(Author note: again, the timeline is rushed and I had to change a couple of things to make Chronological sense. Thus, one must take it at a pinch of salt that Lucas asks Andrea to a wedding at such short notice here.)
The middle of December heralded an onslaught of rain from the West currents of air. Lansdale, with one edge to the sea, was thrashed by the downpours – again – and most residents chose to remain in their homes.
Her day off, Andrea had immersed herself in a mixture of arty and logical activities. It had been too long since she had painted anything properly, but today the rain was not providing Andrea with any inspiration and the result of an imagined playground in the sunshine lacked the necessary visions. After a hasty lunch, when the rain abated for a good half an hour (though this was still not enough for Andrea to step out when all the ground shimmered viciously), Andrea set about drafting two more imagined scenes, but her mind strayed off their intricate details. In the end, the two drafts were placed aside, with the rest of the stock that lingered overdue in her bedroom.
By four o’ clock, Andrea had reached for easier things to do, and sat working steadily on the three crosswords that the national newspaper offered. One was the daily ‘coffee-break’ item, but the last two were money-winning puzzles, and the dictionary was eventually heaved out. Andrea never bothered to send off the answers, for she knew that the probability of her getting a prize was low, but it was a good brain work out, ready for crunching numbers at work the next day. People underestimated how much maths there was in Psychology.
At quarter past five, the door clicked open, and Lucas wandered in, stepping out of his shoes before waving in Andrea’s direction.
“Evening,” the man greeted her with an exhausted wiggle of his eyebrows.
“Hey. Tiring day?”
“I swear, the rain makes students restless. I had to deal with two incidents of classrooms being used as gymnasiums this lunchtime. Oh well,” he added, “they wouldn't have made me Head of Department if they didn’t think I could reprimand with power.”
“True,” Andrea replied, lifting her pencil and slowly marking in a word. “Flaxen.”
“Still, it’s a shame I have to. What are you doing?”
“Ah. I’d offer help, but that escapes me. Essays, yes; word-making, no.”
As Lucas shrugged off his damp coat, she watched how slow his movements were.
“I don’t feel like cooking,” Andrea said. “Do you want to order pizza?”
“Ooh, yes, please,” he replied. She thought she heard his stomach rubble in the background, but already Lucas was inserting his coat amongst the other hung possessions. He took great care.
He returned, giving her a small smile.
Andrea lifted out her mobile. “Any late post? I didn’t hear the postman come, but there’s always something. I haven’t quite figured out the system yet.”
Lucas chuckled. “I think there was some. You order, I’ll check. Pepperoni, please.”
She nodded, dialling the number she’d etched onto the edge of the newspaper. “Hello, yes. I’d like to order a large pepperoni pizza and a side of garlic bread.” Having given the address of Lucas’ home, she hung up with the taste of meat already fresh dewdrops on her lips.
Andrea looked up the moment she put her phone on the side. Lucas happened to be sorting through the two letters, one for himself and one bill for her. He fingered the other envelope, turning it over and over, before ripping away the tabs at the back. Andrea glimpsed a white leaf of paper torn away from its case, but the black inscriptions were whisked into his hands before she took in much more.
Perhaps Lucas would say a word once he was ready. Andrea eyed him. But she also eyed the door. Ten minutes, the service man had said. She crept forward – there was little to do but watch the road for a motorbiking individual – but nothing had changed. She sighed under her breath. So, Andrea could think of nothing else to do. She tapped her fingers on the doorframe and pushed away into the kitchen, to where Lucas had retreated with his letter.
“What’s that?” she asked, leaning forward. She hoped Lucas didn’t think that was weird.
“Just a letter…” He cleared his throat in a brusque way, but not in the sort of ready-to-relate tone. “I used to work at the Chaplaincy – when I was at St. Anne’s College – but I resigned to…concentrate on my teaching career. Recently I reapplied. And I’ve been given the job.”
Andrea smiled along with him, but she listened to those new words he had said. She tilted her head.
“Job?” she asked.
Lucas’ nose twitched one way and then the next. “Well, not really. It’s like a volunteer pastime: Sunday, and two evenings a week.”
“I thought you were stressed enough,” she exclaimed.
He chortled, but she noticed how his eyes narrowed a little. “I use it to relax. A little more than when I’m with you.”
Andrea raised an eyebrow. “Oh, yes?”
“I’m teasing! I just mean that it gives me something more to do with my free time. No; I mean, free time regardless of my other free time. I just want a bit of variation. Please say that came out right.”
Andrea smiled at his flouncing. That was more like it. “Mmm.”
The doorbell buzzed and Andrea wandered over, taking in the warm scents of meat and oil as she opened it to the deliveryman. Thank goodness for perfect dinners made in a flash. Sometimes she just wanted to remove herself from the hassles of being a chef. Maybe frequently. She carried in the box, sliding the lip open and onto a serving board with little effort; with the protective cover, Andrea felt no pain on her hands. She shifted the board onto the table and they began to eat.
Lucas was distracted the entire time. He pulled faces into his pepperoni and pushed his cheese around with his tongue, like a child with the forever-world on their mind.
Finally, Andrea could take his vagueness no longer. She roughly swallowed the spicy meat through the lump in her throat. “Lucas, do you want to tell me what’s troubling you?”
“Nothing’s troubling me,” replied he.
Andrea lifted up her second slice, making an acknowledging noise, but thoughts did not settle in her mind. As typical of him now (and why did he have to be so vague towards her?), Lucas posed his face into one picture of silence – and that same determined contemplation. She shrugged, letting them finish their meal, even when the precise silence threatened to overthrow the passion.
They fell down into the grips of the sofa, fabric rolling up around their embrace. Lucas stretched himself out, feet extended and left arm snug around Andrea’s shoulder.
“I’m tired,” she mused, burrowing down into his coffee-smelling warmth. “Just tired. What are you thinking of?”
“School. Business. Everything. Ryan’s getting married at Christmas. Boxing Day, really. Of course, you’ll be my plus one. It’s a Catholic wedding, I hope you don’t mind.”
Andrea turned her large eyes onto him. Religion hadn’t crossed her mind for a second. A wedding was a wedding.
“Of course I don’t.”
Lucas let out a little sigh. Rather than one of relief, this was one of negative connotations.
“Are you okay, darling?” she asked. To Andrea, it was a physician’s question, but Lucas must have read her lover’s concern, too.
“Yeah. Just…tired myself. I hate how much I work for how little I am appreciated.”
“Surely that’s not true?”
“Oh, I know you appreciate me, but I’m no part of the Senior Management Team. I may be a HOD, but I’m a small pawn to them. Never mind.”
“No. What else happened today?”
“I was teaching my Year Tens today about the triangle,” he mused.
“The Triangle?” said Andrea, doing her best to imitate his intonation whilst in the midst of her nervousness at the word. “You mean The Triad, The Trilogy?”
“They’re both great guesses and great sets of three,” Lucas said with a dry chuckle, “but no. This triangle I refer to is the Triangle of Morals, the moral ‘sat-nav’ within us.”
“The device that operates so differently in different people.”
“So differing,” Lucas finished, his voice drawing back to being mystical and musing once more.
The pause between them was long enough to be awkward. Andrea glanced at Lucas, but his eyes were on something on the ceiling and avoiding hers. She thought she might have a crack at one of the crossword clues that she had not yet worked out. She leant over her partner and snatched the newspaper up, brandishing its empty puzzle. For half a minute more, she found that the answer still escaped her.
“You know,” Lucas said in a declarative tone, “I’ve been thinking about religion. A lot lately.”
“Of course you have. You teach religion.”
He fidgeted around in his seat. “That’s not what I mean. You never ask me where I go each Sunday evening, or other evenings besides.”
“And does that worry you, Lucas?”
“Don’t you want to share an interest in my faith?”
Andrea tossed the newspaper aside with a dull thump. “Surely you’re not offended by my lack of attention to your Mass-going ways? I’m not immoral. You face hundreds of ignorant young people each weekday.”
“This isn’t the same. You’re not a ‘young person’. I would have thought that you would have a vested interest in the Mysteries of the Faith for me.”
Andrea was starting to get annoyed. She waved her hands up. “I just don’t see the point in one religion that professes to champion over another.”
“Don’t see the point? We Catholics are fairer to other religions.”
“Now you’re missing my point,” she argued.
“Look,” reasoned Lucas, “it’s human nature to at least have to take an interest in what I’m up to; we each have to make sacrifices. If I were to marry someone who was allergic to mushrooms, I would have to change my cooking.”
“But I’m not!”
Lucas pushed himself off the sofa. “I need to think.”
He scribbled something onto a scrap of paper and meaningfully placed it on Andrea’s newspaper. “If you want me.”
“I don’t see what the big deal is!” Andrea called as he strode out of the front door.
She thought she heard him reply “that’s the whole point,” but it might simply have been the wind as it howled through the closed gap.
Now Andrea had no inspiration for logical pathways. Instead, she flipped over the scrap of paper. It was an address. Of a church.