The desire to punish her had gone. But he daren't touch her. He daren't break the enchantment.
"The heat in the day. The cool evenings. It would be good to live like that."
"Could we ever get permission?"
"I don't know."
"Just to see what it was like. I mean--"She half sat up."Can we get inside?"She ran a finger gently down his peeling cheek.
Alan was taken aback but then he became aware that the crickets had started. How long had they been singing? He wondered."Let go and see."
They tramped round but as Alan already knew, there was no way in. In the end they came back and he lit a fire at the side of a small stone building. Other campers had obviously used the space and there were black marks on the walls.
He cooked supper, using half a precious bottle of water to make it. The intimacy was still there but the talking was at an end. Alan could hardly contain his rising excitement. They had night together. Anything could happen.
Alan suddenly realized what he had to do. After supper, in the glow of the scented mountain twilight, he made coffee and they sat in silence. Darkness came slowly; the volume of the crickets seemed to increase. Still he had made no move.
She was lying in front of the fire, her body almost glowing. Alan reached out a hand and temporarily she took it. Then Alice yawned and stretched. "I'm turning in now," she said.
"More coffee?"asked Alan miserably.
She kissed him on the forehead. "No thanks."
Had he ever loved his brother Tom? He must have done sometime. Certainly he had always been jealous of him as a child. He the introvert:Tom the extrovert. Alan thought about his introverted personality. He could see quite clearly how he had failed so dismally with Alice and how Tom had taken over so easily. Tom was what she wanted. She didn't want what he had.
Gloomily, Alan climbed into the sleeping bag and drifted off to sleep. Beside him Alice slept, her breathing seeming to keep in time with the insistent beat of crickets.
Alan dreamt. The crickets had stopped. There was a slight breeze and the luminous hand of his watch registered just after two. Her sleeping bag was empty; Alice had gone. For a while he just couldn't believe it. He sat up and felt the dark walls of Santa Caterina close in on him.
Then he was on the mountainside, stumbling blindly up the mountain path, hearing their laughter. Softly he crept up on them until he could see their bodies entwined. Alan's anger rose to fever pitch and he rushed towards them. They fell apart. He sobbed as he had never sobbed since he was a child.
She woke him anxiously shaking at his sunburnt shoulders.
"What's the matter?" she kept asking over and over again "Alan, what's wrong?"
He stared up at her, blinking in the glow of the dying camp fire.
"Nothing,"he said automatically."Nothing really."
"Just a bad dream, that's all."
"You were crying."Her voice was soft, tender, just like she used to be.
Alan turned over in his sleeping bag. "I'm fine."he said."Let's get some sleep.'
Alan woke with the early-morning sun gently warming his face. He sat up, his head muzzy with the dream, his cheeks salty, tear-stained.“You were crying.”Her voice came back to him and he winced. Alice had felt sorry for him and he instantly smothered, patronized. He broke into a sweat of agony and apprehension. How could he ever open up a discussion with her now?
He looked cautiously round her sleeping bag. It was empty and Alan froze. Then, gradually, he relaxed. It was just after eight and she had probably gone to find a place to go to the loo. He waited, calmly, gloomily, and then anxiously as she did not appear. Hurriedly Alan struggled out of his sleeping bag and began to search the grounds of the monastery. But there was no sign of her at all.
Panic set in as Alan scoured the grounds again and drew a blank for the second time. It was becoming increasingly obvious that she had walked out on him and was probably climbing down to Tom. But rather than feeling anger, Alan simply felt desolate. She hadn't even left him a note. He went over and touched the inside of her sleeping bag. It felt cold.
Surely she wouldn't find her way back alone. Alan began to search again, this time through the tangled thickets of what might have been a herb garden. Something caught his eye. Lying on the ground was a small, shiny object. It was Alice's bracelet.
Suddenly real fear clutched at him. Someone had come and abducted her. Or had Tom come to find her? But the bracelet?
"Please God,"Alan muttered. "Let her be safe." "Why hadn't he looked after her? Why hadn't he been able to reassure her? Alan now realized how he had locked himself into his own shell of rejection and jealousy. Tom no longer seemed a threat. All Alan wanted was Alice, and if only he could find her they would talk and talk and talk.”
For the fourth time he began to search the grounds, the bracelet in his hands. Then , in a crevice on the broken stones of the terrace, he saw something bright and beady. Alice's ring. And he knew how tight on her finger it was. Sweat ran down Alan’s face.