“What the fuck!” Diana said.
Temple made a sound but he didn’t move. He lay on his back breathing rapidly and his right hand covered his face. He tried to sit up, but he fell back onto the lawn with a groan. Blood trickled under his hand.
“You have to go to the emergency room.”
“Nah! Nah!” and his left hand waved the idea away.
“But it could be broken, your nose might be broken.”
“Yeah,” he said, “I think it is.” This time he was able to sit up.
“I’m taking you to the emergency room.”
“I’m not going to the emergency room. I’m going home.”
“It’s all right,” he said. “I’m fine.”
“You’re not fine.” She looked toward the theater building for help.
“Not a big deal,” he said. “Happens all the time.” He stood up, his hand still covering his nose. The blood ran over his hand and onto his shirt.
“Goddamit, at least sit on the bench,” she said and he allowed her to take his arm and lead him. “Now put your head back.” He did. “I’ll get some paper towels” and she turned toward the theater.
“No, no, don’t go in there.” He took his shirt off and held it against his nose and leaned back. “I want to get out of here before any of them come out.”
“At least let me drive you home,” she said.
He nodded and stood. She didn’t offer her arm as they walked. When they were in the car, she said, “What the hell was that about?”
“No idea,” he said.
“Doesn’t matter. It’s done.”
“He fucking broke your nose.”
“It’s fine. I’m fine,” he said. “I’ve had my nose broken before.”
“Was it about Moira?”
“I don’t know, why would it be?”
“I mean that was an asshole thing to—“
“Leave it! Please.”
They were quiet.
“Fucking men,” she said finally. “At least come to my place for a while to make sure you’re all right.”
“I’m all right. I’m fine. I just need to be alone.” A beat. “Thanks for the thought though. Really.”
She said nothing more. She dropped him off and watched him go into his house still holding the bloody shirt to his nose.
In front of her house, she saw Les sitting on the stairs.
“You didn't come into the theater,” he said.
“I got waylaid--”
“They asked for you.”
“--or deflected, something.”
“They seem okay considering,” he said. “No major trauma. Just theatre major drama.” His cleverness made him smile.
“Douglas Wrythe broke Temple’s nose.” She told him what happened and he said they should make Temple go to the hospital to find out for sure if it was broken since the school could be liable if there were complications.
“He’s all right,” she said. “I think he’s actually proud of the damn thing. Or glad or something.”
“Fucking men. Let’s go upstairs. I want to talk about Lydia.”
He followed her.
“I’m leaving her,” he said. “I’m going to get an apartment and then we’ll see about separating.”
She went into the kitchen to make coffee. He went to the easel in the turret and looked at the painting of the squirrel skeleton and then followed her into the kitchen.
“I finally saw it all this morning,” he said, sitting at the little breakfast table. “You were right—she was awake last night and this morning she made it pretty clear she’s not going to talk about it but she’s going to make me pay for it big time.”
“She’s going to have to talk about it eventually.”
“She’s going to make me crawl.”
“You get to decide whether or not you crawl.”
“You’re not married to her.” He looked at his hands folded before him on the table. "But if I move out...."
“If you move out, she’s got all the ammo. What about Derek and Patti?”
“We’ll work that out. It’ll be okay.”
“But the chilldrenne no longer want to see you, Les. When I suggest it, Patti cries and Derek scowls. You have betrayed them and they cannot forgive you. And I will not compound their pain by taking the side of the man who no longer cares that he is their father. Now if you will excuse us, we are late for Patti’s dance lesson.”
“I hate her,” he said.
“She’s being hateful.”
“I love you. I want to be with you.”
She sat in his lap, circled her arms around his neck. “You are with me. That’s what this is.” He groaned under her weight and she licked his ear.
“I mean…publicly," he said. "You’re breaking my legs.”
“I could suck your dick in Falkes Square Fountain. And I promise you won’t have to carry me either in or out.”
“I’m serious. I want to be with you. Permanently.”
“I’m not going anywhere.”
“I mean married.”
She sat still in his lap. The kettle whistled. She got up slowly and went to the stove. Finally she said, “I don’t usually use graphic language, but, Whoa.”
“You said you wanted to talk. So talk.”
She concentrated on pouring the water into the French press. Then she turned to him and said, “Cream? Sugar?”
“If you move into an apartment, that’s between you and Lydia,” she said. “That’s about your marriage. That’s not about me.”
“That’s bullshit. And cowardly. And not like you.”
“Whatever has happened or is happening between you and Lydia is not happening because of me. I will not be made the scapegoat for your failed marriage or the cause of your leaving your home.”
“Nobody said you are. This has been coming on for a long time. But I’m leaving for something, going to something. You.”
“And I like being the glory and the salvation you escape to. I like her being the horror you’re running from.”
“She is. You are. I love you,” he said.
“And I love you. And I’ll support you if you leave her.”
“But I won't marry you.”
She may as well have punched him.
“I want to be the woman you run to. If we get married, sooner or later I’ll end up being the one you run away from.”
“I’ll end up being hateful and hated.”
“That’s not going to happen, that’s crazy.”
“What happened with Julie Stuckey?”
“What happened with Julie Stuckey?”
“Julie Stuckey was high school. We broke up. Kids break up in high school.”
“Why did you break up?”
“She dumped me. What the hell does that have to do with--?”
“Why did she dump you?”
“What the fuck--?”
“She dumped you because you fucked her friend Ginny, right?”
“I fucked her friend Ginny because Julie Stuckey turned out to be a fucking bitch.”
“And Andrea Swindle? What happened with her?"
“Why are you doing this? Julie Stuckey and Andrea Swindle have nothing to do with you and me.”
“I love you, Les. But I’m not going to become the next woman you commit to and then run away from.”
“This is bullshit.” He got up from the table and went into the living room, to the easel. “Bullshit.”
She came into the living room. “I’d love to have a girl-to-girl talk with your mother,” she said.
“And I'd love to ask your father a question or two. Look, we shouldn't talk now. I need to go." He went to the front door. "And you need a new painter to imitate. Maybe Munch. I'm going to look for an apartment.”
He left and she stood where she was for a moment. Then she went to the easel and looked at the painting. There were tears in her eyes.