The door opened and closed softly. I was awake even though it was Tuesday night – well, 3 am Wednesday morning to be precise. I heard footsteps and clinking of hangers from the dressing room. His slow motions were so torturing that I almost got up and rushed to the dressing room. Almost.
When Adrian came to the bedroom, he was still silent and slow. I turned on my back, face to the ceiling.
"Where were you?" I whispered.
"Oh, I'm sorry, did I wake you?" he asked, sounding concerned while sliding under the blanket.
"I couldn't sleep," I said, turning my face to him. Moonlight lit his face; he was pale and had probably been up since 6 am the prior morning, but was still unbelievably energetic and showed no signs of exhaustion.
"I didn't know," he said softly, caressing my cheek with his cool fingers. It was so spontaneous, so sudden, that I couldn't say anything more. Words still bubbled inside; I wanted to bring out why I was so concerned and angry.
"You didn't answer," I finally said, after recovering from Adrian's act of gentleness.
"I was at a launch party," he said. What a surprise.
"Why you didn't say anything? I could've come too," I replied. In my mind I wondered why I sounded so whiny and childish but at the next moment I remembered that I had every reason to sound just like that. Adrian smiled stiffly.
"You wouldn't have liked it. Besides, it's not even weekend."
"I'm still awake, and I don't work anymore," I reminded. I had quit my job since Adrian's income made it unnecessary. Adrian also thought that it would seem suspicious that the girlfriend of one the richest man in America would work.
"Listen," Adrian said, a little impatient now, changing his position. "I really am sorry for making you concerned. Is there any way I could make it up to you?" he asked and fiddled my nightgown.
Adrian really knew which triggers to pull. He was on top of me before I even knew it, taking my clothes off.
I sighed and rubbed my eyes. How helpless I must seem! But I was terribly lonely and bored. I missed Adrian and his touch so much that when I finally saw him I forgot all my planned hateful words and did whatever he wanted as long as I got be near him and to know he wasn't a dream. I didn't always stay home, but Adrian was right that I usually didn't enjoy myself at his work parties. In front of photographers and media we were clutched together, but inside the clubs or halls we slowly separated from each other.
One of the great changes in dating Adrian was that I suddenly realized to be left out from my friends' lives. At first they all were excited that I was seeing a man so rich and good-looking and wanted to meet him. I arranged parties so as they could meet him and 'approve' of him. But if my friend threw parties or wanted to see me, I always had something planned with Adrian. I was always sorry to say no, but I promised to make it up. But when I called back they almost always told me some polite excuse. I soon understood that they thought it was me who wanted to cut them out of my life. Basically the only one who stayed was Beth.
Beth and I had been talking for ages on the phone on one Saturday afternoon. Finally she stopped laughing and said still smiling, judging by her voice:
"Oh Alex, it's good to hear you laughing! I would never have thought that you'd be over it so quickly."
"Over it?" I repeated, also smiling but now a little confused.
"Well, you know… I never thought that Adrian would be like that so openly," Beth said, slightly uncomfortably.
My silence spoke for it self and Beth realized, "You… don't know." She spoke shakily, clearly horrified.
"Beth, what don't I know?" I demanded, tears waiting behind my lids.
When Adrian stepped into the kitchen, he first noticed my red eyes and tense face. I was demonstratively quiet. He didn't say anything either. I had to begin even though it tore me apart.
"Good choice to go for the gentleman company," I said to his back. He froze still and didn't turn around.
"If you smelled like other women's perfume, I would've noticed, but this…" I continued, unable to finish.
Suddenly he turned around, his eyes squinted, lips pressed together. "Who told you… that?" he asked imminently.
"What difference does it make?" I threw back. He didn't say anything; obviously, he didn't need to.
This had happened almost six months ago, August 1976. I had hoped for explanations, but they never came. We didn't speak to each other for days. Then he came with a diamond wristlet and whispered to me: "You know that I have never loved anyone else." That melted me, but now my cynicism had grown back and I thought about whom he had been referring to. Anyone else but me – or himself? I fiddled that particular wristlet on my left wrist and didn't feel a thing.
My parents threw their annual Christmas dinner every year on Boxing Day. In 1976 Adrian and I had been together for almost three years. My brother-in-law, my big sister Georgiana's husband Michael, graduated from Harvard, was a lawyer and a great dealer in stock market. However, he was awkwardly straightforward. After the dinner everybody was drinking champagne in the living room when he came to Adrian and me.
"Well, aren't you adorable," he said, grinning widely. "When can we gather to toast for your engagement?" My face turned an awkward shade of pink, but Adrian stayed calm, as always. I looked at him, waiting for his answer, as curious as Michael.
"You just have to wait and see," he said, smiling his franchise smile, wider than normal. I stayed silent while Michael looked from Adrian to me and then back again. I tried to look mysterious and knowing while my heart raced from surprise.
A few days after that Adrian was still in his workroom as I was ready to go to bed. He was going through piles of papers and occasionally writing something on them. I sneaked behind him and put my hands on his tense, strong shoulders. He turned his head, smiled at me and then turned back to his work.
"Was that true what you said to Michael?" I wanted to know, pressing my cheek against his shoulder. We hadn't discussed about the engagement since it first had been brought up.
"About what?" he asked absent-mindedly, writing something in margins.
"About the engagement," I said quietly. I felt almost shy asking. Adrian leaned back and I had to straighten up too. He still didn't say anything.
"Do you really want that?" he asked. A flash of last summer, Beth's phone call, news of Adrian and some man in a club, came to my mind. I shook it away.
"Well, it would be… nice," I said, trying not to sound too eager. "And wouldn't you like to have Adrian Junior here, too? Or Alexander?"
His head twitched a little. I couldn't see his face but I also couldn't move to see it; if I had done so, his expression would already be wiped away. "We'll see, Ally," he said and kissed my hand. I took it away.
"What did you just call me?" I asked. No one ever called me Ally. He turned to look at me.
"Oh, I'm sorry, Alex just reminds me of someone else I know," he answered and when I didn't say anything more, he continued to work.
For a while I stood there and stared at his neck. When my hands started shaking, I said "Good night," and left as fast as I could without running. I heard him say "Good night, honey," just as my tears overflowed.
The fog was already vanishing and the frost melting from windows. Our apartment was the first to see the sunrise. The pale orange colored the metal in that cold, depressing kitchen. I took the pen once more and wrote:
So as not to steal anything from you – time, money or emotions.
I pulled the diamond wristlet away from my wrist and placed it on the paper. I sneaked into the dressing room, took off my t-shirt and socks and quickly pulled on the clothes I had chosen few hours ago. The rest were on my suitcases, but most of my favourite dresses, shoes and jewellery were left there on their shelves. Adrian had bought them to conciliate me; they filled most of my wardrobe nowadays. My hand hovered near the door handle to the bedroom but I pulled it back. If I now would look at Adrian, I just might change my mind. If he had asked, maybe I would have stayed and become a trophy wife instead of trophy girlfriend.