CHAPTER FOUR: CONVERSATION WITH A FRIEND

 

It was a day later that Julie Foster took advantage of her husband's temporary absence, during the evening, to telephone one of her best friends - a former fellow-student at her old university by name of Deirdre Gray. It was Deirdre in person who answered the phone, not her husband, John.

"Hi Julie!" she responded eagerly. "How are things?"

"Pretty much as usual as far as Dennis is concerned, but new in one other respect."

"Oh?"

Julie hesitated a moment to formulate her thoughts, then asked: "Do you remember a guy called Peter Morrison, by any chance?"

"Hmm yes, I think I do. Wasn't he the freak who came to visit us up North one time?"

"That's him!" Julie confirmed, smiling. "Well, you'll never guess, but he came into the restaurant that Tricia and I were having lunch in yesterday afternoon. Then, when we got up to go, he followed us out and asked me whether I'd like to come back to his bedsit with him."

Deirdre had to take a deep intake of breath here, so great was her surprise. "And did you go?" she at length asked.

"Believe it or not, I did," Julie replied. "I just couldn't help feeling sorry for him, after the woeful tale he had to tell. I could see he needed someone."

"What was the substance of it?" Deirdre wanted to know.

Julie did her best to explain, placing emphasis on his solitude in London and concomitant depression.

"And has he changed much?"

"Quite a lot in small ways," Julie opined. "But still fundamentally the same guy."

"Nothing much in it for you, then," Deirdre joked.

"No, but plenty of intellectual conversation that would have suited a man better," Julie averred. "He's become a kind of revolutionary ideologue with a desire to inflict some kind of transcendental socialism, or socialistic transcendentalism, on Ireland."

"I certainly can't imagine him in the role of a revolutionary," Deirdre declared, still patently amused. "He always struck me as being essentially too much the gentleman freak to be anything but a kind of intellectual outsider, a sort of potential Hermann Hesse. It was The Glass Bead Game he was reading when he came to visit us that time, wasn't it?"

"So I recall," said Julie, casting her memory back to that January weekend in 1974, she thought it was, when Morrison had dragged himself all the way up from London to Newcastle for a weekend visit. "And, from what I remember, he seemed more interested in reading that book than in talking to us!" she added, as an afterthought.

"Maybe because he was disappointed by the fact that we already had sufficient male company," Deirdre suggested.

"Well, he ought to have thought of that before he came!" Julie retorted, feeling, in spite of the lapse of time, a twinge of regret. "We could hardly have been expected to remain alone, under the relatively promiscuous circumstances of college life. Anyway, to cut a long story somewhat shorter, he has invited me back to his place again tomorrow afternoon, so I'm afraid I shall have to cancel our arrangements, since I didn't have the heart to turn him down. I hope you don't mind."

Deirdre did mind really, but graciously pretended otherwise for Julie's sake. "I hope you'll find your second visit more congenial than yesterday's," she remarked.

"Well, it's not as though I have anything against him personally," Julie admitted, ignoring the ironic overtones in her friend's comment. "For he's really quite handsome and intelligent with it, as you can probably recall. Indeed, judging from what he told me about his religious beliefs, I shouldn't be surprised if he were a kind of genius, since he seems to have evolved a theory of religious development which has gone beyond any existing religion and put him in the unique position of being a sort of Western guru and prophet. However, his writings have met with no success vis--vis London publishers, which doesn't particularly surprise me, in that they're obviously pretty uncommercial in their ideological earnestness, and therefore scarcely the kind of literature to appeal to a mass public! If he writes the kinds of thoughts he verbally conveyed to me yesterday, then I can't see that he stands even a remote chance of having them published, particularly since he's a total unknown with neither an academic nor a journalistic background, and therefore could hardly be described as grist to the publishing establishment's exploitative mill. He flies in the face of the natural grain too much, which is only to be expected, I suppose, from a die-hard paddy who is of the opinion that Britain is a land of materialistic philistines with no real interest in the pursuit of Truth and, consequently, scant regard for even philosophical literature, never mind philosophy."

"Gosh, I had no idea he was a writer," Deirdre declared. "When did he start?"

Julie made an attempt to explain most of what she had learnt from Morrison, which took her a good five minutes. Deirdre listened in silence, though with a tinge of jealousy that Julie had been party to his revelations and confessions rather than herself. After all, he had once written her a long letter and consequently she had no reason to think that he didn't, at the time, also fancy her - perhaps even more than he had originally fancied Julie. For the theory was that, having gone to Newcastle all those years ago to see and, if possible, get off with Julie, he had been sorely disappointed by the fact that she already had a boyfriend and wasn't therefore accessible to him. Consequently he had turned towards Deirdre in the hope of establishing a sexual connection with her instead, only to be disappointed on a similar count, since she had a boyfriend too - something which he didn't at first realize. There were, of course, other possible theories for the strange turn-of-events, none of which, however, seemed as cogent as this one. Whatever the case, Morrison had gone away disillusioned, never to return. But he had sent a sort of love letter, and it had been addressed to Deirdre rather than Julie. She still possessed it in fact, though without her husband's knowledge. Was it genuine or had it been simply designed to spite Julie for having disappointed him? Despite no real conviction either way, Deirdre preferred to think it was genuine, if only for vanity's sake. After all, she had always considered herself a better-looking woman than Julie, and more intelligent as well. There was every possibility that Peter Morrison had realized, in spite of his emotional loyalties to Julie, that he was temperamentally and intellectually closer to Deirdre and could therefore regard her as being more of a kindred spirit. But now it was Julie who was going to visit him, having been party to his deepest thoughts. It was slightly annoying to Deirdre, even given her status as a happily-married young woman.

"Well, good luck with everything," she commented, following her friend's monologue. "Perhaps, if he's as intellectually precocious as you claim, he'll prove a useful guru to you."

"I rather doubt it," Julie responded, smiling. "But I can at least listen to one or two of his LPs and maybe get him to fondle me. You never know, there may be a man hiding under the surface of his ideological persona."

Deirdre gave vent to a forced laugh, more to smother her jealousy than anything else. "I hope your husband doesn't get to find out," she declared.

"Not if I keep it to myself he won't," Julie assured her. "Besides, you know how strained our relationship has become of late. I'd be quite resigned to a divorce now, especially in view of the foul trick Dennis played on me on his birthday. I was all ready to go out, unaware that he had already cancelled the rendezvous with you and John and the others. Really, it was one of the unkindest things he has ever done to me! I was virtually in tears afterwards."

"We were pretty disappointed too," Deirdre confessed. "Particularly since we had made no alternative arrangements that evening. But if he was feeling ill ..."

"He couldn't have been feeling that ill," Julie interposed, on a wave of ill-feeling towards Dennis, "not to have had sex with me the way he did! At worst, it could only have been a slight stomach upset."

"Oh well, no use crying over spilt milk," Deirdre rejoined. "Perhaps you'll get a chance to avenge yourself on him tomorrow?"

With this implicit reference to Peter Morrison, the conversation seemed to have reached an impasse, so Julie terminated it, having arranged to meet Deirdre in the West End the day after, that being a Friday, to discuss what happened. She hung up the receiver on her wall-mounted telephone with a sigh of relief and returned to the volume of short stories by Maupassant which she had been reading. Dennis would be back from his social club any minute now, so it was just as well to have got the phone call over and done with in good time. He had no suspicions of anything unusual afoot at present, and that suited her fine. If he wanted sex when he came in (as he usually did when arriving back home with a wine-soaked consciousness) she would do her level best to accommodate him. She was an experienced woman where sex was concerned, and this in spite or perhaps because of her spiritual predilections. There was a place in her life for yoga all right, but there was also room for sex, and she could hardly pretend otherwise, not with her good looks!

Poor Peter Morrison, on the other hand, seemed to have no room for either, and this fact saddened her a little. He deserved better than he had got from life, what with his depression and solitude. There ought to be something she could do for him. Tomorrow she would wear a short skirt and stockings, perhaps even a pair of high heels. She would show off her physical charms to good effect and see if she could tempt him out of his celibacy. She would be fresh and sweet for him, and, if he was really a man, he would respond to her, giving her a woman's satisfaction in life. Yes, it would be one way of paying Dennis back for the rotten trick he had played on her the other evening. And, besides, it would be highly flattering to achieve a sexual victory over a man who was so obviously spiritually earnest - more flattering to her seductive vanity than ever it could be with her comparatively lecherous husband!

 

 

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