Wandering alone through the balmy spring dusk, fashioned for lovers’ only, is heartbreakingly sad. I left Milan reluctantly go to supervise Mirak’s advanced dancing classes, a welcome occasion to switch over to Beda in the good old days, quite a different, crippling experience now. But then, once married, I shall have my own private funds and buy Milan out from Mirak’s and keep him just for myself. It isn’t half as selfish as it sounds. My marriage will bring Milan quite a few privileges, too. My father will stop pestering him about his exams setting them out as a condition to see his daughter and we may even travel abroad together, as a kind of a honeymoon trip.
Aroused by my endearing prospects my heart starts throbbing like a hollow tooth. New York with Beda can’t replace Prague without him! Awakening from my scheming, I look around me. Tangled in my mournful thoughts, my feet carried me right in front of “The Flaming Heart”. On its closing day to top it! Were I not so weary, I would turn my back and run away. Feeling like fainting, I prop up against the door. It opens as if by magic and I seep backwards.
Laden with answered wishes, fate plays cat and mouse with me. After a moment’s hesitation, I touch the body slumped on our table. Beda heaves up his head and gives a pained moan. Looking not at me but through me, as if we were in the same nightmare together, he makes me up from my reflection in the mirror.
“So you’ve found the way back, Laura”, he spells out my name after a halting second as if not sure how to pronounce it.
“Beda! I’m so glad you aren’t mad at me!”
“Why should I? Beggars have no limits when it comes to self-humiliation,” he chuckles and the drunken thickening of his voice, so familiar, so well-remembered, compels me to kiss his gin-smeared mouth, cold and numb under my lips.
He gives a start as if hit by an electric shock.
“I never doubted you were my “femme fatale”, Laura! You kill at the touch,” he smirks wiping my kiss off with the back of his hand.
“I came to discuss our future, Beda.” I sit down not waiting to be asked.
“There’s nothing to discuss, girl, unless you’ve have decided to fly to New York with me.”
“That’s exactly what I wish to talk about. After a lot of thinking I came to the conclusion it would do me a lot of good to change my life. New York seems to be the right thing and...”
Beda’s eyes open wide enclosing me in their blinding joy.
“I just knew it, Laura! It couldn’t be any other way. You’re a part of me. I’m a part of you. Neither of us would stay whole if one of us broke away.”
I wish I could fall in Beda’s arms and let him live out his version of my story. Though sooner or later he would know and cut off with me. How can I persuade Beda with his mad certainties about everything and all, especially if it concerns his personal conception of right and wrong, which makes his decisions so easy and irrevocable, that not telling him the whole truth doesn’t mean I am lying? How could he ever understand my tantalising paradox where “marriage” is synonymous with “freedom”?
Swathed in the quickly drying layers of my deceit, I am preparing for the shrill pain of ripping them off.
“Is there anything else I should know, Laura?” Beda probes further disconcerted by my embarrassed silence.
“Be frank, please! Like all other romantics, I thrive on rejection. So it seems, you’re my Godsend gift, girl!” Playing his angst off with his practised sarcasm, Beda challenges his grand illusion.
I feel a flinty force opening my mouth. A voice that isn’t mine announces crystal-clearly: “I’ve decided to marry Leo. Wait! Don’t say anything before giving me a chance to explain! For both, Leo and me, it’s a marriage of convenience, a social match. Nothing more! I swear to it! Isn’t the fact of being later to New York with you proof enough?”
With the mechanical movements of an automaton, Beda props himself up against the table, strides to the piano and starts to play. His lips curled in a forlorn smile, he hums the exquisite songs that used to be mine.
A corpse embalmed with her funeral music, I listen in hypnotic silence drowning in a wave of desperate love for the boy whose life I am about to wreck.
He stops playing. Without giving me so much as a glance, he sets out into the darkness.
I stay to keep a wake over our defunct love. The cleaning woman finds me in the morning and sweeps me out.