فصل 14

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فصل 14

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CHAPTER FOURTEEN

Back in the bar

After the meal, Carlo asked if they wanted to go for a coffee at the bar. He wanted to get out of the flat. Ruth and his mother never got on, but it was worse with Stephany there, he thought. His mother seemed to like Stephany more and more, and that, he knew, was difficult for Ruth to watch.

Thank you so much for a lovely meal,’ Stephany said, kissing Carlo’s mother on each cheek.

‘It’s nothing, my beautiful,’ said the Signora. But Stephany noticed she didn’t say goodbye to Ruth.

The two couples went down the narrow street to the bar, Thomas running ahead. Carlo carried the baby in his arms. Carlo and Ruth looked like the perfect couple tonight.

Seeing Carlo for the first time since their evening together, Stephany found she still wanted him. But he was not looking at her at all. They sat round a table in the bar and Luigi took their orders. Luigi was a different character tonight. He was friendly and funny with Carlo, he liked Ruth, and he played with Thomas.

Finally Carlo said, ‘Well, we must be going.’ He had his arm round Ruth. ‘We probably won’t see you two again,’ he said. ‘You’re leaving tomorrow, aren’t you? So it’s goodbye.’

‘That’s strange,’ thought Stephany. ‘It sounds as if he’s saying goodbye for the last time. What does he mean by “we won’t see you again?”

Carlo held out his hand and shook Max’s hand.

‘It’s been good meeting you,’ he said.

‘And you,’ said Max. And I can’t thank you enough for the flat. Of course, I should thank Stephany too, for being your friend in the first place.’ Stephany looked away. ‘I hope we’ll meet again one day,’ said Max. ‘Perhaps you could all come and stay with us in England.’

There was a difficult silence.

‘One day, maybe,’ said Carlo.

Then they all kissed each other goodbye, and Ruth and Carlo disappeared up the street.

‘Let’s have one more drink,’ Max said to Stephany. ‘I feel like staying out late tonight. We’ve hardly had any time alone together this holiday’

‘OK,’ said Stephany. She was no longer worried about Luigi. After all, he had been so friendly this evening.

Stephany ordered a hot chocolate and Max ordered a glass of brandy. They sat at one of the tables outside. A light wind blew things about the street, and once it blew over the empty bottles on their table.

‘The weather’s changing,’ said Max. A lot of people had gone inside the bar, away from the light rain which had begun to fall. They could hear waves crashing onto the rocks below.

‘I was thinking,’ Max said, looking at Stephany across the table and taking her hand. ‘It’s been such a lovely week here, we’ve got on so well. Better in some ways than in London. How would you feel about moving in together when we get back?’

Stephany looked at Max. She was still thinking about Carlo’s final words. So suddenly she felt happy she had Max. Alter all, he was far more handsome than Carlo.

‘Oh, Max,’ she said, kissing him. ‘I’ve been thinking the same thing.’

Just then, Luigi came over to take their empty glasses. He stopped, his hands full, then spoke in English. ‘I expected to see you at the festival the other night. Where were you?’

Max laughed. ‘I was ill in bed,’ he said, ‘but Stephany was there, with Carlo and Ruth.’

‘No,’ said Luigi, looking at Stephany now. ‘They were not there. I looked out all evening for Carlo and he wasn’t there. And when I asked Ruth, she said she stayed at home with Thomas.’

Max looked at Stephany. ‘Where were you?’ he asked. ‘I never asked what you did that evening.’

‘Oh,’ said Stephany, ‘Carlo and I decided not to go to the festival. We decided it wouldn’t be fun without you and Ruth.’

‘By the way,’ Luigi said, ‘I found this on Bianca Beach.’ And he gave something to Stephany. It was her watch.

‘I found it on Wednesday morning,’ said Luigi. ‘Well, goodbye.’ And he went off looking very pleased with himself.

‘Bianca Beach?’ Max asked, suddenly feeling rather uncomfortable. ‘Have we been to Bianca Beach?’ He knew they hadn’t, and wasn’t sure why he was asking.

‘I don’t like that waiter,’ Stephany said angrily. ‘He’s got a bad look about him. Come on, I’ve finished my drink. Let’s go.’

‘Wait,’ said Max. ‘If you and Carlo weren’t at the festival, and Ruth wasn’t with you, then you must have been at Bianca Beach. Why didn’t you tell me?’

Stephany began to feel a little frightened. She looked up at Max, trying to think of something to say.

‘I hope it’s not what I’m thinking,’ said Max, suddenly feeling very jealous. ‘You didn’t… you and Carlo … I don’t believe this!’

‘Hey Max,’ said Stephany. She was frightened now. Max was not going to forget this if he found out the whole truth.

‘Don’t start getting jealous!’

But this time, Max knew he wasn’t being jealous for nothing.

‘How could you?’ shouted Max. ‘Carlo’s got a wife and children!’

‘Why don’t you say “How could he!” said Stephany back to him, suddenly very angry. ‘It takes two, you know!’

‘Because I don’t care what he does. I care what you do!’ Max shouted.

‘Shhhf’ said Stephany. ‘Everyone’s looking at us. Let’s go. We can talk somewhere else.’

As they got up to leave Stephany realised for the first time why Ruth hated living in a small village. It was as if everyone knew everything about her, and were never going to let her forget it.

They walked towards the beach without talking. The waves were really big now and they could hear thunder in the distance. Then Stephany said, ‘Max, you must understand, it means nothing to me now.’

‘We’re talking about two days ago,’ said Max. ‘How can you do something one day, and then say it means nothing two days later?’

Stephany couldn’t answer.

‘Were you always lovers?’ asked Max, remembering now his thought that it would be difficult for any man to be ‘just good friends’ with Stephany.

‘Only once,’ said Stephany. ‘I was telling you the truth when I said we were just friends when he offered me his flat the first time.’

‘So when were you lovers before?’ asked Max.

‘Two years ago, the first time I met Ruth, there was an evening…’

‘You mean you waited until Carlo was married to Ruth before deciding to sleep with him?’ Max was beginning to understand and he didn’t like what he was learning about Stephany.

‘I was afraid I was going to lose him,’ said Stephany.

‘But… but, you had already lost him!’ said Max. ‘He was married to Ruth.’

‘Oh! You are so stupid,’ shouted Stephany ‘The trouble with men,’ she said, ‘is there is always one rule for them, and a different one for women. These things happen, you know!’ Then she turned and ran off into the night.

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