I lived out of Oxford during the following year, working extremely hard to prove, primarily to myself, that I was fit to do postgraduate work. Jeremy lived even further out, on the other side of Oxford, but of course he had a car; Jane came up quite often during that first term, and we had several evenings together reminiscing about the holiday and much else. The problem that had arisen, except for one or two brief discussions about it with Jeremy, was fortunately not brought up at all.
Towards the end of the term they had a superb dinner party in honour of Charles, who was finally leaving. He was fulfilling a life long ambition of travelling by sea, and two days later it was of course Jeremy who drove him down to Southampton. As we sped down the motorway on that cold November evening, I thought back to the time, eighteen months ago, when we had wandered, just the three of us then too, over the peaceful Oxfordshire lanes in pursuit of an eternal summer. Charles was going away without taking a degree, having grown tired of Oxford after his term as President of the Union: now in my fifth year I could see what he meant, but as we said goodbye to him I felt that some things remained fresh if one wanted them to.
It was on the way back that Jeremy told me that Jane’s firm had asked her to go out to Paris for some years, from January, and she had accepted.
I saw them together only once more after that, when she came back in the summer for Eights Week and, leaving more recent friends, I ate strawberries and cream alone with them on the riverbank one afternoon, watching the races, and then had dinner afterwards in a distant and delightful country pub. Jeremy by himself of course I saw a lot of through that year; he talked more and more then about the past, especially his first year, as though on the threshold of leaving he wanted to register again and again the first intense impact of the place and the experience. However he only came back to Oxford about once a term after he began working in London the following year, and at the end of the year he was sent away to South America.
Jane indeed I saw almost as much of during that year, for I always called her up when I was passing through Paris. She could not put me up for she had only a studio flat, with an enormous bed that took up almost the entire space when it was let down, but we usually had a drink together and once I was there long enough for her to arrange a dinner. It was on that occasion that I met Jules, a Frenchman who spoke English with so thoroughly American an accent that I upset him excessively by asking whether he was American. Despite this we got on very well, to Jane’s satisfaction I sensed. I was not really surprised when, the next time we met, Jeremy asked if I’d met Jules and then informed me that he was Jane’s lover. I asked him whether he minded.
‘Of course not.’ he remarked cheerily. ‘She’s got to have her own life. After all, my firm will be sending me abroad at the end of this year, almost certainly somewhere where it will be impossible for us to meet too often. I’ve told her she can do what she likes – so long as she keeps me informed.’
I suppose I should have realised then that the relationship was bound not to last: but I have a romantic view of things, and geographical difficulties provided me with the excuse for their not being together as often as before. Whenever I saw Jane, though Jules was usually in attendance, she always informed me how Jeremy was – my sole source of information on the subject, as it happened, for he was an appalling correspondent. When, after three years in Paris, she told me that she would be going on to America rather than returning to England, she even told me how sad she was that she would not be there for Jeremy’s return.
Jeremy however did not come back to England to work. He changed jobs and went instead to Paris, and the next I heard of him was a change of address card from there. It contained, in a few words, the information that he had not had to go through the bother of finding a flat since, as Jane was leaving, he was going to take over hers. I was rather touched by this. The note concluded with an invitation to come over and stay.
I decided then to take up the offer but, my days at Oxford hurrying to a close, I was hard pressed to find the time. However, at the end, after I had submitted my thesis and was beginning to feel intensely nervous about the forthcoming viva, I received another card from Jeremy, reiterating the invitation, this one posted from Sri Lanka where he had stopped over on his way back from a business trip to the Far East. I took a sudden decision and went. It was a sensible move for, walking lazily through the lovely city, going to the Opera and viewing the Impressionists, drinking cheap wine in the sun at crowded sidewalk cafes, I forgot my nerves entirely.