"Let's pretend," she says.
"Pretend what?" he says
"Let's pretend, just for a bit of fun, that we're deeply, deeply in love, that it's hard for us to be apart even for a few days. That we are in tune with each other's thoughts and feelings, That it's as easy for us to be silent together as it is to talk. That sort of thing. Nothing wrong with a bit of fantasy from time to time?
On a terrace beside the lake candlelight from the restaurant table flickers on their faces. Stars float above the line of the far shore. From close to, a waiter sees anger in their eyes. Or is it hatred?"
Let's pretend that we've just met," she says. "Do you remember? Try to remember."
"You're asking a lot. You bamboozled me. I had no idea what you were really like. I thought ..."
"What did you think? How did you see me then? Tell me."
" I thought you were beautiful. Your beauty overwhelmed me. It was magnificent, self-sufficient, inevitable. It was remote. It called for no comment. Yet it shone with an intelligence that touched everything around it...And everyone. Or so I thought. A beautiful mind in a beautiful body..."
She is at a loss for words for a moment, a little stunned. "And how do you see me now?"
"I see you as corrupt, dishonest, deluded..."
"Is that the best you can do?" she says.
"You lie to yourself. You lie to me. You are living lie."
All this is delivered in conversational tones though an occasional high note suggests steam building pressure.
They fall silent. They stare about them. People at adjoining tables notice them. Waiters and commis with trays appear. A ballet begins at their table. Wine is poured, food served. Spotlights illuminate plates and glasses. But their faces remain candlelit and seem to threaten. They become self-conscious. The silence between them is oppressive. Neither likes to be the object of comment. They had wanted no row in the first place. Least of all do they want it to continue now in public.
They can go no further. They look at each other. They look away across the lake.
She says, "people are watching us. Let's pretend,,,"
"Not again, not again ... for fuck's sake, not again."
"I'll tell you what, " she says: "Look at me and count aloud to ten. "When you have finished, I' ll start counting."
He stares at her bewildered.
She stares back: "Whatever happens you must look as though you mean it."
He shrugs his shoulders, begins: "One, two three..." and continues to ten.
"Ten, nine, eight..." she responds with feeling.
"Un, deux, trois..."
A nervous giggle erupts in her voice as she enunciates, "Uno, dos, tres ... " It ripples on as she reaches, "ocho, nueve, diez."
He picks up the reflex of laughter with a choking sound, "Eins, zwei, drie ..."
People are staring at them. They are laughing. They can't stop laughing. And they don't want to stop for fear of the emptiness to come.