The next day was Saturday. Jennifer had been given a commission from one of the leading dress shops in New York to illustrate several outfits in their new spring line. If she didn't get started on them soon she wouldn't meet the deadline.
Although Richard's insurance had left her well- provided with the necessities of life, and they had owned the apartment outright, the extra money she earned from her illustrating work helped her just over the edge of genteel poverty and gave her a sense of independence, even a commitment of sorts. At least her work provided some direction in her otherwise empty life.
As she settled down at her work table, she thought about Matthew Smith and his strange behavior last night. In the cold light of day, it seemed almost like a dream. had he really held her? Kissed her? What would she say to him, she wondered, if they met again? They could hardly hope to avoid each other, living in the same building, traveling in the same social circles. She finally decided that the wisest thing would be to put the whole thing out of her mind, pretend it had never happened, and concentrate on her work.
She had been working steadily for over an hour when the doorbell rang, disturbing her concentration. Frowning at the interruption, she glanced at her Watch. Eleven o'clock, she saw with some surprise, almost time to stop anyway. She dropped her pencil, flexed her cramped fingers and went to the door.
When she opened it and saw Matthew Smith standing there, a warm flush of embarrassment run through her whole body. Not only did she look a wreck, she thought, running a hand through her short dark hair, but she thought she had convinced herself that last night's episode would be the end of their dealings with each other.
'Good morning', she managed to say at last.
'May I come in'? He asked in a low voice.
She hesitated and looked at him, suddenly unsure of herself. He was dressed casually in dark trousers, a white shirt open at the neck. His face was drawn, the silvery eyes slightly bloodshot, but His flat cheeks and chin were freshly shaven and his thick dark hair neatly combed.
'You've caught me at a bad time', she said 'I'm working'.
'This will only take a few minutes'. His voice was determined, almost grim, and she realized that he was very uncomfortable himself, she nodded and opened the door a little wider gesturing for him to step inside. When she had closed the door behind him, she glanced up at him and saw his eyes flick briefly around the comfortable living room, then he saw a dress form with the blue suit hanging there, and he turned to her with raised eyebrows.
She smiled 'My Work', she explained. 'I'm a fashion illustrator'.
'I see'. He frowned then, looking down at his feet, as though he was having trouble getting started.
'Would you like some coffee'? She asked.
He nodded, obviously relieved. 'Thank you, I would'. A faint rueful smile hovered over the firm lines of his mouth. 'I've already drunk gallons. It seems to help'.
'OK then I'll get the pot'
As she went into the kitchen, she wondered how much he remembered about last night. She hoped fervently that he had forgotten the part about calling her Beth, kissing her, holding her, caressing her. If he didn't recall it, she reasoned, it wouldn't be so bad.
When she came back, she sat down beside him on the sofa and set the coffee things down on the low table in front Of them. She poured him a cup, handed it to him, and after a few swallows, he began to speak.
'I came to apologize to you for last night', he said in a Stiff tone. 'I can't remember all of what happened', he continued, 'but what I do recall is bad enough'.
He turned the grey eyes on her in a direct piercing gaze. Odd, Jennifer thought, looking away, 'It's all right', she murmured into her cup. 'Nothing very terrible happened. You had a little too much to drink.
I gave you a ride home, helped you find your apartment, and that was it'. She looked at him, then she saw relief flooding into his face. 'After all', she added lightly, 'what are neighbors for?'
'You're very kind', he murmured. 'I don't ordinarily do that sort of thing'.
'You handled it very well, I thought. I doubt if the others knew just how far gone you were'. She laughed.
'Well, that's a relief'. He gave her another wintry smile. 'I woke up this morning I can't get rid of the idea that I somehow...' He paused, then shrugged his shoulders, 'that I somehow forced myself on you'.
A dark red flush stole across Jennifer's face at his words. he had remembered! Carefully, she set her cup down on the coffee table, averting her face.
'It was nothing', she murmured.
'But it was something', he shot back immediately. 'Please tell me. I don't want to embarrass you, but I've got to know'.
She drew in a deep breath and turned to him. Now she did see something like supplication in his eyes and that old haunting pain. She decided then to be honest with him. She lifted her chin. 'All right, you kissed me'. She hesitated. 'And you called me Beth'. When she saw the look of pain on his face deepen, she regretted her words. She put a hand out towards him, not quite touching him. 'I'm sorry. Really it was nothing. Please just Forget about it. I have'.
He stood up facing her, his hands shoved in his trouser pockets, the dark head bent. He began speaking in a low monotone.
'I don't want to make you any more uncomfortable than I already have, but I feel I Really must explain my actions to you. I don't want you to think...' His voice trailed off and he spread his hands in a gesture of helplessness.
'Beth was my wife', he went on. 'She died two years ago, yesterday it was the anniversary of her death'.
Jennifer felt the tears begin to gather, stinging her eyes, as her own painful memories flooded back into her mind. She dimly heard Matthew cross the room, felt his weight as he settled next to her on the sofa, Sensed his presence next to her, not touching not speaking, but somehow comforting just by being there.
Finally, it was over. She reached in the pocket of her jeans and pulled out a handkerchief, wiped her eyes, blew her nose and turned to him with a weak smile. His expression was grave, contrite.
'Sorry,' she said. 'It just all came back suddenly. I've never done that before, at least not in front of anyone else. I'm sorry it had to be you'.
'You, too, then'? He asked softly.
She sighed and blew her nose again. 'Yes. Not quite a year ago. a boating accident.' She gave him a stark, dismal look. 'Does it never end?'
He looked at her. 'No,' he said. He got to his feet. 'Well, it looks as though I've done more harm with my apology than good'. His voice was sharp. 'I'd better go before I do any more damage'.
She walked with him to the door, the odd realization stealing over her that she felt better than she had in a long time. At the door, they stood for a moment facing each other.
'No', she said shyly. 'You didn't do any damage it was good for me to let go like that'.
He smiled briefly. 'That's all right, then.
Hope you liked the chapter
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When Jennifer buried her love the time stopped and she was no longer alive. What the benefits of life for a woman who lives without a heart. When she met Matthew Smith she read the story of her Sorrow in his eyes. A tormented man haunted by the gho...