Somewhere in England, July 1969
At dinner that evening Rachel shimmered. Her satin dress seemed to flow over her in a river of gold, playing along her lightly-bronzed skin so that she and the dress became one. She had never looked more beautiful, or more remote.
She caught Mark looking at her and gave him a distracted smile, turning immediately to their host on her left. Daintry was in garrulous form tonight, full of Neil Armstrong and the Apollo landing, as if he’d personally made that giant leap. Mark was glad, with a sudden rush of spite, that Rachel would bear the brunt of his verbosity. Comradeship had its limitations. Isn’t that what she’d implied, when she’d said before dinner that she couldn’t possibly go over with him?
His last night in England, the last dinner before his betrayal would be discovered. He saw it differently, of course. His motives were pure, no matter what Rachel thought. He looked around the table: a smattering of bankers, lawyers, a junior minister or two, even, God help us, a writer who had once been famous. That was probably for Rachel’s benefit and she would be expected to speak to him later. She would do it too, and gracefully. He gave her that. The tide of conversation – about the moon and stock market killings made and foxes gone to earth – poured over him. Like a grace note to his despair, a sudden trill of laughter pierced the fog of talk. He turned to his hostess, his smile a rictus. ‘Tell me, Lady Daintry, how is the fishing in these parts?’
In the long years after that summer, he often wondered just who or what had, in fact, been betrayed. And if the sacrifices demanded by his masters – by his own convictions – had been worth it. No dacha for him, even with his ideologically-correct life. No Rachel. Not even political victory in the end. Another winter – cold, empty – yawned before him. He could not think of a single thing that would make its endurance worthwhile.
Carol Caffrey is an Irish writer and actress who lives in Shropshire. Her work has been published by or is forthcoming in Poetry Ireland Review, The Ogham Stone, Bare Fiction, the Fish Anthology, Ink, Sweat & Tears, and POTB (Pushing Out The Boat). She performs the play Music For Dogs by Paula Meehan, which earned four-star reviews at the Edinburgh Fringe, and is available for bookings.