Free Women 3
Yet why should Anna feel responsible? … It isn’t as if one doesn’t have enough trouble with ‘normal’ men, she said to herself, trying to dissipate her uneasiness with humour. But the humour failed. She tried again: It’s my home, my home, my home — this time attempting to fill herself with strong proprietary emotions. This failed too: she sat thinking: Yet why do I have a home at all? Because I wrote a book I am ashamed of, and it made a lot of money. Luck, luck, that’s all. And I hate all that — my home, my possessions, my rights. And yet come to the point where I’m uncomfortable, I fall back on it just like everyone else. Mine. Property. Possessions. I’m going to protect Janet because of my property. What’s the use of protecting her? She will grow up in England, a country full of men who are little boys and homosexuals and the half-homosexuals … but this tired thought vanished in a strong wave of genuine emotion — By God, there are a few real men left, and I’m going to see she gets one of them. I’m going to see she grows up to recognize a real man when she meets one. Ronnie’s going to have to leave.
With which she went to the bathroom, to get ready for bed. The lights were on. She stopped at the door. Ronnie stood anxiously peering into the mirror over the shelf where she kept her cosmetics. He was patting lotion on to his cheeks with her cottonwool, and trying to smooth out the lines on his forehead.
Anna said: ‘Like my lotion better than yours?’
He turned, without surprise. She saw that he had intended her to find him there.
‘My dear,’ he said, graceful and coquettish, ‘I was trying your lotion out. Does it do anything for you?’
‘Not much,’ said Anna. She leaned at the door, watching, waiting to be enlightened.
He was wearing an expensive silk dressing-gown in a soft hazy purple, with a reddish cravat tucked into it. He wore expensive red leather Moorish slippers, thonged with gold. He looked as if he should be in some harem, and not in this flat in the wastes of London’s student-land. Now he stood with his head on one side, patting the waves of black, faintly greying hair with a manicured hand. ‘I did try a rinse,’ he remarked, ‘but the grey shows through.’
‘Distinguished, really,’ said Anna. She had now understood: terrified that she might throw him out, he was appealing to her as one girl to another. She tried to tell herself she was amused. The truth was she was disgusted, and ashamed that she was.
‘But my dear Anna,’ he lisped winningly, ‘Looking distinguished is all very well, if one is — if I can put it that way — on the employing side.’
‘But Ronnie,’ Anna said, succumbing despite her disgust, and playing the role she was expected to play: ‘You look very charming, in spite of the odd grey hair. I’m sure dozens of people must find you devastating.’