The wide open windows of Olivia’s flat as well as being a channel for the crushing heat also allowed the sounds of night life to sneak in: people partying in nearby gardens and balconies and talking and laughing louder than usual, and the blare of competing music systems and night owls just hanging around the streets, making the most of the summer.
Things slowly quietened down until the only music we could hear was the faint, enchanting plucking of an acoustic guitar and the accompaniment of gentle humming like somebody lullabying a child to sleep. I had no idea what time we fell asleep, but I woke up to the sight of Olivia sitting naked on a chair half on the balcony and half in the room and looking into a curtain of rain falling silently in the garden, and she was smoking, exhaling into the darkness. ‘‘You don’t smoke.’’ I said. ‘‘Yes, I do. I’ve taken to rolling my own cigarettes, not all the time, but just when the mood takes me.’’
‘‘A few weeks ago I saw a woman, similar in looks to me, doing it at a café and I found it rather becoming. To be honest, ever since then I’ve been wrestling with the prospect of taking up smoking, recently I finally succumbed.’’ She was the sort of person you didn’t notice smoke on. She flicked the cigarette out of the window and came over and joined me in bed.
When I woke up it was after 9, which was late for me and especially late for me when I was with her. I shook my head when I looked at the clock. She was sitting at the window again, looking at me, smiling. Her hair was wet and matted to her head. The rain in the night had cooled the air and its effects were lingering, so instead of the cloying heat there was a pleasant coolness wafting in through the open window. She stood up and threw a towel at me. I saw she was wearing a long, white, shirt type garment which stuck seductively and transparently to the still wet parts of her body. She’d always known how to command attention, naked or otherwise, and it still worked on me. As she well knew. ‘She didn’t go out like that?’ I thought.
‘‘No. I’ve just showered.’’ She said, smiling. On the coffee table I saw a plate of croissants and two take away coffee containers standing beside two pristine white coffee mugs and two plates.
‘She bought that?’
‘‘I know you like that café.’’ She gave a long suffering smile and pointed in a no nonsense way to the bathroom; ‘‘Your turn.’’ She said.
She had certain standards which had to be maintained, especially when it came to hygiene and meal times.
She mentioned her portfolio of properties every now and again, but not how many, they were spread around the country; all in cities; and in the most exclusive areas of those cities; but she rarely seemed to engage, if at all, with her immediate neighbors.
‘‘I’ve seen people in this house but, for all I know, they could be tradespeople.’’ She said once, haughtily.
She spent a lot of her free time in the capital. ‘‘It’s my playground.’’
She had this snobbish trait which, to be honest, I found humorous and endearing, it was just her way. I remembered watching her in action once; there was an independent hotel in town, cherished for its durability, old fashioned service and prices which ensured its regular clientele remained secure in their, as seen through rose tinted glasses, perfect world.
The ground floor of the hotel was home to an exclusive café. One day strolling through town I passed this hotel and café and, automatically, had a brief glance through the immaculately clean windows; it looked as though every table was taken and occupied by people who made me look young; a group of late middle aged, black clad waitresses moved unhurriedly from table to table dispensing beverages and snacks in expensive and locally produced porcelain crockery.
I saw Olivia flitting from guest to guest and exchanging words with them. Intrigued, I stopped and watched her, this was certainly not a place she would repair to for a coffee; too stiff and old fashioned, although she gave the impression she’d been coming here for years and was just greeting old friends.
She saw me and held up an index finger, continuing her stately procession through the tables waving at customers and staff alike, as she proceeded towards the door.
‘‘What a pleasant surprise.’’ She breathed as we exchanged air kisses.
‘‘I didn’t know this was one of your haunts.’’ I said.
‘‘Haunts? I know they’re old but they’re still alive, well most of them.’’
‘‘But what are you doing here?’’
‘‘I’ll let you into a secret, my ‘little man’ arranged a meeting with the management of the hotel, it’s possible I might inject some money into the business.’’
She stage whispered behind the cover of her hand.
‘‘I thought it was strictly a family run place.’’
‘‘Times change and wait for no man.’’
‘‘Do you know all these people?’’ I gestured to the clientele.
‘‘Goodness no! Why do you ask?’’
‘‘Your manner with them, a hand on the shoulder here, a few words there, even a coquettish laugh with a couple of old guys, etc.’’
‘‘I don’t know them per se. But we recognize something in each other.’’
After breakfast before I had a chance to say anything, she said, ‘‘Have you got any plans or do you fancy hanging around for the rest of the day?’’
‘I don’t and I’d like to.’
So that’s what we did. I lost myself in the papers while she busied herself sending and reading emails.
‘‘By the way, I’m getting divorced again.’’
‘‘Because he’s having an affair.”
‘‘So are you, with me.’’ ‘And maybe I’m not the only one.’ I thought.
‘‘He doesn’t know that or even suspect. Anyway, I’m naturally gregarious. He’s actually sleeping with his first wife again, and I mean sleeping, he’s not capable of any more.’’
It really didn’t bother her. I knew her that well.
‘‘Tell me again about your newfound smoking.’’
‘‘To be honest it’s something I’ve always found enticing.’’
‘‘How many do you get through?’’
She raised one of her exquisitely plucked eye brows. She probably practiced that in the mirror every day.
‘‘I never exceed five a day.’’
‘‘Would that be one for every bout of sex?’’
‘‘Wouldn’t you like to know?’’
Later I lay on the bed watching her standing naked and smoking at the open window. I could see drops of rain sometimes blowing onto her face and running down her body.
‘‘That’s just what I was thinking.’’ I said.
‘‘Come and stand with me.’’ She patted her hip.
I joined her just as the severity of the rain increased and with it her pleasure.
After a few minutes she looked at me and said, ‘‘Are we having an affair? Earlier, when we were talking about my still current husband you said we were having an affair. But affairs don’t usually last this long. Do they?’’
‘‘No, it’s not an affair with us. It’s much more than that. But what is it?’’
We stood watching and listening to the rain clattering on the roofs or brushing against the leaves on the trees, and the traffic swishing through the puddles.
‘‘Shall we turn on the radio?’’ I asked.
‘‘Feel free. I’m out of the habit. Sometimes, not often, I’m here alone for a night and I just don’t want the slightest intrusion or temptation. I get some food delivered, open a bottle of wine and make myself comfortable on the balcony. It’s paradise.’’
We were quiet for an hour or so listening to a selection of sixties’ classics on an oldies station.
‘‘Apropos food, I’ve even got something to eat for later.’’ She announced.
‘Surely she didn’t prepare something.’ She saw the look of surprise on my face.
‘‘Actually, my ‘little woman’ prepared a Flammkuchen for me. All I have to do is chuck it in the oven.’’
She wasn’t a great one for cooking and much preferred eating out anyway. She had her pick of the best restaurants. Everywhere. That was no exaggeration.
I knew the sort of partners or husbands Olivia was attracted to. Because I knew her. In fact, it was possible or even likely that I knew her better than anybody and she me. That was a sobering thought. Any prospective squeeze needed to be rich, that was essential, she wouldn’t even look at anybody who couldn’t pay her way; his other characteristics should include: intelligence; he would have to be taller; good looking was not important, but being presentable was, she didn’t want to have the arm of a down and out; other requirements were interest in their appearance, but not outright vanity; naivety; passivity; they needed to have their own hobbies or at least some way of passing the day so they did not encroach on her time; they shouldn’t talk too much or ask too many questions especially about their increased monthly out goings; Olivia didn’t wish to align diaries or appointments with anybody; she expected punctuality and understanding when she was a bit tardy and, furthermore, any partner had to be a non garlic eater.
Olivia was like Zelig; she was everywhere something was going on; she was always at the opening concert when the Rolling Stones toured Europe; she was at the World Premiere of every James Bond film, she was even introduced to Royalty at the last one; Wimbledon; the Chelsea Flower Show; the Munich Oktoberfest; the White Nights Festival in St. Petersburg; you name it she was there, ballet, opera, almost any form of cultural event and, of course, Glastonbury.
I was 100% plus certain it was the occasion not the event; she liked to party and be seen partying.
She was at the 1998 World Cup Final in Paris, in the VIP area with a world famous, French actress, she told me breathlessly as soon as she got back.
‘‘My first decision was what to wear. I’m a Europhile, as you know, but the French kit just didn’t suit me and to be honest I found the Brazil football strip so cute, the yellow shirt and blue shorts. And I did look good in it.’’
‘‘You’re giving something away there.’’ I said.
‘‘I know. Silly woman who knows nothing about football.’’
‘‘You said it.’’
‘‘Anyway, at the last whistle this actress and I embraced, I can still feel her hands through those lovely, clingy shorts lingering on my buttocks.’’
‘‘It’s final whistle. Who was she anyway?’’
‘‘It’s not that she swore me to secrecy but a girl likes to have her secrets.’’
Olivia loved to tease, I knew she’d tell me eventually but it had to be when she wanted to; she revealed the actress’s identity within minutes of course and it wasn’t the first A lister she’d dallied with, male or female.
‘‘Anyway, everybody was going mad in the VIP lounge, it was so emotional the host nation winning against Brazil no less. All of a sudden, we became the centre of attention; imagine all those heads of state mingling and watching us no, ogling us. I grabbed a bottle of champagne from a passing waiter, we each took a long swallow and then the actress gave me the most lascivious kiss I’d ever had, present company excepted; and then, arm in arm, with the champagne, we went down onto the pitch, flirted with the players and posed with them with the trophy held above our heads. We even ended up in the dressing room. I won’t reveal which one or what went on. Not yet anyway. It’s another story. You’re wondering how and if we really got onto the pitch. We did and all my new friend would say was that, ‘It was courtesy of the powers that be,’ and then she patted me on the bottom.’’
She’s related that story several times and each time she gave a tremble of delight when she came to the kiss with the famous actress, but she’d never embellished it, she didn’t need to.
I'm British and have been living with my German born wife in s.w. Germany for 30 years. I've been writing short stories for many years and they have appeared on Fictionontheweb, Short FictionBreak, Literally Stories, Spillwords and other sites. I also have a story in the book The Best of Fiction On the Web.