Love and Other Murders

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Chapter 16

He calls room service and orders a bottle of Krug. They empty it before day-break which they don’t see being on one another’s arms the truth about their relationship still needed but not that urgently.

Waking up at the same moment of the early afternoon reassures them they can’t be absolute strangers. Only people in full harmony follow the same rhythm. After a light meal Alex proposes either a walk in the Norwegian wood, sightseeing or shopping. She decides for the wood, a rather strange choice for somebody bored to death by nature.

They get off at the terminal of the metro line and opt for a dusky trail sheltered from light by the crowns of towering trees following in one another’s steps on the winding footpath. She feels lost in the profound silence bruised by the cracking of the dried up underbrush under their feet. A loose branch whips her eye. She cries out with pain and sinks down upon the prickly brambles screening her injury with her hands.

“Let me see!” He leans over her.

“It’s nothing serious, not even a scratch, just a speck of dirt.” He lifts her up and clasps her in his arms.

“Now hold still and let me take care of it.”

The tip of his tongue enters her eye and licks it with a voracious greed.

“My tongue made love to your eye. This kind of love-making was the first time for both of us, how extraordinary!” He whispers into her lips and she knows something great has happened, an innermost experience that shall never be repeated. If he asks her now if she wants to belong to him only her answer will be the “yes” of an unconditional surrender.

“When are you taking me back to Paris?” She gasps giving herself up to him.

“If nothing unforeseen happens we’ll take the morning flight. You did a good job and cleared a thorny problem, bravo, Nathalie!” She shrinks back feeling like a dog that brought back a thrown ball to his master and is praised for it.

“What is it, Nathalie? Have I hurt you in some way? I assure you it wasn’t intentional.” He inquires sensing the change in her mood.

“You did nothing wrong, I assure you, Alex. I must be overdosed on nature, let’s move on.”

“There may be another explanation, you overdosed on me. Now tell me without fear to hurt my feelings, which one would you prefer to be here with you now, me or Vincent?”

“And if I say with both of you?”

“Then you’ve got a tiger by the tail. Make sure he doesn’t turn around!” He warns her with a smile that is but a spasm at the corner of his mouth.

“Until now sharing my go-betweens with Vince has been a business routine. It had its good points and we both considered it a normal and pleasurable arrangement. Then I fell in love with you and everything is upside down.”

“Then why not reverse it? It seems to me an ideal solution. It wouldn’t deprive any of us from anything and would give everyone plentiful. Being possessive is small-minded. I can imagine you courting other women without being deprived.”

“I can’t! You are all that I’ve ever wished for. My need of you is so overwhelming that it becomes haunting.” His eyes, two shards of broken glass, reflect the metal yellow of the sky. She shrinks back. She doesn’t want to love him. She isn’t brave enough.

“Nobody forces you to make love to other women, Alex! I’ll be always there for you and as far as I know Vincent hasn’t got the least inkling to fall in love with me. The work with you is much more important for him than I’ll ever be. This he proved when he refused my insistent advances.” She says mercilessly.

When they come to a clearing the light is ebbing; the clouds are turning brown like the colors on a Rembrandt painting, the hue of a fading masterpiece. The setting sun hits their eyes and the evening turns into tarnished gold. He takes her face into his palms and kisses her fully on her lips.

“Don’t fret, Nathalie! Worries are my concern.”

She sinks into him, enfolding in his warmth. His embrace is a comfort.

“We, no more I; us, no more me!” He whispers, coaxing her to accept that her only way onwards is through him.

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