Blast, he had infuriated her. And all he had wanted to communicate was his message from the night before: that they could not be together.
Richard felt a stab of pain in his chest for hurting Corinne so. He had thought she could cope with his behaviour because he acted like this so often. But it turned out that a single interruption could change everything.
Still, it was necessary to refrain from treating her too affectionately. And she should become accustomed to this after a while. Perhaps what was also necessary was to ensure he didn’t show her he cared again. Maybe it was better that Corinne thought he hated her - though that thought agonised him - than that she clung to the hope that one day they would start courting.
Richard sighed discontentedly as he finished his breakfast. He gave his plate and bowl to Florence, as well as Corinne’s unfinished porridge and the bowl of coffee she had tasted and disliked, and left the room, his mood contemplative.
Why had she acted so bizarrely? Talking of opening his casement wider, suddenly asking to try a drink she had watched him drink every Saturday morning for seven years? Could it be she was trying to send him a message of some sort? She knew he knew she loved him - it couldn’t be that. Though he had the feeling it was connected to her love - the awkward, flustered manner she had displayed had conveyed an intensity of feeling and desperation beneath it. He wondered what she could have wanted to say. Had she a burning question to ask him? The statement he had made last night had meant to be one that closed the topic of romance - and he had thought it had been successful when Corinne’s silence had ensued.
Maybe she doubted his meaning.
Maybe she had wanted to doubt his meaning.
Richard was frustrated. The situation would be a lot trickier if Corinne could not cope with the fact that no marriage would result from their love.
Wasn’t it enough for her merely to know her love was requited? Couldn’t she take a step backwards to give him space for his problems and settle for a quiet understanding between them? Would it really be that uncomfortable for her if his sole treatment of her was that of a friend?
What was going to happen, Richard wondered, when she realised fully the attitude he wanted of her?
Would she ever fully realise it? And - more importantly - would she understand?