A Pure Clear Light

A Pure Clear Light

by Madeleine St. John, Madeleine St John

Paperback(1 CARROLL)

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780786708680
Publisher: Avalon Publishing Group
Publication date: 05/28/2001
Edition description: 1 CARROLL
Pages: 240
Product dimensions: 5.53(w) x 8.21(h) x 0.69(d)

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Chapter One


'Simon, there's a woman over there who keeps looking at us.'

    'Surely not.'

    'There is. For God's sake; take a look yourself. It must be someone you know.'

    'Hardly likely, darling. Just your imagination.'

    'I haven't got any imagination, as you perfectly well know. Look, there she goes again. Hurried, furtive glances. Oh my God.'

    Simon shrugged. 'It's probably Flora,' he said.

    Gillian pulled her hand away from Simon's 'That was despicable,' she said.

    And so it was: for Flora was Simon's deceived, betrayed wife, and Gillian was his mistress, and whether or not their liaison itself was in poor taste (as some might have averred) flippant or jesting remarks very surely were. Simon's expression was all contrition; shame filled his heart. 'Sorry, darling,' he said. 'Sorry, sorry, sorry.'

    Gillian said nothing. It was Flora to whom the apologies were actually due: strange that it should be she who should apparently be more conscious of this. She picked up her glass and drank, glancing across the crowded brasserie as she did so. Simon saw her sudden startled glance. 'There she goes again,' she hissed. 'For heaven's sake, Simon, take a look yourself. Look in the mirror.'

    Gillian was sitting with her back to the wall, which was lined with mirror glass; Simon, opposite her, peered into its depths. 'Such a lot of people,' he said. 'Where is she sitting, exactly?'

    'Over by the door. In a black hat.You should spot her easily.'

    Simon looked again, and this time he saw the hat: he saw the hat, he saw — briefly, dreadfully, and just sufficiently — the face beneath it. 'Oh my God,' he said. And he seemed to shrink down in his chair, as if wishing to extinguish himself entirely.

    'Who is it?'

    'Of all the putrid, idiotic bad luck.'

    'Who is it?'

    'Don't look now,' Simon said, 'for God's sake, don't look now — in fact, don't look again, ever. She mustn't know we've seen her. There's just a chance that she won't be sure it's me. After all, she's only seen my back.'

    'Unless she's seen your face in the mirror,' said Gillian. 'Who the hell is she, Simon?' Gillian was terrified that it might, indeed, be Flora, whom she had never seen, whom she hoped she might never, never see; she was appalled at the idea in any case of their having been seen, she and Simon together: that some innocent explanation might just conceivably be offered and accepted for their presence here, now, was almost beside the point. And what, so far, had the unknown woman seen — their clasped hands? the veil of intimacy which enclosed them here in this crowded place? Who, in any event, was she?

    'Well, it isn't Flora,' said Simon.

    'Thank God for that.'

    'But it's almost as bad. Almost.'

    'Which is?'

    'It's Lydia. It's Lydia Faraday.'

    'And who, exactly,' said Gillian, 'is Lydia Faraday?'


Chapter Two


When Simon had first known Flora — a decade and a half ago: how time flew! — she had still been a professing Roman Catholic, but he had soon talked her out of it.

    'I can't believe no one has told you all this before,' he said, having itemised the horrid ingredients in that scarlet brew — moral blackmail, misogyny, cannibalism and the rest. 'At Cambridge, or wherever.'

    'Oh, but they have,' Flora assured him.

    'But?'

    'I didn't really care,' said Flora, 'what the others said.'

    'Ah,' said Simon. He was home and dry. They got married, when the time eventually came, in an Anglican church, causing sorrow and consternation to Flora's parents, who knew in their bones that this was not a proper marriage ceremony, and joy and satisfaction to Simon's, whose bones told them that no other — truly — was; although of course by 'proper' they meant something rather different from what Flora's parents meant; but since the bride's mother is expected to cry, anyway, everyone looked as happy on the occasion as they ought.

    When they had been married for several years, and Flora began to get a brooding look now and then, and to ask rhetorical questions about spiritual growth, Simon took a stern line. 'For heaven's sake,' he said.

    'Exactly,' said Flora.

    Look, said Simon, 'we're not going to have to go through this again, are we? It's hocus pocus. You agreed. And there are the kids to consider.' They had two girls and a boy.

    'Yes,' said Flora. 'I'm considering them.'

    'They can be Anglican if they like,' said Simon expansively. 'You too, for that matter. Further than that I'm not prepared to go. Honestly, Flora. I mean it, the Pope and Days of Obligation and plastic Virgin Marys with light bulbs inside them and all the rest of it — no way. Not in my house. Please. It's just too effing naff.'

    Flora looked down at the floor to hide her smile, but despite herself, she began to laugh. Yes, Days of Obligation, the Pope — it was naff, alright. But then — what could you expect? Simon was laughing too, relieved and glad. But then Flora stopped laughing. 'That's not the whole story,' she said. 'After all.' Simon didn't want to go into the rest of the story, the part that wasn't naff, because that was something even worse.

    'Be an Anglican,' he reiterated. It was the lesser of two evils. In fact it was hardly evil at all; it was probably completely harmless. 'No naffery there.'

    'I wouldn't be too sure about that,' said Flora.

    She let the whole thing ride for another year, but when the mood once more came upon her — or was it the Holy Ghost speaking to her? Probably — she looked again at the noticeboard in the porch of an Anglican church not too far from where they lived in Hammersmith, and judging it rightly to be High (another, nearer, was Low) she found herself noting the times of the masses. Hmmmm, she thought. She had no present intention of attending; she was just sussing it out. In any case, she was too busy to brood very often, because she had gone into business with a woman friend importing and selling third-world textiles; and the children continued to be highly labour-intensive: Janey was thirteen, Nell was nine, and little Thomas had just turned five.

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