The Black Notebook
Maryrose merely smiled, and even in this broken light, branch-and-leaf-stippled, her brown eyes showed enormous and shone softly.
‘Maryrose has a broken heart,’ observed Willi above my head.
‘Broken hearts belong to old-fashioned novels,’ said Paul. ‘They don’t go with the time we live in.’
‘On the contrary,’ said Ted. ‘There are more broken hearts than there have ever been, just because of the times we live in. In fact I’m sure any heart we are ever likely to meet is so cracked and jarred and split it’s just a mass of scar tissue.’
Maryrose smiled up at Ted, shyly, but gratefully, and said seriously: ‘Yes, of course that’s true.’
Maryrose had had a brother whom she deeply loved. They were close by temperament, but more important, they had the tenderest of bonds because of their impossible, bullying, embarrassing mother against whom they supported each other. This brother had been killed in North Africa the previous year. It happened that Maryrose was in the Cape at the time doing modelling. She was, of course, much in demand because of how she looked. One of the young men looked like her brother. We had seen a photograph of him — a slight, fair-moustached, aggressive young man. She fell instantly in love with him. She said to us — and I remember the sense of shock we felt, as we always did with her, because of her absolute, but casual honesty: ‘Yes, I know I fell in love with him because he looked like my brother, but what’s wrong with that?’ She was always asking, or stating: ‘What’s wrong with that?’ and we could never think of an answer. But the young man was like her brother only in looks, and while he was happy to have an affair with Maryrose he did not want to marry her.
‘It may be true,’ said Willi, ‘but it’s very silly. Do you know what’s going to happen to you, Maryrose, unless you watch out? You’re going to make a cult of this boy-friend of yours, and the longer you do that the unhappier you’ll be. You’ll keep off all the nice boys you could marry, and eventually you’ll marry someone for the sake of marrying, and you’ll be one of these dissatisfied matrons we see all around us.’
In parenthesis I must say that this is exactly what happened to Maryrose. For another few years she continued to be delectably pretty, allowed herself to be courted while she maintained her sweet smile that was like a yawn, sat patiently inside the circle of this man’s arm or that; and finally and very suddenly married a middle-aged man who already had three children. She did not love him. Her heart had gone dead when her brother was crushed into pulp by a tank.
‘So what do you think I should do?’ she enquired, with her terrible amiability, across a patch of moonlight, to Willi.