Our love affair was chic from beginning to end; the rumpled intellectual and the skilled maîtresse. It was a done thing—the done thing.

Beginning to end. Was it the end? She kept things lively, he thought. I counted on that. I used to look forward to work, knowing I’d see her.

He pictured himself twined in the arms of various time-consuming professional women over the years. As long as Alice was content at home with the boys, it didn’t seem to matter if he had these little intrigues at work. They were never part of my real life, he reflected. They were part of work, part of the New York world I left behind when I boarded this train.

He had gotten in the habit of feeling fine about it, spotting a girl at party and deciding he would miss his train, lunching with an author and agreeing to meet again for drinks in the evening. Surely it made no difference to Alice? She never knew about any of it.

But Alice’s death made Richard feel ashamed of Laetitia. And of all the others, too. I always meant to spend more time at home. Work was so demanding, so all-absorbing.

Work and women. Where was the line between them? The compartments in Richard’s complicated life were collapsing into one another. The distinctions seemed fake, made-up. I devised them to suit myself, he thought.

But work is important to me. His discomfort increased. Work should have remained clear of emotional tangles. The integrity of the intellect, the rigor, the years of conviction and seeking after truth now seemed soiled.

He silently argued the case for the defense. I’m good at publishing, and I’m successful. It’s an exacting profession. No amount of time spent on any book is ever enough. Especially with non-fiction where you have the responsibility to be accurate. To be right.

He had been saying such things for years, to everyone at home when he left, and again when he was late returning. No amount of time spent on any book is ever enough.

He tried to see the dark landscape rushing by outside the glass. But his own reflection stared back at him. There was no penetrating it. And the past was the same. He couldn’t reach it now; he couldn’t change it.

—From the book +1 by Katherine BucknellRead more fiction.


Photo: 25141069@N02, Flickr

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