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Authors: Evelyn Anthony

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BOOK: The Tamarind Seed
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‘I know Richard Paterson,' Sverdlov said. He lit a cigarette and put it between her lips. ‘Why did you choose him? I find that difficult to understand!'

‘I fell in love with him.' Judith leaned back, inhaling the cigarette. She felt weary and yet quite calm. But she was deceiving herself. The Russian judged exactly how close she was to throwing the cigarette away and bursting into a flood of tears. When she cried it would be a good sign. Tears were a healing balm; it was a maudlin saying and quite untrue in many cases. But for her it would be of benefit. He reached over and took her hand. ‘Tell me what happened. What did he do to you to spoil you for me?'

‘I met him about eight, nine months ago. He was the only man I've been involved with since Pat died,' She had told Sverdlov, very briefly, that she had been married and lost her husband in a motor accident. He hadn't seemed interested and the subject dropped. ‘I wanted to work hard and get over his death. I kept everyone at a distance; I was quite happy. Then some friends asked me and Nancy Nielson, that's my boss's daughter, to come to Washington for a weekend and I met Richard Paterson. He called me in New York and took me out to lunch.'

‘How long did it take him to sleep with you?' Sverdlov asked. ‘Did he send you flowers, tell you he loved you?'

‘Yes.' Judith sounded unsteady. ‘Exactly like that. Lunch, dinner, phone calls. Then the final date when he told me he was getting a divorce from his wife, and I let him come back to the apartment with me. I believed him, Feodor. She wasn't with him, everyone knew she'd refused to come over.'

‘And so you became lovers. Was he a good lover, did he please you?'

‘I'm not prepared to answer that.' She pulled her hand away. ‘You're making this sound revolting, like some sordid roll in the hay. It wasn't like that. I told you, I was in love with him.'

‘I see,' Sverdlov said. ‘I am sorry. Why is it all over then?'

‘Just chance,' she said. ‘Pure bloody chance. I was having lunch with some people who knew him, not very well, and they had no idea about him and me—the wife said she'd met
his
wife in Washington. She'd joined him months ago, and he never said a word to me. But the real thing that finished it was when I heard she was having a baby.' Sverdlov said nothing. When she began to cry he didn't move, he went on sitting in the darkness, smoking. Below them the sea rolled up the beach, clawing the stones and sand in its retreat. It was a beautiful clear night.

‘I felt so cheap,' Judith said. ‘He'd lied and lied to me, letting me think he was serious and that after his divorce we might … Oh, all right he never actually said it, but he let me think it! Can't you understand that?'

‘Very well,' the Russian said. ‘So while he was loving you, he was reconciled to his wife and in her bed as well? And so you can't forgive him for making a fool of you.'

‘It's more than that,' Judith said angrily. ‘I trusted him. I would never have started an affair if I'd known his wife was going to join him. If he'd told me the truth I'd have broken it off at once.'

‘That's why he didn't tell you, because he knew what you would do. He was in a very fortunate position; a charming mistress in New York and a wife in Washington. Aren't you really upset with him because he did it to his wife and gave her a child? Isn't that what hurts, not this great love?'

‘It all hurts,' she said. ‘You can interpret it how you like—make it squalid and cheap if you want to, because that's exactly how I see it! And especially myself. I feel so sorry for that woman, thinking he was being genuine, staying alone in Washington having his baby while he came up and down twice a week to stay with me! I'm a great judge of character, aren't I?'

‘No, I think you are terribly bad,' he remarked. ‘He is an ambitious man. Very correct, very interested in himself. I suppose you could say he was good looking, if you like that kind of face. Which you did, of course. I would say he was dull.' He stretched in the chair; below them the night watchman plodded through the sand, his torch flashing round the bungalows. ‘Very dull,' he continued. ‘I would be much better for you. I make you laugh; did you laugh much with him?'

‘No,' Judith answered. ‘I suppose I didn't. It wasn't like that. It was too serious, too intense. I'm not a woman who takes these things as a joke, I'm afraid. So you wouldn't be better for me. I'd like to go to my bungalow now.'

‘Finish your drink first.' Sverdlov had one hand on her arm. It exerted pressure. ‘It will help you sleep. Otherwise you will go to bed and cry again. Even you won't be pretty with a red nose—you see, you smile. So perhaps it is not so very serious, this great love for the Group Captain.'

‘How well do you know him?' she asked. ‘He never mentioned you.'

‘He wouldn't.' Sverdlov grinned crooked mouthed in the darkness. ‘I know him to speak a few words when we meet socially. But he doesn't encourage friendship with our people. It might hurt his career. Like divorcing his wife. Couldn't you see it was the most important thing for him?'

‘No,' she said. ‘Obviously not.'

‘That's because you are a sentimentalist. You believe in innocent slaves and miraculous Tamarind seeds. You
are
a very bad judge of people.'

‘Anything else?' He was massaging her wrist with his thumb; she was too exhausted and upset to stop him. ‘Anything else wrong with me?'

‘I didn't say it was wrong,' Sverdlov said. ‘In a woman I think it is nice. I have a wife at home. She is a good judge of everything. She knows exactly what is right and what is not right. She draws a line—so.' He gestured with his burning cigarette end in the darkness. ‘On this side is the Soviet Union and the Party. They are right. On the other side is the Capitalist world. Wrong.'

‘You never said you were married,' Judith couldn't keep her voice steady. She managed to pull her arm away from the circulating thumb.

‘That is why I am telling you about it now,' he said. ‘So you won't say afterwards, “You are married, you never told me”.'

‘There won't be any afterwards.' Judith started to get up.

Sverdlov didn't move to stop her. ‘Probably not now,' he said. ‘I have to go back in three days. Tonight I'd like to talk a little, about myself, if you wouldn't mind. Please sit down again.'

‘Three days—I thought there was nearly a week.'

‘I came before you did.' He reached down and brought up a whisky bottle. He tipped some into her glass. ‘For me, not for you.'

Judith sat down. ‘You know the night watchman saw us up here. I suppose he'll report it.'

‘I'm sure he will.' Sverdlov was smiling again. ‘I'm sure we have been watched all the time. You may be asked questions about me when you go back.'

‘Who by?' She turned to him in surprise. The hand was reaching out for her again.

‘Your Intelligence people. The CIA. What will you tell them?'

‘To mind their own business. Stop trying to hold my hand. I don't trust you, Feodor. You said you wanted to talk.'

‘You can trust me,' he said. ‘Let me hold your hand. I'm afraid of the darkness.'

‘You're not afraid of anything.' Judith gave in.

‘That is not true.' He was serious, the mockery had gone. He was a man whose mood could change with alarming rapidity. ‘Everyone is afraid of something. You came here to run away from your love affair. I came because I have nothing to run away from. Do you understand that?'

‘No,' she shook her head. What does it mean?'

‘I have a good career,' Sverdlov said. ‘Promising. I have a wife who is a famous specialist; she is young and nice looking. I belong to a great country and a great Socialist movement which will one day be accepted by the whole world.'

‘God forbid,' she said.

‘He can't. He doesn't exist. Don't interrupt me, I am playing at Capitalism and counting my assets. I am healthy, and I can have girls when I want. Except for you. But I don't want girls, I don't want to see my wife, and I don't feel anything about the Socialist Revolution any more. What do I do about this?'

She couldn't think of anything to say to him for a moment. The moon was free of cloud and they could see each other clearly in the white translucent light. He looked harsh, and tense, his mouth pulled to the side. Without any reason, Judith was cold. She realised that the cause, on that sort of tropical night, was a sense of physical fear.

‘What are you trying to say to me.' She was whispering, as if the night watchman were still walking near.

‘I don't know,' Sverdlov said. ‘I'm asking you. What do I do now?'

‘You needed a holiday.' It sounded a futile thing to say. ‘Perhaps you've been overworking. Don't you feel any different now?'

‘Yes.' He was smoking again; he had forgotten to give her one. She had developed a taste of his strong cigarettes. ‘Yes. I feel more relaxed. I feel I could stay here indefinitely, with nothing more important to do than spend the time with you. I don't want to go back. I don't want to find a letter from my wife, telling me what a good thing the Czechoslovakians have decided to try all their government officials for treason, and what a mistake we made not to execute Dubjcek right in the beginning …'

‘Does she really think that.' Judith was horrified.

‘That is how she thinks,' Sverdlov said. ‘That is how I used to think, but for different reasons. Now I can't accept those reasons either. I'm not even ambitious any more.'

‘Can't you apply to go back to the Regular Army?' she asked.

He glanced sideways at her. ‘That is the last thing I can do.'

‘I can't help you,' she said. ‘I'm sorry. I don't know what the answer is. I suppose you'll have to adjust to it. It probably won't last long. As I said, you're overworked and you needed a break. Stay on here till I go home. Can't you do that?'

‘Yes.' She felt the strain go out of him. The hand holding her palm had been gripping hard; now the fingers moved, his thumb began its sensual exploration. ‘Yes, I can stay if I want to! we can leave on the same day … I thought we might go to the harbour again tomorrow. I would like to take a trip across to one of the other islands.'

‘It'd take days,' Judith said. ‘Grenada's the nearest. You can fly there in an hour.'

‘You can fly to Brazil in two,' he said. ‘Do you want to swim before you go to bed?'

‘Not tonight.' Judith stood up and they moved back inside towards the door. He opened it for her and she stepped outside.

‘It's been a long evening. Disappointing for you too,' she said.

‘Good for both of us.' Sverdlov held out his hand. When she took it he laid the other on her shoulder. ‘I'm surprised by one thing. Why haven't you suggested that I come over to your side? Wouldn't the West want me?'

‘Probably.' Judith looked at him. ‘But it just wouldn't work for you. I know it wouldn't.'

‘I know it too,' he said. He ran his hand up from her shoulder round the back of her neck, under her hair. I believe you are a neutral. You don't want converts.'

‘No. And I don't want to be converted either. I believe in being free to choose. Don't worry about it. You'll get over the feeling; it's just a mood.'

He lowered his voice. ‘Do you know something? You have forgotten about the Group Captain—isn't that so?'

‘Good night,' Judith said. She stepped across to her own entrance; it was less than five feet away.

‘Tomorrow we will go and look for your tamarind tree.'

‘And what will you say if we find it?'

‘What will you say, if we don't?'

CHAPTER FOUR

Mrs. Stephenson, the wife of the Minister, had come to the conclusion that she liked Mrs. Paterson better than she did the Group Captain. It was unusual for Margaret Stephenson to prefer women to their husbands; she told her own husband repeatedly that the Embassy wives bored her stiff. They're so common these days.' She said that often too, dwelling on the adjective. Terribly dreary creatures with no conversation.' It was an attitude that annoyed Fergus Stephenson. He had a fanatical sense of loyalty to anyone in the service; he was scrupulous in dealing with the meanest clerk. He never pulled his awesome rank, or took advantage of his equally awesome background to point out a mistake. He was a paragon, as his wife was aware. The staff spoke of him with a mixture of admiration and respect that irritated her beyond endurance. They didn't have to live with him. They saw the impressive façade; she had lived with the occupant of that particular whited sepulchre, and she could swear to its authenticity as a corpse. That evening, as they dressed for dinner, she called her comments through to him from the bathroom.

‘She's nice,' she repeated. ‘I discovered that her elder brother used to take me out while you were in Ceylon. He was very attractive; great fun. Had a ridiculous Flying Officer Prune moustache.'

Fergus Stephenson moved to the open bathroom door. ‘I'm glad she met with your approval. It will help him.'

His wife turned round from the mirror, a lipstick in her right hand. ‘Like hell it will,' she said. ‘Not unless he gives up that little piece he's been visiting in New York! Oh Fergus, stop pretending you didn't know—that frightful bloodhound Loder had him checked up.'

‘Who told you that?' He had moved out of sight. He found it easier when she couldn't see him.

‘Never mind. But somebody did. She's having a baby, and she's thrilled. Dresses very badly. That's my only criticism.'

‘Good Lord,' Stephenson said. ‘She must be remarkable.'

He brushed his hair back, not really looking at the reflection in the mirror. Who had told his wife about the investigation into Paterson? He brushed the hair until his scalp tingled. Who was it this time?…

BOOK: The Tamarind Seed
11.6Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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