The Yellow Notebook
[The yellow notebook looked like the manuscript of a novel, for it was called The Shadow of the Third. It certainly began like a novel:]
Julia’s voice came loud up the stairs: ‘Ella, aren’t you going to the party? Are you going to use the bath? If not, I will.’ Ella did not answer. For one thing, she was sitting on her son’s bed, waiting for him to drop off to sleep. For another, she had decided not to go to the party, and did not want to argue with Julia. Soon she made a cautious movement off the bed, but at once Michael’s eyes opened, and he said: ‘What party? Are you going to it?’ ‘No,’ she said, ‘go to sleep.’
His eyes sealed themselves, the lashes quivered and lay still. Even asleep he was formidable, a square-built, tough four-year-old. In the shaded light his sandy hair, his lashes, even a tiny down on his bare forearm gleamed gold. His skin was brown and faintly glistening from the summer. Ella quietly turned off the lights — waited; went to the door — waited; slipped out — waited. No sound. Julia came brisk up the stairs, enquiring in her jolly off-hand voice: ‘Well, are you going?’ ‘Shhhh, Michael’s just off to sleep.’ Julia lowered her voice and said: ‘Go and have your bath now. I want to wallow in peace when you’re gone.’ ‘But I said I’m not going,’ said Ella, slightly irritable.
‘Why not?’ said Julia, going into the large room of the flat. There were two rooms and a kitchen, all rather small and low-ceilinged, being right under the roof. This was Julia’s house, and Ella lived in it, with her son Michael, in these three rooms. The larger room had a recessed bed, books, some prints. It was bright and light, rather ordinary, or anonymous. Ella had not attempted to impose her own taste on it. Some inhibition stopped her: this was Julia’s house, Julia’s furniture; somewhere in the future lay her own taste. It was something like this that she felt. But she enjoyed living here and had no plans for moving out. Ella went after Julia and said: ‘I don’t feel like it.’ ‘You never feel like it,’ said Julia. She was squatting in an armchair sizes too big for the room, smoking. Julia was plump, stocky, vital, energetic, Jewish. She was an actress. She had never made much of being an actress. She played small parts, competently. They were, as she complained, of two kinds: ‘Stock working-class comic, and stock working-class pathetic.’ She was beginning to work for television. She was deeply dissatisfied with herself.
When she said: ‘You never feel like it,’ it was a complaint partly against Ella, and partly against herself. She always felt like going out, could never refuse an invitation. She would say that even when she despised some role she was playing, hated the play, and wished she had nothing to do with it, she nevertheless enjoyed what she called ‘flaunting her personality around’. She loved rehearsals, theatre shop and small talk and malice.