I fall into Milan’s arms to recover from my recent injuries and losses. At last, I can let myself go, admit to feel wretched and battered and be mollified and otherwise delightfully comforted until I shall be restored to my good old self.
“What is it, babe?” Milan touches my swollen, bruised nose.
“Don’t ask questions, Milan, please! Just hold me!”
He lifts me up and carries me to the armchair. Enclosing me into his embrace, he rocks me to sleep.
“I hate disturbing your rest, babe, but tonight I have to be with Mirak at least two hours in advance. Have you forgotten? It’s the last tuition for the Medical Ball and my turn to dance with you!”
Milan kisses me awake and puts me gently on my feet. I stop short from screaming. Each one of my muscles twitches with pain. Milan gives me a startled glance but refrains from any comment.
“I’ll wait until you’re ready, Milan. Call then a taxi and I’ll give you a lift.”
Fighting a bout of nausea, I sink back into the armchair.
“Taxi is waiting, babe.”
Milan assists me to stand up and helps me to my coat. I am so raw and mangled that I can hardly walk. Wordlessly, Milan takes me into his arms and carries me down the stairs.
“Would you like me to accompany you home, babe? You should go straight to bed and botch the tuition. If there’s anything I can do, just tell me.”
“Thanks, Milan, I will. I may follow your advice. I feel dizzy. I must be starting a flue.” I explain awkwardly, avoiding Milan’s eyes.
I set him off in front of the Rotary, glad to be left alone. Instead of calming down, the pain sharpened and is spreading inside me like forest fire. I pay the cab and creep like a crushed beetle up to my room. To cap it all, I start bleeding. I mop with a handkerchief the scorching hot dribble trickling down my thighs and fall upon my bed tout with pain and anxiety. I should call Leo and ask what to do. Did Egon hurt me so much that I risk bleeding to death?
It takes all my courage to dial Leo’s number.
“No, Herr Doctor isn’t home. Would you like to talk to the Gnadige, Fraulein Irene?”
I thank the maid and sink back upon the cushions. The bleeding has stopped. Maybe it was better, after all, to spare Leo the sordid truth and to sleep it off.
I am awoken by Mary standing perplexed above me.
“Your Doctor is here to take you to the tuition! Are you sick, Liebchen? Shall I send him away?”
“Do, Mary, please, and tell him I’ve got a touch of the flue”
She leaves me reluctantly, her face puckered with worry.
After a resolute knock on the door, Leo enters uninvited.
“Mary told me you’re running a fever. Let me see, Irene.”
He switches the bedside lamp on, turns the stream of light against my face and freezes.
“Where did you get the coke from, Irene? That creepy piano wonder will be the end of you! It would serve him right to denounce him to the police!” Leo growls, removing the white specks from my nostrils.
“I thought he might be taking dope but I didn’t expect he would be as perverse as to try to hook you. How much did you take, Irene? How often?”
“You’ve got it wrong, Leo. If you really insist to be put into the picture, then it’s time I told you a few home truths. I got the coke from your father. He didn’t “try” to hook me! He put my nose straight into it.”
He stares at me speechless, rooted to the spot with shock and rage. Were it not for a twitch in his cheek, I would think he has changed into a pillar of salt.
“Poor Irene!” He mutters crumpling in a heap on a chair.
“I assure you that it won’t happen again. What a ghastly experience! I’m devastated! Nevertheless, I suggest not skipping Mirak’s tuition. It will help us both to pass over the shock. I’ll leave you now so that you can get dressed and fix your nose. With a bit of make-up, it won’t look too bad.”
He flashes me an encouraging smile and gets up. What shall I do? Tell him the other, unspeakable truth?
“I’m sorry, Leo. I don’t think I want to go,” I say apologetically.
“But why, Irene? Of course you had an extremely nasty experience but I know you too well to believe you could be be discouraged as easily. Come on, be a sport, get up!”
He snatches my hand and pulls me out of bed. Startled by my sharp shriek of pain, he lets me go.
“Tell me, Irene, did Egon try his perverse tricks on you? His marriage went on rocks when Zita refused to subdue to his abuse and locked him out of her bedroom. Of course it didn’t hinder him from searching his “little pleasures” elsewhere. Yet, how could I ever suspect he would take advantage of you? His future daughter-in-law! I shall make him pay, I swear! Now, let’s be reasonable, make the best of this painful experience and stop crying over spilt milk. You, evidently, need some medical help. I’ll bring you to a trustworthy surgeon. Don’t worry; he’ll be most tactful and discreet. Trust me, Irene! It’s safe!”
“Thanks, Leo, maybe later. All I need now is to rest. Go to Mirak’s alone, please! We need him to update us on the Ball. Bessie is such a charming girl. Don’t miss her tutoring because of me. You’ll show me what you’ve picked up from her to our mutual benefit, Leo, please!”
“If you insist, I comply with your wishes. No more than two sleeping pills, do you promise?” He bows upon my hand and tiptoes away.
I wash the pills down with a mouthful of gin, doze off with a vision of Bessie reclining seductively in Leo’s arms, and wish them to have fun together.