Rhonda appeared unconcerned. Her hair looked particularly well that day, and she knew that everybody in the restaurant must be looking at her, arching their eyebrows in jealousy or appreciation. The person across from her was arching his eyebrows to, but with anger.
“So you’re lying to me,” he stated.
“No, William. I’m not.”
“Then you’re lying to yourself.”
“That might be a possibility,” Rhonda admitted. She didn’t think it was so, but if she were lying to herself she probably wouldn’t know it. She was an excellent liar.
“What on earth can you want with me? Why do you keep toying with me?” William’s voice was still barely above a whisper. He had an impeccable sense of propriety, and he disliked having this conversation in the crowded eating-house, but she had brought it up.
Rhonda knew, of course, that both the subject matter and the setting would pain him, but for some reason she didn’t mind. It was odd, especially since she was so incredibly convinced that she loved him again. She had changed her mind various times, but she’d never seen herself as cruel for doing so. Even William didn’t see her as cruel. He saw her as Rhonda – nothing more, nothing less, and he didn’t really understand what he meant by that, only that it made sense to him.
“I’m not toying with you, dear, I really mean it this time,” she said.
“You’ve meant it before.”
Rhonda patted her hair delicately, making sure that the tumble of curls at the back was still only half-collapsed, looking as if it had fallen out of an arrangement and just happened to rest so beautifully on the nape of her neck as it did. She adored this sort of pretended natural style. Her clothing was similarly on the verge of looking windswept and rumpled, and her face was made-up very lightly, as if she hadn’t finished applying the proper cosmetics before she’d had to rush up and go somewhere.
William loved all this about her, no matter how fake it was. He often convinced himself that there was no artifice involved at all. He thought that she was so consistent in her inconsistencies that they must be genuine.
She read him like a book. Though not exactly cruel, she had a streak of playfulness that made her fickle, and there was no one who could stand it in her the way William did. So Rhonda used him. She knew she used him, but she also knew that he enjoyed it on some perverse level.
It never even occurred to her to feel guilty.