‘I’ve got an appointment at Art Curial at 8 pm – want to come?’, Vlado asked half-invitingly’ but Marisa knew that she was meant to refuse. He wanted to go alone.
‘No, thanks’, she replied. ‘Too tired’. I’ll stay here and watch the sunset. You go’.
After their meal, Vlado left for the rue Matignon with a folder of drawings.
The flat, shrouded in its white sheeting, was cocoon-like. Still. Marisa could hear the couple next door – both alcoholics – quarrelling. The stillness of the evening was destroyed for her. Even the cheerful light from the sunset failed to lift her spirits.
‘I must go out’, she thought, aloud.
The metro, at that hour, was quiet. Half-deserted. So many of the stations: Concorde, Etoile, Opera were brightly-painted and sunny. Marisa’s carte orange gave her the freedom of the city. So she decided to take the train from Ecole Militaire to Concorde, where she could change trains for St.Paul-le-Marais. The Reuilly-Diderot /Nation line would do. This area of or Paris: Hotel de Ville, St Paul, Bastille was her favourite part.
She would walk across the Seine at the Pont Marie, on to the mysterious Ile de la Cite, past Notre Dame cathedral. She knew that the bookshop – Shakespeare and Co. – would still be open, with its cheerful jumble of ex-pat Americans, snoozing and reading in the deep, comfortable armchairs.
When she arrived at St. Paul, it was raining. The street market was still open, and she bought some creme fraiche and a bunch of violets. She wanted to buy some moules and fresh watercress to make soup, but she didn’t have enough money with her.
She turned round to face the voice. It was Velikovic. The artist. Everyone in the Parisian art world knew him. He was a friend of Vlado’s, but rich, successful and influential.
‘On your own?’, he asked.
‘He’s working’, she lied. She had convinced herself that net-working and schmoozing round art galleries was a kind of work.
‘Well, you must come and have a drink with us’, he said.
She tried to protest. It was late. She was tired. She must get home.
‘But Stella would love to meet you. Come’.
He marched ahead of her, and she followed him obediently. He lived in a magnificent apartment overlooking the Seine and Notre Dame, so they simply walked back over the Pont Marie again. It wasn’t very far to walk.
When Vlado opened the magnificent front door of their third floor apartment ( the belle etage) and she walked into the large, elegant rooms, she felt that she had never seen anywhere more exquisitely perfect in her whole life.
The walls were painted in various shades of vellum and white. Huge abstract paintings and mirrors were magnificently lit by spot-lights; there were massive bowls of fruit, and flowers placed on fabulous antique pieces of furniture.
Like an acolyte in a cloister, Stella, Vlado’s wife, moved from room to room, bringing in tall, fluted glasses, wine, canapes and delicate pastries. She, too, looked immaculate, dressed in a medley of parchment-coloured cashmere. She seemed to blend into the colour scheme around her.
As she poured the wine out, she raised her beautifully-shaped eyebrows and asked Marisa:
‘How do you like being the wife of an artist’.
‘I don’t know yet’, replied Marisa, in all honesty.