slow motion, head lolling to one side. I was aware of Christina, the Huna girl, standing in the entrance to the other bedroom wearing a silk nightdress a couple of sizes too large for her. The eyes were very round in that flat Indian face, the skin shining like copper in the lamp-light.