He enters the room with his arms full of flowering branches and stops in front of the heavy stoneware jug on the corner table. Carefully, he picks out first one branch, then another, and arranges these in the vase. He steps back to study the effect; then he accurately positions a third.
At once, he turns towards me.
‘You do not like it?’, he asks, a little anxiously, ‘You used to be fond of lilac, so I thought... But I suppose that was a long time ago?’
I really just wanted him to regard me with as much attention as he was giving the flowers. Now he does...
‘They are lovely, Maitimo. That is, the branches in the vase are. The branches you are still holding, on the other hand—they bother me a little. They are rather in the way.’
He looks down at them. Is that, perhaps, a smile? When he looks up again, he is entirely straight-faced.
‘It could be much worse’, he informs me, gravely.
‘Yes. They could be holly.’
A quarter of an hour later, the couch is strewn with crushed petals and heavily scented with lilac.