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Dollr penthouse tht he now shred with his girlfriend; he ws dressed in tuxedo shven nd brushed

Работа добавлена на сайт samzan.ru: 2015-07-05


Chapter 15

To Veronica

I

They moved in together in late September, Henry and Veronica. Things were going well between them, still full of sparkling romance and joy, though a bit shaky lately. It goes without saying they were going to go to the movie premier together.

Henry was overlooking the busy Monday city. He was standing on the balcony of his five million-dollar penthouse that he now shared with his girlfriend; he was dressed in a tuxedo, shaven and brushed. He got a shiny cigarette case out of his jacket pocket and turned around.

“Veronica, my love, come here, darling.” He lit a long thin cigarette and blew out a string of smoke.

She danced towards him, slender and graceful, and completely naked, wrapped her arms around him and kissed him on the cheek. He smiled at her, his eyes shining with passion.

“Have I ever told you what an extraordinary woman you are?” He drew again.

She smiled one of those cunning smiles of hers. Henry smiled back and was dying to kiss her, but he knew she hated it when he smoked these tiny fags, or any kind of fags, for that matter. So he just stood there, smiling, looking her right in the eye, receiving some message he could never really decipher, but loved it nonetheless.

She kissed him once again and danced away, back into the living room, and disappeared behind the bedroom door. A minute later she stuck out her head, still naked and incredibly beautiful.

She called playfully. “So, mister, what would like me to wear?”

He didn’t even have to think about it. “You know that blue dress you have?”

It took her a tenth of a second to remember, then she had her glance back on him, “Most certainly do!”

She disappeared again. Henry puffed on the second cig, being used to the amount of time it took his woman to get dressed.

Twenty minuets later Veronica was all set and standing in front of a floor-to-ceiling mirror in the hall. She was fixing an elegant little pendant around her neck. Henry put out his third cig against the banister and went inside. He applied some perfume and joined Veronica at the mirror. She was stunning as ever. Henry couldn’t stop smiling.

“So, Veronica, my love, have I ever told you what an extraordinary woman you are?”

She looked at him in the mirror and winked.

The phone rang. Henry reached into his jacket, got his cell and answered. He listened for a moment and clicked off.

“The driver’s here.”

A few minutes later they came out into the street. Parked at the curb was a black Lincoln Towncar. The driver greeted them with a smile and opened the rear door for them. Veronica got inside first, then Henry. And off they left.

II

Pauline called me on October 15th, saying she wasn’t going to the premiere of the film and leaving me brokenhearted. She was staying in Paris, working on a new movie. And what was I to do?

At 9PM on the 17th I stopped my 911 in front of the Ziegfeld Theatre. Along the curb were a dozen TV vans with antennas attached to their roofs and dull network logos across their sides. Reporters were all along the red-carpeted sidewalk, talking into their microphones, cameras filming them, pranksters making faces behind them.

I stepped onto the red carpet and let the valet, a guy maybe seven years younger than myself, take my car away. The press people immediately swarmed around me, but they were only taking pictures. Camera flashes doubled if not tripled, forming blinding clouds of light in every direction. I had no interest in the hustle and simply walked quickly to the entrance. I managed to wave my hand before hustling into the Theatre; nobody cared much about the screenwriter. No autographs, no ridiculous photos with admirers, no stupid word-twisting interviews.

The press was not allowed inside, thank god for small favors. I was welcomed by a number of New York show-biz people I’ve come to know lately, some of whom I did not recognize, but who apparently thought they knew me well enough to shake my hand and pat me on the back. They were all smiling and cheering with their drinks, celebrating my arrival in the most boring way. But then again, there isn’t much to do at a movie premier, anyway.

A waiter offered me a glass of champagne and I thankfully accepted it, giving him a short nod. I shared a drink and exchanged some words with Barry Ben and Arthur Buksly, who were cheerful enough. Cynthia Silk was not invited.

A couple more people approached me in the following twenty minutes holding their own glasses. Some were trying to share their brilliant ideas (as, I’m sure, they saw them), others wanted to ask for a favor, which I immediately declined, of course. It went like this:

“Hey, Danny! I’m glad to finally meet ya in person!”

“Yeah, good for you.”

“So, listen, I had this idea…”

“Yeah, you hold that thought, I’ll be right back.”

Then I simply walked away, hoping to never see the person again.

The evening was slow and frazzling. A couple of carefully selected reporters, who were let inside for better press coverage of the event, weren’t making it any easier, scribbling their useless notes in their ugly yellow pads.

I guess I wasn’t in the best mood that night. I stood in a corner, carefully watching bubbles in my champagne make their fleeting way from the bottom to the top and disappear, thinking if maybe my way to the top was going to be the same.

Fortunately, the spell dissipated at around eleven that evening. I was still standing at the bar, scanning the hall, trying to maybe find someone interesting and failing miserably. But then I finally saw him entering. Henry was right there, in propria persona, greeting the same people I had greeted earlier. He wore a shiny tuxedo; his black hair was gelled and brushed back. He looked very mature.

I felt relieved to see him enter the Ziegfeld. I felt like there was finally a friendly face among all these caricatures of people. He smiled at them with a fake smile, though nobody seemed to mind. Each of them used a fake smile of their own and everyone was at peace with that. Henry was looking through the crowds, searching for somebody. For me, I hoped.

Finally, I decided to take matters into my own hands and show myself. I left the glass on the bar and started making my way through the event attenders, giving them polite nods and smiles as I passed by. We met in the center of the ballroom. It may have looked as one of those cliché romantic scenes, where a girl and a guy run toward each other through flower meadows with open arms. Only we were two guys and weren’t exactly running. But who gives a shit, right? We were glad to meet each other. We hugged ardently, yet a bit clumsily (thanks to all the people witnessing the scene), we shook hands and nodded and smiled. Eventually we let go of each other and headed towards the bar, grabbing champagne on our way.

“Well, Danny, I must say this is glorious! “The whole thing is unnecessarily posh, of course.”

“Tell me about it!”

“Nah, you tell me about it.”

Henry lit one of those weird thin cigarettes with a colored filter and let out a string of smoke. I could only imagine what drove him to buy those. He offered me one, but I just shook my head. He shrugged and put the cigarette case away.

“Well…”

“I don’t see Pauline around, what’s up with that?”

“She’s in France…”

“You wanker, Bruckheimer! I wasn’t going to, but now I will go right ahead and tell Lester!” He was dead serious.

“Oh, come on, Hen!”

“No! You’ve had your fun jacking off in that sleazy hotel room! You gotta make it right!”

What could I say? He was there for me, he and Lester alike. We drank some more to fill the pause.

Henry said. “We haven’t seen each other for what, almost a month?” He shook his head and looked around. “Man, you did it!”

“Nah, I’m still on my way. Remember how I always said I’d be a great writer one day? Well, I’m not great enough just yet. How’s Silk Pics treating ya?”

“Better than I’d ever expected. With Lester watching over I think the studio is on the right way. The movie will certainly be profitable… All is great!”

We drank to greatness and then drank some more and caught up on recent events. Henry left at some point to cruise some more around the room. I saw him talking to Lester in the far corner. He really is telling on me, the bastard, I thought with a smile.

After good forty minutes at the bar I was ready to go back to my hotel and catch a nap, forgetting all about the senseless party and all the ugly faces around me. Alas, at the exact moment the thought popped into my head an announcement sounded, calling everyone to finally enter the cinema hall and prepare to watch the movie. As if anyone still cared about the actual movie. To this day I can’t understand how they could think it was a good idea to put buffet out before the movie. I bet half of the audience was asleep before they even reached their seats. I know I was.

Anyway, the announcement sounded and the crowd began to shuffle towards the auditorium. Henry and I stayed at the bar for a little longer, appreciating Dom Perignon with pineapple slices.

He said. “Have I told you I brought a date tonight?”

During the summer and the beginning of the fall I’d never once met Veronica.

So I said. “About time I met her!”

“Man, you will not believe how gorgeous the girl is!”

“Well, I do believe she exists, that’s a start, right? So, who is she?”

“Why don’t you ask her yourself? There she comes.”

He gestured somewhere in the general direction of the mob shuffling by and at first I did not see anyone coming our way. But then I thought I could make out a woman working her way through the crowd. And a moment later I saw her quite clearly.

III

“Danny, this is Veronica. Veronica, the inimitable Daniel Bruckheimer,” said Henry and watched us stare at each other in silence.

I could not believe my eyes. It was her. Veronica, exquisite Veronica, my school sweetheart. My first love, come to think of it. There she was, standing before me, a woman now, a budded flower, absolutely beautiful and charming. I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. Finally the astonishment passed and I was able to speak again. But Henry was quicker. He was clever that way.

He said, “You two know each other, don’t you?”

Veronica nodded almost imperceptibly and so did I.  

“What’s the story?” He grinned, curious, giving us quick provoking looks.

We replied at the same time. “We went to school together-”

All three of us looked at each other. Veronica and I felt awkward, but Henry seemed to be relieved. We smiled at each other, not sure what to do or say next. I checked my watch quickly; a glance too quick to actually catch the time, but that wasn’t the real purpose, of course.

I said. “You guys feel like watching my movie?”

They nodded a bit too soon, and we caught up with the crowd in the theatre hall. As I’d said, I fell asleep before I reached my seat.

IV

I slept like a dead man through the whole movie; I dreamt I was delivering a package to a spacious apartment on the top floor of one of New York’s skyscrapers… It made no sense to me then (nor does it now), so I was glad to be awakened by the loudest applause I’d ever heard.

I opened my eyes to see people around me standing and clapping their hands the way seals do at a circus. Everyone was so energetic that I almost felt guilty there for a moment. I stood up and joined the rumble. On the screen credits were flowing.

I had mixed feelings about the whole thing. My brain was telling me this was all a play, including the audience and me, and the TV people outside the theater. The thought was absurd and sociophobic, but deep inside I knew it to be true. At the same time I felt something that might have been pride. I was proud of myself for being able to write that script for a movie that obviously hit a bull’s eye with the people gathered there that night. My ego jubilated, of course. Being liked by so many people (although not many of them knew what I looked like), especially in New York, was not small. It was fucking huge. And so it felt. I even managed a smile.

People beside me started shaking my hands again and patting me on the back. I kept smiling all around. If that was what success feels like, it wasn’t half as bad as I’d imagined it.

Twenty minutes later we were back in the hall. Some left and others stayed to enjoy some more free champagne and tasteless canapés.

I decided to wait for Henry and Veronica at the bar, sipping red wine. I was remembering my school life. Nothing too exciting: classes, breaks, school trips. Veronica, most of all: her long brown hair, her eyes. For many years it was hard for me to remember her eyes, but after I met her again that night it all came back to me in a snowball of memories.

I remembered that one time we stayed after class to do our homework; it was in fifth grade, maybe. Veronica was sitting behind me and to my left. I occupied the desk closest to the black board. She was studying, obstinately doing her exercises, like any girl should. I, on the other hand, was an idiot, perhaps a bit more of an idiot than I am now, which says a lot. I was screwing around, not really doing anything useful. And she was a beautiful girl, whom I was interested in a lot more than in math or whatever.

So, like any stupid schoolboy, I started distracting her: running around, teasing her, calling her names (nothing offensive, but quite annoying, I’d imagine). At some point I reached my ultimate goal – she started chasing me. And, being ‘clever’ as I was, I wouldn’t give up, I ran all around the classroom until she simply lost interest and sat back behind her desk, hurt. The teacher made me say I was sorry, of course. Which I wasn’t, but I did feel embarrassed as much as a nine-year-old boy can be.

Thank God, right then Lester interrupted my miserable thoughts. I’d met him a couple of times after Stacy had enlightened me, and I still felt a little awkward around him. He was a nice guy though.

“I believe congratulations are in order, Daniel!”

“Thanks, Les. If it wasn’t for you…”

“Ah, please! It would’ve taken you a bit longer, that’s all.”

“Thanks, anyway.”

He search the inside pocket of his vest and came up with a set of keys. He said. “I have a little something for you, Daniel, even two little somethings, actually. First of all, here.” He recited some address in Paris, which, for some reason included baguettes. He continued. “You have a flight tomorrow, too. Come over to my hangar at JFK any time, there’ll be a plane waiting. Got it?”

“I don’t know what to say…”

“Yeah, that’s a feature of yours. Don’t thank me - thank Henry Meath. Oh, there he is!”

Henry and Veronica joined us at the bar. Lester gave them both a discreet nod and left.

They were smiling like kids thanking their parents for Christmas presents. In their eyes I saw respect and amazement. Obviously they’d enjoyed the movie.

“This was awesome, my friend! Pure art,” Henry sounded short of words, but to my joy that was because of how impressed he was. He was supportive and grateful.

Veronica nodded in agreement. “Beautiful film, Daniel, very well written.”

“Well, it wasn’t all me. In fact, I think everybody but me deserves appreciation for their outstanding work, I just put words on paper.”

“But look what those words have turned into!”

We laughed some and drank some, talked about everything and nothing in particular, the way you talk to friends that you haven’t seen in quite some time. More people approached me with their greetings and I smiled at them and shook more hands.

It was way after midnight when we stepped outside. TV people were in sparse now, some of them drinking Starbucks coffee. I supposed they were waiting for the crew, but, unfortunately, they wanted a piece of me, too. After an interview and hundreds more photos they finally let me go, and I met with Henry and Veronica at their limo. Henry was holding open the rear door and Veronica was already in the backseat.

“Hey, Henry. Thank you for coming tonight, it really means a lot to me.” I said.

“It means a whole lot to me too. You did a great job!” he put his right hand on my left shoulder, “I’m really proud of you, man. Always have been, but now more than ever.”

I felt like I would shed a tear, but I only gave him a thankful smile and pat him on the shoulder.

“You have a great night, Hen. You can call every once in a while, you know.” I said.

“I’d invite you to come over to our place, but I hear you have a plane tomorrow!” He winked. I saw Veronica narrow her eyes, but she said nothing.

“How about I come visit me when I get back?”

“When the both of you get back, I hope!” He smiled.

I glanced at Veronica, “You have a good night, girl, it was a pleasure seeing you.”

She gave me a happy-sad smile and said, “The pleasure was all mine, Danny. You have a good night yourself.”

The car’s motor was running; I let them get in and shut the door. I couldn’t tell what they did next behind that tinted glass, but my mind painted pictures of them kissing passionately, salaciously even. I was struck by this sudden jealousy and was still standing frozen at the curb after their limo took off. But then, as it always happened, I remembered Pauline, and nothing else was left on my mind.

In half a minute I was saved – the same valet as before now brought my car back. The shiny Porsche roared reservedly and slowed to a stop in front of me. I gave the guy a twenty and got behind the wheel. Outside paparazzi were still trying to make their living, relentlessly snapping pictures as I drove away.

V

The first couple of minutes after Daniel closed the door of the Towncar were filled with palpably uneasy silence. Henry was drumming his fingers on the door handle, looking out the window, not focusing on anything for long. He was looking for words. Veronica seemed equally distant. She was looking out of her window, too, reading neon signs and billboards. She wasn’t looking for words. For some reason there was nothing she wanted to share with Henry - her dear Henry - at that very moment. She thought she knew the reason, but didn’t want to think about it, nor (as she’d later realize) did she care all that much.

Somewhere in the back of her head she was remembering her school years. And Danny, of course, him above all. She remembered the prom night. The dim lighting of the old auditorium, silly dance music, her girlfriends wearing their best dresses. She was wearing her own best dress. She remembered the dance, the one dance all the couples performed in the beginning. The dance they had all rehearsed so well. It was waltz. She remembered nice music and happy faces all around her. She was no doubt the one and only prom queen among them, and everyone knew it.

She also remembered, with pain in her heart, how she denied Danny. It wasn’t a haughty thing or anything like that. The truth was, Danny never really asked her to dance. So she danced with the one guy who was brave enough to ask her. And he was, without a doubt, the one and only prom kind without any competition. So they danced and it was sweet, but nothing more. She enjoyed it and everyone who was there approved of it and named them the king and the queen, and everybody cheered for them.  But whenever she’d look around searching for it, Danny’s glance was right there, delighted and loving. Of course she wouldn’t have understood any of it then. She liked that look on his face and she was getting her own twisted kicks out of teasing him like that, playing it you-gotta-work-to-get-me.

It was only that night in the suddenly so cold and alien Towncar, that she realized what that look meant. But was it still there? She thought, or wanted to think, that it was. With that thought a lonely tear ran down her left cheek. She wiped it warily, pretending to be fixing her hair, and tried to think of something else. Then the undesired happened - Henry spoke.

“So. You and Danny.”

Veronica turned a bit abruptly, as if awakened by the sound of his voice, which she was, in a manner.

“You said something?”

“I did.”

She nodded wistfully. He looked at her.

“So?”

“We went to school together.”

“And?”

“And nothing, that’s all there is to it.”

“Right…”

“Right!”

She gave him a quick bitter look.

“Is that so?”

“What is it with you, Henry?”

He smiled and shook his head.

“With me? What is it with me? Look at yourself, Veronica. Where are you?”

“Right here, Hen, I’m right here. We went to school together, I’m telling you.”

He nodded twice and went back to looking out of the window. And so did she. The rest of the ride they spent in the most uncomfortable silence, not talking to each other, avoiding physical contact, breathing steadily. They arrived at the penthouse in the middle of the night and went to sleep in separate rooms.

VI

It was pitch dark when I reached The Time. I left the car at the parking across the road and went upstairs to my room.

It was small and empty. Air conditioning hummed under the ceiling. I shrugged out of my jacket and emptied a tiny whiskey bottle into a glass. I couldn’t get Veronica out of my head. In my mind she was dancing, laughing, talking, shaking hands with people I’ve never met. The hotel liquor tasted awful and I didn’t want to force it down, so I just left the glass on the desk.

After a long hot shower I turned off my cell phone and went to bed. It was nice and soft and smelled of lavender. I drifted off to sleep in a few minutes.

VII

The ceiling looked depressingly featureless to her. The guest bedroom in Henry’s penthouse was dimly lit and unbearably quiet, except for the clock ticking. Tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock. She wanted to smash that damn clock with a baseball bat. Her heart was pounding. It was getting hot in there. She pushed away the blanket and got out of bed. The room seemed like a cage. A dark, alien cage. It was killing her. The minimalistic décor, the lighting, the texture of the furniture, the excessively large flat screen on the wall… she suddenly hated all of it. The very thought of staying there another minute caused her to shiver.

She put on a simple dress and took a deep breath. She realized she was circling the room tirelessly and stopped. Something had to be done. But did she have the courage? After wandering around the room for a couple more minutes she stepped out to the joint balcony. The air was fresh and a little humid.

She walked along the balcony to see if Henry was sleeping. She stopped at his bedroom window and looked inside. The sight was not pleasant. Henry was out cold, lying diagonally on the bed in a dead man’s position. His tux was piled carelessly on the floor, the shirt not even unbuttoned properly. On the night table was a half-empty bottle of some auburn drink (Veronica’s guess was whiskey) and an empty glass with greasy marks all over it.

She shook her head in slight frustration. She then turned around and leaned on the glass balustrade with her elbows. Beneath her the city was still awake and busy. There were some buses, a lot of cars. She looked around the balcony and found Henry’s cigarette case with thin cigs in it. He must have forgotten them after his evening smoke. Veronica took one out and lit it with a match from a thin matchbox she found inside the case. The cig was nasty tasting and smelled like cherry or perhaps strawberry, it was hard to tell. She drew on it once, muffled a cough and gasped helplessly. God, she hated cigarettes. She threw the fag (as Henry called them) away and put the case back.

I’m pathetic, she thought. And then. Ah, screw it.

She quickly made it back to the guestroom, put on panty hose and quietly made her way out of the room and into the hall through the living room. She stepped lightly even though it wasn’t really necessary, since Henry was probably going to sleep all through the next day’s afternoon.

She put on simple suedes, a dark leather jacket and grabbed a small handbag. She was serious about this and very excited. She closed the door smoothly and took an elevator down. Outside one of the passing taxis stopped once she held out her hand.

VIII

I was startled by a knock at my door in the middle of night. It was loud enough for me to wake up immediately. I sat up in my bed trying to figure out who that might be. And then I felt it. Or maybe my loneliness was driving me crazy at that point. But I felt it and it was an exciting sensation. My body trembled, I felt cold and hot at the same time. My heart was skipping beats. Thoughts were running through my head with unbelievable speed, though I couldn’t focus on any one of them.

I hurried to put my bathrobe on, taking my time tying the terry belt, or maybe I was simply putting off the inevitable, enjoying the anticipation. The knocking was persistent, which only added to my excitement. I hustled over to the door and opened it in one swift movement.

She was standing there, her eyes very lively, searching for something in mine, as if asking a question, to which I thought I knew the answer. Her chestnut hair rested on her shoulders, glistening in the bright lights. Her lips were slightly open, hinting on her snow-white teeth. I could sense traces of the last night’s sweet perfume and uneasiness in the air.

After a moment, which felt more like an hour, we clung to each other; we were kissing with so much passion you could fill a bathtub with it. Veronica dropped her purse on the floor and let me take her jacket off. I had my right hand on her cheek and my left around her waist. She shook off her shoes and we stepped to the bed. The pneumatic mechanism closed the door behind us. She pushed me onto the bed with my robe still on and got out of her dress. It fell to the floor and it was the last I saw of it that night. She was now standing in front of me, with nothing but her dark panty hose on. It was such a sensational sight my mouth went dry. Her body was perfect in every aspect. Her skin was silk, her firm breasts were oh so very tempting. She looked at me with such fire in her eyes I wanted to get on my knees and pray. Instead Veronica got down on hers. I laid on my back squeezing the sheets so hard I tore holes in them. I could swear I shed a tear at some point; my heart was ready to jump out of my chest and explode.

Next thing I knew she was on top of me, moving slowly, getting everything out of it. We gasped and moaned, hugging each other, stroking each other. She was insatiable and I was giving her all I could. We kissed hard.

Next, she lay on her back and now I wanted to return the favor. She quivered with pleasure as I caressed her, mumbling something sweet. At one point she froze for a number of seconds, relaxed and brushed a hand through my hair. Then I was inside her, going fast, but not too fast. I was holding her tight, kissing her neck just below her left ear, and then kissing her sweet lips, playing with her hair with my left hand. We climaxed at the same moment, moaning like wild animals, squeezing each other until it hurt.

We lay in my bed holding each other. She ran a finger down my chest and I was watching her eyelashes rise and fall. She was breathing steadily, even though I could feel her heart still racing. I gave her a quick kiss on the forehead.

“You’re so adorable, Veronica.”

She kissed me on the lips.

We lay like that for a bit, not falling asleep, not talking. We just lay there, absorbed in our own thoughts. Veronica sighed deeply.

“You thinking about Henry?”

She nodded.

“Want me to get you something to drink?”

Another nod.

I went to the minibar and came back with a small bottle of red wine. We shared it in silence, making quick gulps. Veronica was looking me in the eye lovingly, yet I registered her concern. I had my concerns as well. It was fun for a while, but now that the moment had passed it felt extremely wrong and uncomfortable.

She looked away, “I gotta get back.”

Silence. I nodded.

“Dammit, why is it that we always do first and think later…” She said.

“Because otherwise we’d have never done anything.”

More silence. She nodded timidly, and two tears ran down her cheeks. She wasn’t crying, because her expression stayed the same. Perhaps those were tears of happiness, but I doubted that. She finished the wine and got out of bed. She took a quick shower while I stayed in bed, surrounded by her scent. She dried off a minute later and put on her dress and her leather jacket.

On her way out she asked. “Will we meet again?”

And as painful as it was, I had to tell her the truth. “I don’t think so.”

She gave me a kiss on a cheek and left. I listened to the pneumatic mechanism slowly close the door and went back to bed. Outside the dawn was breaking and I was asleep in no time.

IX

I was awakened yet again several hours later. And yet again the cause of my awakening was loud pounding on the door. It was more persistent and unbearable than before, as if a train was going by just outside the room. Terrible. Almost as terrible as the need to get out of bed and welcome another guest.

The weirdest déjà vu struck me as I sat up in my bed. Waking up to knocking on my door, sitting up in my bed… I was already looking around the room searching for my bathrobe. Just like some hours earlier I felt immediately who was at my door at that hour. The need to put off the inevitable was now stronger than ever, so I really took my time tying up that belt.

“Coming,” I shouted in the general direction the pounding was coming from. Then I proceeded to open the door.

The first punch landed on my nose. Probably breaking it, certainly causing blood to stream down my face. I recoiled but didn’t lose my balance. A hook struck my right ear, leaving me half-deaf and disoriented. I could vaguely see Henry’s face, red and distorted with rage. He punched me in the stomach and pushed me hard towards the bed. I fell on my ass, barely preventing the fall with my elbows, hitting my nape on a side of the bed. But Henry wasn’t going to let me get too comfortable just yet. He put his hands on my shoulders, squeezed the robe and pulled me up to my feet. I stood in front of him, beaten, with no intentions of putting up a fight. I tried to look him in the eye, but before I could see anything I caught an uppercut with my chin and fell on the bed.

I lay there on my back, still wearing the bathrobe, exactly as the last time, studying the ceiling and praying to God my déjà vu would not continue to unfold.

I tried to find Henry with my eyes but came up empty. Then I heard glasses clinking by the mini-bar. I gathered my strength and sat up. My whole body was aching now, my lips tasted of blood. I wiped it off with a cuff and tried to catch my breath. A moment later Henry turned to me, holding a wine glass in one hand and a whiskey in the other. He was wearing a rumpled t-shirt and faded Levi’s. His hair was a mess and his feet were bare inside suede moccasins. As he got closer I could smell liquor on his breath. He handed me the wine glass and sat beside me on the bed, looking at shiny ice cubes in his scotch.

I tasted the wine and was glad it masked the taste of blood.

“Thanks, Hen, I guess.”

“You oughtta thank me, all right.”

I said nothing.

“So, I suppose it was one fuck of a night, huh?”

I smiled at his little pun, even though the conversation was not going to be that of a pleasant one. At least we’d gone through the beating part already.

“That it was.”

Silence for a moment.

“How was it?”

Personally, I found it a weird thing to ask, but hey, how much worse could it get?

“How do you think it was? Incredible.” I answered honestly.

“Fuck you.”

“You were the one to ask. Fuck you!”

He sipped his whiskey and fished his cigarette case out of a pocket.

“Nah, Danny, fuck you.” He lit one of those cherry-smelling thin cigs and blew a long stream of smoke, “Fuck you.”

“Well, you are always a delight to talk to, Henry, my friend!”

“Fuck you. Fuck you, fuck your movie and fuck Veronica!”

“Come on, the movie wasn’t that bad!”

He shook his head in tamed anger.

“And the latter is already taken care of,” I just couldn’t help myself.

Henry lost it for just a brief moment, which was, unfortunately for my wine, long enough for him to push me off the damn bed and onto the floor like a rag-doll. I landed hard, but my wine glass landed harder. It shattered into pieces, splashing wine all around like a blood splatter.

I stayed on the floor, looking at Henry both ruefully and slightly amused. He just went on and finished his drink.

We sat in silence for what felt like an hour or longer. Henry kept on smoking his stupid fags one after another, putting them out into the empty whiskey glass.

“She left, didn’t she?” I asked.

“Damn right, she left, you jerk! But that’s not even the issue here – I’d rather she banged you than some other bloke I don’t know. So, I guess, you’ve done me a favor, in a way.”

“I’m glad you see it that way, Hen.”

“Shut the hell up, Dan, you wit! What do you think you’re doing? Are you forgetting something? Someone, perhaps?”

“Fuck off…” I hung my head. “You really don’t have to rub it in, Hen…”

With the gay cigarette hanging from his mouth he walked up to me and offered me a hand.

“You want me to give you a lift to the airport?”

“That would be great.” I shrugged.

“Go shower then, arsehole.”

He pulled me up to my feet, and I made my way to the bathroom.




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