I bit my lip. I had said too much.
Ewan burst out laughing again.
Oh! he said, The sewers, eh? And what's his name, my darling?
I'm not saying. Don't try to make me. There's no point. Someone I've been looking for, who is important to me, that's all.
Ewan pretended to put his head in his hands but it was not from despair. He was just thinking.
I'm sorry, Laura, he said, But let me make something clear. You can't just spring this on me, you can't just run off with some little sewer squit, no way, my love. What I mean is - and he gritted his teeth - you're my bloody wife.
Bloody wife? It sounded like a foreign language, like the one the grey-faced pedlars talk on Saffron Hill.
And I said, Well, I know that, Ewan, of course I do -
Do you want to go back where you came from? he said.
I watched his face. I watched him check the fury in it. He was clever enough to know it would do no good.
Please, he said then without raising his voice - and I know he thought he sounded mild and reasonable - Please, darling, think about what you're doing -
I have thought about it, I said quietly, I have thought of nothing else for a long time.
Ewan sighed, ran his hands through his bright hair. So red. When I first met him I found its brightness unnerving. Now I had learned not to look at it if I could help it.
He said: Remember how you were when we met, Laura, when you came to me -
I never came to you, I said quickly.
In the hospital, he insisted, When you were brought in there - I liked you - from the first -
I let my hands fall to my sides.
I was very sad and confused, I said truthfully, I had no choice.
Immediately I regretted my honesty. It was Ewan's fatal talent, wasn't it, squeezing little truths out of you, till the emptiness you were left with took your breath away.
He took strength from my admission.
Exactly, he said.
I mean -
You are not a - how shall I put it? - a level person, Laura, he said, That's why I'm not angrier about this. You are a strange woman - gritty but with a big imagination, much bigger than is good for you -
I tried to interrupt him but he continued.
You have no sense of embarrassment or disgust. You fly into states and you don't know what you're doing -
I don't want any more of your pills, I told him quickly and firmly, I am doing fine without them. For weeks they have gone out with the refuse, so there you are -
I don't believe you, he said.
I shrugged again, but I did not like that he was taking me away from the main point.
I have kept you out of trouble, he said, Haven't I made your life smooth? - Remember, I have seen all of you, Laura. Don't delude yourself. You can't hide from me -
Then let me go, I said, If you know so much, then let me go and so much the better for you - !
That's not what I meant, he said and I did not like his eyes when he looked at me.
I was silent. I heard faraway thunder, the first spatter of rain on the dark window.
Ewan stared at the rain as if it would tell him something.
What's his name and who does he work for?
I did not answer.
Who is he? Tell me, Laura. I can easily find it out -
It's nothing to do with you who he is, I screamed at him suddenly.
Ewan did not flinch. Carefully, wearily, as if he knew I was unpredictable and not to be trusted, he replaced his arms back on those of the chair. He let out a breath.
I don't know why you married me, he said slowly.
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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