7th December 2020
Part Three. London. Summer 1994
“So when are you leaving ?”
“Don’t have the exact date, but around the end of July. I can’t believe it. Back to Berlin.”
Richard had to shout a little above the noise of the pub. There were highlights of a World Cup game showing Bulgaria beating the mighty Germany, and the London pub was cheering as loudly as any in Sofia. Richard’s attention wandered to the screen when he thought Melanie wasn’t looking, but he was caught out and had to suffer her views on football and football supporters, but knew enough to keep his views on her views, to himself.
It was also the first time he had seen her in a skirt, a pretty skimpy one, that showed off legs that were smooth and shapely. He was prepared to contemplate a complete review of the Melanie situation.
Maybe it was the skirt, the warm Summer night, or the joy of seeing Germany beaten without the inevitable heartbreak of watching England lose (as they hadn’t even been able to qualify), but the conversation, after three or four drinks, became the most revealing the two ever had. No reviews of art, or humorous small-talk, usually with Chris as the butt, or hints of truths that suddenly pulled back. They actually got to know a little about each other.
After ten o’clock, they decided to spend the last drinking hour at the Coach and Horses, a pub famous for it’s artistic clientele, actors, painters and writers and therefore infamous for its collection of would-be actors, painters and writers. A simple “excuse me”, or a “hello” would be met by a laboured and over-rehearsed
half-witticism, or a meaningless epigram.
They got two seats at a large table and had to politely smile as a man with long, straight hair and a cane, offered salutations. Then they got down to business.
Richard asked about her relationship with Chris. What exactly was it ? He wasn’t prepared for the answer.
“Oh, we’re married.”
Richard paused, the wine glass half-way to his lips.
Then Melanie laughed.
It was an even greater shock, now, to discover that Melanie had a mischievous sense of humour. And great legs, that inspired alcohol-fueled aspirations. She clarified.
“No, but we did go out for a time. Yeah, we were dating. Boyfriend and girlfriend. But, there was no sex, obviously.”
“Well, Chris, you know, and I … you know … it was cool.” Melanie was biting her lip and nodding her head, expecting Richard to be able to fill in the gaps.
“What, you didn’t have sex ?”
“No, of course not. I mean we were … intimate … with each other … but there was control … ” Back to the nodding.
Richard was having difficulty processing, and restraining the “WHAT ?” that was screaming to be let loose.
“Well … what’s the point in that ?”
“What do you mean ?”
“To have a girlfriend and not … have … not … Just … what’s the point ?”
“It was what we both wanted …”
“Yeah. I mean, you must know about Chris … ?”
“No ? What do you boys speak about ?”
Again, that phrase, ‘you boys’. Richard let it slide, the revelation was too big.
“Man stuff. TV programs. Quantum Mechanics; had some quite heated debates over that. Football. Sweets from our childhood that no longer exist. ‘Spanglers’, for instance.”
“And women ?”
“No, sir, never. Almost never. OK, but not always. Yeah, a lot of talk about women. I didn’t know with Chris it was just all talk. I’m going through a fallow patch, admittedly, but that’s just to replenish the oats. I’ll be back ploughing soon enough …”
“Ah, don’t gross me out.” Just then, the music stopped and there was a momentary volume drop in the bar. Richard continued, at his previous level;
“That’s why it’s more fun with men.”
The long-haired man next to Melanie slowly turned towards him, and raised his glass. Music re-started.
“Talking, I mean. So, you and Chris … never … ?”
“That’s right. Can’t believe he’s not told you. That’s why I knew it would never work out with Ute. She’s used to sex. It’s hard to go from being sexually active to celibacy.”
Something wasn’t quite right about this, thought Richard, but again, he thought he shouldn’t push any further. He envisaged some very interesting conversations when he got back to Berlin. And Monika ? Did Melanie think she was also in a celibate relationship with Chris ? Was that what she meant, claiming she was ‘her kind of woman’ ? Was Melanie gay ? Tonight, it seemed, anything was possible. But, in the best tradition of show business, or, in this environment, show-off business, Richard was saving the best till last.
“I’m in love. And she’s German.”
“Wow ! That’s great. Who is she ?”
“Her name’s Käthe. She has platinum blonde hair, dark eyes and is just gorgeous. And she going to be driving me to Berlin. Along with her boyfriend.”