Love and Other Murders

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Chapter 29

She greets Elijah with a much promising kiss and jumps into his car to be taken to the stylist. He assures her he did his impossible to fix the date as shortly as possible but that the maestro can’t take care of her immediately and they can spend the waiting in a most pleasurable way.

She is glad to be able to see at last where Eli lives when he is not in Alex’s service but to her great disappointment he drives her to Alex’s.

“Won’t Alex mind if he catches us having fun in his bed?”

“Alex is out of town. And even if he was here he would not mind. The flat is big enough and the guest room has always been our communal playground. It’s quicker this way: I can leave the car in Alex’s garage and the hairdresser is just around the corner.” He says letting her in.

“Thank you, Magda, it was great! You’ve made memorable improvements since Budapest. How much do you need?” He asks reaching after his wallet.

“I’ll leave it to your consideration, Eli. The fun was shared.”

She puts the money into her purse, readying for her performance with Norton. Having sex with Eli was just average but wasn’t she well aware that Eli is not Vincent? She has done her bad deed for the day and playing an iron virgin with Norton will come easier.

She leaves the hairdresser’s content with the results. This Hugo is some artist! What a shame that he is evidently gay. Aren’t they all? Not in Budapest! There she never paid for her hair styling in cash. She is curious; Americans are famous for their Puritanism. Wouldn’t going to bed with Norton be like taking his virginity? Interesting to know! No! Abandon all hope, Magda, and wait until the wedding night.

“I’m happy you are at home, Nathalie! I’d like Norton to take note how chastely I live.” Magda rushes in bubbling with excitement.

“A propos, how do you find my new hair style? Elijah took me to Hugo. That guy has great potential, what a shame that he isn’t interested in girls! I have to hurry now. Norton will be here shortly. Would you mind if I took some garb from your closet? Tonight is very important to me.”

“Of course, Magda, take anything you wish. I am glad it can serve you and does not go to waste.”

“You are an angel, Nathalie! May I wear also your gorgeous Louboutines? Their heels make a girl’s legs so sexy!”

“Of course, Magda, take them for the keeps. Just to imagine being perched so high makes me dizzy.”

“Good Almighty! Norton is here and I am not yet ready, can you buzz him in!” Startled by the entry phone Magda gives a cry.

“I’ll be ready in a whiff. Be a dear and entertain him in the meantime.”

Norton enters with a bunch of roses; a man ready for anything to escape a past that did not keep its promise.

“Good evening, Mr. Norton. I am Magda’s friend Nathalie Nova; we met shortly at the Fouquet’s. Magda won’t be long. May I offer you a drink? I’m afraid there is not a great choice, a glass of white wine, maybe?”

“Thanks, Miss Nova, it will be with pleasure. I’m so sorry to keep you from your work!” He says apologetically pointing to the computer on Nathalie’s desk.

“No need to be sorry, Mr Norton. It’s a much welcome interruption. Today I am rather uninspired and any break is welcome. I’ll put the flowers in the vase, get us some wine and enjoy your company.”

Chatting pleasantly about recent cultural events, they find out how much they share and Norton notices that he is meeting a woman who can appreciate not just Yves Saint Laurent but also Martin Scorsese. When Magda makes her flamboyant appearance they are about to become friends.

“Sorry for making you wait, Frank!” Magda rushes in ready to be admired.

“No harm done, Magda! Miss Nova is an accomplished young lady. Talking to her was a genuine pleasure and we did not see the time pass.”

“Don’t I know it? Nathalie is some girl! I am proud to be her friend.” Magda’s smile is full of bite.

“Tell me, Frank, what do you think of my new hairstyle? I tried my best to please you but evidently without success.”

“You look wonderful, Magda! You take my breath away!”

“Thanks, Frank. We must not take more of Nathalie’s precious time; let’s go!” Magda says with a glare and, without allowing her date to finish his glass, she shoots out into the corridor. Norton follows her sheepishly shrugging apologetically his shoulders.

Magda gets into Norton’s Mercedes in a fit of rage. How could she have ever suspected that her date would be impressed by her skinny roommate? The silence inside the car is highly charged. Norton is absorbed in the driving, unresponsive to Magda’s reproachful glances. As mad as Magda is, she feels that she may get into trouble. As things are, she will have to play all her cards to make Norton forget that this charming little girl of his dreams can change into a fury occasionally. She ponders nervously how to get him back under her spell. Why not use tears, the much exercised weapon of women’s wiles? She caves in on her seat, covers her eyes with her hands and turns out a spectacular moan. Norton does not seem to be impressed. Magda suppresses the tears of furore welling in her eyes. Smearing her laboriously applied make-up and look like something the cat dragged in would take the cake.

She steals a surreptitious look on the man with the heart of stone. He sits upright, his face is pale, his teeth are clenched, his fingers clasp rigidly the steering wheel. How can he be so wantonly cruel not being moved by her despair? Evidently tears are a false move and if she won’t change her manoeuvre fast she risks losing him.

“Sorry, Mr. Norton, I realize that this is not how a well bread young lady should behave. I couldn’t bear your sudden coldness. You are the most precious person I’ve ever met and losing you would kill me!” She whimpers and, sliding down her seat, she collapses, her face down upon his knee. After some moments the effects of her hot breathing and calculated wriggling do the trick. He twists under her like a continent under an earthquake.

“Sit up, Magda, I beg you! I cannot drive safely under these conditions! Do what I tell you, please!” He insists his voice breaking.

She allows him to be lifted up and put back onto the seat.

“I apologize to have reacted so badly, Frank! You made me madly jealous of Nathalie. It won’t happen again, I promise!”

“I have also a confession to make, Magda. I can’t stand women’s tears. My ex used them so often to force me into things I regretted later. Don’t take me wrong, my dear child. I know that your despair was genuine; it would be cruel to make you pay for my past and my ex-wife’s monkey tricks. See, we have nearly arrived. This here is “Le Jardin d’Acclimatation”, a zoological garden where I went often with my little daughter. She loved visiting all the animals, though her favoured ones were the sheep that she used to feed with carrots and biscuits.”

Magda leans her face upon his shoulder. “How happy your daughter is! I have never known what a father’s love is! My daddy was murdered by the communists!”

“My poor little lamb, what a horrid life you had! “ He says his voice breaking.

“This can be easily put right. I’ll bring you to the zoo any time you wish!”

“It will be wonderful, Frank! “ She agrees thrilled to have found another of Norton’s soft spots to be explored and exploited.

“We have arrived! How do you like Neuilly, Magda?”

“It’s beautiful! Being in the country with Paris at the reach of your hand! I have always dreamt about living in a villa! I’m so proud of you, Frank! You succeeded in anything you have ever tried; of course I understand you had to work hard for it!” Magda says dreamily falling under Neuilly’s leafy charm.

“I wish you were right, little girl, though my private life was a defeat before I met you.”

“Isn’t it risky to leave your Mercedes parked in the street?” Magda asks stepping out from the car and following Norton inside the villa.

“Don’t worry, Magda. Neuilly is one of the safest neighbourhoods in Paris. We have always had a conservative mayor well assisted by the right wing deputies. I’m taking no risks. Follow me and let’s enjoy the lovely evening in each other’s company.”

The villa appears amongst the majestic trees like a fairy tale dwelling. Magda seizes hold of Norton’s hand.

“It’s beautiful! I have never seen anything as glamorous. Who takes care of the garden? I’d be so happy to do it! Believe me, Frank! I have green fingers and am really good at it!”

“There are three gardeners in charge, sweetheart! I’d never allow you to ruin your lovely hands. And then, I’m not certain how the co-owners would react seeing an angel with dirty hands.”

“Doesn’t the villa belong to you?” Magda’s asks in disbelief bitterly disappointed.

“Alas that’s not the case, darling heart. With my disastrous divorce arrangements and horrendous child care money to pay I could hardly afford it. I share the villa with two other owners. So sorry to have disappointed you!” Norton says with a smirk reading the disheartenment on Magda’s face. Once bitten, twice bitten, you old fool!

“It’s quite comfortable, you’ll see.”

She follows him wordlessly into the elevator, a beautifully crafted piece of gilded wrought iron, its walls and a little bench covered in purple plush.

“It’s grand!” Magda cries out enthusiastically trying to obliterate her unfortunate slip of tongue.

“I’m glad you find it to your standards, Magda!” He retorts icily, less and less convinced that this lovely redhead is the innocent angel of his dreams and that her break down in the car was genuine.

He opens the door and steps aside to let her in. She stops by the entrance impressed by the magnanimity of the hall, blinded by the intensity of the crystal candelabra suspended from the high ceiling, seduced by the beauty of the Italian table of polished marble with its multicoloured inlays. She steps into a huge off white living room with panoramic windows opening into a lush countryside. She stares at paintings she has until now known just from their reproductions and has never expected someone she knows could own. All this might one day belong to her if she won’t mar her chances by the blunders of a girl who is unable to keep her mouth shut.

“What can I offer you, Magda?” He asks amused by her stunned silence.

“A glass of sherry, maybe? The maid laid out light refreshments in the living room. What about a snack before we’ll go out for dinner?”

He leads her to a side board filled with delicacies that make her mouth water. He passes on her a Limoges porcelain plate and goes to care about the drinks. Shall she dare to fill up her plate or behave like a well-bread young lady and take just a couple of these mouth-watering titbits? She is walking on a slippery ground and should watch out not to be taken for an ill bred brat.

“Don’t you like it, Magda?” Norton asks seeing her hunched over an empty plate.

“Of course, I do. It’s just that the choice is so huge that I can’t decide what I’d like best.”

“Why not then trying them all? Don’t be shy, little girl; you are not obliged to finish anything you that won’t appeal to you!” He prompts her with an encouraging smile.

“I never waste food! I am certain I’d like them all, but how can I have still appetite for dinner?”

“Nobody obliges us to eat out, baby. We’ll sit for a while by the fireplace and, after you have admired my paintings enough, I’ll drive you home; that’s in case I’ll be asked for it.” He adds, after a meaningful pause.

“Let me help you to load your plate.”

“And you, Frank? May I choose for you?”

“Do, sweetheart, but don’t let it be too much. I’ll have an important business appointment tomorrow morning and I would not be good enough at it on a full stomach. Let’s go to the dining room but I am afraid the table is not laid out.”

“Why don’t we then stay here and settle at the coffee table?”

“Excellent idea, sweetheart! I’ll get some mats, napkins and flutes for the Cristal I keep for great occasions. May I offer you another glass of sherry, Magda dear?”

“Thanks, Frank, but no, I am not used to alcohol and even if I know that being with a gentleman a girl has nothing to fear I prefer to keep my head cool. May I have some sparkling water though? I am thirsty. It must be all that excitement to be with you at your gorgeous home and enjoying your kindness with a girl of no importance.”

“Don’t you really know how flattered I am to be in the company of a charming girl at the age of my daughter? I’d better go and bring us the refreshments.”

She refrains only just from starting to nibble at the treats before he comes back with the champagne bottle in the cooler.

“To you, sweet Magda!”

“To you, Frank!”

They join their arms in a toast hatching great expectations, even if not of the same kind.

“I just love seeing you eat with such a hearty appetite, my little Magda! Your greed is touching! You remind me of a young girl on a portrait by Renoir, so soft, so clean, floating through life’s twists and turns unsuspicious of the treacherous undertow. How I wish to keep you far from evil, my sweet Magda, to be your safeguard against all the nasty tricks the world has in stake for you!” He whispers his lips nearing hers to seal his pledge with a kiss.

She swallows the last bite of lobster and puckers up her mayonnaise smeared mouth to his waiting to be taken into his arms and let fate decide. Yet, all this is happening too fast and she fears that her design to become Norton’s virginal bride is jeopardized if she offers herself to him at their first rendezvous. Playing for time, she reaches after a napkin and wipes her lips, an artless child bride who has yet to discover, and that only by him, the ecstasy of carnal pleasure.

“Wait until I first clean myself up, Frank! “ She brushes off the crumbs from her lips and kisses him smack on his lips helplessly giggling.

“Was this also your first lobster kiss, Frank? Now I should really stop eating. I think I’m ready for the private viewing. If your paintings are as excellent as the food then I am on for a great evening!”

He watches her meltingly; maybe it is better so. Let their affair be slow but sure. He must not spoil the budding romance of the autumn of his years, and Sinatra’s song ‘It Was a Very Good Year’ is resonating in his heart.

“You are a wise young lady, Magda.” His caressing hand on her red curls has a warm fatherly touch.

Progressing from one painting to the other Magda makes good use of her mediocre knowledge acquired at her rare appearances at the School of Fine Arts in Budapest. Her knowledge is, however, solid enough to evaluate Norton as sufficiently interesting to her, despite his unfortunate bad divorce settlement.

“I don’t know how to thank you enough, Frank. Yours was the most perfect private viewing a girl can ask for. I shall not detain you any longer. You have another important day before you on the morrow. Please, don’t bother to bring me back home. I can easily take a cab if you’d be kind enough to call one for me.”

“That’s out of the question, Magda. For nothing in the world I’d deprive me of the pleasure of driving you home!”

The moon is full; the sparkling Eiffel Tower turns their eyes into megastars. They are standing at the Trocadéro voiceless by the beauty of the city spread before them in a fairyland mood.

Enchanted by their nearness their illusions become true. He clings to his re-invented youth spinning love’s great expectations; she twenty pounds lighter like in her early teens sits in the first row at the fashion week convinced that this fabulous Lagerfeld gown, that her husband is about to buy for her. will fit her like a glove.

Suddenly the icy wind out of her past blasts away her doomed dreams, making her realize she is climbing into a ritzy Lamborghini with faulty brakes.

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