“Magda is sleeping on the sofa in the living room! How could you put her up? Does Alex know about it? I don’t think he’d approve!” After a discrete knock on the door of the bedroom Elijah enters with the breakfast tray.
“I couldn’t refuse to take her in. She has nowhere to go. Vincent’s is a mess and much too dangerous. Please, don’t tell Alex!”
“There you are asking too much! He will kill me if he learns I knew.”
“He won’t! He never comes here. Magda’s stay is an emergency. Elijah, have a heart! Isn’t it you who brought Magda to Paris? She won’t cause any problems, don’t worry!”
“I don’t know about that, Nathalie! When I met her in Budapest she used to jump into bed with any man on condition she could get something out of him. Beware, Nathalie! Magda is trouble and no good company for you, that’s for sure.”
“That’s not very gentleman-like of you to blacken a poor girl’s name! I wonder what you are saying of me behind my back.”
“Only the best, Nathalie! Everything I told you about Magda is based on facts. Beware of Magda, Nathalie. She is a profiteer who will drop you like a hot potato the first moment she doesn’t need you anymore.”
“Are you talking about me, Elijah? Of all the cheek! Don’t YOU know how to wangle things to your profit?”
“Don’t believe a word he tells you, Nathalie! He can’t forgive me I didn’t’t let him into my knickers!”
“Stop it immediately, both of you, and get out of my bedroom! You make me sick!”
After they left tearing each other apart out of her earshot she takes the phone and dials Alex’s number. She waits and waits until the answering machine cuts in. She hangs up without leaving a message. Alex must have some good reason that he does not call her the first thing in the morning as he usually does. She feels it would be better to give him more time to call her first but she is too nervous not to try again.
“I can’t talk to you just now, Nathalie!” He answers his voice tense and hangs up.
She gets dressed and decides to ask Elijah what is going on.
“Eli isn’t here. He flashed out after Alex’s call.” Magda informs her curtly.
“Beware, Nathalie. Elijah is a malevolent gossip, a gutter snipe. Stay away from him! Elijah is Alex’s pimp recruiting for him the girls from Eastern Europe to toil for his spy pack just as he brought him the two of us. Elijah is a mercenary selling himself to Alex for financial and sexual benefits. I wonder what happens to these poor girls after Alex has lost his interest in them. Spying is a short term job. Do you think they bump them off and dispose of their bodies in some gruesome way?”
“Stop it, Magda! You are not being funny!”
“I don’t want to frighten you. I’m not that kind of girl! Yet I think it’s in your own interest to watch out before it’s too late. I go now to work on Norton before he has forgotten me. Men have a short memory and must be strategically handled! May I borrow some of your clothes? I’d rather stay away from Vince’s. I can? You are a dear! I’ll pay it back to you, I promise!”
She hears the door closing after Magda and has finally time for her morning coffee. The lukewarm coffee leaves a bitter taste in her mouth. The friendly flat seems suddenly a dangerous place. Even the look at Notre Dame has lost its lure. Magda is right. She should move out and stand on her own two feet. She can cope without Alex, can’t she? He means nothing to her, right?
His voice on the phone and the hectic beat of her heart tell her another story.
“Nathalie, I am really sorry that I could not talk to you. Something annoying happened. It is not just Vincent; other things went wrong, too.”
“How is Vince? I’d like to see him. He must feel lonely at the hospital.”
“I don’t think it’s possible. Vincent is in the intensive care unit and it is not yet sure if he pulls through. There is something I have to tell you, Nathalie. I won’t be able to see you for some time. I don’t know how long it may be. It’s in your own interest not to contact me. Use my cell phone only in case of extreme urgency. Elijah will attend to your every need. I deposited some money in your bank account. Don’t hesitate to spend it in any way you wish. Should anything happen to me you will be well provided. My lawyer will see to it. Never doubt my love for you. If you meet another man, better suited for you than me, I will take it on the chin. Setting you free is the utmost proof of my love!”
The connection is cut. She should be relieved. Alex means danger. Alex is not the man with whom she’d get old. Alex is the lightning on a stormy sky. She is in Paris. She is of independent means. She can do anything she wants, for instance continue working on the novel she started in Prague. Paris will bring her inspirations. She can also go to lectures at the Sorbonne; get a degree which will open up the world for her: find a promising job, meet interesting people and fall in love with someone more suited than Alex. Isn’t life wonderful? ’Of course it is’, says her brain. ’How shall I live without Alex?’ laments her heart.
“What happened to you, Nathalie? You look awful!”
Magda comes in squeezed in a dress that would make any other girl look ludicrous while on her it looks sexy.
“I helped myself to one of your designer outfits. Do you mind?”
“Of course not, Magda! I wish it’d bring you luck. You look gorgeous!”
“Thanks, Nathalie! I’m off. May I have the key? I don’t know when I shall be back and I’d hate to wake you up.”
“Of course, Magda, I just don’t know if there is a spare one.”
“There is. It’s hanging by the entrance door. I tried it. It fits. I’m going. See you!”