I wake up into a grey and cloudy morning. Days fall behind like the leaves of a tear-off calendar in an old American film and I still haven’t found the courage to reveal to Milan “the issue at stake”. Aware that I am not in command of his reaction, I dread the worst. My blood is chilled with the impending danger. My stomach is queasy. I go to wrack and ruin under my obsessive angst that I risk losing Milan forever.
My body clings to his like a leech. It may be the last time we are making love. My marriage will be announced the following night at the Medical Ball. Yet, like a condemned murderess on the eve of her execution I am strangely relieved that the blow will fall and end this unbearable tension. There is still time I ask my father to cancel the wedding. I am quite certain he is secretly waiting for it in hope that his daughter will finally see reason and give up a fancy that will ruin her life. Collapsed in the stupor of approaching disaster, I let the fate run its course.
“I’m not quite sure what will suit you better for the Ball, Irenchen,” my grandmother summons me to her room the very moment I get home from school,” a chignon or hair falling loose on your shoulders. Mr. Jirousek is for a chignon sprinkled with white rosebuds. The final choice is naturally yours.”
Drowsy in my benumbed state of fear-stricken animal, I let myself be lead in front of the mirror. My grandmother piles my hair on the top of my head and focuses on my reflection.
“I think we shall opt for the chignon. Mr. Jirousek is right. This will be a sort of rehearsal for you wedding hair-style. A chignon is the very thing under the veil. Mr. Jirousek agreed to come for luncheon and do your hair. We must be immensely grateful for it, sweetheart! All the other ladies would give their life to be attended by him. I count on you to thank him most warmly.”
I promise my grandmother to do as she wishes, still breathless from Milan’s embrace, as intense and lavish as when we made love for the first time. The first time, the last time. The beginning, the end. I suppress the gloomy premonition and, fencing myself in the shielding power of Milan’s affection, I try to reassure myself by the certainty that Milan’s love has always remained the same, defying not only the time and the loss of the thrill by routine, but had resisted my misbehaviour. No need to be afraid of losing it, is it? I am not only scared of losing Milan’s love. I live in a panic fear of losing Milan! What will he do if he fails to understand that my marriage to Leo won’t change my love for him? Will he understand? Even the world-wise Beda couldn’t grasp the flawless perfection of my plan! If it made Beda breaking off with me how can I prevent Milan from breaking down?
“Irene! You don’t seem to be in your normal state! Are you daydreaming! Well, it’s quite understandable on the eve of the Great Event. Better go to bed early. I want you fresh as a daisy for tomorrow. Calm down, sweetheart! Everything will turn out right. Trust me!”
I let him kiss my hand and follow any grandmother’s advice to prevent her from getting annoyed with me and cease to love me. Her love may soon be all the love that I shall have. Is next to nothing better than nothing? I wonder.