By some sort of miracle Alex could manipulate the seating order, putting her close to Dunaev and setting Elijah at the table’s end decently afar from her not to cast doubts on the kind of their bonds.
Greeted by a standing ovation Dunaev enters the dining room and the big band breaks into a thunderous “Happy Birthday.” He motions the cheering crowd to sit down and wishes them “bon appetite” in a voice that makes Magda swoon. Giddy and elated, freezing and blazing, famished and sated she eats without tasting the lavish food offered her by this godlike man who makes her lose her sense of proportions between the measurable and the limitless. Her flesh throbs like a rising dough getting ready for his sharp teeth tearing her to pieces in an orgy of lust never to be appeased. Is that this fabled falling in love taken until now for a juvenile fancy? With the bewilderment of a deep-sea diver, emerging from the depths and catching her first breath of air, she staggers under the regard of Dunaev’s intensely blue eyes. Faint with the foretaste of his mouth playing a predatory interlude on her body she dreams about making love with him under the intoxicating call of a tango.
“Can you kindly pass me the salt?”
She gives a start lapsing back into the reality where Dunaev shoots an incendiary look to his neighbor on the right side, a smashing blonde who may be anything to him, but most probably is his current girl friend, in the act of swallowing teasingly slowly an oyster. Retreating within her dream Magda sees herself perched on Dunaev’s knees and…
“Miss, may I ask you for the salt?” Her impertinent neighbor rips her out from her dream.
“Of course,” she passes on him the salt-shaker with a murderous smile.
“Not at all,” she retorts with deadly politeness.
“Do you happen to be, by any chance, English?” He continues stubbornly his advances.
“Isn’t this obvious? Because of your “not at all”.”
“Oh that, I had an English nanny,” she rebuffs him and intends to leave it on it.
“Allow me to amend for my lack of manners and introduce myself. Abel Goldstein.”
“Pleased to meet you,” she replies curtly cutting short any future contact. Being done with her neighbor she returns to the analysis of her recent faux-pas of falling in love, like her momentarily infatuation with Alex that she hopes to get under control and rule with an iron hand in silk glove.
To fall in love with a potential buyer is the ultimate madness: though don’t we all go mad at some time or other? The others, not she! She passes on another glass of champagne and concentrates fully on her job.
Dunaev leans amorously over his escort whispering sweet things into her ear. Exposing her pearly teeth in a perfectly executed giggle she opens up to him like a bun in a blazing oven. She must have been born not only with a silver spoon but also with braces in her mouth. Her teeth are lined in a perfect row. Luckily her own teeth aren’t bad either; sadly nature is no rival to a first class dentistry.
“Are you staying for the after-dinner dance?” Her persevering suitor butts into her brainwork.
“I am not sure yet, most probably I will.”
“Then may I ask you to spare me an opening or two before your dance card has been filled up?”
“I am with someone!” She puts him down not wanting to lose her time with some underachiever, yet his “dance card” started a trip down her memory lane.
’She sees herself at her dancing classes with her mama chaperoning her; a scheming mama ready to steal the best conquests from her poor little daughter who is no rival for Ilona’s ripe beauty and an understudy in mama’s art of turning tricks.
Would she have become a different girl without her mama’s influence? Most probably; with Ilona’s genes running in her blood she could have hardly turned into a bookworm.’
“Magda!” Eli appears in front of her reminding her reason of her presence at Dunaev’s birthday banquet.
She gets up without giving her neighbor a second glance and sails off on Eli’s arm.
“I wonder whether putting you by Abel Goldstein was another of Alex’s clever maneuvers,” Elijah says pensively.
“Whom with?” She asks, her hunting instinct aroused.
“The young Goldstein, you dummy, a member of one of the richest and most affluent Jewish families in France. They have a mansion at Avenue Foch and Jehovah knows how many other stately homes all around the world.”
“Wait here, Eli; I forgot something!”
She frees herself from Elijah’s arm and runs back just in time to catch Goldstein leaving.
“Have you, by any chance, seen my ring? It was a little loose and must have slipped from my finger. It’s my mama’s gift for my sixteenth birthday, irreplaceable and priceless. Be an angel and help me to look for it, please!”
She grabs his sleeve and pulls him down into the intimate closeness under the tablecloth. Throwing him purposefully off balance she drowns his face in her décolleté. Reaching after her blindly his mouth wraps up around her tit in a rapacious suck. For a calculated moment she pours herself over him in an overpowering embrace. Assured of her victory she extricates herself from him and climbs up to pursue her power on him in broad daylight.
“So sorry to have inconvenienced you in vain. I must have lost my ring somewhere else. Will you kindly escort me to the ballroom?” She says with an enchanting smile when he reappears by her side flushed and out of breath.
’Judging by his reaction on so little that boy must be a suckling at sex.’ She notes with satisfaction: ‘to get at him will be a child’s play. Of course, she had better give up any consideration of marriage. A Jewish boy will never do anything as sacrilegious as to marry a goy. But she can always use a generous sponsor and to marry a Jew is not her style either, even if she is not a racist, but to each his own and becoming Abel’s wife would be a dreadful lack of taste on both sides.’
She gives Eli, awaiting her at the entrance to the ball room, an affirmative nod and whirls around him on Goldstein’s arm into the light of the Bohemian crystal chandeliers.
“May I have the honor of this dance?” He lets her free for a fleeting moment to bow to her in just the same way the young gentlemen from the finest Budapest families were instructed to do at Mr. Benedek’s dancing classes.
She gives him an enchanting smile and allows him to take her into his arms so lightly and reverently as only a chaste young lady knows to do. Shedding off her libertine past she becomes the Magda she has never been, waltzing about the ball room in a young man’s arms and…
“Change of partners. May I?”
Eli appears by her like a grubby stain on a silk gown no detergent will ever clean off.
“Are you crazy or what?” His squeeze brings tears into her eyes.
“What shall we report to Alex to justify the horrendous expenses the Dunaev’s birthday reception has cost him? I can understand your interest in Goldstein and have nothing against it if you collect some pennies on the side but how dare you scramble Alex’s plans? OK, if Dunaev were as unattractive as Pollack I’d see some logic in it, but he is handsome as handsome can be and any girl would be enchanted to compete for his favors. The next time Dunaev dances around I’ll swap you for his partner and expect from you to do your best to get at him in your own delightful ways, understood, Magda?” Elijah mumbles menacingly.
Lost in her calculations Magda had forgotten how uniquely handsome Dunaev is. She has never been into bodybuilders but Dunaev is much more than a muscleman. He is any girl’s dream of a Greek God luring her into the depths of carnal pleasure. To conquer him won’t be as simple as Alex expects. She is neither the first nor the most attractive woman that Dunaev has ever dated. His previous dancing partner, now so visibly bored on Elijah’s arm after the compulsory change of partners, is madly attractive. Of course as a member of the fashion league she lacks Magda’s curves but isn’t the Slavonic men’s lust for cascading overlaps of flesh just an urban legend?
“You seem to be eons away. Am I boring you, Miss…”
“Menia zovut Magda,” she stutters in her school-perfect Russian.
“So your name is Magda, how sweet!” He smiles ironically, not taking the bait of becoming more intimate in his native language.
Evidently he isn’t one of those patriotic Russians misty eyed at the first mention of their homeland. ‘What now?’ Magda is searching for another emotional bond as using her body language too early doesn’t seem to her a good move.
They continue dancing in the companionable silence of an old couple and Magda is thinking desperately how to postpone the critical moment when they will near Eli for change of partners.
“Dance makes me thirsty, what about a glass of champagne?” She plays for time. Nothing ventured nothing won. The worst that can happen is that he dances her towards the buffet and leaves her on a hand kiss for a long good bye.
His lips curved in a puzzling smile he dances her towards a gilded panel in the wall. It opens: they glide in, the red plush lift mounts them high above the sea punctured by the shaky lights of fishermen’s boats, far and unreal like a fuzzy detail on a Victorian painting gathering dust in a crumbling attic of an abandoned house. He takes her hand and leads her to a white covered bed.
“Show me the best Hungarian way to commemorate my birthday, Magda. How can you think I didn’t know who you were?” He answers her astonished glance.
“You are part of my arrangement with Severn: prove me your worth!” He leans over her and his breathing gets young and eager and wild.
He holds her in his arms after sex has been done.
“You are far more than what I expected; you are the one that made my dreams come true, my Hungarian beauty! Have I satisfied you? I have learnt in my years that making love is a matter of two and that both must enjoy it to shoot to the skies.”
“Do you need to ask?”
“Of course I don’t. I was kind of looking for flattering my ego. It was great, Magda! To make our mutual enjoyment tangible for you, please accept this as my token of my gratitude.” He points to a box on the bedside table.
“The bathroom is en suite,” he hands her a robe, suddenly remote and pokerfaced taking leave from a visitor that overstayed her welcome.
When she comes back he is gone.
She slips on her gown. She hides the jewel box in her purse. She enters the lift. She pushes the down button. She finds Dunaev in the ballroom dancing cheek to cheek with his gorgeous girlfriend.
Goldstein spots her, lightens up, and runs to her like a pet spotting his mistress.
“No, he can’t have the last dance. She is fatigued.”
“How very kind of him, but no, her brother will bring her home.”
She opens the box when in bed. She takes out a platinum ring with an emerald, green as her eyes. -Something to remember, something to forget- she reads on a slip of paper at the bottom.
She slings the ring on her finger. Its sparkle dizzies her. She swallows a sleeping pill, dives her head into the pillow. The ring cuts sharp into her flesh, the flesh of a girl for sale. She swallows hard. Head up, Magda! Who would be fool enough to refuse a ride on the wheel of fortune? It’s a dark passage but it leads her way.