The Free Women 1
‘Richard came to see me about Tommy,’ said Anna.
‘Oh — idiotic! He asked me if I thought it was good for Tommy to spend so much time brooding. I said I thought it was good for everyone to brood, if by that he meant, thinking; and that since Tommy was twenty and grown up it was not for us to interfere anyway.’
‘Well it isn’t good for him,’ said Molly.
‘He asked me if I thought it would be good for Tommy to go off on some trip or other to Germany — a business trip, with him. I told him to ask Tommy, not me. Of course Tommy said no.’
‘Of course. Well I’m sorry Tommy didn’t go.’
‘But the real reason he came, I think, was because of Marion. But Marion had just been to see me, and had a prior claim, so to speak. So I wouldn’t discuss Marion at all. I think it’s likely he’s coming to discuss Marion with you.’
Molly was watching Anna closely. ‘How many times did Richard come?’
‘About five or six times.’
After a silence, Molly let her anger spurt out with: ‘It’s very odd he seems to expect me almost to control Marion. Why me? Or you? Well, perhaps you’d better go after all. It’s going to be difficult if all sorts of complications have been going on while my back was turned.’
Anna said firmly: ‘No, Molly. I didn’t ask Richard to come and see me. I didn’t ask Marion to come and see me. After all, it’s not your fault or mine that we seem to play the same role for people. I said what you would have said — at least, I think so.’
There was a note of humorous, even childish pleading in this. But it was deliberate. Molly, the older sister, smiled and said: ‘Well, all right.’ She continued to observe Anna narrowly; and Anna was careful to appear unaware of it. She did not want to tell Molly what had happened between her and Richard now; not until she could tell her the whole story of the last miserable year.
‘Is Marion drinking badly?’
‘Yes, I think she is.’
‘And she told you all about it?’
‘Yes. In detail. And what’s odd is, I swear she talked as if I were you — even making slips of the tongue, calling me Molly and so on.’
‘Well, I don’t know,’ said Molly. ‘Who would ever have thought? And you and I are different as chalk and cheese.’
‘Perhaps not so different,’ said Anna, drily; but Molly laughed in disbelief.