He was suddenly filled with sympathy and tenderness. "What do you intend to do?" he asked gently and tried to lay his hand on hers, but she drew hers away.
"I'm moving out. They've built a couple of terraced apartments on the slope, and I bought myself a studio there. I don't need more than one room."
She cast him a hostile look. "I always pooled your father's pension and my earnings, and took out the same amount for myself that he drank up. Do you have any objection?"
"No." He laughed. "Father drank up a studio apartment in just ten years?"
His mother laughed with him. "Not quite. But more than the down payment I saved up."
He hesitated. "Why did you stay with Father?"
"What a question." She shook her head. "For a while you have a choice. Do you want to do this or that, live with this person or that? But one day what it is you're doing and that person have become your life, and to ask why you stick with your life is a rather stupid question. But you asked about the painting. I don't plan to do anything with it. Take it with you or put it in the bank, if they have lockboxes that big."
"Tell me what's the story with the painting?"
"Oh, my boy . . ." She looked at him sadly. "I'd rather not. I think your father was proud of the painting, to the end." She gave him a weary smile. "He would so much have liked to visit you and see how you were doing with your law studies, but he didn't dare. You never invited us. You know, you children are no less cruel than we parents were. You're more self-righteous, that's all."
He wanted to protest, but did not know if she was right or not. "I'm sorry," he said, dodging the issue.
She stood up. "Sleep tight, my boy. I'll be out of the house by seven. Sleep as long as you want before you leave, but don't forget the painting."
Excerpted from Flights of Love by Bernhard Schlink Copyright 2001 by Bernhard Schlink. 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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