She wakes up all her muscles aching as if she was mauled by a bear. She is lying on a lavish bed in an anonymous room. How has she landed here fazes her. She doesn’t remember having taken any drugs or having made love into oblivion which is improbable to happen to a girl hardened by any kind of excess. To crown it all her headache is still worse than after her first night with Vince when they got high on drugs washed down with gin: that was an error of judgment never to be repeated.
’What about that box of chocolates her occasional driver passed on her as a sweet reward-after and that she ate up greedily as invariably after making love she has an irresistible urge for sweetness?’
Hearing the well known knock on the door she sits up gathering the sheet around her body.
“Eli!” She opens her arms for a hearty welcome.
“Wait a moment, Magda, first things first!” He puts a bed table with the loaded breakfast tray in front of her and pours her a glass of champagne.
“A little pick-me-up followed by a big meal will put you on your feet, Magda. I’m sorry nobody bothered to tell you what’s going on but isn’t it preferable to know nothing to knowing too much?”
She finishes the champagne in one thirsty gulp and, suddenly ravishingly hungry, she eats up the huge breakfast to the last crumb.
“Good girl, good news! Your job is finished and Polland is definitely out of your life.”
“Great, Eli, though it would also be good to know where I am; or is this subject also better to be avoided?”
“All I can tell you is that, for the time being, it will be the best for you to take a little pause and cease to burden your lovely little head with unnecessary problems. Now, let’s turn this page and do something more interesting. Knowing your romantic streak I’ll try my best to oblige.”
He sinks down on his knees, pulls a ring out of his jeans pocket and asks his voice trembling, be it out of a suppressed fit of laughter or an emotional high:
“Will you marry me, Magda?”
She watches him first delighted, then suspicious.
“I don’t quite understand you, Eli; is this a bad joke, the last one of your too many, or a proof that you have finally decided to honor your commitment to me?”
She turns the ring in front of her eyes. By its glitter this isn’t a piece of glass from a breakfast cereal box.
“How can you suspect me to handle something as serious with frivolity, Magda? Don’t I know how greatly you hanker after becoming respectable?”
“And haven’t you been opposed to it, Eli? Wait a moment! What happened with Polland? I have serious doubts that liberating me from him was that simple. I don’t ask you for any details; tell me, is he dead? Just say “yes” or “no”.
“Believe me, Magda I know very little about it only that it must have been rather bad because Alex insists that we two get married in order not to be obliged to testify against each other.”
“Well, Eli, you know him better than I do. He must have his reasons for it. Are we on our way to Paris?”
“We are in France, which is good. The food is excellent and we can pass here unnoticed as the French are less inquisitive than the Swiss. To be more precise, we are at the French Riviera between Cannes and Antibes and, as we have a car it’s absolutely simple to hop from one place to another. See? Relax and rejoice!”
“Thank you for your marriage proposal, Eli. I’ll think about it later. What about the ring, can I keep it anyhow?”
“Ah, the ring! It’s from my father’s legacy. He gave it to his mistress, a star dancer at the Viennese Opera as a token of his devotion. She threw it in his face when she caught him red-handed with one of the chorus girls calling him names, among others ”dirty Jew” who needs to be taught manners in a Nazi concentration camp. Father took the hint and left Austria for the United States still before it became part of the Third Reich. Consequently, Father considered the ring as his lucky charm and after his happy passing away in the arms of a Hollywood starlet it became my talisman.”
Warmth is flooding her heart, isn’t this precious gift a genuine proof of love?
“Oh, Eli, how generous you are!”
“Hold your horses, Magda! First I am not superstitious, secondly I was dead sure you’d decline my offer; compared to the highly respectable Norton I am not the second but the last choice. So, all in all, my marriage proposal was a low risk venture.” He pockets the ring with a grin.
“Your luggage has arrived so nothing prevents you from getting up. Even if the sea isn’t yet warm enough for a swim we can always stretch on the beach for a short sunbathing, I stress short as the spring sun is a killer. Call me when you are ready.”