Free Women 3
And when had this new frightened vulnerable Anna been born? She knew: it was when Michael had abandoned her.
Anna, frightened and sick, nevertheless grinned at herself, smiled at the knowledge that she, the independent woman, was independent and immune to the ugliness of perverse sex, violent sex, just so long as she was loved by a man. She sat in the dark grinning, or rather, forcing herself to grin, and thinking that there was no one in the world she could share this amusement with but Molly. Only Molly was in such trouble this was no moment to talk to her. Yes — she must ring up Molly tomorrow and talk to her about Tommy.
And now Tommy came back into the front of Anna’s mind, with her worry over Ivor and Ronnie; and it was all too much, she crept in and under the clothes, clinging on to them.
The fact is, said Anna, trying to be calm about it, to herself: that I’m not fit to cope with anything. I stay above all this — chaos, because of this increasingly cold, critical, balancing little brain of mine. (Anna again saw her brain, like a cold little machine, ticking away in her head.)
She lay, frightened, and again the words came into her head: the spring has gone dry. And with the words, came the image: she saw the dry well, a cracked opening into the earth that was all dust.
Laying about her for something to hold on to, she clutched to the memory of Mother Sugar. Yes. I have to dream of water, she told herself. For what was the use of that long ‘experience’ with Mother Sugar if now, in time of drought, she could not reach out for help. I must dream of water, I must dream of how to get back to the spring.
Anna slept and dreamed. She was standing on the edge of a wide yellow desert at midday. The sun was darkened by the dust hanging in the air. The sun was a baleful orange colour over the yellow dusty expanse. Anna knew she had to cross the desert. Over it, on the far side, were mountains — purple and orange and grey. The colours of the dream were extraordinarily beautiful and vivid. But she was enclosed by them, enclosed by these vivid dry colours. There was no water anywhere. Anna started off to walk across the desert, so that she might reach the mountains.
That was the dream she woke with in the morning; and she knew what it meant. The dream marked a change in Anna, in her knowledge of herself. In the desert she was alone, and there was no water, and she was a long way from the springs. She woke knowing that if she was to cross the desert she must shed burdens. She had gone to sleep confused about what to do about Ronnie and Ivor, but woke knowing what she would do. She stopped Ivor on his way out to work (Ronnie was still in bed, sleeping the just sleep of a petted mistress) and said: ‘Ivor, I want you to go.’ This morning he was pale, apprehensive, and appealing. He could not have said more clearly, without using the words to say it: I’m sorry, I’m in love with him and I can’t help myself.
Anna said: ‘Ivor, you must see that it can’t go on.’
He said: ‘I’ve been meaning to say this for some time — you’ve been so good, I really would like to pay you for Ronnie’s being here.’ ‘No.’
‘Whatever rent you say,’ he said, and even now, while he was certainly ashamed of his last-night’s personality, and above all frightened because his idyll might be shattered, he could not prevent the jeering mocking note coming back into his voice.