The Page

A tale of intimacy and loss

Category: London

Between light and shadows

DSC_0218

Sarah fills the months that follow Julian’s death with work and strenuous exercise. She looks after Jane, with Paul, and make regular visits to their London house. Slowly, as if reluctantly, Jane tries to return to a normal life; without Paul and Sarah, she would fail.

Her financial consultancy business is thriving. A group of investors, some from as far away as Japan, have requested her services. She often flies to Frankfurt and Berlin, once to Tokyo.

In Berlin, Julian’s room in their Neukölln apartment, is still as it was during their last stay there, together. Pictures of her, of her with Melissa, of them three with Helga, are everywhere. The Mac is on the desk, Julian’s last manuscript safely buried on the big drive. Her thoughts of him are calm, her resolution not to give way to despair. There, or in London, she runs five kilometres every morning. In Berlin, she retraces Julian’s footsteps along the Landwehr canal, in Maybachufer imagining him and Melissa, the Melissa of Köpenick, who soon would become her, as well as his, bed companion.

Back home, in South London, she’s reorganised their place, archiving Julian’s papers, and clearing some of the furniture in his office, which is now hers. Soon Julian’s estate is cleared, which will make her a rich widow. She has offers, from customers, bankers, admirers, and, unexpectedly, from a young woman journalist, who claims to want to write a biography of her husband, and seeks her cooperation.

Then, one morning, as she emerges from the shower after her 5K, she gets a call from Helga. Sarah does not recognise her voice at first. Helga’s accent sounds more pronounced that she remembers. Helga wants a meeting, she says she has important information to share with Sarah about Julian’s work, and his connections to the country they visited together, the year before. This surprises Sarah, but she agrees to meet Helga in London two weeks later.

Helga suggested a smart LGBT restaurant in Shoreditch, and they meet there on the day, in the hazy sunshine of a London’s late summer evening. Their appearance there is not unnoticed: they are a stunning couple. Sarah wears a long summer dress in a simple motif, of almost autumnal charm, her auburn hair long on her alabaster shoulders. Helga looks strict and coldly elegant in a pearl-grey silk suit over a pale blue shirt, her raven-black hair held high by a silver comb. As they order some wine, Sarah notices a young woman sitting quietly at the bar, whose short red hair and facial jewelry reveals as a Berliner: she’s seen her before, and recalled that it was at one of their morning runs at Tempelhof, when Helga introduced her as her bodyguard.

They exchange gossip. Helga’s accent has disappeared: her English is near perfection. They talk about their trip to the East, the people they met, the feelings they had at the sight of destruction and murder. Then, fixing her deep blue eyes on Sarah, Helga says slowly: “Do you know that Julian was involved in the delivery of arms to the insurgency?” Sarah is silent, she did not know, and finds hard to think of why her husband would have concealed such a fact to her. They are now facing each other, not with hostility, but without understanding, yet.

“Why are you telling me?” Sarah asks. Helga does not reply immediately. Sarah wonders who she really is, a person who may or may not be the Helga she knew in Berlin. “Her” Helga helped bring her husband back to sanity: is she the one sitting in front of her now?

Calmly, beautiful long fingers playing with her crystal glass, Helga replies: “I am wondering if this has anything to do with his death.”

Helga then proceeds to explain to Sarah the dark politics at the centre of the Eastern uprising, and the role of donors and supporters in the jungle of German politics. Patiently, Sarah listens: she’s heard stories, and Julian did share with her some of the myths already surrounding the history of the rebellion.

“I need to understand where this information comes from, and how confident you are about it,” she says finally. Helga agrees, they will resume this discussion later, and for now they wish to enjoy the glorious meal, served by a delightful young lady…

Later the short-haired bodyguard drives them to Sarah’s place. She’s invited Helga to spend the night, and the invite was well received.

La Tosca

ToscaShe did not know much about Puccini, but when she heard that Sarah, her much admired Mistress, wife of Julian, her beloved, hardly secrete, crunch, was planning to take them both to the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, Melissa got very excited. Sarah had swept one morning in the little studio in Kreuzberg, finding them both asleep in bed, her pet showing all the signs of the satisfying evening before. She laughed, and woke them up with cold water.

After breakfast, which Sarah prepared with her customary imagination – who else could find fresh Baltic salmon in Berlin on a Tuesday early morning? – she explained that it was time Melissa saw London, and got a bit out of Faust’s city, to taste the megapolis of greed, Mammon’s capital. Julian was enthusiastic, the more so since his wife appeared to accept his new intimacy with her pet, with good grace. Of course, for Sarah, it was exactly what she had intended, a soft therapy to counter her sick husband’s longing for Melissa-the-ghost, hopefully for ever.

So it was that, a few hours later, the three of them were in Sarah’s East End home, Melissa trying various items of underwear and evening dress in Sarah’s room. Being back in London, for the first time in nearly a year, was strange and a little frightening for Julian. A silent witness to the delightful spectacle of his wife and lover, both naked, trying out garments and jewellery, he took pictures of the two of them, modelling for him and playing dolls. With interest, and not without a little lust, he observed the attention Sarah was giving to Melissa’s toilette. One of his favourite shots would later be that of Sarah,  adjusting Melissa’s stockings over the pet’s silky thighs, a devilish smile on her lips, and sensitive fingers.

The opera was at seven, and they had plenty of time to enjoy a pre-performance drink at the bar, after taking a walk through the busy market. Melissa was amused by the jugglers and acrobats. Julian could not not admire his companions, who, for sure, attracted much male attention. Sarah had fitted Melissa with an audacious green low naked-back long dress, which enhanced the girl’s fine features, athletic backside and striking short blond hair, and lent her a pair of long black ebony earrings. Her black leather and silver collar looked enticing on Melissa’s neck. For herself, Sarah had chosen a simple split black dress, that revealed her splendid thighs and shins, and let most of her breasts free, and free to be admired.

They had good orchestra seats, and during the first act, Melissa got agitated whenever the evil Scarpia appeared, and enthralled by the duos between the lovers. At the break, the three of them enjoyed a bottle of Dom Perignon, and Sarah kissed them both on the lips. Melissa was floating. She cried for the rest of the concert, every time La Tosca sang. Sitting between Sarah and her husband, she held on to one hand each, in despair, drowning in tears.

Later Sarah took her to the ladies room for a bit of repair. Fortunately Melissa wore very little make up, so the disaster had been avoided. They caught a cab to Julian’s club in Mayfair, a discrete place where his wife was always welcome with awesome respect. Finally Melissa stopped crying, after she was promised to be allowed that night to sleep – or so she was told – in Sarah’s bed, that happened, of course, also to be Julian’s. Sarah explained to her the plot of Tosca, and the historical settings of post-napoleonic Italy. She wanted to know more, if Mario had really been shot, and if Scarpia was really dead. She had plenty of questions about Puccini too. Julian, amazed, was looking at his lover with much tenderness, to his wife’s great entertainment.

At the end of the evening Julian’s favourite and friendly barman, who lived East-way, gave them a lift to their place. Sarah told Julian she needed a little time alone with Melissa, and then he could join them. Together they were going to spend a few days in London, and Sarah planned to show Melissa shops and museums, girls out by themselves. Julian too had some business to expedite in London with his publisher and solicitor. Then Sarah would send back husband and pet to Berlin, well groomed and satiated. Both, she knew, were now in good hands.

%d bloggers like this: