She shivered. There were night chills carried in on strands of fog. “I actually thought this might be it…might be real. Ridiculous!”
Laughing harshly: “I can’t blame him. Men want me. Then they find out what you found out once. I'm introverted. Totally withdrawn. I've become extremely shunning.”
“Shunning? You mean stunning,” he said.
“Everything. Social chatter. Parties. Laughing, dancing parties. And political parties too--people whispering political secrets behind cupped hands. I'm too brainy for that…I think. Men don’t like it.”
“I like it.”
“I always make mistakes with men…never know what’s important for me. My problem is, I live with things that’re subjective.”
She moved away, glancing landwards now, towards the boat basin. “I keep thinking that some Friday evening even I could be happy.”
Small shimmering lights glowed quiet—piers and finger piers shone between slips. Silhouette land—tinkling masts and spars standing out dark against the less dark sky. Her voice came back dreamy—bitter:
“What really got to us was that you didn't even come to see her when she cracked totally!”
“I was abroad, Miriam. I never knew.”
“I've got to go!” But he stopped her, holding her arm.
“Wait. Let me show you something. Please. Just a second.” Taking his wallet out.
“Do you see this miniature painting. It’s been halfway around the world…since you were nineteen.”
“Where’d you get that?”
“Martha had it. I took it. She didn't know.”
“All those years! You've been carrying that for all those years? And not hers? Damn you! My sister almost died for you and you didn't even have her picture? Just my picture!”
“Miriam, you know it was always you. And you always knew that.”
A smile—the shy kind. “You telling me you were that crazy about me?"
But she turned away again. “All right. That’s hardly a news flash.”
“Don’t belittle it. Most people would give anything to be wanted the way I wanted you. And you knew. Why did you push me on to her?”
“Because she needed you.”
“And you didn't?”
“Damn you. You broke her heart!”
“That shouldn't make you stop telling the truth. You know what was between us. You’ll never forget.”
“You dropped her. You shattered her.”
“It was a mistake from the start. You were nineteen. She was sick. In some kind of deep depression. Emotionally, it was way over my head.”
“Yeah. That wouldn't make it deep, Jude.”
He smiled. “Don’t throw this away. It can be ours now. Days and nights—oceans, seashores warm under the stars. Don’t lose it again. Believe in happiness, Miriam.”
But she seemed wholly doubtful. “I might believe in it if I knew what it was.”
Her voice wavered—vague, listless: “Your work scares me.”
So now what? Trying to grasp that dilemma, did he fumble his options? Knowing young nights play sweet elsewhere also? And girls lean light against boys…same as everywhere. Like rivers, shore lights ripple over dark water.
“I'll give that up,” he said.
“You can't. You love the edge. You'll always be there. Never with me.”
“That’s over. Stay with me and I'll never need it. Some friends are coming. They’ll tell you.”
She seemed to hesitate. “Is that what you're promising me?”
He nodded, wondering if he really was. And she, now at the abyss of trusting, kept her stare locked in on his—the moment holding its breath like just another railroaded drifter in just another gas chamber.