The Free Women 1
Anna meets her friend Molly in the summer of 1957 after a separation…
The two women were alone in the London flat.
‘The point is,’ said Anna, as her friend came back from the telephone on the landing, ‘the point is, that as far as I can see, everything’s cracking up.’
Molly was a woman much on the telephone. When it rang she had just enquired: ‘Well, what’s the gossip?’ Now she said, ‘That’s Richard, and he’s coming over. It seems today’s his only free moment for the next month. Or so he insists.’
‘Well I’m not leaving,’ said Anna.
‘No, you stay just where you are.’
Molly considered her own appearance — she was wearing trousers and a sweater, both the worse for wear. ‘He’ll have to take me as I come,’ she concluded, and sat down by the window. ‘He wouldn’t say what it’s about — another crisis with Marion, I suppose.’
‘Didn’t he write to you?’ asked Anna, cautious.
‘Both he and Marion wrote — ever such bonhomous letters. Odd, isn’t it?’
This odd, isn’t if? was the characteristic note of the intimate conversations they designated gossip. But having struck the note, Molly swerved off with: ‘It’s no use talking now, because he’s coming right over, he says.’
‘He’ll probably go when he sees me here,’ said Anna, cheerfully, but slightly aggressive. Molly glanced at her, keenly, and said: ‘Oh, but why?’
It had always been understood that Anna and Richard disliked each other; and before, Anna had always left when Richard was expected. Now Molly said: ‘Actually I think he rather likes you, in his heart of hearts. The point is, he’s committed to liking me, on principle — he’s such a fool he’s always got to either like or dislike someone, so all the dislike he won’t admit he has for me gets pushed off on to you.’