After dinner, Jackie went into the sitting room. Clive was already there, sitting on the sofa. He turned his head as Jackie came in.
"How did you find the journey?" she asked. Her voice was low and musical. Tears pricked at Clive's eyes but he blinked them away.
"It was good thanks" he said quietly. There was no trace of control in his voice. Somehow, whhenever he was with Jackie he seemed to hand over his own power to her and become gentler, more submissive. Actually he knew she never took his power though he gave it to her freely - that was his own interpretation.
"I'm sorry to hear about your wife."
She sat next to him on the sofa, crossing her own legs just as he did.
"It's ok" he replied. For the first time he did feel a little guilty about his actions. Something about Jaqueline evoked feelings of guilt and regret from him surrounding his conduct towards his wife. Guilt, regret and sympathy were really his only feelings towards his wife though he had always been grateful to her when she had done things for him. Still, he did not love her as he loved Jaqueline. He knew that.
"Where is Charles?" he asked.
"Upstairs. He'll be down in a minute."
A few minutes passed in silence. Then Clive suddenly reached out and clasped Jaqueline's hand again.
"Jackie..." he said desperately, moving closer to her.
"Don't." She pulled her hand away. "Your wife only passed away six months ago and by her own hand. Don't..."
"I can't help it." He moved closer to her and held her hand again. "Jackie, you know how I feel about you." The intensity burned in his eyes like fire.
"Clive..." Jackie began gently.
"I don't mind that you don't feel the same way". Clive spoke passionately.
"It's not that. This is just so..."
"Look Clive, last time you were married and I had to stop you saying such things because it was wrong and I didn't want to hear them..."
"But now it's different Jackie, you know it is."
"It's too soon."
"Who says? Look Jackie I love you. I love the way your hair looks when you let it down. I love your hair when it is tied back. I love your voice. I love the way you smile, the way you walk, your movements, your mannerisms, everything about you mesmerises me..."
His words started becoming incoherent as he went on. Jackie raised her hand and he stopped with difficulty.
"Clive I do love you but..."
"Only as a friend" he said quickly. "I know, but that doesn't matter Jackie..."
"That wasn't what I was going to say. I'm not refusing you. I'm just saying it's too soon. It's only been six months since your wife ppassed away. Wait a year, two years perhaps. By then you'll have better control as well."
"You mean I'll stop loving you? Never."
"I didn't say that. It's just the violence of your passion..."
"I'm not a violent person."
"That's not what I said, look, calm down."
Clive took a deep breath. "Anything you say darling." He caught her hand again. "I believe" he hesitated, trying to slow his words down "that when you really love someone you put their needs above your own."
"I believe that too."
He stared at her with such despair in his eyes that she moved closer to him and put her arm round him. He cuddled up to her, feeling like some lost schoolboy all of a sudden, despite being the same age as her.
"I think you do love me" she said softly, "but the intensity of your passion is overwhelming, and besides we both need time. I need time to think. You need to wait a year or two just to be decent."
He was silent.
"I see what you're saying" he said finally. "But you do love me the way I love you?"
"I love you more than as a friend yes but though my love can be passionate too at times, it's not as passionate as yours and I'm often overwhelmed by the level of your love."
"It's not your fault..." she spoke gently. "A guy I met at a railway station fell for me that way too but not as...strongly...as you."
"You know him?"
"He's my boss."
"Wow, what a small world. Does he know I know you?"
Clive shook his head. "No I haven't told him. Do you want me to?"
"No" said Jackie decidedly. "I don't love him, not romantically anyway so it's probably best if he doesn't know. If he too started going the same way as you I couldn't cope."
Clive nodded thoughtfully. "Ok I promise I won't tell him, and I'll give you as much time as you need."
And so they sat together arm in arm on the sofa.