But he smiled.
“Well, that would be lovely. And now, may I offer you a cup of tea? We have the luxury of electricity!” And he indicated an orange cable that ran from a power post beyond the house to a makeshift table constructed of some wooden crates where there was a kettle and a mug. “We have water, too,” he said, “So I can offer you some tea. It won't be Spode, though!” And she saw on the crate some cheap china mugs.
“I should be delighted,” she replied, echoing his phrase from the week before, even though the mugs weren't the cleanest. Lucy decided to accept his offer. She felt, despite herself, happiness building inside her, because he treated her like a friend. She told herself not to be silly, because she wanted him to treat her like a lover, but maybe that was unreachable, and maybe the best thing she could have was his friendship. While the tea was drawing – and this time it really was teabags in mugs – he took her along the balustraded verandah and she pointed out the sights of the town to him.
|The Campaspe River by T F Levick|
“That's where I went to school,” she said, “Beauville College. I teach there now. And that's where I broke my wrist when I fell off my bicycle.”
He looked amusedly at her.
“Were you a bit of a tomboy?” he asked.
“No,” she replied thoughtfully, “But I was a bit of a loner and was always in a hurry to get from one place to another.”
“What do you teach?”
“Quite a few things, actually. I trained to teach English, but then we did Hamlet as a school play and I was roped in to do that, so then they gave a few drama classes to teach and because I did some music, now they've got me teaching the primary grades choir.”
“What music did you study?” he asked quietly, not looking at her.
“Oh, you know. The sort of thing one does at school,” – where you have hopes – “guitar and a bit of piano and singing.”
“Did you consider studying music further?”
“No,” replied Lucy, “to be a professional musician, you have to be the very best. Second best isn't good enough. And I wasn't even second-best. But I do have a lot of fun. The littlies enjoy singing so much, and I'm good with them.”
“Yes,” he answered with a smile, but his thoughts obviously elsewhere, “I'm sure you are.”
Stop prattling like a lovesick schoolgirl, Lucy urged herself. There was an awkward silence.
“Come and look at the swimming pool,” he said, and carrying their mugs they set off around the back of the house. Set in the ground was an enormous swimming pool lined with mosaic. It was filled with gum tree leaves, strips of bark and a thicket of fallen twigs and small branches.
“I don't know,” he said, “Whether I'll have to pull the whole thing out and start afresh or whether we can patch the cracks. Come and look at this,” he said. He held out his hand and helped her step down into the shallow end. She felt the warmth of his hand sent a thrill up her arm. It was so strong and yet the fingers were fine-boned, not delicate, but elegant. She had to search for the word, and elegant summed them up perfectly. Yet they were also very manly and strong. He had cleared away a few of the leaves on the floor of the pool, and there, set into the concrete was a mosaic pattern of a mermaid. “I think,” he said, “The whole pool is probably decorated with these 1920 images. It would be wonderful to be able to fix it and to have this 80 or 90 year old pool in use again.”
Lucy couldn't help wondering why he'd come to Beauville, because it looked to her as though the inheritance of the house was more or less worthless – he would have to spend as much on it again as it was worth, and probably (she thought back to the ripped up floorboards) even more. What was it that brought him here? Why did he hole himself up in a small Australian country town far from the bright lights of the world? She was sure that someone like him – handsome, capable, and wealthy – would be the darling of the cocktail party circuits and parties everywhere, from Hollywood to Paris. And yet, here he was, being nice to her, Lucy Grady, with freckles on her nose, and hair that no matter what she did didn't look glamorous and soignée. She was too scared to ask him in case it made him think, so she just accepted it, but later that night as she lay in bed reading a cheap thriller she thought about it and wondered.
The next morning was a Saturday, which was, of all days in the week, Lucy's favourite. She would treat herself to a latte at the Blue Velvet Café on the High Street, and she would go and browse through the second-hand bookshop and see if they had any books of the authors she was fond of. If the day wasn't too hot she would take a packet of sandwiches and walk along the river listening to the currawongs and the magpies trilling in the gum trees.
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