She was surprised to discover that Paola was thirty-four. 'What have you been doing all this time?' she wanted to ask, but instead she said, 'What brought you to England?''There was a man,' Paola said. 'When the man left, I decided to stay.''An Italian man?'Barely perceptibly, Paola nodded.'He had a job here. He is an -' She paused. '- aeronautical engineer. After a year he had to go home.'Solly was seething with questions. It was strange: in Paola's presence she felt herself to be a failure, yet a part of her believed that a woman of thirty-four with no husband or children was the greatest failure of all. It was a kind of unstoppable need for resolution that grew from her like ivy over the prospect of freedom and tried to strangle it. She couldn't bear the idea of loose threads, of open spaces, of stories without ends. Did Paola not want to get married? Did she not want children, and a house of her own? She sat there in her white sweater, delicately eating. Solly, a sack stuffed with children, a woman who had spent and spent her life until there was none left, sat opposite her, impatient for more.