Falling

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4.

Subsequent events gathered a momentum that was out of my control. Laura had befriended Maria Pia. She was full of enthusiasm for her work, and wanted to take part in the making. They discussed ideas. Danny too contrived to join them as they made those plans. Maria Pia seemed to find him amusing. She had evolved the mannerism of ruffling his mop of spaniel curls at periodic intervals, something he enjoyed and seemed to invite, holding his head at a distance and height that made it easy for her.

One evening, I was with Laura in a bar. We were watching the throng outside on the pavement. It was a Friday, still early, and people were strolling with an air of contentment, excitement in some cases. The weekend was here and a night out was in prospect. Laura and I had not long been in jobs. This rhythm was new to us. It felt good. The prospect of the break from work unfurled before us like a fresh white sheets, a luxurious emptiness. As we talked, however, I got the sense that Laura already had plans. When I probed, she told me that Maria Pia was organising a séance.

‘What do you mean? A séance to contact the dead…?’

‘No, no not quite like that. It’s really just her word for a sort of happening…’

‘Happening?’ It sounded like more of Maria Pia’s kooky mysticism. I wanted to be scornful.

‘Well, it’s how she gets to take her photographs,’ Laura explained. ‘She’s not like a film director, just bossing everyone around, like the big brain with the big idea – a puppeteer manipulating the actors, you know, that sort of thing.’

‘I didn’t really imagine that…’ I said, wondering all the same how it had come about that Laura was now party to Maria Pia’s inner secrets. I was completely out of touch by the sound of it.

‘It’s more spontaneous, more exciting. She has her idea, but then she needs to find it again, in whatever happens,’ Laura explained, sounding assured and versed in what she was describing. ‘She gets a kind of party together, and everyone sort of…hangs out…has fun…talks about stuff.’ She gestured in the air with her lighted cigarette. ‘Serious kinds of stuff – it’s going to be all weekend. You’re coming along, aren’t you? I was asked to tell you.’

‘Sure,’ I said, wondering why Maria Pia hadn’t told me herself. She and I had sat chatting together in the street, a couple of days previously. The whole idea must have been very spontaneous indeed; she’d made no mention of it.

I agreed to go, from pique at being left out rather than real interest in the séance. If I was truthful, I was beginning to find Maria Pia quite irritating, with her constant ploys to snare your curiosity. All the same, when you boiled it down, this was a party and despite myself, I was – yes – curious. The topic dropped. Laura and I decided to spend some of our wages on a sit-down meal, to enjoy the novelty of solvency to the full.

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