Figure XII

July 5, 2006

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Through the steam that follows breakfast – the dire task of washing up, arranging plates on the drainer to drip alongside the slowing rain on the leaves outside the window – Nancy makes her peace with the world. The house guests have dispersed: Laura and Steve (such a quiet boy) back to their room; Ernest stumbling blind as the worm he represents to the doorstep to wait for his lift to the museum; Rupert to his van, off out into the world of wigs and ladies consumables. The voice of the radio, sombre and slow, filters through the thick, moist air in the kitchen, condenses upon the glass and falls in tiny droplets of sound about Nancy’s head. What would he make of her, standing here, doing this? What would he say if he could see the house in its current state? The back attic ceiling will need looking at after this rain, she tells herself. The French windows onto the terrace will no doubt have leaked again, turning the newspaper she has placed beneath them (to stop them flinging open in the smallest of breezes) to a soft grey mulch of lost events. But has she ever been happier than she is now? A guilty admission to be enjoying life more with these strangers, these fee–paying guests. She dries her hands on the tea towel that hangs above the sink and sets off upstairs to change. There are things to be done, she tells herself, things more important than leaks and damp paper.

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