He smiled again, but this time with scrutiny. He gave her his surname, which she would soon learn was false. "But I insist you call me by my forename. Egon," said the man who was not her husband, offering his hand. "I know that I am a terribly rude man, interrupting your privacy this way. But I hope you'll forgive me. I saw your face, and I simply had to hear the sound of your voice."
She glanced at the outstretched hand, as if she might ignore it, but the smile was too much. Open. Easy. Carnivorous. Even more appealing for its sharp splinter of pain. She took his hand. It was warm, and she felt the strength of his grip. "So now you have heard it," she said.
That same day he took her to a café that smelled of boiled sugar, balsam oil, and pipe smoke. It was a small place in the Savignyplatz with leaded casement windows where she could hear the clank of the S-Bahn trains as they passed. He bought her coffee and an apple torte, and amused her by eating most of it himself. But mostly what he did was listen to her as she bounced from topic to topic, with anxious release. Small topics, which turned into larger ones. Peeling potatoes for supper turned into the stagnation she felt living under her mother-in-law's roof. A memory of her father's love for fancy cakes turned into his desertion and the emptiness she felt at her mother's deathbed. She would suddenly become aware of how much she was talking and apologize, but the depth of his eyes encouraged her to continue. When she realized how late it was, she became flustered. But again he only smiled, crushed out one of the many cigarettes he had smoked, and paid the bill.
Excerpted from City of Women by David R Gillham. Copyright © 2012 by David R Gillham. Excerpted by permission of Amy Einhorn Books. 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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