How silly could one be? What was there to dramatize about this naked male person lying beside me? He was just a professional agent who had done his job. He was trained to fire guns, to kill people. What was so wonderful about that? Brave, strong, ruthless with women—these were the qualities that went with his calling, what he was paid to be. He was only some kind of spy, a spy who had loved me. Not even loved, slept with. Why should I make him my hero, swear never to forget him? I suddenly had an impulse to wake him up and ask him: “Can you be nice? Can you be kind?”
I turned over on my side. He was asleep, breathing quietly, his head resting on his outflung left forearm, his right arm tucked under the pillow. Again the moon outside was bright. Red light filtered through the curtains, mixing the black shadows of his body with shining crimson highlights. I bent closely over him, breathing in his male-ness, longing to touch him, to run my hand down his sunburned back to where the brown became abruptly white where his summer bathing-trunks had been.
After looking long at him, I lay back. No, he was as I had thought him to be. Yes, this was a man to love.
* * *
The red curtains at the other end of the room were moving. Through half-sleeping eyes I wondered why. Outside, the wind had dropped and there was no sound. Lazily I raised my eyes to look above me. The curtains at this end of the room, above our bed, were motionless. There must be a small breeze coming off the lake. Come on! For heaven's sake go to sleep!
And then, with a sudden ripping noise high up on the opposite wall, the bits of curtain hung sideways. And a big, glittering turnip-face, pale and shiny under the moon, was looking through the glass slats!
I never knew that hair could stand up on end. I thought it was invented by writers. But I heard a scratching on the pillow round my ears and I felt the fresh night air on my scalp. “I wanted to scream, but I couldn't.” “My limbs were frozen.” “I couldn't move hand or foot.” I thought these too were fictions. They aren't. I simply lay and stared, noting my physical sensations—even to the symptom that my eyes were so wide open that they ached. But I couldn't move a finger. I was—another phrase from books—frightened stiff, stiff as a board.
The face behind the glass window slats was grinning. Perhaps the teeth were bared, like an animal's, with effort. The moon glistened off the teeth and off the eyes and off the top of the hairless head to make a kind of child's sketch of a face.
The ghost face jerked slowly round the room, looking. It saw the white bed with the twin smudges of the heads on the pillow. It stopped looking and slowly, painfully, a hand, with shiny metal in it, came up beside the head and smashed clumsily downward through the panes of glass.
The noise was a trigger that released me. I screamed and hit sideways with my hand. It probably didn't help. The crash of glass had wakened him. I might even have spoiled his aim. But then came the double roar of guns, the solid slap of bullets into the wall above my head, another great splintering of glass, and the turnip face had gone.
“Are you all right, Viv?” His voice was urgent, desperate.
He saw that I was and didn't wait for an answer. The bed heaved and suddenly the moonlight threw a great block of light through the door. He ran so quietly that I didn't hear his feet on the concrete floor of the carport, but I could visualize him flattening himself against its wall and edging round. I just lay and stared, aghast—another literary word, but an accurate one—at the jagged remains of the window and remembered the glistening, horrible turnip head that must have been a ghost.
James Bond came back. He didn't say a word. The first thing he did was to get me a glass of water. The prosaic action, the first thing a parent does when the child has nightmares, brought back the room and its familiar shapes from the black and red cave of the ghosts and the guns. Then he fetched a bath towel and put a chair under the smashed window and climbed on it and draped the towel over the window.
I was suddenly conscious of the muscles that bunched and relaxed in his naked body and I was amused at how odd a man looks without any clothes on when he is not making love but just moving about a room doing kind of household chores. I thought that perhaps one ought to be a nudist. But perhaps only under forty. I said, “James, don't ever get fat.”
He had fixed the towel as a curtain. He got down off the chair and said absent-mindedly, “No. That's right. One shouldn't get fat.”
He put the chair tidily back beside the desk where it belonged and picked up his gun that he had put down on the desk. He examined the gun. He went to his small pile of clothes and took out a new clip and substituted it for the old one and came over to the bed and slipped the gun under his pillow.
Now I realized why he had lain like that, with his right hand doubled under the pillow. I guessed that he always slept like that. I thought his must be rather like a fireman's life, always waiting for a call. I thought how extraordinary it must be to have danger as your business.
He came and sat down on the edge of my side of the bed. In the filtering scraps of light his face looked drawn and sort of blasted, as if by shock. He tried to smile, but the tense muscles wouldn't let him and it was only a crooked sketch of a smile. He said, “I nearly got us both killed again. I'm sorry, Viv. I must be losing my touch. If I go on like this I'm going to catch trouble. When the car went into the lake, remember a bit of the roof and the rear window was left sticking out of the water? Well, there was obviously plenty of air trapped in that corner. I was a damned fool not to have worked that out for myself. This fellow Sluggsy only needed to knock out the rear window and swim ashore. He was hit several times. It must have been hard going for him. But he got to our cabin. We ought to be dead ducks. Don't go round the back in the morning. He's not a pretty sight.” He looked at me for reassurance. “Anyway, I'm sorry, Viv. It ought never to have happened.”
I scrambled off the bed and went and put my arms round him. His body was cold. I hugged him to me and kissed him. “Don't be silly, James! If it wasn't for me, you wouldn't have got into all this mess. And where would I be now if it wasn't for you? I'd not only have been a dead duck, but a roasted one too, hours ago. The trouble with you is you haven't had enough sleep. And you're cold. Come into bed with me. I'll keep you warm.” I got up and pulled him to his feet.
He caught me to him. He reached down with both hands and pressed my body hard into his. He held me like that for a time, quite still, and I felt the way his body was gaining warmth from mine. Then he lifted me up and laid me softly back on the bed. And then he took me fiercely, almost cruelly, and once again there came the small scream from someone who was no longer me and then we were lying side by side and his heart was pounding wildly against my breast and I found that my right hand was clenched in his hair.
I relaxed my cramped fingers and reached down for his hand. I said, “James, what's a bimbo?”