It's gone so quiet - the storm must be moving off now. Now and then a judder of light, a distant crumpy roll of thunder.
The door is open to the pantry, where we struggled. Tins were knocked off, earthenware cracked, a jar of mustard and a half side of ham fell on the floor. Won't be eaten now. Muck and grit embedded in the meat. We fought in there - well, I say fought but he was on his hands and knees. Then he crawled back in here and I had to set on him again.
It is most odd and strange to see him, my husband, on the floor. Like a child or a dog. Hey, Ewan, what's the world look like from down there? I am sorry, my love, I am sorry for the manner of your going, but at least now you can't hurt him. I had to stop you. Some things you don't know how hard you will fight for. And I couldn't have you hurt him, I just couldn't.
Well, I think you know that now.
His name is Billy, but I didn't tell him that.
Don't try to stop me, is what I said, Nothing and nobody will stop me. I'm sorry. I'm going now. I won't be back, Ewan.
He still held on to his newspaper though his face was white. He liked the evening paper. He read it all over from start to finish, then went back to the beginning again to see what he'd missed.
Did you hear me, Ewan?
Where? he said, half smiling as if it was a joke, Where are you going?
To be with someone, I said. Which was very brave of me, to say that - to say someone. I did not think I would do it, but the words came to me - they burst right out of my head.
Ewan folded the paper but he still held on to it.
Oh, he said, crisp and calm as a Sunday school teacher, Who?
A person, I said.
He got the point. The look on his face said it all.
You don't know him, I added, He's someone I met.
Ewan stood up. He came towards me so I moved gently away.
Laura! he said, You - what are you saying?
I said nothing. My eyes filled with tears. I had told myself not to cry, but now my eyes would not listen. Ewan took heart.
Laura, he said, This is ridiculous. You've gone mad. Despite everything, you know I love you. No one could love you more than I do -
Really, Ewan, I hissed through my tears, Despite everything! Really! Is that supposed to cheer me up?
Slowly and carefully, as if it was made of glass, he put down the paper. Folded his arms.
You can't go, he said. He said it stiffly and without effort. He said it as if it had been decided by someone else.
I said nothing. I watched the shadows creeping into the room - over his head, around the door, around his face. He licked his lips. He was nervous. Look at him, I thought. I've made him nervous.
I won't let you go, he said, You know I won't.
How will you stop me? I asked him gently.
Noting with satisfaction that his hands were shaking, I took a small step away from him. Then a bigger one. More shadows, then a glint of late sun slid into the room, illuminated the wall and dissolved in front of us as if it had never intended to be there at all. Sorry.
Sorry, I said, But it is not what you think.
Oh? said Ewan, And what do I think?
I love him, I said, But for a different reason.
Ewan tilted his head - but rather stiffly - and laughed.
It is, I said and I hesitated, It is to do with my baby.
It's him? Ewan looked shocked, The man who - ?
No, I said quickly, No, of course not.
Who is he?
I'm not saying.
I take it you do mean a man? It is some bloody man we are talking about? One of your workhouse dossers?
No, I said, Not exactly, Ewan. He is working on the new sewers. He is rebuilding the city, you know, making it -
Reprinted from Laura Blundy by Julie Myerson by permission of Riverhead Books, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright (c) 2000 by Julie Myerson. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.
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