‘Wayne... This wouldn’t be the friend who’s borrowed half your last quarter’s allowance from you, would it?’ Ran challenged her.
Sylvie blanched. Alex had obviously told him about that; she wished that he hadn’t.
‘I... He’ll pay me back.’ She defended both Wayne’s request and her own acceptance of it.
‘Things have certainly changed since my time at university,’ Ran told her cynically. ‘Then it was the man who did the chasing, the pursuing, not the woman who had to secure the man’s attentions by offering him money.’
Sylvie stared at him, unable to keep either her shock or the pain his words had caused her from showing in her eyes.
‘It isn’t like that... I haven’t been pursuing Wayne. I don’t...’
She stopped abruptly and looked away from him. How could she tell Ran of all men...people...that she didn’t run after his sex, when he had good reason to believe otherwise after the ways she had so blatantly revealed her feelings for him? Now he was looking at her in that horribly cynical way, his mouth twisting in mocking contempt.
‘Alex asked me to come,’ he told her as she remained silent. ‘He’s had to go away on business but he asked me to come and give you this...’
As he spoke Ran was removing a cheque from his wallet which he handed to her.
Swallowing hard, Sylvie took it from him.
‘You could have posted it to me,’ she told him in a small voice.
‘Alex wanted it delivered in person.’
‘It’s a long drive... I could... Would you like something to drink...to eat...?’
‘Coffee will be fine,’ Ran told her shortly, following her as she automatically started to walk into her small living room.
The bottle of wine Wayne had brought with him was still on the table, her own glass nearly empty, and Sylvie saw the hard look Ran gave it as he walked past her work table.
A wooden divider separated the living room end of the room from the small kitchenette, and Ran leaned against it as Sylvie bustled about making them both a cup of coffee.
‘You’ve lost weight,’ Ran told her abruptly when she finally handed him his mug. ‘It is just sex this friend of yours is dealing in, isn’t it, Sylvie...?’
As the meaning of his words sank in Sylvie put down her own mug of coffee, her face burning with indignation.
‘I’m not taking drugs, if that’s what you’re suggesting,’ she told him angrily. ‘I’m not that stupid, Ran.’
She closed her eyes momentarily, thinking painfully of David and the waste of his young life. No, drugs would never be something she would be tempted to use, and it hurt her that Ran thought she might.
The buoyancy and joy she had felt earlier had all gone, evaporated, burned away in the raw heat of Ran’s anger and contempt. Suddenly she felt slightly tired and sick—the combination of no food, alcohol and too much painful emotion, she guessed miserably.
As tears filled her eyes she reached out impulsively, her fingers curling round the soft fabric of his shirt as she pleaded despairingly, ‘Ran, why does it have to be like this between us? Why...can’t we be friends...?’
She shrank back as she heard the bitterness in his voice.
‘And what kind of friendship do you propose that we should have, Sylvie? The same kind you share with your friend who’s just left? What’s wrong? Isn’t he satisfying you in bed? Do you need someone to compare him with? Because if so...’
Sylvie had had enough.
‘That’s not what I meant at all,’ she cried out. ‘I hate you, Ran... I hate you,’ she told him tearfully, the child surfacing over the adult she had wanted to be...had wanted him to see...as she pummelled furiously at his chest, desperate to break down the barrier he had thrown up between them.
‘Sylvie, stop it.’
As Ran caught hold of her small fists and held her away from him Sylvie realised what she was doing. Shamefaced, she started to look away from him, tensing in his hold when she heard him curse softly under his breath, and then suddenly he was sliding one hand into her hair, holding her head still as he bent his own towards hers, his breath fanning hotly against her face, her lips, his mouth...
In the shock of feeling Ran’s mouth actually caressing her own, Sylvie immediately forgot everything which had preceded it— their quarrel, his anger and contempt—and remembered only her love for him!
Instinctively she moved closer to him, opening her mouth beneath his, responding joyously and passionately to his kiss, naively believing that despite everything that had happened he must care for her after all; he couldn’t be kissing her like this and not do so, could he?