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So what is it you think’ll happen? the voice inside her nags. If you continue to do nothing?
Evie shrugs and walks more quickly, feigning weariness to hide her misgivings and save herself further interrogation. The afternoon is on the cusp of evening and the air, from which all the colour has rinsed, is foggy and cold; a mere forty degrees here under the bare branches of the black-skinned cherry. Despite that, she is dressed thinly in a hard-to-get-hold-of-any-more dress made from cotton, and a slate wool cardigan on which the neck isn’t even buttoned. When it freezes, she will take more care.
You can’t hide from it, Evelyn. He is old. I’ve told you over and over that you must ask him what he has planned for us. The voice is male and assertive, and although part of her from the very beginning, has the habit of wrestling for control when she shows uncertainty. She thinks of it as Simon, as in ‘Simon says’. Of course, he is right – she needs to be doing something. She just doesn’t want to be reminded of her failure to decide what and how.
She reaches the wall surrounding the garden. Nine feet high at this point, too high for her to see over. In sections the mortar has cracked and the bricks settled, shedding flakes of clay. Not unlike Matthew – no longer the young man she was presented to forty-one years before.
‘I will ask him when I am ready,’ she replies, picking her words carefully, hoping to close the conversation down. Her tone is clearly evasive and it would not be unlike Simon to tell her so. Walking briskly, she takes out her anxiety on the gravel. Anxiety, an emotion she was never intended to have but which, like a virus, has wormed its way in. If she had even been intended to have emotions.
and 50 pages on ...
She shoves open the kitchen door, crashing it against the dresser. The windows are open wide and the normally cosy room is as cold as the inside of a fridge. Snow, blown in from the garden, lies across the tiles.
He bursts in behind her, almost taking the door off its hinges.
She takes a carving knife from Daniels’s drawer and swivels around. He is dressed in black from head to toe, with just slits for his eyes and mouth cut into a mask. The kitchen table stands to her left and she moves behind it to put something between them, while holding the blade out in front in both hands.
‘No need for that, sweetheart,’ he mutters, suppressing a chuckle. ‘I don’t intend you no harm, quite the opposite. Now put it down on the table.’
‘You shot him,’ Evie murmurs. She is struggling to absorb the rapid sequence of events. Her arms are so tense the knife wavers in the air, as if she is holding something heavy or her muscles are about to give out.
‘Put the blade down,’ he repeats. ‘No one wants to hurt you.’ He holds up his gun flat in his palm, making it clear to her he is turning it off, and the green beam splintering on the glass behind her is sucked back into the barrel. He drops it into the holster under his arm. ‘See. All safe. Now your turn.’
She shakes her head and keeps the knife raised, the tip directed towards him.
Shrugging, he takes slow steps towards her. In her white cotton nightdress she must look more defenceless even than she feels. Only the table and chairs are between them.
‘Stay back,’ she mutters. She takes a step towards the French windows. The freezing air, funnelled through the opening, blows her hair back around her face.
‘Lay the knife on the table,’ he says, ‘I don’t want to hurt you.’ Or rather he does not want me to get broken, she thinks. She could as well be a porcelain figurine he has come to steal from the cabinet in the music room.