They went to Ryan’s wedding as a couple, but Andrea couldn’t help thinking that something had been missing from their relationship since their discussions. Lucas himself certainly had said nothing, but that didn’t mean that nothing was the case. There were moments, she found, where they said every necessary pleasantry, but veered away from ever talking of their innermost worries.
In fact, he said nothing far too often. If he omitted every detail from his mouth, what was left for Andrea to pick up with her ears?
It was her one big quarrel with Lucas. Yet, their quarrel was written by silence. She would pass each day wishing she could speak proper words with him, but, just like the beginning of their relationship, Lucas danced around the importances. Could they be regressing? Was he too jolly? Andrea would shake her head, confused. Under all it, she knew he was doing his CBT – and getting better at it.
In true fashion, Andrea seemed to lose track of the days after Christmas. By the New Year, she had a strong suspicion that Lucas was concealing yet another piece of himself from her. Again, it got her thinking. Maybe he had acquired a second position in his church and didn’t want to bog her down with tales of religion. That would have been the nice side of Lucas; Andrea would have expected his humour to come with that, but no humour there was. He had forgotten that she was starting to open herself to the words that wisdom came with.
She would have listened. That she promised herself – and would have promised him if he asked. A large, red-covered book hovering around Lucas’ bedroom, The Catechism, caught her eye one day. She had eased the volume onto her lap, and had peered at it from the first page, though it was clear that the tome did not have to be read in a particular order. The paragraphs were numbered. Interesting. Andrea skim-read a good ten pages before Lucas’ car pulled into the drive. She snapped the tome shut, eyes drooping as she did so. It had been so complex in its verbosity! So incomparably different to the romantic tales of 19th Century travellers and Renaissance artists who reminded her of her other niche.
She shifted it back into its previous position, thinking of her partner. Better to be bored and ignorant than to embarrass him by decrypting his religion.
That week, they had begun each job again as normal, as though the Christmas holidays and the events therein had never happened. Andrea awoke every morning with the thought that they might well have been regressing. And, still, Lucas folded himself further into his work, smiling in a silence greater than the type of love he bore within his heart.
Lucas left in his capacity as teaching-staff to a retreat that St. Anne’s’ Sixth Form Religious Studies students went every year to. It must have been a fairly recent trip, since Andrea herself had never heard of it, but it featured prominently on the website. He left the house empty. Strangely, Andrea had come to see it more obviously the day after he left; this had been the first time they had been directly parted over several nights and the house was not the only thing in which Lucas’ absence had caused a vacuum to rise up. Once or twice, she flicked back over to the Catechism full of its wacky knowledge, but she couldn’t read without thinking of his dark clouds; Lucas’ disdain – or, rather, the sense of it within his last movements – left her biting the guilt out of her fingers.
Charm personified, indeed! Charm in lax, more like. He had packed his ruthlessly comic slide-whistle with no comment. The air had been cold – but not because of winter. As Andrea had waved him off, she had wrapped her hands around her body and lifted her hand alone away from an elbow. It was all that was appropriate to her.
To keep her mind away from the nagging issue, she set about working. Not the typical work, but the painting work. She had a few on the go, and each canvas enticed Andrea on with its half-wet sheen.
She lifted onto the easel the half-finished print of the image of the Lansdale pier and carnival in the early morning light. She had unearthed a pile of Lucas’ photos from the time when he had been a man new in Lansdale – he was quite the pictorial photographer (she had said so to him, but he had dismissed it with the excuse that he got up early enough to see such natural beauties) – and had fallen in love with his style, unsurprisingly. Lucas knew exactly how to win Andrea over with his skills. The Ferris wheel with its chambers of blue, red and green was almost a half-toned silhouette against a clear sky.
Andrea hoped to, whatever she had done and felt before, get back into Lucas’ good books by surprising him with the artistic interpretation of his copy of the world. But that gave her three days, and Andrea wasn’t used to such rapid painting. She had done the background the previous morning and the foreground components the same afternoon and evening; with some crafty booking of work-leave (she owed Alexia more now, but that didn’t matter), she was deep within the nine domed compartments before he returned.
Andrea had lost a kind of significant count to finishing her pictures, as if the mother of these creations only knew when they were almost perfection. Nevertheless, she worked on throughout the afternoon, staining her fingers a multitude of colours in her clumsiness. She had estimated that she was close to a primary completion point, when her phone rang, making Andrea jump and thrash at her painting with a streak of red that was not meant for the sky. She swore and attempted to mop up the mess with a tissue in her right hand, whilst her left dealt with the phone call. It was from Lucas. Strange.
“Lucas?” she answered, hovering the phone between her shoulder and ear.
“I’m back.” His voice sounded tired. Tired and older than he had ever sounded. Odd. It discomforted someone who had always admired Lucas for his signature youthfulness. Now, he spoke in fragments.
“Back? Oh, good. But then, why aren’t you home? I’ve been painting, but I can quickly pack away the art. Or do you need a hand with your stuff?”
“Yeah…that’s kind of it.”
Andrea frowned. She dropped the red paintbrush, washing as it dyed the azure water a dreadful red. Biting back a cry, Andrea asked, “so, where are you?”
Lucas’ reply was instantaneous. He had been waiting for her to ask. “Can you meet me at the little café we both like?”
“The Lucky Cafe? Sure, anything you want. I’ll see you in ten minutes; it’s a clear enough afternoon for me to walk there.”
They hung up together without saying goodbye. Andrea couldn’t deny the feelings of fear that were rising up in her chest. Too many questions clouded her logic. Why did Lucas want to meet her? Was it anything to do with his blankness for the past month? Oh, Andrea hoped he was about to explain. If it was religion, she could easily clear up any trepidation. She promised herself this as she carefully laid her picture aside and started doing up her shoes.
Surely, there was a sensible answer?