By Anita Brookner
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Take a look at it before you leave. Jack loves beds,' she told us, with a trouperish but still tearful smile. 'All kinds. ' Jack, to his credit, remained impassive throughout this announcement. I did not think that Molly was in for a very long run. Although these people were strangers to me, and although Owen's appreciation of them appeared misplaced, what really frightened me was the fact that his work had become the centre of his affectivity. His entire emotional life seemed to consist of an enthusiasm for people, for places, even for activities far removed from the home I had tried to make for him, far, too, from my own settled expectations.
And I suppose they wanted me to be married, although they hoped that this would be in the far distant future. They never spoke of grandchildren: I was enough for them. And they were so good to me. There was no fuss when I moved out, into the little flat in Foubert's Place which I shared with a girl I met when I was working with the orchestra. We broadcast in the mornings at eleven o'clock: Millie was the mezzo and I was the lyric soprano, and we sang on alternate programmes. I've kept in touch with her, although we see each other only rarely; she lives in the country now, a widow like myself.
And then we were both good at summing people up: we warmed into life when discussing acquaintances, and she was an excellent mimic. Basically, I found her alarming and she found me boring, yet in our heyday, when we were both married and healthy, it was natural for us to telephone each other two or three times a week. Such conversations as we had were almost entirely inconsequential and in time became more rare. Neither wanted to hear about the other's aches and pains, and widowhood does not exactly increase the number of things one has to talk about.
Brief Lives by Anita Brookner