Earlier, we had struggled briefly in the alleyway, I pushing her slowly into a gaggle of bins, she rolling over the top of them, the rubbish spilling across the cobblestones, a fishy stink. Mariette picked up the half brick as she stood up, and I advanced.
She said: 'Not anymore'.
Earlier, she had accosted me as I came out of work, on the way home. I was surprised to see her. She had always been the diffident type.
I said: 'What do you want?'
Her face was nearly expressionless - perhaps a trace of fear.
'I want to speak with you,' she said. 'I want to tell you what I'm going to do. I want to see what you think about it.'
In truth, I was fearful myself, and very tired - I wanted all this to end, to be forgotten.
So I followed her across the tram tracks and into the alleyway, where a light misty rain was filtering between the buildings and falling upon black cobblestones. Mariette told me what she was going to do, and I backhanded her. She fought back, and we struggled briefly in the alleyway, at the back of the Golden Dragon Restaurant, on slippery cobblestones, and I pushed her slowly into a gaggle of bins.
Earlier, we had met for coffee in Block Place, amongst the lunchtime throng. I sat at a table on the cobblestones, watching her as she threaded her way between the crowd towards me. She looked nervous. I half-rose to greet her; she smiled briefly and kissed me on the cheek.
'Hello,' she said. 'How are you?'
I felt a little nauseous, to tell the truth, but we ordered coffee and she told me what she knew about Erna. She said it was everything she knew, but how could I be sure?
'What are you going to do?' I asked.
'I don't know,' she replied. 'What do you think?'
I rubbed a hand over my head. I felt like death. We looked at each other. I told her what I thought she should do, but she disagreed and we argued.
'I don't want to end this in anger,' she said, 'but I will if you force it.'
'Leave me alone,' I replied. 'If you try to hold me down, I will fight back. I don't want to see you again. I better not hear about this again.'
And I left her sitting there, drinking coffee amongst the lunchtime throng.
Earlier, I had held her down while she fought back. She fought back more and more these days - not an aggressive, violent backlash (she was too diffident for that) but an increasing stubbornness, a refusal to submit - and not just while I fucked her: it was an obstinacy of character.
'One day I'll kill myself,' she sometimes said, 'and then you'll be sorry.'
I jeered at her when she said this.
But this time, after I had finished fucking her and she had finished fighting back, she said: 'One day I'll tell Mariette, and then you'll be sorry.'
I stared at her when she said this.
'You wouldn't dare,' I said.
She stared belligerently back at me, so I backhanded her and put my finger in her face.
'You wouldn't dare,' I repeated. 'If you force this, it will end in anger.'
'Will you hold Mariette down?' she asked. 'She will fight back.'
I rubbed a hand over my head. I felt like death.