Under the Windows
“I remember these,” Emily said, looking out over the river. She was nervously answering a question Dreyfus hadn’t asked. But he was busy searching through the kitchen cupboards, trying to find where Mrs. Flynn kept the serving trays. He never used them, but for some reason, he wanted the square silver one to serve the drinks on.
Emily turned her head and gestured back at the windows. “I didn’t remember they were quite so big. This place is huge.”
Dreyfus stopped and pointed to the loft behind him. “You spent most of your time up there.”
“I spent most of my time whacked out on painkillers.”
Dreyfus opened another cabinet door. Pans. No luck. This was getting awkward. Emily wasn’t sure what to do either. She looked around, trying to remember things so she’d have something to talk about. This was not the reunion either one of them had envisioned in the long goodbye at Peterborough train station.
They hadn’t seen each other for nearly a month. Dreyfus had left Pyaridge Hall a couple of days after New Year to catch a plane for Panama. The purpose of the trip was to explain supply and demand to a corrupt government official who was demanding a bigger bribe to supply customs clearances for Hudson and McCormick ships. Normally, Dreyfus loved the tropics (especially in January) but when he arrived, he discovered that Senor Estasfador was arrogant and enthusiastically stupid. Plus, despite the sun, sand and pina coladas, Dreyfus found he was oddly homesick for the chilly rain of London. It made him irritable, and after a couple of weeks of failed negotiations, haughty dismissals and hurry up and wait, he decided to solve the problem. He walked into El Estasfador’s office, pulled him out of his comfortable chair and threw him out the window. The flight from the first floor and the cuts, contusions, broken wrist and shoulder convinced everyone that there had been a misunderstanding and the bribe was, indeed, satisfactory. The papers were signed that very afternoon, and the next day Dreyfus was on his way home.
Meanwhile, Emily had stayed on at the estate, to hurt a little and heal a lot and divide her time equally between being an unhappy puppy and a snarling bitch. Eventually, Janet Miller, estate manager and concerned friend, suggested Emily either fly to Panama and get it over with or risk being smothered in her sleep. Two days later, Emily was on a plane to New York City. However, unaware of the surprise, Dreyfus was already changing planes at JFK. They passed each other somewhere over the Atlantic.
Now, maxed out on frustration, they were together again and couldn’t quite figure out what to do with each other. The simple fact was neither one of them had ever done this kind of thing, and they didn’t actually know how to act. The ten plus days at Pyraridge Hall had been a full-on love affair, giddy and silly and just a bit dizzy, with enough erotic content to make Aphrodite blush. But that had been time out of time, hidden in the country -- and now this was the real world. And they were both desperately afraid that the other one had had time to think about it.
“What are you looking for?” Emily’s exasperation bubbled over.
“Something for the drinks,” Dreyfus said, defeated. “I’m trying to impress you.”
Emily pointed to the low liquor cabinet across the room. “Whisky? Glasses?”
“No, I was trying to find a tray to put things on and …” Dreyfus was embarrassed. “I just wanted everything to be nice.”
Emily turned directly to Dreyfus, who was clearly uncomfortable, and tilted her head sympathetically. “I know what you mean,” she said. “I bought a bikini.”
Dreyfus looked the question.
“At JFK, before you called. When I was still going to Panama. I bought a bikini.”
Dreyfus shrugged and opened his hands, palms up.
“I don’t wear bikinis, Sinclair. Too much Emily,” Emily fluttered her hands and shivered her shoulders, “Hanging out everywhere.”
Dreyfus, who’d seen quite a bit of Emily over the Christmas holidays, didn’t understand, and his face showed it.
“I bought it for you.”
Dreyfus recognized Emily’s tone and swallowed the adolescent joke. He exhaled. “We’re trying too hard?”
It wasn’t a real question, and Emily didn’t answer.
“Go sit down. I’ll pour you a drink.” Dreyfus gestured to the sofa and went to the liquor cabinet. “There’s a remote on the table for the fireplace.”
Emily walked across the room. “I remember the fireplace,” she said, sitting down. “And the soup. God that was the best soup.”
“Do you want some? Mrs. Flynn usually leaves me some. I could look?”
“Maybe we’re trying too hard?” Emily said, over her shoulder.
Dreyfus agreed to himself and poured two generous glasses. He went over, handed Emily her glass and sat down on the floor at her feet with his arm on her leg.
Emily touched her glass to his and said. “Let’s start again.”
There was a ting and they both drank.
“How was Panama?”
Dreyfus shook his head and chuckled. “Nothing special. I threw a man out of a window.”
Emily nodded. “As you do,” she said solemnly.
There was a pause.
“What about you?”
“Janet threatened to kill me.”
It was Dreyfus’ turn to nod. “How is the indomitable Ms. Miller?’ There was a touch of mock sarcasm.
“Be nice. She likes you. Actually, I deserved it. I’ve been an absolute horror for weeks.”
Emily reached down and pressed Dreyfus’ hand against her leg. “I missed you so much it hurt,” she said, shaking her head and looking at Dreyfus as if it were the first time.
Dreyfus looked up and it was his Emily and nothing had changed. “I missed you so much I threw a man out of a window.”
Emily laughed, bent her head down, “You win,” she said and kissed him, long and deeply.
And the late afternoon became evening and the evening became night, and they talked the hours away and didn’t go to bed until morning.
But that was alright because they didn’t leave the bedroom again for three days.
You can read the original Christmas at Pyaridge Hall here.