He was quite visibly startled when I returned. He said he had to go home and make a few phone calls.
"See you this evening," he said and gave Sofia a quick, hungry hug. She pressed herself against him. I could really feel how my eyes were staring now. He could see it too. He could see that I was lusting after him. His eyes avoided mine and I watched him disappear down the hill almost jogging pace.
I was holding the hat full of cherries; the fruit had already stained the light-coloured straw. If she were to put it on, she would get a row of red stains across her forehead, like a crown of thorns. It would not become her.
She sighed deeply and looked at me in despair. Sometimes she would like to kill me, but she doesn't realise it herself, she thinks it is a sign of her approaching period or something else beyond your control. Personally, I feel it quite normal for her to feel in that way, and I don't really care. The urge to kill is something you have to live with. Most of the time, it comes to nothing anyway, since such an act would confront you with a painful dilemma. But fantasies have never hurt anyone.
That evening, I stood in the garden and looked out over the sea, which had a darkly shadowed golden colour like an old icon. To my left towered the high cliffs, orangey brown in the subdued light and crowned with scraggy trees.
Provoked by a light breeze, the garden sent its tongues of fragrance wafting over me. Still gasping after the heat of the day it conveyed messages from honeysuckle, rose and the ancient fertile god of the garden who, of an evening, lives in every nook.
But when Andreas arrived, he didn't even bother to stop to sniff the air, simply greeted me hurriedly and rushed on into the house with his bouquet, a house which is made of stone and painted pink, half-covered with ivy and a white climbing rose. All because he could see Sofia through the window. She was inside putting the final touches to the dinner which I happened to have made in passing. I like making food, something which no one would actually believe.
I went in to them with a heavy heart; maybe I should have curled up behind a bush and gone to sleep, right there in the garden. But I was so eager to be in there, now that the candles were lit. Sofia showed him the house before dinner.
I always take some of my paintings with me to hang up in those impersonal places we go to; here too. I had an inkling that they would appeal to Andreas. Besides, most of them were self-portraits of one kind or another. What he did say was: "You're really good!"
While words came into his mind such as: over-wrought, claustrophobic, fuzzy, melodramatic, pathos-ridden. I was beginning to be able to tune in to him quite nicely now. I was standing there behind him and could see his sunburned neck which caused my blood to zing in my tongue, my lips, while he said: "They have an intensity of expression," at the same time thinking: Why does she only paint herself, when the whole world's out there just waiting to be looked at?
Sofia had put away my portrait of him. But I wonder whether he would have recognised himself.
And so came the time to go to table and eat.
On the table stood the bouquet which Andreas had brought.
"Look how funny!" I happened to say, "exactly the same flowers as we've got here in the garden!"
Which was, of course, a daft thing to say, but it just slipped out. Sofia gave me a tired and sad look, the sort you give a troublesome pet. Andreas simply said sourly that I myself had been witness to the fact that it wasn't our flowerbeds he had pillaged.
And so the strained atmosphere returned, but as luck would have it we served the wine. From that point on, I could enter Andreas' thoughts whenever I wished and could know what he was thinking about me: if I remain polite and kind to that hopeless person, then I can perhaps get her to relax and regard me as a friend.
Smiling gallantly, her showered me with questions. Looking back on it, I don't think he remembered any of my replies since all his energy was absorbed by being lovable and interested.
Sofia began to look a little more cheerful. She knew that a continued relationship was out of the question unless he accepted me too. The only way to do this was for him to pretend he liked me and for me to pretend I believed him. And keep myself under control. I can be quite co-operative if I really must. As long as my natural temperament doesn't get the better of me.
[to be continued]
Translated from Swedish by Eric Dickens