Adam’s feelings towards Anna were monotone. He had seen her in town prior to her coming to the mine, and recognized her immediately when he caught a glimpse of Justine showing her around the buildings and the grounds. When he had seen before, she was usually alone or with an older man Adam assumed was her father, popping into the feed store and stealing glances at the library over her thin shoulder. To Adam she seemed all beige, her hair, skin, even her eyes seemed pale to him. Her clothes were solid colors, toned down, pallid like her skin. She reminded him of what his spinster aunts must have looked like at 20. He hadn’t glanced much at her in town, and when she started teaching the children, his mind didn’t wander too much her way at first except for to write down numbers on her paycheck and next to her name in the payroll ledger every other week. It wasn’t until Justine had started spending a lot of time helping in the school and she started offering small anecdotes of what she knew of Anna’s history to Adam during their lunches together that he became aware of how important the girl was to Justine.
“Anna has been everywhere. You wouldn’t think so, would you? Her family traveled all through her childhood, and she’s even lived in Ohio. Cincinnati, though. No where near where you grew up. She’s so fresh and sweet, you should ask her to sit by you one evening in the commissary. She’s awfully lonely.”
“Why not? You can’t very well sit by me, and Blake and I are usually at home eating, anyway. You’re lonely too, aren’t you?”
“No. I’m not lonely.” He shook his head sadly and looked down at his long fingers. He was lonely. The only time he wasn’t was between twelve and one, when he and Justine sat and talked and eventually moved into his bedroom. They had taken to meeting in his office, knowing that their affair would be easier to cover up if she was there to talk to him about mine business or her account. As it was no one knew they were there, there were cooks and cleaners in the commissary, but they stayed there. The mine owner and his wife were away so much in town that they had become figureheads instead of leaders.
“I’m not lonely when I’m with you. When I’m not with you I get back to work, or read, or write, or think. Sometimes I take a walk. I think about you during the walk or when I’m writing but other than that I’m fine. Men don’t get lonely like women, do. We’re not ruled by our hearts.”
“Liar.” Justine cupped Adam’s chin in her hand, pulling his face towards hers so she could kiss him deeply. When she broke the embrace she said again, “Liar.” and removed his belt with her swift, thin fingers.
When they had finished, and Justine was buttoning up her white cardigan, the fuzzy one with the mother of pearl seed buttons, she forced her voice to sound like caramel and purred, “But Adam. What if Blake and I leave here? I’m a married woman and I’d have to go where he was called to go. I love him. I love you, too of course but you need someone besides me. Will you take her out?”
Adam’s neck stiffened. His bare shoulders slumped, causing the tiny hint of a fat that was just beginning to form on his stomach to be pushed out. He felt old. “She’s so young, Justine. I’m almost forty.”
“But you’re a bachelor. You’re an intellectual. She’s a teacher. It would be lovely and terribly appropriate.” Justine chose her words strategically, knowing that Adam’s lust for her was still bubbling inside of him, that he would always want her at least, even if he didn’t always love her. “For me? Try it for me?”
Adam looked at her directly, his cold blue eyes becoming grey and stainless steel. “I will. But only for you. She’s so bland to me. You’re all the color in the world and she’s like the absence of it. I don’t think of her in any way at all. “
After that, after Justine had started edging Adam’s attention towards Anna, Adam started watching for the girl on the hills and walkways around the mine. Not expecting to feel any stirring, not expecting to think she was even remotely pretty or beguiling. He did notice, though, that whenever Justine had been to see her, the girl appeared more flushed, more rosy. As if filled with some foreign and celestial light that didn’t belong to her. It was as though she was feeding off of Justine’s hot red energy during their time together. Anna appeared to worship Justine, and Adam knew all about that, so at least they had that in common.