The Casino bar is nearly empty. Free of his obligation to cater for the tastes of the guests Beda is playing his dreamy, far away impromptus. Leaning on Alan’s arm I stop by the door curious to see and hear him as he is after he had left me for his drugs-inducted world of dreams. Left me? Not true! The only change is that I can’t hurt him anymore. He loves me as before but doesn’t despair of my absence as he can fly me to him anytime on the tip of the needle. He hasn’t left me for the drugs. He accommodated me to them. If I am still girl and Laura I am also his new, ever-present, heroin-based love. I am with him for now and forever, his golden shot at the reach of his hand. It was Alan who liberated him from the real me providing him with the girl of his dreams.
Suddenly Beda has sensed my presence. His face lights up with a happy smile, his fingers strike up his new version of Laura, now no longer only a dream. Thanked by a polite applause he joins us and, declining our invitation for a late dinner, asks to be excused.
“Wait, Beda! Would you mind staying at Deauville a little longer?”
How could he? Isn’t it just the same wherever he is? He doesn’t seem to be saddened either when I tell him that I’d be staying with Alan tonight. He wishes us good night on a kiss for me and a brotherly tap on Alan’s shoulder.
It feels awkward to admit to Alan I am scared to spend the night with him. How many times have I slept happily in his arms after Egon’s departure? How normal it felt to make love to him with Egon’s blessings. Yet how was it possible that Alan doesn’t object I’m spending my nights with Beda? He hasn’t asked me for an explanation. Does he know about Egon’s come back? I prefer not to ask.
“I am not sleepy yet, Alan. Would you mind going to bed later?”
“I think I can wait a little longer, Beautiful. Is there anything special you’d like to do?
“What about starting the night exploring Normandy? Leo told me there is a charming little harbour not far away from Deauville he discovered as a little boy with his mother. It’s called Honfleur. What a lovely name! Honey and flower put together in a delicious mixture of French and English.”
“He was right. True to its name Honfleur is a little chocolate-box town. Now, during the low season it has been passed back to its legitimate owners. It will take half an hour to get there now by night when the roads are empty. You’ll cushion your head on my shoulder and doze off.” Alan proposes tenderly.
His kiss wakes me up.
“You’ll feel much more comfortable in a bed, believe me, Beautiful. I know an enchanting place on the heights of Honfleur with a spectacular view on both the sea and the ever-green pastures. It used to belong to a French poetess Lucie Delarue Mardrus and it was converted to a hotel after her death with great taste and reverence to its past. You’ll love it, Beautiful, you will!” Alan assures me, driving the car up on a winding road.
The night is crystal clear. Somewhere high above on his stairway to the stars Egon is shadowing me. Suddenly I shudder. The very thought of spending the night with Alan makes me faint with dread.
Alan stops the car in front of the hotel.
“Do you like the hotel, Beautiful? I hope you do! It’s very homey. I spent here a couple of nights longing for you so intently that I just about held you in my arms.
“Maybe there won’t be any vacancies!” I say hopefully, wishing to go back to Beda and spend another night next to his absent body.
“That’s not a problem. I rented a suite some time ago. It was beyond my endurance to spend my sleepless nights at the “Normandy”, sensing you some unreachable steps away. Come and give “The House of Lucie” a chance! Please do!”
He helps me out of the car and takes my hand to lead me in. We enter the courtyard and step into a romantic era when the poetess Lucie entertained her guests, offering them refreshments together with her poems overflowing with love and courting and hand kissing and amorous sighs, a time when lovers parted chastely in front of the bedroom. I follow Alan with sleepwalker’s steps up the stairs to a suite on the right side of the hotel. He takes an ornate key out of his breast pocket and opens the door.
“NO!” I refuse firmly his arms, ready to carry me over the threshold.
The suite is lovely. As homey as homey can be without any false note. The large white bed with its embroidered linen is open for the night rest of two newly- wed teaching each other to spell the enchanting word LOVE, passion to be learned later, eyes wide shut.
“I’ll stay, Alan, though it will be under one condition. I’ll sleep alone in this big inviting bed and you’ll promise me to not even think about making love to me. Can you do that?”
He watches me pensively.
“Certainly, Beautiful. I’ll sleep on the sofa in the other room, my thoughts virginal white, spending the night of a monk.” He kisses my hand and leaves me alone wishing me good night.
Irked by his too easy surrender I kick off my shoes and shed my clothes on the carpet. High above from his stairway to the stars Egon flashes me a foxy smile.
I toss sleeplessly about the bed. Even a drugged Beda would be better than no one to squeeze against when desperately in need of human touch. I heave up a sigh and wait. Then another one followed by a moan, targeted at Alan to ask me for its cause. The only answer is the hoot of an owl from the courtyard.
“Alan!” At the limit of my patience I decide to act.
“What can I do for you, Beautiful?” Alan appears fully dressed by my bed his face a kabuki mask.
“I can’t sleep! Bring me a pill and a glass of water!” I order.
Which he does and passes it on me standing, about to leave.
“What do you think you are doing, Alan? Sit down and talk me to sleep!” I grab his hand and pull him down.
“What do you wish to talk about?”
“As a shrink you’d know! Isn’t it what you do with your patients on the couch?”
“Well, Beautiful, it’s usually them who do the talking. I listen. Maybe if you told me what is wrong and why you can’t get asleep.” He advises me with a professional coolness and I hate him more than I can bear.
“I feel like slapping your face, Alan!”
“Serve yourself, Beautiful!” He leans over me with a serene smile.
I throw the cover away, catch hold of him and draw him down to me.
“Are you aware that what you are doing is contrary to what you wished just a moment ago?” He asks in full control of his voice.
Pressing my lips against his seems to me as a fair answer.
I wake up in Alan’s arms relieved that Egon doesn’t claim damages for the last night.
“Don’t misunderstand me, Alan, I am not criticising you. I am just stating that you evidently didn’t behave as your venerable profession requires by refusing my amorous advances.”
“Provided I satisfied you as a lover I couldn’t care less about my professional repute.”
“Are you fishing for compliments?”
“Isn’t it evident, Beautiful?”
“You were not too bad. For a fair evaluation I’d need another testing.” Giggling helplessly I fall back into his arms.
I had not realised how famished for human love my nightly escapades with the phantom made me. Unless Alan’s lovemaking was raised by my taste for forbidden fruit it’s worth another evaluation. Though Hell knows how Egon will react this time. I hope he can accept I am only human and won’t take any drastic reprisals like making Alan impotent to punish him and me at the same time.
“You seem very thoughtful, Beautiful! Anything wrong?”
We are eating a late breakfast at a boardwalk café, the sun of March on our face, the glittering sea at our feet. Shall I tell Alan about my double life, I wonder. I should. How else can I explain to him my nights with Beda? Anyway I don’t think Egon will allow me to go on, and certainly not if he realises that Alan outshone him as my lover. To tell the truth is always tricky and even more so if you reveal it to a psychoanalyst. He may want me to undergo a treatment to get rid of what he calls my “delusions” which are MY reality beyond his comprehension. I decide against a hasty revelation and for enjoying the lovely day with Alan while it lasts.
“I’d like to go to the embouchure of the Seine that I saw on a Monet’s painting. I know I may be disappointed, just as I was, visiting genuine sand dunes and comparing them with David Lean’s in “Lawrence of Arabia”. Grey heaps of dust against a shimmering golden mirage! Anyhow I am ready to give reality its chance.”
“Here I agree with you, Beautiful! Reality can occasionally beat the imaginary. All I have ever read or heard about love was nothing compared to my feelings for you, or should I better say my infatuation?”
The Seine dances into the sea in a ball gown of glittering sequins under the exalted shrieks of the seagulls. All that remains of the river are nervous loops on the surface of the sea ebbing away like soul departing the body with a last sigh.
“Monet couldn’t have painted it as gorgeous as the sun!” I squeeze excitedly Alan’s hand.
“Now you see it for yourself, Beautiful! The real can surpass the imaginary and become second to it!”
We gaze. We wonder. We know this is never to be repeated.