You are sitting on the edge of the fountain smoking, the expansive Brideshead behind you and the unwavering driveway in front.
It is summer: the sun is just rising: the scent of roses and lilac swells in the air.
Beyond the forecourt and the hill’s crest, through the wrought-iron gates and the twin lodges, you watch as Natasha drives away,
her luggage behind her and not a backwards glance at the great house that she and Tony call home.
Tony alone now is in charge of Brideshead: all of his family away for the summer: and you his guest.
As Natasha’s car disappears from view you feel a sense of liberation and peace that you do not know you will feel again, years later, during the war,
when the sirens sound the “All Clear” after a night of unrest.
Tony swims up to you in the shallow fountain and rests his head against your leg, naked and white and fishlike,
his arms sputtering water onto the driveway and his hair staining your clothes wet.
“We’ll have a heavenly time alone,” he says: you look at him smiling, and he smiles fondly back, eyes crinkling and teeth flashing and fingers tracing the seam of your trousers.
You pass him your glass of wine: your kiss tastes sweet as the Chateau Peyraguey and the fat Turkish cigars, and the alpine strawberries stain both of your lips red.
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