“I am not questioning whether or not I am desirable. But lovable? No, I don’t feel I am that.” Julia spoke these words with something that resembled bitterness, but her tone and demeanour, upon closer inspection was more flat than bitter. Christopher’s eyes shifted to her face: his left eye, his good eye, fixed momentarily upon Julia’s and then dropped down to the bottle of wine on the table between them. He took it, topped up her glass, then his own, and let out a big sigh that trapezed its way down his body, slumping his shoulders as it went. Julia knew he would say nothing; Christopher was a man who took his time to think. It would probably be a few hours, or even days, before he addressed what she had just said. She did this sometimes, dropping bombshells, saying things to stun. Sometimes she meant them, sometimes she didn’t and most often Julia simply wanted to see what the words would taste like as they passed through her mouth. It was a dangerous trait.
Later that evening, Julia cried. Huge, heaving, ugly sobs that shook her slight body. The pain seemed to originate from a different place each time. Tonight, it was coming from her stomach: a deep, internal, hateful pain that twisted her. Christopher held her as she cried in the dark; occasionally lifting her hand, with its long pale fingers tipped with chipping navy-blue nail polish up to his mouth to kiss, to press against his face. Sometimes this helped and the sobbing would subside, other times his gesture would cause the gates to open, the river to pour in, flooding the bank and crops and their stone-coloured pillows. It is funny how being loved when you do not feel lovable can hurt as much as it soothes. ’How did we get here?’ Christopher thought, ‘where are we going?’ It was a line he had read in a novel, some best-selling Dan Brown, and Christopher recalled vaguely that it referred to the origin of intelligence in the universe, but within this small fortress that he and Julia pretended was their home, the line resonated much more powerfully. ’Where the fuck are we going?’