I stand at Milan’s door and ring: more and more madly, more and more desperately, choking back my angst. Answered by the dead silence inside the flat, I crumple in a heap on the doormat, choking on the souvenir of Milan waiting for me breathlessly on the threshold to take me in his arms and carry me in. Grasping, at last, the seriousness of Milan’s rebuff, I am aware that my chances of getting him back diminish with every second I let him alone chewing my treason over and over. I press my head against the panel in search of a sign of life. The stillness on the other side is suddenly ripped apart by the shrill ringing of the phone. It stops as abruptly as it has started. I strain my ears to hear if it was answered. For all I know, Milan may be at home spurning me after what happened last night. What happened, in fact? Nothing at all! I ready myself for discussing the highly charged topic in case Milan will ever talk to me again. He must! It’s the very least I am entitled to, presuming that I wasn’t completely hoaxed by his frequently repeated declarations of love. Is it possible that I was that mistaken? NO! Milan is definitely not such an accomplished actor! He loves me! He loves me enough to give in to my wheedling and see the marriage from my point of view.
I glance at my wristwatch. It’s going on Mirak’s time. I can’t believe that I have been waiting that long. Time flies in the agony as fast as in the ecstasy. Incredible but true. Unexpectedly, the door gives in under my weight and I fall backwards under Milan’s feet. He heaves me up and shoves me aside like a ragbag obstructing his way. Disregarding my presence, he starts to lock the door.
“So you were home! Why didn’t you answer the bell?” I ask menacingly, prone to slap his face.
“Evidently I didn’t hear you. Be so kind as to let me pass. I’m in a hurry.”
“Liar! I rang like mad! I think you should apologise, Milan. This is hardly a way for a gentleman to treat a lady!”
“I apologise,” he says coldly, “and I beg my leave of you.”
Refusing to surrender, I follow Milan down the stairs. Once in the street, I hail a taxi and drag Milan towards it.
“Get in! What are you waiting for? I thought you were in a hurry! I’ll give you a lift to Mirak’s, as I usually do.”
“That’s hardly necessary. The tram will do. I’m not so very pressed for time.”
“Don’t be such a moron! Stop it immediately! I’ve had enough!” I snatch his hand to haul him inside the cab. He shakes me off, pushes me onto the seat and bangs the door shut.
“Here, keep the change,” I hand the cabbie a banknote and run after Milan who is striding towards the tram-stop. At last, I succeed to link up with him and grasp his arm.
“What are you playing at? Don’t you see that you’re upsetting me? Why are you treating me so badly? Have I done anything wrong? Tell me!” I cuddle up to him and try to give him a kiss.
He shakes me off brutally and jumps into a passing tram which runs so fast that I don’t even try to follow him. By chance another taxi passes by and I stop it.
“To the Rotary, as fast as you can!”
Stuck hopelessly in the traffic jam, I tremble like a wild rabbit in a snare. I press my feet against the floor as if it were an accelerator and I could make the car speed up. I realise that, at this pace, I shall never make it to the Rotary in time to catch Milan by the entrance.
“I double your fare if you make the trip in ten minutes. There must be an alternative route!”
The cabbie grins and shoots into a side street, miraculously empty. I pay him off in front of the Rotary and, reasonably sure that Milan couldn’t get here before me, I ambush the entrance. Tense with the anguish to miss him, I scan the crowd streaming past me. At last, I catch a glimpse of Milan’s flaxen hair, jump forward and grab at the sleeve of his beaten leather coat.
“I must talk to you, Milan! Now!”
“Impossible,” he pushes me out of his way with an unexpected roughness. Reeling backwards, I crash into Bessie rushing towards the entrance door.
“How handy! Here comes the groom! I leave you in his care, Gnadiges Fraulein, and bow off,” Milan comments bitchily, offers Bessie his arm and escorts her in.
I stay rooted to the spot, staring numbly at the champagne-coloured Ferrari parked just in front of me.
“Get in, Irene,” Leo opens the door from the inside and I sink onto the seat.
“Where shall I take you, my dear?”
“I don’t know. The world is a windswept, empty space,” I say melodramatically, “though I know where I don’t want to go.”
“I see,” he takes my hand and brings it to his lips, “don’t fret, my lovely, Milan will get used to your “arrangement”. Men always do. They have to.”
“Not true. You cut off with Zita completely. Right?”
“Wrong, my dear! You take the obvious subject for the real one. Zita cut off with me,” he says with a forsaken smile.
“Who would give a fig for Leo with Egon on the open market?”
“Oh Leo! I’m so sorry!”
“Don’t be, my adorable bride! Let’s go to my room and paint it red. Nothing mends a broken heart better than a bit of sex.”
“I don’t know. I wouldn’t like to cause a scandal.”
“Who would care for Zita’s and Egon’s states of mind? My dear grandmother left for Antibes this morning.”
I scan Leo’s smooth face: why does he do it? He can’t be as “desperate for love” after having “stilled his passion” with Bessie! And why at the villa instead of using Egon’s flat? Well, this point is quite simple to explain. Leo is too much of a gentleman to put me into a bed still warm from the fiery Bessie. On the other side, he may be using me to take revenge on Zita and hurt Egon showing off with me. And what about me? Do I feel like making love to Leo?
“You look very pensive, Irene. Don’t take my offer for a must. I just thought a bit of fondling would take your mind off Milan’s bad manners. There’s absolutely no reason why you’d go to bed with me if you don’t feel like it,” he pats my hand and gives me a fond smile.
Dear Leo! How unfair I am with him! How come I didn’t think about the most evident first? He wants to cheer me up! His reasons are purely altruistic! Leo is my best friend and I must be blind not to see it! How often has he helped me out when I was in trouble? Hasn’t Milan just shown to me that I don’t know him that well? That he can do unexpected and quite nasty things, even to treat me brutally? Do I need to get a rude awakening once when I have given my easy life up to humour him and shall be at his mercy?
“Thank you for the offer, Leo. Actually, I’d prefer to have a drink.”
“Of course, my dear. Drink it shall be if that’s what the lady asks for. I know a very nice, cosy place.”
“Thanks, Leo! You’re chic!”
“Am I, my dear? What a nice thing to hear. In this case I’m quite sure our marriage will turn into a success-story.”