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 refers to 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 at all.
As you wish, Simon says, but he is not happy. If she could change anything about him it would be the tenor of his voice. Substitute the unsympathetic maleness with something motherly. Something with a hum of warmth. Something nurturing and reassuring. Something to make her feel less like a witless child. He should be helping her, advising her, encouraging her right now, not accusing.
Are you going to continue to act sorry for yourself? he asks, monitoring her mood develop. Or can we actually get back inside out of the damp?
The grey hedges at this end of the garden overhang the path. She comes to a stop and massages her hip. His upsetting her by raising all of this again, and her resulting restlessness, has caused her to walk heavily, jarring it. A warning light of age and neglect ...