Free Women 3
Richard had sensed her momentary lapse into discouragement. He stood, just in front of her, breathing heavily, his dark eyes narrowed. Then he slowly, sarcastically smiled. What’s he trying to remind me of? Anna wondered. Surely it couldn’t be — yes, it was. He was reminding her of that evening when she might, just possibly, have gone to bed with him. And instead of feeling angry, or contemptuous, she knew she was looking self-conscious. She said: ‘Richard, please open the door.’ He stood, maintaining his sarcastic pressure on her, enjoying it; then she went past him to the door and tried to push it open. She could see herself, awkward and flustered, uselessly pushing at the door. Then it opened: Richard had gone back to his desk and touched the appropriate button. Anna walked straight out, past the luxuriant secretary, Marion’s probable successor, and descended through the cushioned gleaming carpeted foliaged centre of the building to the ugly street, which she greeted with relief.
She went to the nearest underground, not-thinking, knowing she was in a state of near-collapse. The rush hour had begun. She was being jostled in a herd of people. Suddenly she was panicking, so badly that she withdrew from the people pressing towards the ticket booth, and stood, her palms and armpits wet, leaning against a wall. This had happened to her twice recently at rush hour. Something is happening to me, she thought, struggling for control. I’m only just managing to skate on the surface of something — but what? She remained by the wall, unable to move forward into the crowd again. The city at rush hour — it was impossible for her to get from here, the five or six miles to her flat, in a hurry, save by the underground. No one could. They were all of them, all these people, caught by the terrible pressure of the city. All except Richard and people like him. If she went upstairs again and asked him to send her home by car, of course he would. He’d be delighted. And of course she would not. There was nothing for it except to make herself go forward. Anna forced herself forward, fitted herself into the press of people, waited her turn for a ticket, went down the escalator in an ooze of people. On the platform four trains came in before she was able to squeeze herself into a compartment. Now the worst was over. She had only to stand, held upright by the pressure of people, in the brightly lit, crammed, smelling place, and in ten or twelve minutes she would be at her home station. She was afraid she might faint.