"Late October, early November

The fall is sad, the sky is low

Hurry up and come back home

To untie the knot in my stomach

I miss you, love"

Isabelle Boulay

Chapter one – prologue

She had never had sex with a stranger before. Even less make love though that wouldn't happen before they reached a point of no-return, years later. She had lost herself in various games of seduction and flirtation but at absolutely no moment had she undressed and let a stranger's hands caress her bare skin in a silent hotel room after a five-minute talk.

She remembers the way the raindrops were falling down the windows in his back; how the transparent pearls seemed to slide on his shoulders before vanishing along his back, down his spine. She had wanted to touch his skin, there. With her fingertips. She had wanted to feel him shiver and feed herself of his heat. She hadn't asked for his name, hadn't asked for the slightest thing. She had simply wanted him.

Preferring the word 'infidelity' to the verb 'to cheat', she had dared and crossed the line after a long period of dry wonders and what-ifs. With the latent nervousness typical from the first times, she had passed the door of the hotel then headed to the bar. She had arrived early to escape from the downpour that swept away the fliers that littered the sidewalks of that part of the city. Then she had waited by the fireplace, Martini in hand; her umbrella by her side.

She would never meet Tom, if that was his real name at all. Instead, a few papers would fall down to her feet. Contracts, it had seemed. Politely, she had bent over to pick them up and that was when it had all started.

She liked the idea that a mere second could make a whole life tip over. It owned a romantic shade that intimidated her to the point she began to dream and hope for such a rare thing to happen to her. Perhaps one day, she would stop lying to herself and accept the fact that she had experienced it, way back then. On that rainy day at that impersonal hotel. But for the moment, she is still somewhere in between. Confused. Helpless.

He was younger than her. As she had handed him back the papers, she had locked her eyes with his brown ones and subconsciously engraved the features of his face in her memory. A good-looking man, in his mid-twenties. Elegant but far from the Italian suits he would end up buying a few years later; far from everything.

She had smiled at him. Brightly. Therefore they would say that she had made the first step even though she didn't like the idea at all. Seducing men was easy as long as they gave you the first gaze and let you understand that they accepted the game. She invited him to sit at her coffee table. He had a glass of red wine in hand; a Merlot. And as he had settled in the old armchair, she had got lost in the contemplation of the illusion game brought along by a torrent of raindrops falling down the windows in his back. Then they had talked randomly until she had stood up and looked down at him.

"Do you come with me?"

He wasn't the man whom she was supposed to meet. She wasn't the woman whom he could have waited for. Yet without saying a word, he had followed her up on the first floor. It had been strange to undress in front of him; to let the layers of clothes land on the carpeted floor as his brown eyes had kept on staring at the skin she was revealing little by little.

He had kissed her, passing a hand around her nape as the other had traveled on her waist almost possessively. For a few seconds, she had had doubts and almost withdrawn from his touch only to realize that she never did such a thing. Perhaps it was going too far yet there was no way for her that she could come backwards. Not now. She had missed her chance to eventually rush back to what had pushed her there in the first place.

She remembers their sighs, the rustling of the sheets and the singular sound of a skin-to-skin contact. It hadn't been relieving as she had expected it to be yet something else might have showed up; something she hadn't been able to name.

They hadn't stayed in bed afterward. As soon as they had caught their breath, they had got up and retrieved their clothes in the most complete silence; barely looking at each other, as if dealing for the first time with the eloquence of remorse.

She had offered him a cigarette which he had refused and leaning against the edge of a desk abandoned there for some blurry reason, she had swallowed back a wave of doubts.

"Are you available on Friday night?"

She had felt the heat rush up her cheeks before her sudden boldness but frowning it away, she had looked up at him then waited for an answer. Her heart had been pounding loud in her chest; almost like after a promising first date. Long seconds had flown away before him to finally react. He had seemed embarrassed, and troubled.

"Yes, I am."

As they had stepped out of the hotel to join back the rain, she had plunged her hands in the pockets of her coat thinking that it wasn't that complicated to have an affair at the end. Not such a big deal either. It barely took an hour, his tongue sliding on her flesh and her hand through his hair.

"By the way, my name is Will."

He hadn't lied. She had known about it immediately, instinctively. A truck had passed by in the narrow street and she had looked at it go away before daring to say the slightest thing.

"Karen."

Then they had left in opposite directions. It was late October, early November; 1989. A few days earlier, The Berlin Wall had fallen down, settling a new wind to blow around.