‘Have you heard from Jake, Anna?’
The wine glass tipped from her nerveless fingers. The violent splash of colour seeped like blood onto the pristine linen cloth.
Absently, she dipped her finger into the spilled liquid and brought it shaking to her lips. She tasted its sweetness, sharp on her tongue.
‘Anna. What is it? You’re as white as a ghost.’
She looked across the table at Jason. Her cheeks grew warm as if the wine had set a fire inside her.
She stumbled to her feet, knocking her chair over in her haste to escape.
Safely in her room, she turned the lock. She stumbled to her bed, wrapping herself in the quilt. Too numb to cry, she huddled in a ball, drowning in humiliation and misery. She imagined the turn the conversation had taken the minute she'd left the room. She’d heard it all before.
‘A nervy piece.’
‘It’s a long time to be missing in action. Maybe he’s found a mademoiselle in one of those little French villages. Maybe he just decided not to return. Grass is greener and all that...’
She crammed her hands over her ears to stop the voices. She lay motionless, watching the moonbeams on the water. Remembering the feel of Jake in her arms, their bodies entwined in sheets, kissed by starlight. Oh, Jake, why did you have to go?
She reached for her Bible and opened it to the page where she’d hidden it. The letter was crisp and strange in her hands. She knew she’d have to tell them, but not yet. Let them wait. She reached for the picture of Jake she kept by her bed. She touched her lips to his then lay it down gently. She picked up the letter again and began to read...
She began to sob, harsh racking sounds.
Jason stood outside the door, listening.
‘Ah, my girl, he’s not coming back, is he?’ he whispered.
‘Go away Jason,’ she cried.
‘I can wait you know. I’ve waited a long time already. I’m a patient man.’