Harry and Ana made love again as the pale sun rose over the city, its thin light dusting into the bedroom. Now, it was a languid love, somehow more as they remembered it used to be between them – easy, sensuous – those years ago.
They both dozed some more, Harry waking only when Ana tapped him on the shoulder, holding a coffee cup in her other hand, like a nurse about to administer a medicine. For the briefest moment, he only caught her silhouette, and wondered if he was still in Birkenhead, and that this was Carrie.
“We need to talk,” she said, as he roused himself to sit up, and took the coffee from her. The way she said it made it sound like it was something owed to her, almost like a payment for the night they’d just had together.
“I’m happy to talk, Ana. We should have talked years ago,” Harry said, taking a long slug of the coffee.
“Well, excuse me for saying so, but you gave me the impression you weren’t really interested in Pablo. It’s not natural.” She’d moved to sit next to him on the bed, tying the belt to her dressing gown as she did so.
Harry had woken up. Was it un-natural, he wondered, not to want to talk about your ex-lover’s husband? He didn’t remember any Pablo’s in their circle of friends when they’d been together, supposed she must have met him afterwards, and wondered if he might be from the university. Ana certainly seemed to have a lot of ‘friends’ there, he’d noticed. Of course, a part of him wanted to know all about this Pablo: how old was he, what had she seen in him to lead her to marry him? Yes, that much was natural, he figured. But he didn’t particularly want to talk about him now – not after he’d just been to bed with his wife. Not on the morning he had realized that his love for Ana still burned as brightly, as achingly, as it ever did.
“I … just wish you’d told me, Ana,” was what he finally said, by way of reply.
Her response was swift – biting, he might have said: “You ran away, Harry! Supposing you’d known about him – would you have come back?”
Harry had already answered the question for Alan. You’d think he might have learned that honesty was never always the best policy…
“No,” he said, taking another gulp of coffee, “I don’t think I would have.”
But he was thinking of the night that had just passed, trying to get some clue as to how Ana might really feel for him. He was glad he hadn’t drunk as much as the night before: at least he knew he hadn’t dreamed it. She hadn’t seemed as relaxed as he remembered … but five years was a long time, and he knew how memories could play tricks. Maybe she’d been tense because she thought Pablo might return? The thought, when it arrived, made Harry feel, briefly, uneasy; he wondered if it might be best, all things considered, if he made himself scarce.
She certainly didn’t look very relaxed now, he saw: she seemed to be staring ahead, at the bedroom wall. What if he’d said “Yes,” instead? Too late now – he’d said it.
“And when are you going to start acting like a grown up?” she asked, almost mechanically, still not looking at him.
Was she right? Harry had a certain insight into his own character, knew he could easily be seen by others as someone who had gone through life ducking responsibilities. Had he (should he have been?) responsible for Ana? At the time, it hadn’t felt like that. She, a fiercely independent woman; he, just fresh out of a divorce. In Harry’s world, it took two to tango. And that was one dance Harry never thought he excelled in.
Ana knew, then, that she could never be with Harry McFry. It was something she’d already acknowledged a thousand times since he’d walked out on her, abandoned her without so much as a thought for their future, and all because he was too weak to imagine it. But she’d stupidly thought – (and that would teach her) – that his call to her last week had meant that he still felt something for her. She’d taken a risk, ‘made arrangements’, as she had put it, just to test out that theory. Now, his silence spoke like a library.
As quickly as she processed this thought, she had another. If Harry couldn’t be enticed to come downstairs with the adults, she would show him she was bigger than that, and would make her best face of keeping her dignity.
She knew he’d need her help today, with the meeting with the officials from the Ministry, so she resolved she’d be there for him – apart from anything else, part of her was still intrigued by the whole business of the bond and ‘her’ Harry’s involvement with it.
It wouldn’t be easy, of course: getting Pablo out of the way for one night was one thing (she’d persuaded him to stay with friends). But a whole day alone - to work with Harry – well, that might be trickier to organize. She wondered if her sister, Yolanda, might be persuaded to provide a diversion…
“Here’s the deal,” she said, cutting the silence. “You can have me for today. I’ll make sure he’s out of the way again. But you can get out of my bed now. And don’t ever think you’ll find your way back into it quite so easily!”
Ana’s words stung Harry, as much because she hadn’t given him a chance to defend himself as for the bitter tone in which they were delivered. If this was ‘talking’, in Ana’s world, then he was pretty sure he’d choose a measured silence anytime. Things weren’t going exactly to plan – to the extent that he’d dared to plan anything, that is. At the very least, he knew that “No” had been the wrong choice of word. Life, for Harry McFry, was sometimes just one long, and very steep, learning curve.