A Bit on the Side
From the Selected Stories
‘I haven’t explained this well,’ he said, and heard her say there was tomorrow. He shook his head. No, not tomorrow, he said.
FOR LONGER THAN JUST TODAY she had been ready for that because of course you had to be. Since the beginning she had been ready for it, and since the beginning she had been resolute that she would not claw back fragments from the debris. He was wrong; he had explained it well.
She listened while again he said he loved her, and watched while he reached out for the briefcase she had so often wanted to replace yet could not. She smiled a little, standing up to go.
Outside, drinkers had congregated on the pavement, catching the last of the sun. They walked through them, her coat over his arm, picked up from where she’d draped it on the back of her chair. He held it for her, and waited while she buttoned it and casually tied the belt.
In the plate-glass of a department-store window their reflection was arrested while they embraced. They did not see that image recording for an instant a stylishness they would not have claimed as theirs, or guessed that in their love affair, they had possessed. Unspoken, understood, their rules of love had not been broken in the distress of ending what was not ended and never would be. Nothing of love had been destroyed today: they took that with them as they drew apart and walked away from one another, unaware that the future was less bleak than now it seemed, that in it there still would be the delicacy of their reticence, and they themselves as love had made them for a while.
Reprinted by arrangement with Viking Penguin, a member of PenguinGroup (USA) Inc., from SELECTED STORIES by William Trevor.
Copyright © 2009 by William Trevor
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