The Line Between Us

The Line Between Us by Kate Dunn Read Free Book Online

Book: The Line Between Us by Kate Dunn Read Free Book Online
Authors: Kate Dunn
snip of the blades as I worked, enjoying the sense of purpose in the sound, when the window below was flung open without warning and went slamming into the ladder, sending me flying onto the grass. As an afterthought the ladder came bouncing down beside me as I lay on the ground, winded, trying to catch my breath.
    “Oh! I’m awfully sorry!” You came hurrying through the French doors and pitched yourself onto the lawn beside me. “Are you alright? I didn’t realise you were there.”
    I scrambled into a sitting position, my mouth agape as I hacked away trying to get some air into my lungs. My chest was in spasm. I couldn’t have answered you for the life of me.
    “Are you sure you’re alright?” You bent your head closer to inspect me. “Shall I go and get …?” You tailed off, sounding uncertain, then glanced back over your shoulder at the summerhouse. “I could get you some water …”
    I wheezed something as best I could by way of reply.
    You disappeared for a moment and when you came back to you were holding a cracked china cup half full of water. “I’m awfully sorry,” you said. “I had no idea you were there.”
    “Thanks,” I managed, taking a sip. I breathed in and out, then in and out again. “That’s better.” I lifted the cup to my mouth for more.
    “That’s probably enough,” you said intercepting it. “I’m meant to be doing some water colours. Mama said I should. I brought this to clean the brushes with.”
    My eyes widened.
    “Only it’s a long way to go back for more. Don’t worry,” you added, “I haven’t used it yet.”
    I handed you the cup and climbed to my feet, arching my back then bending forwards.
    “Are you sure you’re not hurt?”
    “I’ll be fine,” I said in noble tones, then I arched my back again until the bones cracked.
    “Perhaps you should sit down for a bit …”
    It was too good an offer to resist. I followed you into the summerhouse. The small hexagonal room had a flagstone floor and a stone bench running right around the edge. There were blue Delft tiles on the walls showing ordinary people at work, like me: fishing, hoeing in the fields, weaving baskets. A small easel was set up in the centre, supporting a wooden board with a blank sheet of paper pinned to it. I perched on the edge of the bench, feeling the cool of the stone through my trousers.
    You placed the cup of water on the floor beside the easel. “There,” you said, sitting yourself a few feet from me. The open window swung on its hinge in the breeze and you stood up to secure it, flashing me a guilty look as you did so. You sat down slightly closer to me this time.
    I made a study of the tiles directly opposite me; there was a blue galleon, its white sails billowing with wind on a blue, blue sea, and the blue shadow of a tiny gull cast against white clouds that billowed too.
    “Well …” you said.
    I bit my lip. “Do you paint, then?”
    You glanced at the blank sheet of paper and pulled a face. “Not really. Mama thinks I should. She says it’s one of the skills a young lady needs to acquire.” You started patting your pockets. You were wearing some kind of linen smock over your normal clothes. “I don’t think I’ve brought my cigarettes. Damn.”
    I blinked at your daring, at the language you used. “You’ve got the costume, though,” I said, nodding at your smock.
    You stared at me for a moment. “Don’t you ever get lonely? When it’s just you and Samuelson?”
    I shrugged.
    “Maybe I should paint you?” Before I could say anything, you stood up and went across to the easel. As you fiddled with the catch on a box of watercolours I felt the sear of panic run me through.
    “I’m not very good,” you said idly. The box opened and you took out a brush. “Would you mind?”
    I felt wild with unspoken excuses – but what about Mr Samuelson? What about the pruning? What about the ladder left lying on the grass? Look at the time, I’d better – I glanced towards

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