This is a follow-up to ‘Ruth In Pieces’ but stands alone perfectly well…
Alec rose. ‘Come in, my dear. Sit down,’ he said in his most avuncular voice, indicating a second armchair placed at an angle to his own. As before, his heart quickened as he took in the woman in front of him. She wore flat shoes but, even so, was a head taller than himself. Her blonde hair was pulled back in a loose ponytail and she wore no make-up except a cherry-red lip balm. He ran his tongue over his top lip and sucked in his lower before asking, ‘Would you like a cup of tea?’
‘Yes, thank you.’
He watched her lips form the words in slow motion – the pout, the flick of her tongue, teeth white against red. He turned abruptly away and bustled across to snap on the jug and arrange the teacups.
‘So, I hope your room is comfortable and you are feeling more at home now.’ He spoke with his back turned and felt, or rather heard, her raised eyebrows without actually seeing them. He cursed himself for such an inane and awkward opener.
‘My Cell is just as comfortable as it was last week, thank you. And no, I’m not feeling at home.’
‘I am sorry, that was inept of me,’ he said handing her a cup and saucer of fine bone china decorated with deep red roses. Gilt highlighted the lip and handle. They had been his mother’s, and when she died he thought he might as well get some use out of them at the office, because they certainly didn’t fit into his minimalist, bachelor’s apartment. He lived alone and had no intention of ever changing that.
‘Yes, it was.’ Her smile teased him and took the sting from her words. She was enjoying his discomfiture. She leant forward and picked up a monte-carlo biscuit – her favourite, she had confessed at their first interview.
‘Well, I would hardly call it a cell, Jennifer.’ He used her proper name deliberately, trying to return to a more paternalistic footing. She showed no reaction, but sipped her tea with an air of studied nonchalance.
‘Just because there are no bars on the window or door, does not make it less of a cell. One can be in a cell, even without being surrounded by four walls, don’t you agree?’