Except Eugenie wasn't demanding. Which made Ted ask himself whether he was man enough for everyone else--at least superficially -- but for some reason not man enough for her.
Blast it all, why was he feeling like this? Like an adolescent who'd never been laid. It was those failures with the others, he decided, failures he'd never once had with Connie.
"You should see a doctor about this little problem of yours," that piranha Georgia Ramsbottom had said, twisting her bony back from his bed and donning his flannel dressing gown. "It's not normal, Ted. For a man your age? What are you, sixty? It's just not normal."
Sixty-eight, he thought. With a piece of meat between his legs that remained inert despite the most ardent of ministrations.
But that was because of their pursuit of him. If they'd only let him do what nature intended every man to do -- be the hunter and not the hunted -- then everything else would take care of itself. Wouldn't it? Wouldn't it? He needed to know.
A sudden movement within one of the squares of light from an almshouse window attracted his attention. Ted glanced that way to see that a figure had come into the room that the window defined. The figure was a woman, and as Ted looked curiously in her direction, he was surprised to see her raise the red jumper that she was wearing, lifting it over her head and dropping it to the floor.
He looked left and right. He felt his cheeks take on heat, despite the rain that was pelting him. Peculiar that some people didn't know how a lit window worked at night. They couldn't see out, so they believed no one could see in. Children were like that. Ted's own three girls had to be taught to draw the curtains before they undressed. But if no one ever taught a child to do that ... peculiar that some people never learned.
He stole a glance in her direction again. The woman had re-moved her brassiere. Ted swallowed. On the lead, P.B. was beginning to snuffle in the grass that edged the graveyard path, and she headed towards the almshouses innocently.
Take her off the lead, she won't go far. But instead Ted followed, the lead looped in his hand.
In the window the woman began brushing her hair. With each stroke her breasts lifted and fell. Their nipples were taut, with deep brown aureoles encircling them. Seeing all this, his eyes fixed to her breasts as if they were what he'd been waiting for all evening and all the evenings that had preceded this evening, Ted felt the incipient stirring within him, and then that gratifying rush of blood and that throb of life.
He sighed. There was nothing wrong with him. Nothing at all. Being pursued had been the problem. Pursuing -- and afterwards claiming and having -- was the sure solution.
He tugged P.B.'s lead so the dog walked no farther. He settled in to watch the woman in the window and to wait for his Eugenie.
In the Lady Chapel of St. Mary the Virgin, Eugenie didn't so much pray as wait. She hadn't darkened the doorway of a house of worship in years, and the only reason she'd done so tonight was to avoid the conversation she'd promised herself that she'd have with Ted.
She knew he was following her. It wasn't the first time she'd come out of the Sixty Plus Club to see his silhouette under the trees on the street, but it was the first time she wouldn't allow herself to talk to him. So she hadn't turned in his direction when she could have done, at the natural moment to offer an explanation to what he'd witnessed in the car park. Instead, she'd headed for Market Place with no clear idea of where she was going.
When her gaze had fallen upon the church, she'd made the decision to slip inside and adopt an attitude of supplication. For the first five minutes in the Lady Chapel, she even knelt on one of the dusty hassocks, gazed upon the statue of the Virgin, and waited for the old familiar words of devotion to spring into her mind. But they would not. Her head was too filled with impediments to prayer: old arguments and accusations, older loyalties and the sins committed in the name of them, current importunacies and their implications, future consequences if she made an ignorant misstep now.
Excerpted from A Traitor to Memory by Elizabeth George Copyright 2001 by Elizabeth George. Excerpted by permission of Bantam, 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.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
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