(Look deeper, Lucy. Examine where the feeling starts).
Joe, I tilt my glass toward him, is anyone taking care of you?
His laugh in response is brittle, sad. I can see from the look on his face that your avenging angel has never been asked. His expression reveals gratitude for the question, and something else. Something I can’t quite place, as he reaches for me, puts his hand to my cheek.
Life shifts on such things. The piano key fall of his fingers, the rush of heat beneath his hand. I reach up and cover his with my own. I want to hold him there, against my skin.
Don’t move, don’t speak. Let it be just this, Joe, with your hand on my cheek.
I repeat this over and over, silently, as we both close our eyes.
There is so much more to break here.
It is the buzz of Joe’s phone that brings us back. We let go, and shift apart on the sofa as quickly as we came together. Real life. A message from Jane, his wife. Questions about his day, and tonight too. How is the hotel? Quieter than the last? Did you have more than wine for dinner, love?
She does not know he is here with me.
Another secret. I am collecting them now. I watch as he writes a message back, non-committal, not exactly a lie, but certainly not the truth of his evening. Is this how people do it, Ben? Shifting around the facts, because the opposite of truth is not always a lie?
We are side by side, and now Joe is staring straight ahead, he doesn’t turn back to face me.
They say men find it much easier to talk this way, he says into the air as he hits send on his message. Next to each other like this. As opposed to facing each other. Did you know that, Lucy? That men talk better when they don’t have to look you in the eye?
A flash of Adam staring out the window as he squeezed my hand. I’ve never done anything like this before.
I may have read … I start to say, but reach for Joe’s face instead, turn him gently back toward me.
His eyes widen as they lock on mine.
Jesus, Lucy. Is that what he saw?
It’s what they all want to know, Ben. It’s what they are all looking for. They want me to tell them that something calm, something beautiful survived those last, brutal moments. They want me to rescue their memories, the stories they have constructed every night in the dark.
I was the last thing you saw of this world. And now, just like Anna and Maggie, your brother needs to see me, when he closes his eyes.
It was quick, Joe, I offer, and nothing more.
Now I am the one facing forward, avoiding his gaze and his question. Our balance is altered yet again. This night has been stranger than I ever imagined. I will lie in bed after Joe leaves and trace every word, follow every swoop and curve of our conversation, as I try to figure out what it all means. I will go over his touch and his words, time and again.
Look deeper, Lucy. Examine where the feeling starts.
But tonight I am the one lost in the dark.
Picasso – Head of a Woman
I first described Lucy as ‘an artist’s sketch, all lines and shading, and the mere suggestion of form’. I still see her this way – there is something otherworldly, magical about her. As for the scene above – I keep trying to push her away from Joe – but in the edits these two characters seem to have minds of their own … and very much, I’m discovering, something to say.
Thanks as ever for reading xxx