The Page

A tale of intimacy and loss

Month: June, 2013

In Brooklyn

Hope, by George Frederic Watts (1886) Melissa drives us at the top permitted speed, avoiding the slower traffic on the turnpike with remarkable skill. This morning she wears black jeans and a blue shirt, her beautiful hair held in a severe bun: her face is taut and serious and she wears no makeup. Sitting next to Julian at the back, as she requested, I observe on the front seat  the holster, with the black and flat handgun, the same as she drew out yesterday at our arrival on Long Island. The uniformed officer who came out of the house at that instant would not have stood a chance, had he shown himself to be a foe: our friend had him framed, her steady hand still as rock. To me her posture then was a revelation: the calm and impeccable hold, feet well positioned on the ground, legs a little apart: a trained marksman or assassin. I did not share my reaction with Julian. I think he admires Melissa more than ever, and she frightens him already enough.

We are on our way to meet Gabrielle and Elga again, this time in very different surroundings. Melissa told us last night that we would meet the high ranking Great Power officer, who is now the official liaison with the Coven. We know that after the flurry of media speculation, following the press conference Melissa and Julian attended, there has been a lull. Television channels have been especially sober in any reportage related to the Coven, or any event attributed to it. The name is now out, and no-one knows for sure who it is or what it is for, other than promoting world peace. No extra-terrestrial, let alone galactic,  connection is suggested anywhere. The tone of the few articles is only sober and respectful: journalists have been told by their editors to keep it that way, or else.

We reach the freeway in the direction of Brooklyn. Melissa explains that our escort – a grey SUV with reflecting black windows which has been trailing us since Long Island –  will now precedes us and that another car will take its place. Soon enough a dark blue van is on our tail, I cannot see inside either but notice the tall antenna on its roof.

As we reach Brooklyn Melissa slows down. We are sandwiched by our escort, front and back. After half an hour through the streets Melissa turns off and the car faces what looks like a massive warehouse. The SUV is in front of us, soon a huge metal door opens and the three cars move in. The door closes.

The escort wears dark overalls and masks. They carry short machine guns. Melissa leads us towards a staircase, preceded by two armed masked men. The stairs lead to a small room with a lift. There is no button or visible control near the lift. It opens, we walk in, the door shuts without a sound. We exit the lift a few seconds later, I think we went up. We now stand in front of a closed door of polished wood. Julian presses my hand, and I can feel his anguish. Then the door opens: Gabrielle is on the threshold, smiling. She signals me to walk in, followed by Julian and Melissa. The door closes silently, I guess our guards stand now by the door.

I follow Gabrielle into a wide corridor, between walls painted a pale ochre. Paintings of boat races and aircrafts ornate these walls. Turning round I see that Melissa is leading Julian by the hand: she smiles and signals me that all is well. Gabrielle opens a door at the end of the corridor: it opens into a large well lit office, and near a massive desk in its middle stands Elga. She is absolutely stunning, her long black hair to the shoulder, wearing a grey suit that perfectly renders her athletic shape in a way I find immediately disturbing. Behind the desk stands a tall man with a crew cut wearing the four stars of a US Air Force general.

Gabrielle does the presentation, and then hugs me. Julian and I shake hands with the general. We are offered comfortable seats and coffee, that Elga serves herself. Julian sits between Melissa and me. I notice that Melissa left the handgun in her car.

The general welcomes us and says how happy he is to meet us at long last. He refers to the press conference but not to the missiles. Then in the quiet and firm voice of a man used to be listened to without fuss, he says that Melissa, Julian and me have been invited to attend a conference of the four largest military powers in the world: the Great Power herself and her Asia challenger, the Russian Federation and Japan. The military Alliance will be also represented. The conference will take place in the fall, in Berlin. Another round of coffee is being served. I relax a little, Elga smiles at me, the general stands up and invites us to look at the view. Then I notice that behind us, where the door stood, is al large bay window. The view is that of the whole of New-York City and a good slice of New Jersey, as if we were at a very high altitude, perhaps a kilometre high. And maybe we are.


A house on Long Island

SecretiveI, Melissa Baudoin, who, in our school days, loved Julian more than my own life, is now charged with his, and his lovely wife Sarah’s, protection. I am standing at JFK’s airport, just behind the Emigration line, and their plane landed half an hour ago. I don’t expect them to have a huge amount of luggage, they are here only for a few days.

Gabrielle and Elga will meet with them at our Brooklyn safe house tomorrow. In-between they are my flock to look after. But perhaps I should tell you who I am, really. Last time you saw me I was with Julian on that strange military base  near the German border where we attended a media circus organised by the Alliance. Then Julian noticed Elga there but I did not have the courage to explain to him the reason for Elga’s presence in the middle of the Alliance’s top brass. Now I will, when they meet again tomorrow.

I report to the Coven, the collective who, ultimately, was responsible for my rebirth, after I got murdered by those thugs, all those years ago, after Julian abandoned me. No, please don’t think I have a grudge, he did what young men then did: go to war, us, the mothers, the sisters, the lovers, stayed behind, that was how it was, then. In what you may call their Air Force I have the grade of colonel, and my mission is to ensure our human witnesses are kept safe. Above all Julian and Sarah. Here in New-York they will get appraised of the plot that we are trying to unravel and defeat. The step after that is for Julian and me to go to Berlin, so that we meet with the centre of power that will soon decide our fate on this planet.

But I see Julian and his wife now going through Emigration. They are such a lovely couple, and despite the inherent frigidity of this body, my heart swells at the view of that man, for how I loved him, the virgin boy who was my platonic lover, and yet I never truly possessed him. Here they are smiling as they walk toward me. I hugged Sarah first, and, yes, we kiss, long, on the mouth. Then I hug Julian, and I am aware of a tear running down Sarah’s face.

“Come, I say, I have a car, I am driving you to your house.” I have arranged for a nice place for them to stay, on Long Island, a hundred miles from here. In the car I explain the plan. Tonight peaceful evening at home. Gabrielle will join us, I have dinner all sorted out, then they have the evening for themselves, once we have briefed them on the schedule. I will stay in the house, watching over them, discrete, invincible. You see: I need no sleep. As I sit down at the wheel of the Mercedes I check the holster down my thigh and the 9mm Heckler & Koch handgun in it. I cannot be too careful. In the car we chat, Sarah next to me, Julian at the back. I pulled out of the airport traffic quickly and take the main highway to the north. Sarah’s talkative, I share with them my experience here. Julian is silent, smiling, observing me. Sarah’s telling me about their last stay in the US, some five years ago in Chicago. They are both keen jazz lovers. I smile: Julian was already that at school. I recall us two discussing Miles’ and Juliette Greco’s relationship.

A black van overtakes us briefly flashing its lights: our US Air Force guardian angels. We get to the house, which is some distance from the main road, behind high walls, and close to the shore. As I stop Julian makes his first statement of the evening about the sight of tall sail boats in the bay. We laugh. As I park the car I notice the front door is open. I tell Julian and Sarah to stay near the car and walk to the house, the H&K drawn. One of the US officers appears at the door and apologizes. We have been a little faster than they expected: they had to scan, again, the house. He salutes and disappears behind the house, where I expect their van is parked. Still holding the gun I wave to my friends to come in, while I get their suitcase from the car. As I walk back to the house I see Julian and Sarah hugging in the hall. I smile and say cheekily: “Plenty of time later, let me show you your room.” Soon we are chatting in the lounge, comfortably sitting on the huge leather arm chairs, savouring bourbon on ice. Then Gabrielle arrives and there is a clatter of greetings, hugs and kisses, while I rush to the kitchen and get the cook going. The H&K is quietly back to its holster, fully loaded.


The Beautiful City

La Seine à Paris Early morning we walk slowly hand in hand along the river. The pavements are being washed, the sky a luminous well above our heads, above the city we love. We have come to the capital city to reflect, make love, and try to forget the strange adventure that beset us with the return of Melissa in my husband’s life, our lives.

Julian is taking pictures of the left bank as we make our way towards the Tuileries. There is still very little traffic, and a few pedestrians, looking forward to the sunlit day. I feel at ease with this place, the historic buildings, the light that permeates the stones, the trees, the wandering tourists. And I know that my husband wishes, in his words, to be reconciled with his birth place, perhaps also find an inspiration that has eluded him since the day he saw Elga among the military of the Alliance: that sight frightened him more than anything that he had witnessed before.

It has been three months now and we haven’t heard from Melissa, or from Gabrielle. We are aware that things have started changing in our world: the divided country in the far East that nearly brought us to the brink of war is now trying to reconcile its two halves. The Great Power to Be appears to have taking the role of benevolent mediator, and its competitor, the Great Power, is suddenly seeking peace… But we know better than expecting a miracle. Julian has bouts of despair when we hear of massacres and demonstrators being persecuted, tortured, killed, there and everywhere. There is a long way to go, but things are moving.

We cross the Seine on the little foot bridge, its edges decorated by thousands of small locks with painted initials. A year ago there was still space for more, now we smile, we would find it difficult to fit ours anywhere along the metal fence. A couple walks towards us and smiles, the two young women looking at me, then at Julian, our shorts, our short hair. They giggle and walk past. We stop and turn towards the sun, past the statue of Henri IV on the Pont Neuf. My arms around Julian’s shoulders I kiss him, full lips, searching him. “I wish Mel would call us or at least email us, or something…” Julian says looking at me deep. “Stop worrying”, I reply, holding him tighter still, “nothing can happen to her, as we know…”

We are now walking through the small streets of the left Bank, and I know it’s a bit of a pélerinage for my husband: he’s retracing the steps of his youth. The city is around us, immortal. We buy mineral water at a small shop, ran by youngsters, the taller boy smiles at me, I could be his mother. We walk to the rue Sébastien Bottin, and Julian says the name has changed to that of the great publisher whose offices are still there. Julian takes more pictures. We walk across the boulevard, stopping for another hug.

Lips On boulevard Raspail we stop at the bookshop and stay there an hour, browsing. The  manager takes a definite interest in me, her grey eyes inviting; oblivious Julian picks up the review – a double issue about Proust – and a biography of Flaubert. I chat with the manager who gives me her card, Julian pays for his books, and we walk towards the Luxembourg. It is now a little warmer, my arm is around Julian’s shoulder, in steps we enter the garden. People are playing tennis on the courts. We find a couple of chairs near the statue of Verlaine, Julian drops his bag, we kiss for long minutes, enlaced.

Hours later, in our room, near the République, we make love till exhaustion, which does not happen for two hours. As we get showered and dressed, taking our time and teasing each other, my telephone rings: it’s Gabrielle, who invites us both for the next weekend. She gives me an address, in New York.