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That was what had disturbed her when she realised he had seen and
recognised her feelings for Mark. Paul had looked stricken, lost, a child
whose mother had wandered away from it. If she left Paul she did not need
to guess how he would end up his hollow incapacity for love would make
of any relationship he formed a brief, doomed spell. Paul would slide and
slide until he was trapped in a hell of loneliness. Helen's last remnant of love
for him, her fondness which was born of understanding and past shared
love, made her unable to walk away from anything so helpless and weak.
She could not even guess how Paul would react now that he knew for certain
that she loved Mark.
He did not come home, however, and in the end she went to bed; all the
gaudy trappings of Christmas making the house a glittering sham. The
silence around her was emphasised by her awareness of the joy and pleasure
which would be in other homes tonight. She had heard Terry's excited
squealing as she went up to bed to struggle for sleep with all the glorious
excitement of Christmas morning in prospect. Karen and her husband had
come in for a drink, making no comment on Paul's absence, their faces
tactful, sympathetic, faintly embarrassed. Karen awkwardly muttered an
invitation for Helen to join them for Christmas Day. 'Bring Paul, of course,'
she said quickly, trying to sound as though she expected Paul to be around.
Helen thanked her but refused. 'Paul likes a quiet Christmas,' she lied, and
they reluctantly smiled back at her, hiding their realisation that she lied.
Waking on a bright Christmas morning, Helen listened and heard no sound
from Paul's room. She went in and the bed was untouched, empty. She made
herself a slice of toast and prepared the Christmas lunch she had bought. She
was going through the motions like a robot, but she was beginning to be sure
he would not come home.
The day ticked on slowly. She heard laughter and music from Karen's house
and deliberately kept her television on quite loudly to make it sound as
though the house were not empty and null.
She was grateful for their tact in not coming in to make sure; that would
have been too embarrassing to bear.
It was after six that somebody knocked on the door. Helen stared at it,
standing in the hall, shivering. It could be Karen having decided to risk
asking her round there again, or it could be someone to tell her Paul had
crashed his car again. She knew as she thought it that that had been in her
mind all day, the fear that something had happened to him. The knock came
again, louder, peremptory. It had an official sound, a determined,
authoritative sound.
Helen tremblingly opened the door.
Before she could move to stop him Mark had pushed his way into the house.
They faced each other almost like enemies. His eyes were hard and glittered.
'He isn't here, is he?'
'What are you doing here?' Helen asked, ignoring the question. 'Please just
leave me alone.'
'Get your coat.'
'No, Mark,' she said angrily.
He took a loping stride and she backed until she was against the wall. Mark
kissed her mouth savagely, demandingly, holding her there, his hands
coming down after a moment to touch her breasts in a deliberate motion
which was a silent challenge to her to deny him now. All the fight went out
of her slowly and she began to moan softly, the hard desire of his body
pressed against her.
'Say it,' Mark muttered.
For one last anguished moment she tried to hold the words back, but they
came out at last on a hoarse, tired whisper. 'I love you.'
His arms went round her and ne held her cradled like a child, kissing her hair
with a hungry passion which held relief and joy.
'My darling, oh, my darling,' he whispered.
She closed her eyes and let the whole weight of her body lean on him with a
gesture of contented love. For a moment nothing else mattered but the love
encircling them like the rainbow rings around the moon on winter nights, a
misty radiance like spilt petrol, pale and flaming, magical.
Mark lifted his head at last. 'Get your coat,' he said again.
'Mark, I can't!'
'You can and you will,' he said decisively. 'You are not spending a lonely
vigil round a Christmas tree if I can stop it. I've spoken to my mother and she
understands.'
'Does she?' Helen could not hide the disbelief, the doubt in her voice.
Mark looked down at her with a wry twist of the mouth. 'I won't say she's
delighted at the prospect of some scandal touching the family, but I've told
her I love you and I've told her what you've put up with from Eastwood. She
won't be unkind to you, my darling, I promise that. My mother is a strong
woman, but she isn't a cold or a cruel one. She'll love you when she gets to
know you. There's a lot in common between you. I think you'll find you like
her when you know her well.'
'I'm sure I would,' Helen said dully. 'But it isn't just that, Mark. It ...' She
broke off, not knowing how to say it. [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]