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Authors: Andrea Goldsmith

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Gracious Living (23 page)

BOOK: Gracious Living
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He took her hand and led her away from the party.

‘At least make sure we go to a dark area.’

‘Of course, my darling, whatever you want.’

The crowd in other parts of the carpark had thinned, only the diehards remained at eight o’clock.

‘We mustn’t be long.’

‘Of course not darling.’

He guided her past a few more cars.

‘This should do nicely.’

‘It’s Hugh’s Rolls!’

‘That’s right.’

‘We can’t! Not Hugh’s Rolls.’

‘Believe me Lydia, Hugh’s well beyond noticing.’

Adrian got in first and pulled Lydia after him. He undid his trousers and slipped them to his ankles. ‘God I hate pantyhose,’ he said dragging them over her hips. ‘Stockings were far better suited to this sort of thing.’


‘Sorry darling. Perhaps if you lifted yourself up a little . . . That’s better. Now lie out, there’s plenty of room.’

‘And so there should be,’ Lydia giggled, ‘it’s a Rolls after all. Do you think Hugh’s ever done this?’

‘Sure he has, why else do you think he’d bother with a car this size.’ Adrian stretched out next to her. ‘Comfy? Good, then let’s get down to it.’

Adrian’s hand was between her legs, stroking and prodding and searching for lubricants. ‘We’ll have to do better than this,’ he said. He slid down her body and with a few efficient applications from his large efficient tongue pronounced them ready. He bent her
legs back the way he liked so her knees nestled into her shoulders and entered her. Lydia settled into his familiar rhythm, his da da dum, da da dum, where the da da were short and sharp and the dum was a firm shove. He grunted on the dum and she liked that, in fact she liked everything about sex with Adrian, so much more enjoyable than with David. And easier. Although in the early days, with Adrian’s large penis and prolonged thrusting, she had wondered at their sexual compatibility. She remembered hoping that with more practice her vagina would harden against all the rubbing – a bit like developing callouses to protect your feet – but it was babies down the birth canal that eliminated the soreness forever. And now it was all quite pleasant, he went his way and she fitted in, stroking whatever part of him she could reach in whatever position they happened to be in. Now her hands were rubbing his buttocks in the way he liked and the rhythm was quickening da-da-
, and he was thrusting and Lydia was arching, thrusting and arching, grunting and rasping quicker and quicker, nearly there, nearly-

‘Oh my goodness! Terribly sorry!’

The front passenger door was open, the interior light blazing, and in the dreadful flash Lydia saw Hugh, his chauffeur and Oliver Warby.

‘Shut the door, you idiots!’ Adrian shouted, not missing a beat.

‘Adrian, for god’s sake!’

‘Shut up Lydia, I’m not finished.’

Within a few seconds he was, and a minute later they were clothed sufficiently to leave. Hugh was being supported between the car and his chauffeur; Oliver had disappeared.

‘Hope you don’t mind, Hugh.’ Adrian applied a jovial slap to the slouching figure.

‘Any time.’ The words were slurred. ‘Any time. Half your bloody luck.’

Lydia did not stay to hear more. She hurried back to the party determined to catch Oliver before he spread the word. He was a notorious gossip, always had been, ever since he discovered that of the old crowd his family’s money was the newest; gossip, he
discovered, was a means of evening the score. He was the worst possible person to have seen them.

‘Where are you off to, Lydia darling?’ A man grabbed her around the neck.

Lydia pulled away, mumbling her apologies. Where was Oliver? Always making such a spectacle of himself but when you really wanted him he was nowhere to be see. Then suddenly there was a hand on her arm, a woman’s hand, and Kate took her aside: people were talking, she said, and Oliver was talking most of all; Kate suggested Lydia should slip away quietly. But Lydia knew this was exactly the wrong advice, Lydia who peeled away discretion long ago, long before the thing with Adrian began, way back when as a child in sixth grade she cheated and got away with it – her word against a child of dubious background – and she first learned the privilege of the rich. Now, with Kate urgent on her arm, Lydia explained it was Oliver’s word against her own. ‘You should have more faith in me, Kate,’ she said, and marched back to the crowd. Seconds later she found Oliver.

‘Oliver Warby, what dreadful stories are you spreading about me!’ The mockery in her voice soared above the noise of the party. ‘What you’ll do for an audience, Oliver! I’m shocked.’ And she walked away, just walked off before Oliver could say a word.

The following morning over coffee in Brunswick Street, she and Adrian decided Hugh was too drunk to know what he had seen, Oliver’s reputation as a gossip, so recently enhanced by Lydia’s timely intervention, meant no one would believe him, and the chauffeur didn’t matter.

Lydia picked at the homemade herb bread and sipped cold coffee. It had been a memorable Cup Day. Oliver had been cool for a while but joint land investments with David meant he was soon back to normal; Kate, too, had been restrained, but Kate was in no position to stand in judgement of anyone. The only person whom Lydia had seriously worried about was Elizabeth. At first she had seemed untouched – if Oliver’s gossip had reached her, clearly she did not believe it – but then, four months later the Dadswell
marriage was finished, Elizabeth had finished it, and around the same time beautiful little Walter jumped off the cliff and nothing would ever be quite the same. And now ten years later Lydia discovers that Elizabeth has known about the affair all along.

Lydia paid the bill and left the café. She drove back to Adrian’s office, still no sign of him. It was four o’clock, early enough to drive out to Eden Park and still be home before David.

She headed for the freeway, entering it before the peak-hour traffic, and drove in search of Adrian. This was her mission of recent years, searching for him, driving all over Melbourne and into the nearby countryside, searching. And when his car was found, sitting, waiting and watching until he appeared, sometimes alone sometimes not. Whatever the circumstances he always denied everything. And when he didn’t appear, she’d leave a note for him on the windscreen. ‘A sign of my love,’ she’d say when next they met, and he complained she was harassing him, complained she didn’t trust him. She could never make him understand that it was love that propelled her – propelled her around Melbourne to have her suspicions denied; although she knew that the best means of that happening was to cease her self- mutilating wanderings. She knew all she needed to know, why must she suffer the proof?

The freeway ended and the road dipped towards a rich rural town on the edge of the city. Always having to suffer the proof. She pulled over, parked and crossed the road to a small picnic ground, where, in the early days of Eden Park, she and Adrian had often stopped for a quick private lunch on their way to or from the site. She sat and pondered. Here she was not much more than forty, and instead of days fragrant and full, she found herself more and more in a tumult of waiting. Wasting. I have the best of lives, she thought, and yet here I sit in a dusty parkland, while time whittles my life away, pares it down, makes of this waiting a mocking endurance. This is not what I want for a life; I’m tired of being left, being alone, finding myself – again – waiting. Time choked with waiting is empty of all else; neither friends, not even the children intrude while I loiter in his absence, waiting. And I curse this waiting that I, only I, never him, have to endure, and
I fear he doesn’t love me and suffer all the more. But of course he loves me as I love him, we just love differently. He loves boisterously, without sentiment, while my love is a sumptuous eruption where enough is never enough. You smother me, he says, you and your love. But how can I smother him when I love him more than myself?

Lydia sits on a bench in a picnic ground on the edge of the city, a plodding in her brain, a thick desultory tramping that stifles common sense. And she knows if she sits there long enough it will be too late to go on to Eden Park and time will have again forced a decision. While she waits for time to do her work, the Rolls glides past heading for Melbourne, Adrian driving, his project manager, Fiona Whelan, assured and beautiful in the passenger seat. And they are laughing, both of them laughing, as Lydia sits waiting.


Kate was home.

‘It feels more like a month than a week,’ she said to Elizabeth who was helping her unpack, ‘and I would have stayed longer, but another day away from her desk and Vivienne would have developed scars. Like stigmata – quite nasty for a good Jewish girl.’

Elizabeth laughed. ‘I’m surprised she took the time off at all.’

‘She didn’t. She forgot to pack her swimsuit but remembered the word processor and printer, her disks, two hard copies of the manuscript – she’s editing at the moment – about two dozen books and some paper. She also forgot her pen but there were plenty at the house.’

‘And here was I thinking you were privy to some secret to prise her from her desk. Now I see what the solution is.’

‘Right, her work goes too. Elizabeth! What on earth are these?’ The two women had moved into the kitchen. Once again the pink dead chicken breasts were dangling between human fingers. ‘They’re disgusting!’

Beetroot, Kate explained, was the diet of the moment, no pink flaps of chook for her. Nor dairy products either. But it was kind of Elizabeth to have bothered.

‘How about a whisky to welcome me home?’

Out came the Waterfords and Scotch; Elizabeth asked about the holiday and Kate settled back and told all. Towards the end of their second drink when Kate interrupted her account to search for some crisps – ‘I’ll be healthy tomorrow,’ she said – she asked about Ginnie. ‘How is she? Enjoying university life? Managing all right? I thought she’d be part of my welcoming committee.’

‘She’s at home and she’s miserable.’


‘Of course.’

‘Has she seen him?’

‘A series of disasters, I’m afraid.’

Elizabeth told Kate about the date that afternoon. ‘He rang to say he’d be late and then failed to show up at all. And before that, there was dinner at a spaghetti bar – she was home by eight, and on enrolment day he practically ignored her, which was a little shoddy considering she hadn’t seen him for two months. There’ve been a few phone calls, and a cup of coffee at the university – ten minutes alone and then friends whisked him away; hardly enough to satisfy a young woman’s love. I could happily murder him; I’ve always suspected he was using her – he would never have passed last year without her help – but now he seems to lack even common decency.’

‘And Ginnie, can’t she see what’s happening?’

‘It seems extraordinary that she doesn’t. But who wants to acknowledge they’ve been used? She’s hurt, she feels rejected, and I expect there’s a lurking suspicion that the object of her love is a stinker. And then there’s her disability, the whole issue of relationships is a loaded one for her. Who could blame her for feeling miserable?’

‘How would she feel if I visited her this evening?’ Kate asked.

Elizabeth took her friend’s hand. ‘Both of us would really appreciate it.’

Vivienne entered the stream of traffic and headed for home. The late afternoon traffic was lethargic and, for the moment at least, drivers were willing to succumb to the slow sticky flow. In another
hour, with the traffic even more congested, the commuters would make up a metre or two with harsh stabs at the accelerator, as if that would, miraculously, bring them to their homes more quickly. Vivienne was not in a hurry, in fact after a week with Kate, a week cluttered with activity, with walking and remembering but most of all talking, Vivienne was grateful for this small respite: locked between a late-model Ford and an antique Morris she could do little but sit and think and begin the return to solitude.

It had always been like this, prolonged time in the company of others had always been an irritation, so she avoided it. But Kate was different, Kate, so much a part of Vivienne’s history, was an exception. And knowing this, Kate made an effort with Vivienne she made with no one else. This last week she had been at her most entertaining with a stampede of memories, helped no doubt by being at Lydia’s beach house where they had spent so many holidays. Stories emerged one after the other, all vaguely familiar, for Kate believed in recycling, she simply added a little embellishment with each narration, like polish to old furniture. And there were discussions too, not Kate’s usual decanting of recent books, but attempts at real exchange, ropy strenuous arguments like those that had captured the imagination of the Rostens and fed impressions of Kate’s brilliance. And while each discussion gave Vivienne pleasure, all of them, together with the stories, meant she was swamped. After a couple of days Vivienne wanted the noise to stop and suggested they spend an afternoon each with her book, but Kate was one of those people who insisted on sharing her reading, and every few minutes she would puncture the silence with ‘You must listen to this’ – interruption after interruption that pulled the curtain on Vivienne’s own thoughts.

Now she was on her way home she could see her timing for the holiday had been poor – foolish to go away with a final draft beckoning – but this had been the week that suited Kate, and theoretically at least, Vivienne had needed a holiday. So she went. Kate had been so pleased. ‘The first time we’ve been away together in three years,’ she reminded Vivienne as they walked along the beach. And Vivienne was pleased too, for while she might tire of the noise, while she might long for peace and quiet, Vivienne
nonetheless loved Kate. As she had loved her from the beginning, from school days ripe with adventure and poetry, confessions and girlish kisses, days imbued with the conviction that the friendship they shared was a true friendship in the classical tradition. ‘Like Horace,’ Vivienne remembered Kate saying when they were teenagers. ‘If the odes are any guide, he must have had hundreds of worthy friends.’ And Vivienne had replied, ‘You will have them too, dearest Kate, you will have them too.’

BOOK: Gracious Living
2.43Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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