Excerpt from “Love for Lydia” by H.E. Bates ~~Summer~~

picture-LoveForLydia-BatesI sat there watching her for some time while she gently held my fingers. Her body, flat in the chair, was still heaving with excitement. She had grown up very rapidly since the first evening I had seen her in the black dinner dress. The girl I had taken skating, with the low waist, gawkily throwing all the angular body out of proportion, with the almost monolithic straightness of Juliana herself, was not there any longer. Flesh had begun to spread on her bones with the effect of making her seem much less tall. She was warmer, rounder, softer, lovely in a way of which there had been no hint on the days of her scrawny skating in the winter. Her mouth too was firmer. Its fleshiness and breadth were still there, but it was soft now without being loose and it revealed, even more than the rounding breasts, how quickly she had grown.
‘Dare we open the window?’ she said. ‘It’s so hot in here.’
‘I’ll open the back window,’ I said.
‘I’m stifled – let’s have some air.’ She let go my hand. ‘Why don’t you take off your shirt? The sweat’s pouring from you like water – ’
The back window looked out from a tiny landing where the stairs came up. I went through to open it. Through the small casement, as I threw it back, came the heat of July, clear and fierce, sweet with light undertones of hay still being turned in fields outside the park. I stood breathing it for a moment, listening to the beat of a hay-turner, undoing the front of my shirt so that air could cool my chest.
When I went back to her she had taken off her dress. She was sitting up in the long chair, unrolling her stockings. They peeled from her thighs like another skin, leaving the flesh wonderfully white and without blemishes.
She lay back in the chair. I touched her thighs with light tips of my fingers and began to say something about how much I had wanted to touch her and how –
‘I wondered if you ever would,’ she said. ‘If you ever wanted – ’
She was smiling a little, her lips parted. I could hear the hay-turner beating somewhere across the park. Then my heart started thundering again as it had done when Rollo had tried the keys in the lock.
‘Don’t be shy,’ she said. ‘I’m not shy – ’
She rolled her body sideways in the chair, tenderly and heavily, pulling me towards her with both hands. One of the straps of her slip fell from her shoulders and she let go of me for a moment to pull the other one down. Her skin had begun to mature with the waxen stiff whiteness that goes sometimes with deep black hair and it seemed to melt as I touched it with my hands.
‘Oh! darling – don’t stop loving me – ’ she said. ‘Don’t ever stop loving me – ’
I promised I would never stop loving her. ‘I promise I never will,’ I said. ‘Never. I promise I never will.’
Some time later she lay in a sort of day-dream, quieter, looking at the sky. The hay-turner spun softly across the hot afternoon. The scent of her hair had something strong and aromatic about it and I remember that too as I think of her suddenly sitting up in the chair and bending over me and saying a most curious thing to me:
‘Even if I’m bad to you?’ she said.
‘You won’t be bad to me.’
‘Even if I were bad to you – would you? – will you always?’
‘Yes,’ I said.
‘Do you want to go on like this – always? For ever and ever?’
‘For ever,’ I said.
‘I wonder if we shall,’ she said.
I stretched up my hands and put them against her body. Its roundness, I felt, was all mine; it was I, in a sense, who had made it grow up; I was quite sure it was I who had woken her.
‘Do you like my body?’ she said. ‘Did you think I’d grown like this? Is it the first time you’ve seen a girl?’
‘Yes,’ I said.
She laughed and said: ‘I’m growing up and it feels queer – it feels terribly queer – it goes pounding and pounding through me.’
She laughed again, lying with her mouth across my face, her voice warm with tenderness and rather hoarse, and I felt all summer spin together, through the sound of the hay-turner, the warmth of her voice and the heavy repeated turn of her body, into a deep and delicate wonder, into what was really for me a monstrously simple, monstrously complex web of happiness.


1 Comment

Filed under Fiction, Literature

One response to “Excerpt from “Love for Lydia” by H.E. Bates ~~Summer~~

  1. Herbert Ernest Bates was born in Rushden, Northamptonshire, England on 16 May 1905, and died 29 January 1974, aged 68 years. ‘Love for Lydia’ was published in 1952.

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