They walked along in silence. They had not travelled far when the sky opened. He took her hand and led her over a low wall and down an embankment to the canal, where they took shelter under an iron railway bridge.
Laughing and catching her breath, she scraped the wet hair from her face. “I’m soaked through!”
He only stared at her. From the far end of the leaden sky, an orange glow was skipping off the canal into her glistening face. She stopped straightening her damp dress. “I must look a right state.”
“You look wonderful,” he said, marvelling at her golden face, a brightly shimmering curtain of rain behind her.
She guessed he was just being nice to make up for his failure in the railway yard. “It’s nothing to be ashamed of,” she said.
“Why would you be?” he replied uncertainly.
“I’m not,” she said, checking her shoes. “It’s not me that couldn’t get it up.”
Again he tried to read her face, but could make no sense of her. The golden light faded. “I don’t get this. Why are you having a go at me?”
“I’m not,” she blurted. What was wrong with him?
“Then why are you trying to make me feel bad for not hurting you in the yard back there?”
“What do you mean?” They were becoming shadows in the half light.
“I mean that weird stuff about hurting you and don’t stop even if you beg me.” He pointed in the direction of the railway yard.
“I thought it was what men wanted to hear,” she explained. “Most men like it.”
“Most men?!” His voice was hot and bitter. “How many men have you had?!”
“That’s none of your business!” she echoed loudly.
“No, I suppose it isn’t.” He stepped back from her. Then he took another step and found he could not stop. He shook his head apologetically as he disappeared into the rain.