Free Women 1
But now the door-bell rang, and both instinctively gathered themselves into more tidy postures. Molly leaned out of the window again, shouted: ‘Mind your head!’ and threw down the door-key, wrapped in an old scarf.
They watched Richard lean down to pick up the key, without even a glance upwards, though he must know that at least Molly was there. ‘He hates me doing that,’ she said. ‘Isn’t it odd? After all these years? And his way of showing it is simply to pretend it didn’t happen.’
Richard came into the room. He looked younger than his middle age, being well-tanned after an early summer holiday in Italy. He wore a tight yellow sports shirt, and new light trousers: every Sunday of his year, summer or winter, Richard Portmain wore clothes that claimed him for the open air. He was a member of various suitable golf and tennis clubs, but never played unless for business reasons. He had had a cottage in the country for years; but sent his family to it alone, unless it was advisable to entertain business friends for a weekend. He was by every instinct urban. He spent his week-ends dropping from one club, one pub, one bar, to the next. He was a shortish, dark, compact man, almost fleshy. His round face, attractive when he smiled, was obstinate to the point of sullenness when he was not smiling. His whole solid person — head poked out forward, eyes unblinking, had this look of dogged determination. He now impatiently handed Molly the key, that was loosely bundled inside her scarlet scarf. She took it and began trickling the soft material through her solid white fingers, remarking: ‘Just off for a healthy day in the country, Richard?’
Having braced himself for just such a jibe, he now stiffly smiled, and peered into the dazzle of sunlight around the white window. When he distinguished Anna, he involuntarily frowned, nodded stiffly, and sat down hastily across the room from both of them, saying: ‘I didn’t know you had a visitor, Molly.’
‘Anna isn’t a visitor,’ said Molly.
She deliberately waited until Richard had had the full benefit of the sight of them, indolently displayed in the sunshine, heads turned towards him in benevolent enquiry, and offered: ‘Wine, Richard? Beer? Coffee? Or a nice cup of tea perhaps?’
‘If you’ve got a Scotch, I wouldn’t mind.’
‘Beside you,’ said Molly.
But having made what he clearly felt to be a masculine point, he didn’t move. ‘I came to discuss Tommy.’ He glanced at Anna, who was licking up the last of her strawberries.