Gabby shook his coat and handed it to the door boy , and they went up the winding staircase to their bedroom . She sat on the bed and sighed taking off her boots.
- It always takes it out of me she said
- your two aunts and this pilgrimage - it reminds me of stepping into a museum ,or something . It drains me .
He took the rebuke with a wounded affront
- Time for them to give this up this tired old charade ..Oh god I’m tired out..
He went to the window and looked down on the streets.. The snow was falling thickly .He was about to draw the shutters closed when she stopped him.
- No ! Please ! don’t do that . It always makes me feel I’m in a coffin somehow.
He drew the velvet curtains together and linked the brocaded robes which held them together with thick brass clasps.
- Still - he brightened - It makes them happy. And they have the best claret in the city.
- Why goose .. Its so .. So old fashioned ..ugh .. And the meat so dark . I have to force my self to eat it.
She was sitting in front of the dressing mirror in her underclothes , brushing her hair .
My god she looked magnificent and he felt a sudden urge to hold her.
He went to the bedside , and fell straight on his face , tripping over her limpid boot,
- Christ. He got up. His nose beginning to trickle with blood.
- Oh dear ..
-sst nothing .. Nothing ..
- let me get you a cold towel ..
‘’Ss aright !!
-I’ll send down for ice - she suggested
- no I’ll just pinch it -he said going to the ensuite
- usually does the trick.. it’s the dam blood pressure ..be ok in a minute .
She looked at her reflection in the mirror and tilted her head this way then that. She held the hand mirror sideways to see her profile . Which way would Ferdy have seen her from.. He was sitting on her left .. She held the mirror sideways and arced her chin slowly clockwise then counter clockwise.
She always knew he was singing that song for her . She began to hum it now
- I only have eyes for you .... I only have eyes …
-That’s got it ..have to get Malone to cut me down on those dam tablets , he said emerging from the ensuite .His amorous mood returned instantly .
She looked more radiant than before , and a tender flush came over him.
- you know you’re the most beautiful woman in the city he city
He started to caress her back with his index finger.
- let me do that - he took the hair brush and she suppressed a sigh as he began to brush her hair .
- I like doing this .. - he said slowly kissing her ear - do you like me doing it too .
His pulse was racing . The wine and the way she looked when Freddy sang had made his heart swell in his chest. He was a lucky man to get her.
He looked at his own reflection ; a small rotund man , with chubby hands , and a bald head. What did he do to deserve her. He looked through hooded lid at her reflection and continued to brush her hair .
- Hmm ..like it ..
She pressed against him and got up smiling.
- I think I’ll have a brandy before I turn in ..it’ll help me sleep .. I can never sleep after that dinner.
The aside wounded him again but he brushed it aside . She too wanted to make this moment last , he told himself and his pulse quickened anew .
- certainly certainly ! Wold you prefer champers .? I could have some in an instant ,- That manager fellows me a few tricks I can tell you . All I have to do is snap my fingers , He knows which his bread is buttered I tell you - he said his hopes soaring again.
- oh no . brandy will do me fine
He sat across from her again looking at her lasciviously .
- did you enjoy the speech , he took out the carefully speech from his jacket pocket. and unfolded it .
- oh yes it was wonderful as usual. There was a hint of ennui in her voice but he ignored it .
- I think I got everything in there .
-oh I think so too. You did very well. - .
Very well !!- he thought . There he was one of the main haulage companies in the country . No third level education and he could mix it with the best of them. All university graduates and he could hold it with the best of them. And the speech was always the highlight on the evening . He liked to think tonight’s was one of his best. He started to read a passage , and chuckled to himself expecting her to ask him to read the bit that had caught his amusement . She was sitting near the window and through a crease in the drapes she could see the snow falling lighter now
- Caught Ferdy there with that little jibe about university professor and the research students - hah ha !! - Not that I think there was anything in it at all you know..- he said jovially
- why did you feel the need to say it .? She was looking at the floor , caressing the brandy glass listlessly. He’d noticed the change in her
- Oh ! Just the humour . I like to bring a little humour into these little speeches , and Ferdy can take a thing like that .. They all laughed . .. Ferdy laughed heartily .. I saw him. Oh they all enjoyed the banter you know. Its always a surprise whose going to be my nemesis . that’s the fun of it . don’t you think so ?
There was the slightest hint of exasperation in his voice . It was the way she avoided his eyes . She shrugged and sat listlessly there swirling the glass.
She was thinking of Ferdy’s look as she went to the window ..He had sung
My love must be a kind of blind love
I can't see anyone but you
And dear, I wonder if you find love
An optical illusion, too?
It was the slow wistful way he sang it .t
The yearning in those forlorn eyes . The haunting way he sang it. Only a heart who’d known the heartache of true love could sing it like that. And his eyes seemed to caress her as he sang the beautiful words .
Gabby was saying something about the other parts of the speech .she regarded him for a moment blandly and said simply;
- Yes ,- she said - I think they all felt that ! What a hideous piece of drivel ; completely above his capacity. He would hoard words for weeks , look up quotations and epithets from the great speakers . He would write it over endlessly ,even getting his manager to proof read it in front of him .God he was such a pathetic figure . Other that his money .people would never bother with him. But he only knew money and how to make it . She’d married him on an impulse .Partly on a rebound from a love she’d had for a young poet she’d known and loved in Galway. He was killed in a car crash . He’d written her an ode on her 21st birthday . And Ferdy’s song reminded of him now .
Ferdy too was dying , she thought . Slowly dieing maybe from a denial of her love.. Perhaps her love .. and it was slowly killing her too.
There was a verse about and maybe cloudy or bright , but his distraction was such that he only had eyes .. And it ended with ;
I don't know if we're in a garden
Or on a crowded avenue
You are here, so am I
Maybe millions of people go by
But they all disappear from view
And I only have eyes for you
Ferdy would die of a broken heart. Of a love unrequited . She looked down on the street as the snow had turned to a watery sleet .
Now Gabby was saying that the Irish were the greatest talkers since the Greeks Oh Good what a pompous pathetic little figure he made. He was crossing the room to her . Those hooded eyes , rapacious and vulgar. It made her skin crawl. She looked at her crumpled boot half hoping he’d trip over it again. She turned her back to him as he approached her.
He put his arm around her and pressed his nose into her hair .
- Its stopped snowing at last !! - he aid with a start. - Well that’s a bit of good news !!-. His ardour had dissipated as he went to the phone and had them dial a number.
He was tapping the dressing table impatiently ,as he waited for the reply.
Now his voice was animated and rushed as he roared orders down the phone . Something about getting the trucks back on the road now that the snow was over .
- And remember Foley , every minute those trucks aren’t rolling cost this man money. I’d like you to remember that .See to it .Do it. !!
He put down the phone .
She was still looking out on the glistening street and the last refrain of Ferdy’s song lingered painfully on her ears . And there was a dreadful mourning in her beating heart.
Or on a crowded avenue
You are here, so am I
Maybe millions of people go by
But they all disappear from view
And I only have eyes for you
-That was Foley. Dam fellow takes me for a softie. Told him to get those truck rolling first thing in the morning. Lazy as sin that man . Bone idle lazy Don’t know why I hired him. Or why I keep him on.
He saw that she was distracted looking down at the snow pitted with holes as the rain melted it .He went to reach out to her just as the door bell rang.
- What .. who on earth..??
She shrugged .
He went to the door . She could hear him .
- Who . Good Lord ..well yes I see ..yes ..I see .. well tell .. What ?..change the which .. Did he .. I see.. Well go ahead..
- Dear , there’s some one looking for me down stairs .. I shouldn’t think this will take long ..strange ..And the manager ‘s sent this chap up with a complimentary little something- turning to the door boy he said brusquely
- go ahead leave it there … .
The door boy came in wheeling his trolley on which was a chilled bottle of champagne wrapped in starched linen. The boy was looking at her surreptitiously with raised eyebrows. She regarded him keenly as he made some adjustments to his trolley , then took out a folded piece of paper he looked at her and with his eyes he directed his eye to the note which he placed on the tray and folded a starched napkin over it. She acknowledged his gesture.
- Leave it ! - he said curtly to the boy.
- Here , he said taking a note from his wallet .. There’s a good fellow .. Tell my visitor him I’ll be down in just a moment .
- well . Would you believe that . Its Ferdy. He’s down stairs . He wants to see me .
When he went out ,and she took up the note. She held it to her heart , which was racing in her breast ..
Ferdy .. Ferdy .. She opened the note
Forgive me this obfuscation. I couldn’t get you out of my mind . I have been thinking about or months now ,looking forward to tonight and just seeing yoou was just enough. Can it be that feel the same way about me ? This tares me apart .
I cant wait another year to see you again. Could you give me some signal of how you feel . If I have misconstrued the message I see in your eyes ,please forgive me and forget about me , and I beg you to give me a fool’s pardon… but if there is some hope that you feel please just ring me or drop me a line ..
I lpve you either way . Bit I rpomin=se never to bother you again if I do not hear from you soon
Maybe now sleep will come aat last . Forgive me. May I call you darling . Good night my one and only darling .
I only have eyes for you.
With great anticipation.
She read it again , and again. And once more . And each time she read it she put a different inflection on a different word. It didn’t matter whether it was intended or not.
Her heart raced and she gave a sudden shiver when Gabby came back in.
- It was Ferdy.. The strangest conversation .. I thought he was tight at first. He said he was concerned about the speech . The reference to the research student and all of that . I asked him if he was upset. No. Was he offended . No not really. Well , said I had no intention of causing any harm. No No he said he just felt that maybe I had impugned the relationship between a professor and his student generally - in of in an obtuse way- Freddy said . It was the weirdest thing. I mean I had thought of Ferdy of course and yet I took care to phrase it in such a way as to avoid any disparagement .. But Ferdy said there was none of tha at all. He really wasn’t that upset. He rather thought I might felt awkward because he left before us , and hadn’t said goodnight . As no impression of ill will had been expressed , none had been taken.. And we more or less shook hands on it at that ..
She could hear Ferdy’s voice in his words. His gentle eloquence had that sweetness that was essentially Ferdy. Gabby would never have choosen these words himself.
-Well whatever it was about its all cleared .. Smoothed over. Ferdys a decent sort. A bit of an innocent Ferdy , but academics are .. Somehow distant. But I’m glad we had that chat man to man . I felt I put him at ease .-
She hadn’t spoken or even registered any perceptible emotion at all .
-You didn’t think I caused him any undue distress did you .. It was just a bit of fun ..
She stood up and faced him , looking down .
- Oh shut up !!- she expostulated with vitriol .- She could take no more.
The floodgates of her emotions burst through .She could contain herself no longer. The years of endurance had taken their toll .
- You’re a hideous little pretender. You have wealth any you think you can but your way into these circles with your vulgar little pretentious extravagances . You mortify me sometimes. The little tips . The obscene way you treat your staff . You are just a trumped up nobody . I cringed at the thought of having to make love to you tonight . Love !! Love I thought !! - When did I ever love you - Why did I ever marry you . Oh God dear God !! I keep asking myself .. You revolt me .!!.
He came to her all aquiver open-mouthed.
-don’t touch me . I cant bear your hands on me . It makes me sick . I try to hide it but I no longer can.
He sat down near the window and his gaze sought some explanation from the falling rain but none would come .Only the rain falling remorselessly onto the melting snow.
His trucks would be pulling out of the warehouses and heading west. Through the dreary sleepy towns , across the sodden bogs and swollen rivers.
And the rain fell ; and the rivers flowed seaward ; He sat there for some time as the tears welled up in his limpid eyes pitying , and rolled abundantly down his flushed cheeks .
At last the floodgates of her emotions burst through .She could contain herself no longer. The years of endurance had taken their toll .