In formal beds beside the Serpentine, early tulips stood in tight-lipped rows. Billy Prior spent several moments setting up an enfilade, then, releasing his companion's arm, seized an imaginary machine-gun and blasted the heads off the whole bloody lot of them.
Myra stared in amazement. 'You barmy bugger.'
He shook his head sadly. 'Five months in a loony bin last year.'
She didn't believe him, of course. Smiling, he came back and offered her his arm. They had been wandering along beside the lake for an hour, but now the afternoon was waning. A coppery light, more like autumn than spring, slanted across the grass, turning the thomed twigs of rose bushes into strips of live electric filament that glowed, reddish, in the dusk.
Prior, always self-conscious, was aware of approving glances following them as they passed. They made a romantic picture, he supposed. The girl, young and pretty, clinging to the arm of a man in uniform, a man, moreover, wearing a greatcoat so grotesquely stained and battered it had obviously seen a good deal of active service. As indeed it had, and was about to see more, if only he could persuade the silly bitch to lie on it.
'You' re cold,' he said tenderly, unbuttoning the greatcoat. 'Put your hand in here. You know, we'd be warmer under the trees. We'd be out of the wind.'
She paused, doubtfully, for by the lake it was still hght, whereas the avenue of trees he was pointing to smoked darkness. 'All right,' she said at last.
They set off across the grass, their shadows stretching ahead of them, black, attenuated figures that reached the trees and began to climb before they were anywhere near. In the darkness they leant against the trunk of one of the trees and started to kiss. After a while she moaned, and her thighs slackened, and he pressed her back against the fissured bark. His open greatcoat shielded them both. Her hands slid round him, underneath his tunic, and grasped his buttocks, pulling him hard against her. She was tugging at his waistband and buttons and he helped her unfasten them, giving her free play with his cock and balls. His hands were slowly inching up her skirt. Already he'd found the place where the rough stockings gave way to smooth skin. 'Shall we lie down?'
Her hands came up to form a barrier. 'What, in this?'
'You'll be warm enough.'
'I bloody won't. I'm nithered now.' To emphasize the point she pressed her hands into her armpits and rocked herself.
'All right,' he said, his voice hardening. 'Let's go back to the flat.' He'd wanted to avoid doing that, because he knew his landlady would be in, and watching.
She didn't look at him. 'No, I think I'd better be getting back.'
'I'll take you.'
'No, I'd rather say goodbye here, if you don't mind. Me mother-in-law lives five doors down.'
'You were keen enough the other night.'
Myra smiled placatingly. 'Look, I had a woman come