“That’s more like it,” he said.
“More like what?”
“More like the homecoming I was expecting.”
I flinched and he touched my face.
“Lo, honey, it was a joke.”
We were both quiet for a long time. I thought he was slipping into sleep, and I shut my own eyes and let the tiredness wash over me, but then I felt his chest lift, and the muscles in his arm tense as he took a deep breath.
“Lo, I’m not going to ask again, but . . .”
He didn’t finish, but he didn’t have to. I could feel what he wanted to say. It was what he’d said on New Year’s Eve—he wanted us to move forward. Move in together.
“Let me think about it,” I said at last, in a voice that didn’t seem to be mine, a voice that was unusually subdued.
“That’s what you said months ago.”
“I’m still thinking.”
“Well, I’ve made up my mind.” He touched my chin, pulling my face gently towards his. What I saw there made my heart flip-flop. I reached out for him, but he caught my hand and held it. “Lo, stop trying to make this go away. I’ve been really patient, you know I have, but I’m starting to feel like we’re not on the same page.”
I felt my insides flutter with a familiar panic—something between hope and terror.
“Not on the same page?” My smile felt forced. “Have you been watching Oprah again?”
He let go of my hand at that, and something in his face had closed off as he turned away. I bit my lip.
“No,” he said. “Just—no. I wanted to talk about this but you clearly don’t, so— Look, I’m tired. It’s nearly morning. Let’s go to sleep.”
“Jude,” I said again, pleadingly this time, hating myself for being such a bitch, hating him for pushing me into this.
“I said no,” he said wearily, into the pillow. I thought he was talking about our conversation, but then he continued. “To a job. Back in New York. I turned it down. For you.”
- CHAPTER 4 -
I was sleeping a deep, stupefied sleep, as if I’d been drugged, when the alarm dragged me to consciousness a few hours later.
I didn’t know how long it had been going off, but I suspected a long, long time. My head ached, and I lay for a long moment trying to orientate myself before I managed to reach out and silence the clock in case it woke Judah.
I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes and stretched, trying to work the kinks from my neck and shoulders, and then levered myself painfully up to vertical, climbed out of bed, and made my way through to Judah’s kitchen. While the coffee percolated, I took my pills, and then hunted in the bathroom for painkillers. I found ibuprofen and paracetamol, as well as something in a brown plastic bottle that I vaguely remembered Judah being prescribed when he twisted his knee in a football match. I opened the childproof lid and inspected the pills inside. They were huge, half-red and half-white, and looked impressive.
In the end I chickened out of taking them, and instead pressed two ibuprofen and a fast-acting paracetamol into my palm from the assorted blister packs on the bathroom shelf. I gulped them down with a cup of coffee—black, there was no milk in the empty fridge—and then sipped the rest of the cup more slowly as I thought about last night, about my stupid actions, about Judah’s announcement. . . .
I was surprised. No, more than surprised—I was shocked. We’d never really discussed his plans long-term, but I knew he missed his friends in the US, and his mum and younger brother—neither of whom I’d met. What he’d done . . . had he done it for himself? Or for us?
There was half a cup of coffee left in the jug, and I poured it into a second mug and carried it carefully through to the bedroom.
Judah was lying sprawled across the mattress as if he’d fallen there. People in films always look peaceful in sleep, but Judah didn’t. His battered mouth was hidden beneath his upflung arm, but with his angular nose and furrowed brow he looked like an angry hawk, shot down by a gamekeeper midflight and still pissed off about it.
I set the coffee cup very gently on his bedside table and, putting my face close on the pillow next to him, I kissed the back of his neck. It was warm, and surprisingly soft.
He stirred in his sleep, putting out one long tanned arm to loop over my shoulders, and his eyes opened, looking three shades darker than their usual hazel brown.
“Hey,” I said softly.
“Hey.” He scrunched up his face and yawned, and then pulled me down beside him. For a moment I resisted, thinking of the boat and the train and the car waiting for me at Hull. Then my limbs seemed to melt like plastic and I let myself fold into him, into his warmth. We lay there staring into each other’s eyes, and I reached out and tentatively touched the Steri-Strip across his lip.
“Think it’ll re-root?”
“I don’t know,” he said. “I hope so, I’ve got to go to Moscow tomorrow, and I don’t want to be messing around with dentists while I’m out there.”
I said nothing. He closed his eyes and stretched, and I heard his joints click as he did. Then he rolled onto his side and put his cupped hand gently over my bare breast.
“Judah . . .” I said. I could hear the mix of exasperation and longing in my voice.
“I can’t. I’ve got to go.”
“Don’t. Stop that.”
“Don’t, stop? Or don’t stop?” He gave a slow lopsided smile.
“Both. You know which one I mean.” I pulled myself upright and shook my head. It hurt, and I regretted the movement instantly.
“Your cheek okay?” Judah asked.
“Yeah.” I put a hand up to it. It was swollen, but not as much as before.
His face was troubled, and he put out a finger to stroke the bruise, but I flinched away in spite of myself.
“I should have been there,” he said.
“Well, you weren’t,” I said snappishly, more snappishly than I’d meant to. “You never are.”
He blinked and pulled himself up on his elbows to look at me, his face still soft with sleep, crumpled with marks from his pillow.
“What the . . . ?”
“You heard me.” I knew I was being unreasonable, but the words came tumbling out. “What’s the future, Jude? Even if I move in here—what’s the plan? Do I sit here weaving my shroud like Penelope and keeping the home fires burning while you drink Scotch in some bar in Russia with the other foreign correspondents?”