The Page

A tale of intimacy and loss

Tag: Paris

My Man

Sarah ~

http://kamilanoranetik.com/Julian is working again, at his desk every morning, writing. I think, now, that his inspiration has come back, and he tells me how many words he’s managed to write very day, which he has not done for many months. I am pleased for him, and for us. During the autumn, after our visit to Berlin, he seemed to have lost any taste for his work.

There is more light in the afternoon, and this cheers him up. He’s started enjoying hanging the washing out on the line again, looking at the sky, whistling opera tunes to himself!

I speak with Helga at least once a week. She drove him to the coast yesterday, for a walk on the shore, and a chat, and to probe his spirits a bit. She said she did most of the talking, and that his observations were surprisingly relaxed. Helga tried to engage him on the subject of the role of the medical profession in the current crisis, one of her “serious” subjects. She hopes to get Julian interested enough to write a few articles on the subject. She says that he shows signs of taking an interest in other things than his own predicament, or what he sees as such. He tried the trick of calling her “Elga” again, and she ignored it. She’s positive about his chance of a prompt recovery now. But she says that I have to be attentive, and patient. He could relapse: his vulnerability to mood changes, or even the weather, is real. Helga also asked me about Jane, and whether we were seeing much of her. I wonder why she wanted to know. As a matter of fact, we don’t see much of Julian’s sister at he moment. She was lately at the Paris show, and she’s now in Moscow (again), next will be Shanghai.

Gabrielle has been more elusive. She was back to work after the New Year, and she’s travelling in Switzerland at present, doing some research for a book on romanche linguistics. I got a short email asking me if we were going back to the Tyrol this summer. I replied we had not yet talked about the summer. She knows of Julian’s state of mind at the end of last year, and she may be trying to encourage me to plan a trip early. When Julian fell ill, Gabrielle encouraged me to take him away from the city, and move to the mountains. But I was afraid of lack of medical assistance if things got out of hands.

As I write, Julian walks into the room: “Hey! Do you fancy going to the opera?”

“Marriage of Figaro is on,” he adds with his mischievous smile. “Anywhere, anytime…” I reply, and I mean it. Opera, and the sophistication of Coven Garden, suit us. Somehow I feel we are emerging from a tunnel. But I cannot remember how and when we entered it.

Later, we talk about Easter, Berlin, a trip to Paris, and the Tyrol. Slowly, I test my grip on him, on his mind, and he knows what I’m doing, and he’s willing, my man.

Image: courtesy K A M I L A  N O R A  N E T Í K O V Á at http://kamilanoranetik.com/

He came back to me…

Sisters Teacher, I do not know how to express the joy and happiness I feel in myself, for Julian has come back to me, he loves me, he is mine. I know how important this man is to you and your cause, Teacher, but at this instant he is mine, my lover, the one I sought for all these years, the one I was desperate to find again.

He is as he always were: a young knight, with now the experience and strength of a grown man. He gave me everything I always wanted from him, and I have already forgotten the bad dreams, the pain, the torture of not reaching him, the solitude I had to endure in life and death, until you saved me. In that quiet street, in the little room with sunlight filtering through the thin white lace curtain he took what has been his all that time: the woman in me, my heart, my mind, my soul, for I belong to him in ways that I cannot explain. All I can say is that he loved what he found, and he knows how to please me, to the depth of me.

Later we walked the streets till early morning: every ten steps I had to kiss him – did I tell you how much I want his mouth, his lips, his tongue? My body, my arms, my hands did not leave him a second. We walked along the river, across the bridges full of light and history. Other couples smiled at us… In Saint-Germain we went to Café de Flore – you remember how keen on literature he’s always been… I, who never drinks, shared a bottle of cool Loire wine with him. We walked back through the Arénes but the little park was closed when we got there, it was already morning… Back to our room we made love till sleep overwhelmed us, enlaced, exhausted, belonging.

I want to say, Teacher, I know he is the Path, the human being you need. And I have promised to help you. I will be loyal to my promise, but I want to say this: I will die defending him if he is in danger – whoever wants his death will have to kill this woman first. One last thing, for I want nothing to be hidden from you, Teacher: I told Sarah everything, and she said she was more than happy that Julian had at long last found me. She also said she was prepared for me to go and live with them two. As you know she and I are already very close. As I write, he is asleep next to me, it will be soon the end of our second day. Then he will go back to London, and when we meet again we will be on our way to you, and to Berlin…

Immersed in the myriads of  combinations and second order equations, and woven in the fabric of the Coven, Gabrielle is thinking, all the time observing the young woman who’s writing to her, next to her lover asleep. How beautiful she is, her Melissa. Yes she, Gabrielle, will continue to protect her. But Julian, of course, is another matter. Melissa led them to him, and he’s proven a little tough, not as pliable as she was. But was Melissa pliable? Or did she understand that her way back to humanity and her man was through them? “We don’t know”, reflects Gabrielle, “if a human being can survive this ordeal. When we tried with specimens of other species we failed: they all died.” And she adds to herself: “And this why we are so cautious here…”

This sombre thought annoys her. Gabrielle has invested so much in this, she and Elga. Their voice was heard, they got what they wanted, the wheels are turning. They are about to change the course of history on this world, and on theirs. And the path to these futures, the renewal of the Coven itself, is dependent on Julian, and for now, on Melissa. What irony, she thinks, remembering the young woman, dying in a pool of her blood, her dress soiled, hideous wounds in her chest and throat, the dying green eyes…

Le Temps Retrouvé

Shadow He remembers the days when the same train would crawl its way through the Kent countryside at a quarter of the speed it now achieves. But he cannot concentrate on his book, his mind constantly going back to this simple fact: he is about to meet her, she, who was the love of his life, before the fall. “Before the fall” – the expression comes all made up, as if imposed by a stronger spirit. He’s seen her several times now, but today, today and the following day, are special: just the two of them, not on a mission, not requested, but having time for each other. The last time that happened was when? He cannot remember, but it was also “before the fall”, before he lost his way in the sand, in the violence of war, in the making of what he has now become.

Soon he realises that they are approaching the city. The three hours just sailed past him, lost in his dream. But this is no dream: he’s going to see Melissa, and for the first time he thinks that her humanity is beyond doubt, as much as his, or Sarah’s. Sarah… His wife has been so generous, recognising his need to be with his friend, alone, for more than just a few hours… Images flash back to his feverish imagination: Sarah, Jane and Melissa at their house, he working upstairs, listening to the laughter, the low voices, the sudden silences… He smiles, the fast train is entering the station, a slow grey worm now, in a thunder of turbines.

The station is swarming with summer travellers, tourists and morning commuters, and immersed in the noise and garish displays of merchandising. Ignoring the crowds he walks slowly toward the end of the platform, his canvass camera bag resting on his shoulders. She sees him before he does her, her eyes taking possession of him, irresistible. In one fluid movement she’s in front of him, holding him tight and kissing him full mouth, a tall young woman, red-haired, her sensuality flooding him with memories and unstoppable emotions. “We have two days to ourselves, she says without leaving his lips, can you imagine!”

Overwhelmed he lets her take him by the hand out of the station, they cross the boulevard and, soon, are walking in the direction of the river, enlaced. She is as she was, and a little terror haunts his heart: how can this be? – a question he’s asked himself a thousand times. She turns towards him, holding his face in her strong hands: “Don’t think: I am here, only for you, my life is yours for these two days…” He realises, as he yields to her will, that she’s guiding them expertly though the small streets, aiming for the Marais. When did she learn to navigate this city so well? Reading his thoughts she says: “After you, I mean, after Gabrielle, I came to live here for a few years…” This time it is him who takes the initiative, feeling a new vigour in his body: he takes her in his arms and kisses her, the passion flowing freely, and she responds, as she used to, inviting him with the whole of herself. She decides for him. “I want to walk with you, perhaps across to the other side, the Rive Gauche, but first, we stop at your hotel.”

His hotel is on their way, in a small and quiet street a few steps from the Place des Vosges. He checks in, the young Portuguese woman at the desk smiling at Melissa, knowingly. The two of them and the camera fill the narrow lift to the fourth floor. The room is quiet, in the shade from the street, the bed wide and the white sheets crisp. The tall wall mirror reflects the monochrome image of two youngsters. Julian has surrendered to the dream. Melissa undresses him, as he stands, stunned, in front of her, then she strips in a few casual gestures. For a few minutes she stands by the window, against the sunlight filtering through the thin curtain, at that instant he would chose to die rather than give her up. If paradise exists, it must here, now. As, triumphant, she turns towards Julian, they lock lips, and time regresses to the little town of their childhood, what they failed to do then is now theirs: she never had him then, but now she will.

Longing

Longing She misses him: since coming back from New-York Melissa is longing for Julian, more so than ever – and she’s been longing for him for ever. She’s no longer sure of his thoughts, of how he sees her now, of his feelings towards her. In Brooklyn she must have appeared to him as part of the gigantic plot that he now knows involves the Pentagon and the Coven, and probably others. She read the terror in his eyes, she saw him gripping Sarah’s hands as they both understood the implications of what the general was saying. Has she lost him?

She ought to call Sarah, cool and loving Sarah, but she dares not. What would happen to her if Sarah rejected her? For Melissa knows that Sarah’s her friend, maybe more than just a friend, for as long as she does not see Melissa as part of the threat. Being a threat to Julian: that would turn Sarah into a formidable enemy. And Melissa knows that, for the Coven, Sarah’s role is essential: she is the key to Julian, and Julian is the path. On that Melissa knows the truth: she was chosen because of Julian, her ancient friendship with Julian. Gabrielle seized the opportunity, and so Melissa survived, did better than survive.

Gabrielle and Elga are now in deep consultation with the collective. The Coven is preparing the Berlin conference, one thread among millions, in a whirl of deliberations and mathematical – Melissa wonders: mathic? – computations that even her could not follow. Elga… How strange that she – but she’s no “she” of course, but a conglomerate of particles that long left their living anima, always asexual, far behind – that “she” tried her charm on Julian, after all that Melissa had explained.

“They” have their own blind corners, things they don’t appear to really understand. They have their weaknesses, otherwise they would not need that association with the Great Power, and the Power to Be, perhaps other darker powers that Melissa does not know about. They need the path to conquer this world, Melissa’s world, and for now, the path is one individual in the entire universe: her college sweetheart, Julian. Melissa relaxes a little. She sees several futures, in one of them, Sarah, Julian and herself overcomes the fear, and clear the way for the Coven to exit from their lives, without pain. But there are others, other futures. She knows, and shudders a little. She thinks of Tosca, of the mock execution at dawn, which turns out to be real. She thinks of  Berlin…

Melissa brushes the sinister vision away. At heart she is a positive person, at heart she is not afraid of demons. But Julian may be, always was, even at school, he had that irrational fear of the hidden fiends, of ancient secrets, of bewitched objects… Oh… how protective she felt towards him then, him: her young street fighter, he with the clinched fists… Melissa’s in a dream, she’s moved back in time, to the small town where they both lived, where it all started. She stands in front of the gate, she’s waiting for him, she sees him, joking with other boys – he sees her, waves to his friends and walks towards her, that triumphant smile on the thin lips – a young god… He always knew how to kiss her, and of course she wanted more…

The phone rings and pulls Melissa out of her dream. It’s Sarah. They chat politely, then Sarah says: “My husband is away for a few days and said he will join you in Paris, and please let him know when you want to meet, that’s the message he asked me to give you…” Melissa tries to think quickly, Julian’s away? “Sarah, could you come too?” She could almost hear Sarah smiles: “Mel, the two of you deserve a bit of intimacy, you have to give Julian time with you, just the two of you. I trust you both, and you can understand why I would be a bit of an obstacle – he needs to find you again…” Sarah’s voice trails off. “When he’s back please come to us as soon as you can: then we’ll have a party, I’ll invite Jane too.”

So it is, Sarah has given her the go-ahead, in the city where Julian was born, his city. A thought hits Melissa, a twist she had not thought of before this instant: has Sarah been “recruited”?  Has the Coven enrolled beautiful Sarah? She scans her memory of the meeting in Brooklyn, Gabrielle and Elga, and herself, and then Sarah and Julian, Sarah looking as if she is sheltering her husband. But she also sees Elga and Sarah exchanging a smile, more than once. But why should Sarah be tempted? What does she have to gain? Security for her husband and herself? And if this happened where does that leave her, Melissa, the go-between?

Soon she shrugs off that thought. Sarah’s has one mission: protecting her husband. Melissa knows she would not stop at anything for Julian’s sake, but there is no value in enlisting now, when she knows too little. Later perhaps, after Berlin, when they know. For now Sarah thinks Melissa’s good for Julian, it is simple.

Alone in the little house in East London Melissa’s planning the Paris meeting. She wants to chose the location of their meeting carefully: a public place but not one where Julian would feel crowded. Maybe the old arena, the roman amphitheater? Then they can walk rive gauche, perhaps aim for the Luxembourg? Of course he knows the city inside out, he lived there, and met Sarah there first. Melissa’s troubled by another thought: they did not stay, they moved to London almost immediately, indeed, they got married in London. Was there a reason for Julian to leave the city he loved, so soon after meeting the woman about to become his wife?

She’s soon distracted by the familiar tremor of air and sounds in the house: one of them, may be both – or more – have arrived. Soon she’s faced with a smiling Gabrielle who is still adjusting her human appearance. The fluid contours materialise, the face still indistinct… It takes no more than twenty seconds. “So, Gabrielle says calmly, you and Julian are going to meet one to one?” Melissa smiles, she knows “they” know everything, they hear everything, and her teacher, wise Gabrielle, is a master at sieving through all that their sensors capture, particularly if it involves Julian or his wife.

The two of them update each other, silently. Soon Melissa’s appraised of the Coven’s current state of play for Berlin. She also learns that Elga is in Moscow. The wheels are turning.

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.

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