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Anna

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Anna deserves better. Nahum observes this often, watching her in New Burbage. Anna is kind and good. She has patience and integrity. She has faith, in spite of everything, in the importance of what they do here. She should not be making coffee for ungrateful men and dealing with the incompetent and the uncaring, young, middle-aged or old.

Anna also deserves better from the men who pay her court. The so-called playwright whose works Nahum would never have allowed into his theatre, who steals her character and betrays her secrets. The Bolivian musician, with his easy flirtations, which Nahum carefully does not translate. Worst of all, Richard Smith-Jones, whose behaviour is entirely unsuitable in the workplace, and who could not be more unworthy of Anna, body and soul.

Yes, Anna deserves better. It takes Nahum a surprisingly long time, all things considered, to think that perhaps he might be the one who could make her happy. Longer still to act on this thought, since above all he does not wish to make Anna uncomfortable, or to lose the friendship that has been growing between them since the end of things in New Burbage. She does not speak about her time in Bolivia, but Nahum feels certain that bad things happened. He knows what life can be like in a country at war with itself. If the time comes when she wishes to talk about it, he will be there to support her.

They are in Montréal now, with Geoffrey’s revived Théâtre Sans Argent, and Anna no longer makes coffee unless she wants to. Nahum is directing his first production there, The Island. On opening night, Anna gives him flowers for luck, and he hugs her. Carefully, and with respect. She hugs him back enthusiastically, kisses him and then backs away, blushing.

“I’m so sorry, Nahum. It’s the excitement. Your first night!”

“Yes,” Nahum says. “That is exciting. But please don’t apologise. I liked the kiss very much.”

“Oh!” Anna says, and blushes harder.

“If you felt moved to repeat it, that would also be very agreeable,” he says. “Not now, but some other time, perhaps.”

“After the show?” Anna suggests, a little breathlessly.

“After the show,” Nahum agrees, because he must go and speak to the actors.

Anna smiles at him, and for the first time since coming to Canada Nahum catches a glimpse of something that feels like home.