The Nursemaid

Gin and tonic

Alcohol, he reflected, was the nursemaid of truth.  And in recognition of the rising days of spring, he had switched to gin.  It would last as long as the current bout of hot weather, for a few days, before he went back to his old friend whisky.

Lilith (not her real name) sat there opposite him, talking.  Meneh meneh meneh.  Her intellect was still unimpaired and her brain was still fully in charge of her mouth.  He listened, or to be more precise, he didn’t speak.

He noticed she had switched from white wine to Pimm’s, that they had both reacted similarly to the temporary upswing in weather.  They were both ready for a change.

She chatted.  He thought of cycles.  Spring, summer, autumn, winter and spring again.  He hated it when people mistook spring for summer.  Did they have short memories, too much impatience, or simply no appreciation of subtlety?

He and she were in their cycle, too.  Not talking to each other, then talking again, and then the sap would rise.

Was he getting wise or just cynical?

She plucked the slice of lemon from her drink and sucked the juice out.  Her jaw tightened and her lips pursed and she stopped talking for a moment.

“That floral dress suits you.  I think it’s my favourite,” he said.

She looked at her bare arms.  “I mustn’t let the sun catch.”

“Shall I move the umbrella?”

“There’s no hurry.”

He raised his tumbler and took a draught of the bitter drink.  The effervescence of the tonic tickled his nose and the green piney flavour teased his consciousness.  It made him more alert while he waited for the spirit to flow through him.

He studied her through the bottom of his tumbler.  She became a kaleidoscope of bright colours in the sun.  Without listening to her words, he enjoyed the sound of her voice.  He reflected that she was all the beautiful things he admired.  He lowered his glass and she reassembled into human form.

The alcohol was in his veins.  If he opened them up now, they would smell of juniper and splash red on his white shirt to match the poppies on her dress.  But there was no need for that kind of thinking.  Winter was only a memory.

The tension in his muscles eased and his fingers uncurled from his fists, like the leaves unfurling in the garden, or the butterflies emerging from their chrysalis.

She relaxed too.  The intervals between her sentences grew longer, she sat back in her chair, looked around.  He guessed she was more sober than him, but only a little.

“I don’t know why we argue.”

Did one of them say that, or did he just think it?

“The sun’s getting too strong now,” she said.  “I think I’ll go inside.”

As she walked past him, she ran a finger across his shoulder and her secret smile was the signal for him to drain his glass and follow her.

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