At ten he went downstairs. He had reserved a table in the library next to the bar where you could have your meals brought to you as you sat in the deep, comfortable armchairs. A fire was burning in the hearth, its warmth reaching out to him and the flames casting a glow on the wood-paneled walls.
Feeling good after his bath, a change of clothes and a slap of aftershave on his cheeks, he decided to have a drink. He savored it slowly while studying the menu the waiter had placed on his table. Maureen. After all these years. Would she have changed? Would she still be as genuine and warm? As . . .
He didn't finish the thought. She was in the doorway when he looked up, wearing a warm coat. She looked the other way so at first he wasn't sure it was her. But when she moved her head his heart leaped and he hurried over to her.
"Maureen," he said.
"It's so good to see you."
They smiled. Not sure whether to shake her hand or kiss her, he did neither.
"It's so good to see you," he repeated. "How long has it been?"
"Ten years," she said.
"Ten years," he repeated as if taken aback. "Are you sure?"
"Yes," she said. "It's ten years."
He helped her out of her coat and handed it to the waiter. They went into the library, she leading the way. She had always been slim, but he thought she had lost weight. Yet she looked good, her face smooth and her eyes clear, though perhaps she seemed a little tired. The veins in her neck that he had stroked so often were still faintly traced.
Excerpted from Valentines by Olaf Olafsson Copyright © 2007 by Olaf Olafsson. Excerpted by permission of Pantheon, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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