A steamy summer night on the Rhine, a hot love affair ... it wasn't supposed to be any more than that. But when Tina is in need of a lawyer, she cannot think of anyone but Mar. That's when, out of nowhere, other feelings and not just the hunt for the right paragraphs, enter the equation. Tina doesn't want to hear about it, since the motto "It was just sex, not love" still stands between them like a wall. Will they some day be able to overcome their differences?
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Cover Photo: © Goss Vitalij – Fotolia.com
In the heat of the sweltering night, anything could happen. It was humid, and the long-announced rain, which should have brought some cooling with it, still hadn’t arrived. Tina lay on her bed and stared out of the window. She groaned in torment. The bed sheets – which she could change as often as she liked – stuck to her body, and although she was naked, she still felt as if she needed to get strip to finally escape this heat, this humidity, this thick moisture that hung in the air like steaming fog.
Tina rolled over to reach the cooler side of the bed. That brought only fleeting relief, for she had barely touched the sheet before it heated up and stuck to her exactly like the damp sheet on the other side of the bed.
“Damn,” she cursed, and swung her legs out of the bed. She stood up.
With a hesitant step she crossed to the window. No cooling breeze. The air was as still as it would be in a closed room, although all the windows and doors in the apartment were wide open.
She studied the sky. Full moon. The bright disk threw so much light inside that the bed gleamed whitely. And she could see every blade of grass in the garden.
A cat strolled self-confidently across the meadow on its way to or from somewhere.
Tina made a faint noise as she shifted from one foot to the other.
The cat stood still and looked up at her – not frightened, and not apprehensive. Rather, slightly surprised. What? You see me?, her glance seemed to say.
Tina had to smile. “Yes, I see you,” she said aloud. “There’s a full moon.”
The cat continued to stare at Tina, and then it turned its gaze away as if it wanted to shake its head. It continued on its way as quietly as it had come.
Now I’m talking to a strange cat that’s sneaking through the garden, Tina thought. I must not be all there.
She sighed. Once again on this day, in this night, she made her way to the shower. It was the only thing that helped – even if only for the short term.
She turned on the faucet. The water poured out lukewarm, and only turned cold after a while. Tina stood under the shower for a couple of minutes, until she felt the relief of being cold, then turned the water off.
Sighing, she skipped any contact with a towel and went back into the bedroom, dripping wet. How was she supposed to survive this night?
All at once music drifted softly through the window. Oh, right, the summer party on the Rhine banks. That was today, after all.
She took a deep breath. She couldn’t sleep anyway, so why not go? Maybe it would be a little cooler on the Rhine.
Absent-mindedly, she reached for her brassiere and put it on. Even as she was fastening it, it occurred to her that as little as this piece of clothing was, it was still too much. She looked for a thong in her wardrobe. That at least would work. Not too much material.
A light summer dress that she finally let slip over her body as the last thing flowed softly around her, but felt to her almost like armor. She would have liked best to have been able to go out naked.
When she was finished, she studied herself in the mirror. Sweat gleamed on her upper lip. She washed her face and powdered it in the hope that the shine wouldn’t return too quickly.
She took her purse and slipped into her lightest sandals.
That would be enough for the fifteen-minute trip to the Rhine.
When she came to the wide meadows, she was surprised to see so many people – who apparently couldn’t find any sleep at home either. It was a summer party still in full swing, even though it was long past midnight. She went over to a booth for drinks. “A Coke, please,” she said to the man who was busy drawing a beer.
“Just a moment.” He was taking his time, not letting anything rush him.
“Hey, the young lady is thirsty! Could you put some steam in it?”
Tina turned towards the voice, which had come out of nowhere.
“Okay, I’m on it,” the man growled. He left the beer where it stood and opened the fridge.
“Thanks,” Tina said, and with some curiosity studied the woman who was standing behind her. “But there’s no need for any more steam. I think it’s humid enough already.”
“Oh, well.” The other woman shrugged her shoulders. “That’s exactly why you need something cold to drink, isn’t it?” She reached for the can of Coke, which the man had left on the counter. “I’ll pay for that,” she said to the man, “and now you can finish my beer.”
He threw a hostile look at her and returned to the tap.
“My name is Mar,” said the brunette. “Actually, Martina, but I skip the Tina.” She laughed. “I am –,” Tina smiled, amused, “Tina.”
“No way!” The woman who called herself Mar stared at her.
“Yes!” Tina was still smiling. “And I didn’t even have to shorten it. I was christened that way.”
“Are you . . .” Mar discreetly looked around, “alone here?”
“Yes.” Tina’s smile turned into a smirk. “Completely alone.”
“I know, I’m nosy.” Mar smiled. “I apologize.”
“No problem.” Tina took a drink of her cola. “People have to be able to get to know each other somehow.”
“That’s true.” Mar observed Tina with marked interest. “You don’t have any objections to getting to know me?”
“I like direct women.” The corners of Tina’s mouth twitched.
Mar lifted her hand and gently stroked Tina’s cheek with it. “Do you know that you’re incredibly beautiful?”
“Not the newest come-on line, is it?” Mar laughed. “You’re absolutely right.” She once again stroked Tina’s cheek. “And in spite of that, I still think you’re amazingly beautiful. I can’t change that.”
“Thanks. Even if it’s not original, it’s still good to hear.”
Mar picked up her beer and took a drink. “I was just about ready to go home. Only wanted to have a beer and then – there’s somehow not much going on here.”
“Couples,” Tina remarked, and let her gaze wander across the meadow. “It’s all just couples.”
“Exactly,” nodded Mar. “Couples or groups of friends. No lonely women looking for a connection.” She winked slyly. “Until you showed up.”
“How do you know that I’m looking for a connection?” Tina emptied her cola and put the can back on the counter.
“Oh, I wasn’t making any assumptions about you,” Mar lifted her hands in a gesture of disavowal. “Of course, you could be waiting for someone, or you might belong to one of those groups of friends down there.” She looked towards the Rhine. “Obviously, though, I didn’t want to exclude the possibility.”
“Feel free,” Tina said. “But that still doesn’t mean that I didn’t simply want to take a walk to escape the heat in my apartment. After all, that’s the way it was.”
“You live around here?” Mar asked.
Tina nodded. “I heard the music through my bedroom window. And since I couldn’t sleep anyway, I decided to come down to the Rhine in search of a little coolness.”
Mar studied her for a bit. “May I accompany you – on your search? Do we want head towards the water? I think it’s most pleasant on the shore.”
“Probably,” said Tina. “But the nicest places are guaranteed to be occupied by couples making out.”
“We’ll just toss them in the river.” whispered Mar with eyes that flashed daringly. “They won’t even notice, in their condition.”
Tina laughed. “I would notice it – definitely.”
“But you’re not making out right now,” said Mar. “So no danger.”
Tina became serious. “No, I’m not making out right now,” she said. She turned around. “Let’s go.”
They strolled along the shore and remained standing there for a while, watching the stars in the sky and the moon, a foot and a half apart from each other, each lost in her own thoughts.
“Isn’t it wonderful, how the moon reflects in the water?” Mar asked once, softly. “I’m not romantic, but it has a magical power that always fascinates me.”
“I believe I’ve rarely been near the water during a full moon,” said Tina, almost dreamily. “I think it’s really enchanting. Like escaping into a different world.”
“The lower world.” Mar laughed softly. “If you were in the water, there, where the moon’s reflection is now, you’d sink. And it’s very deep there.”
“And all the while the water looks as if you could just walk on it,” replied Tina, still lost in herself. “Without sinking. As if the surface really were a mirror that would hold you up.”
“You apparently have a powerful imagination,” said Mar. She regarded Tina’s profile, with her skin that glowed like marble in the moonlight. Although Mar claimed not to be especially romantic, she seemed to be feeling a bit out of character at the moment. There was something about Tina that positively demanded romance. “That . . .” she cleared her throat, “I like that. You have to understand that I have almost none.”
“No romance, no imagination. Isn’t that a little boring?” Tina smiled and looked across at Mar.
“It certainly is,” Mar took a step towards her. “That’s why it’s so important that there are women like you. They make up for it.” She remained standing in front of Tina and watched her, studying her face questioningly. “Would you like something else to drink?” she asked, although it was clear to both of them that that wasn’t the question she really wanted to ask.
“No,” answered Tina, who was watching Mar’s face as intently as Mar was watching her, seeking her eyes. “Thanks.”
Mar waited a moment, to see whether Tina would say something else or offer some sign, or go away, leave, but she didn’t. She just looked at Mar unblinkingly, as if she were waiting for something. Mar stretched her hand out to Tina, touched her lightly, still waiting to see if Tina would turn away. Tina’s focus now was only on the moon and the water, as it had been before.
Mar felt an uncertainty that was strange to her. What was it about this woman? She couldn’t be entirely positive if Tina really wanted the same things that Mar did, even though it seemed to be rather clear.
She couldn’t make a decision so easily. “Tina?” she asked into the gentle stillness. “May I kiss you?”
As if in answer, a soft wave washed over the shore, hissing like gentle rain over the glistening stones, before its drops dispersed between them.
Tina’s face seemed impassive in the bright moonlight as she said, “If you want.”
Mar studied this emotionless, so distant-seeming face anew for a long second. What thoughts might be hiding behind that beautiful forehead? It was impossible to find out.
“I certainly want to, ever since I saw you approaching on the shore,” she replied with a smile. Mar took the last step to Tina and took her in her arms. Her lips sought Tina’s mouth hesitantly, glided over velvet skin, caressed Tina’s lips until they gently opened.
Tina closed her eyes and enjoyed Mar’s lips on hers, the tongue that teased her so gently. It had been a long time since she’d been kissed that gently. Mar had at first made rather a roughneck impression, but she could kiss, no doubt about it.
Tina surrendered completely to this kiss without any further thought. This evening, this night, was going completely contrary to plan, as so often happened, with plans proving themselves to be senseless.
“Shall we go to your place?” asked Mar after a while, whispering into her mouth. “It’s closer than mine.” She ran her hand over Tina’s bottom, over her midriff up to her breasts. Tina felt the tingling that Mar’s touch released in her. “Yuk,” she said. “In this heat?”
Mar laughed lightly. “You think it’s too hot for sex?”
“Earlier I was stuck to my sheets,” said Tina. “Now what do you think it will be like if we –?”
“We’ll stick to each other,” Mar whispered hoarsely into Tina’s ear. She felt her excitement mounting. Tina’s body on hers left her no other choice. “I can’t imagine anything lovelier.”
“I can,” said Tina.
Mar grinned. “We can lay a towel between us.” She looked at Tina and raised her eyebrows. “Or is that just your way of saying you don’t want to? I’ll accept that, no problem.”
“I . . .” Tina hesitated. “I . . . certainly want to,” she said. The warmth of Mar’s body was almost more than she could bear in this humid heat, and in spite of that – she wanted to be even closer to her. It was something in Mar’s eyes, in her voice, that attracted her, and that she didn’t want to lose it again so quickly.
“It’s bound to be cooler in the water,” said Mar, quickly pulling her T-shirt over her head and her shorts down over her legs, and jumping into the river. “Come on. It’s really pleasant,” she called. She stood half-way in the water and looked back to Tina on the shore.
Tina considered jumping in, and was quickly convinced by the heat. She followed Mar’s example and jumped in after her, naked.
“Now we can’t stick together,” whispered Mar, taking her into her arms and kissing her with increasing passion.
Tina felt relief for the first time that day.
The river took the heat from them, even if it was too warm to really provide cooling. Mar’s hands slid lightly over Tina’s body, more lightly than they would have been able to do on land, where there wasn’t water to help them slip over her body.
They were gentle hands, tender hands, knowledgeable hands, that wanted not too much and not too little. They touched Tina’s breasts, lifted them, weighed them in the lightness of the water, glided to the nipples and caressed them.
Tina moaned. Her nipples stiffened more.
“Lovely,” whispered Mar, as the she sensed the stiffening. She kissed Tina anew and massaged both nipples at the same time with the palms of her hands, until Tina sighed. Then she let one hand glide down to between Tina’s legs.
Tina opened her thighs for Mar, who quickly slipped between them and sought the entrance in the wet thicket.
“Is that the river, or is it you?” whispered Mar, as she spread Tina’s labia with a finger. Tina moaned softly and held fast to Mar’s shoulders, to avoid being carried away by the water.
“It’s you,” Mar laughed lightly.
“I hoped so.” Her lips sought Tina’s, while her fingers slowly penetrated her and began their delicate play.
Heightened by Mar’s tongue in her mouth, the fingers inside of her made Tina sigh anew. Now she was cooled off on the outside, but from within the heat became more and more unbearable. She was burning from the tip of the tongue’s glowing track down to her abdomen. “Yes . . .” she whispered.
“Yes . . .” Mar roughly joined in. “Yes, come. I want to see you come.”
Tina’s nipples lifted themselves even higher, raising a small wake in the water.
Mar bent down and kissed them, one after the other, took them in her mouth, and caused hot shivers to race through Tina’s body.
Suddenly, Mar straightened up and looked at her. She gathered a deep breath and then dived quickly between Tina’s legs.
“Oh my God . . .” Tina whispered.
Mar’s tongue penetrated her, her hands pushing Tina’s thighs farther apart.
Tina lost her balance. Desperately, she tried to hang on to Mar’s shoulders, but failed in the slipperiness and the wetness. She fell over.
Mar surfaced, puffing and laughing. “A little too acrobatic, hm?” She put her hand out to Tina. “Come on.”
Tina took her hand and got to her feet again. “Yes,” she said, “I shouldn’t have given up my ballet lessons so soon.” The corners of her mouth twitched.
Mar looked around. “You know what?” she said. “Back there there’s a tree in the water that you could lean on. If you want.” She gave her a questioning look.
Tina’s forehead wrinkled rather comically. “Maybe I should have told you before, but I prefer the simple method.”
The corners of Mar’s mouth twitched. “Maybe not after this,” she said. Once again she put her hand out to Tina. Tina took it, and Mar pulled her close. “You’re incredibly sweet,” she whispered.
Her lips devoured Tina’s mouth, her passion almost choking her, Tina felt her excitement return, even after the fall into the water had cooled her down both inside and out.
Now her nipples stiffened again. But between her legs the water was cold. The heat that flooded from inside her came into contact with the much lower river temperature. She almost expected the water to start steaming at their confluence.
She followed Mar to the tree. Mar leaned against it and kissed her once again so deeply and wildly that Tina panted as she let go.
“Second try,” Mar grinned, as she jumped up and dived below.
Once again, she pushed Tina’s thighs apart, but this time Tina was supported by the tree, and so she remained standing, or rather, a combination of standing and floating in the water.
Tina reached for a branch and held on. More and more, she lost contact with the ground. Mar put her legs over her shoulders, and her tongue penetrated deep into Tina, moving inside her.
“Oh God . . .” Tina leaned her head back against the trunk, closed her eyes, enjoyed her weightlessness in the water, and let her legs float.
Mar surfaced briefly and gasped for air, immediately disappearing again beneath the water’s surface.
Tina sensed Mar’s hot mouth between her legs and the cold water around her. She briefly contemplated the disparity, but when Mar gasped for air the next time and penetrated her again, Tina couldn’t keep it up. The water’s temperature escaped her conscious thought; there was only one temperature that concerned her. She produced a load moan.
The beat of Mar’s tongue between her legs became faster and faster. Tina’s hips trembled rapidly in the water, her body on fire, tense, poised to release. She cried out.
Mar resurfaced. Hardly was she back before she enclosed Tina’s mouth in hers and pushed her finger into her. “Yes, you’re ready,” she growled hoarsely. “Come . . . come . . .”
Tina could barely breathe, so tightly did Mar enclose her mouth, twitching her tongue through the cave of Tina’s mouth down to her throat. Mar’s fingers pushed and pushed deeper and harder between her thighs.
Tina tried to push Mar away from her. “Let . . . me . . . breathe . . . please . . .” she panted when she could finally manage.
Mar let her go and again dived between her legs, continuing to push and even heightening the tension with her tongue on Tina’s pearl.
Even without Mar’s mouth on hers, Tina barely got any air. She reached behind and over her head with her free hand and tried to hold on to the branch. “Oh God . . . what are you doing?” she whispered weakly.
Her entire body was aflame, her stone-hard nipples aching with every touch. She sank into the water, and Mar lifted her again with another push. She had the feeling that her thighs were splitting in the water to a spread unbelievably wider than anything she could have done on land.
Finally she felt the soft waves of the river uniting with the much more forceful waves within her, lifting her up, possessing her, raging through her and away, flooding her with a hot surf.
“Hang on!” Mar laughed and held on to her, so that she didn’t sink into the water.
Tina panted in her arms, lay on the surface of the water, was too exhausted to hold herself there on her own.
“Don’t you drown on me,” Mar grinned. “That wasn’t the point of the exercise.” She breathed a kiss onto Tina’s lips, while she supported her back to keep her from sinking.
“That was a . . .” Tina gasped for air, “very strenuous exercise.”
“I know.” Mar regarded her with a smile. “But did you enjoy it at least a little?”
Tina puckered her lips. “No, not at all.”
“Good. Then we’ll stop,” Mar grinned. “I don’t want to torture you.”
Tina felt her strength returning. She made a move to stand up in the water. Mar supported her as she did so, obviously worried that she was still too weak to stand alone. “I can’t make the same claim myself,” Tina replied defiantly. Her hand slid between Mar’s legs. “I’d love to torture you a little.”
Mar groaned softly. “I won’t defend myself,” she whispered.
Hours later the lay next to each other on the meadow in the mild summer night, quite alone in the meantime, so that their nakedness wouldn’t disturb anyone. “I think the sun will be rising soon,” said Mar.
“Yes,” Tina sighed. “My desk awaits me. In three hours or so.”
“Will you really get along with so little sleep?” Mar asked.
“I’ll have to,” Tina laughed. “Fortunately it doesn’t happen too often.”
“Oh, really?” Mar’s eyebrows shot up in interest.
“Yes, really.” Tina stood up. She looked around for the pieces of her clothing and went after them.
Mar held herself up on her elbows and watched her. “Tina?” Her voice sounded soft, and was carried to her in the night’s stillness, as if on gentle wings.
“Yes?” Tina turned around briefly, and then slipped into her thong and her bra .
“I thought it was very beautiful,” Mar continued tranquilly.
Tina let the dress fall over her shoulders. “I did, too,” she said.
Mar regarded her thoughtfully. She was experiencing a very odd feeling, of Tina being so far away that Mar could no longer touch her. All at once, it was as if a wall stood between them. And yet, all at once, everything seemed perfectly clear. “We won’t see each other again, will we?”
Tina hesitated. “No,” she said.
Mar lay back and stared into the velvet sky. “It’s probably better that way. I don’t have much time, so that . . . well . . . it suits me fine.”
“Yes, time . . .” Tina hesitated again, “is a problem.”
“Neither one of us was expecting anything more than a . . .” Mar laughed lightly, “hot night – and I’d say we had one, I think.” She returned her gaze to Tina.
Tina puckered her lips. “In more ways than one, yes.”
“Yes,” Mar looked at Tina standing there, completely dressed, while she herself still lay naked in the grass. “I’d like – ” she got up and went to Tina. “I’d like to kiss you again,” she said softly. “For goodbye.”
“Yes,” Tina looked at her calmly. “For goodbye.”
Mar pulled her to herself, sought her lips and kissed her tenderly. More gently than she had done all night. Without passion, only with a loving devotion.
Tina returned the kiss just as gently, and as their lips separated, she lay her head on Mar’s breast. She took a deep breath. “Thanks,” she said softly.
They stood like that for a moment, then Tina straightened up, looked at Mar once again, turned around and walked away.
Mar watched her go, saw the dress swirling around her like the gossamer wings of an enchanted dragonfly, and had the feeling that she’d just been left by an angel.
“I wouldn’t go that far.” Genevieve Muillot shook her head “no” energetically.
“Wouldn’t you, my little . . . chouchou?” Roland, her friend and business partner, tickled her playfully under her chin and grinned at her.
“Stop it!” She struck his hand away. “You know how much I hate it when you call me that.”
“What can I do about it if you French women are small and delicate?” he asked teasingly. “That just happens to be a fact of life.”
“Body size plays no role.” She studied him from head to foot and pushed her hands against her hips. “As I can see from your example . . .”
“Now now . . .” he grinned even more broadly. He obviously didn’t take her seriously. “There have been situations where you realized that size did play a role.”
“That was a long time ago.”
“For whatever reason,” Roland said. “What objection can there be to a couple of little games in bed? You didn’t want any more than that from me, nor I from you. We were in wonderful agreement.” He tilted his head and looked at her. “Or didn’t you tell me the truth? Did you actually want more?”
Genevieve wrinkled her forehead in irritation. “What gives you that idea?”
“Oh, with women . . .” Roland slid off her desk, where he’d been sitting, “one never knows. You’re born liars. You say one thing and mean something completely different, that’s your game. Or you say nothing at all and expect men to read your minds.” He grinned. “Were you waiting for a proposal of marriage, perhaps?”
“Marriage?” Genevieve threw back her head and laughed. “Have you lost your mind?”
“Well, it could be that someone who can see through your feminine lies better has beat me to it. And that’s the reason you’ve broken off with me.”
“You or any man . . . it’s all the same,” said Genevieve, allowing her gaze to glide over the files on her desk. “I never wanted to get married, and I don’t want,” she threw a quick glance at him, “to be tied down. Each of us should do exactly as we pleases. That’s my motto.”
“Then we could also –” he made a clear gesture.
She raised her eyebrows. “That doesn’t mean by a long shot that I’m going to do anything I don’t want to do. And you, my dear,” she smiled sweetly, “have begun to bore me. That’s the worst thing that a man . . . or anyone . . . could do. If there’s anything I hate, it’s boredom.”
“Ah, that’s why you make changes so often,” Roland grinned. “Therapy, so to speak.”
“Think whatever you want.” Genevieve shrugged her shoulders, “The matter is closed for me. And I am not in the habit of warming up old lovers. That’s even more boring than the first time around.”
The telephone rang, and Genevieve pulled off one of her large earring clips so she could hold the receiver against her ear. “Yes?” Her irritated expression didn’t change. “Oh, it’s you.”
“Am I disturbing you?” asked Tina on the other end, who recognized this tone of voice from Genevieve only too well.
“Yes . . . no, of course not.” Genevieve caught herself, modified her statement and sat down behind her desk. Silently, she threw a stern parting look at Roland.
He smiled suggestively and left her office.
“What do you want?” Genevieve’s voice didn’t become one bit friendlier.
“I’m sorry,” Tina excused herself, although she didn’t know what for. But Genevieve’s moods often made it advisable to soften her up, even if the reason for her displeasure was not because of anything she’d done herself. “Actually, I just wanted to know . . . Will we be seeing each other today? For lunch?”
“Did we have an appointment?” Genevieve drew her eyebrows together.
“Yes,” Tina repressed a sigh, “we did.” As happened so often, Genevieve had probably forgotten it. “But if you’re not able . . .”
“I’ll . . .” Genevieve puckered her lips, “give it some thought. It may be that I have some time. But I can’t promise anything.”
“Vivi . . .” Tina’s voice sounded longingly. “Please . . . I’d really so love to, can’t you come?”
The corners of Genevieve’s mouth curved in satisfaction. She loved to be begged, enjoying the power of deciding. “I said yes, I’ll think about it. You really can’t expect anything more from me than that.” Her French accent didn’t make the aggravated tone any milder.
“I’m not demanding anything of you.” Tina retreated in resignation. There was no point in trying to pressure Genevieve into anything. She’d already learned that much, and it had been anything but pleasant. “I’ll wait for you,” she continued as evenly as possible, “at the usual time at the usual place.”
“Good.” Genevieve hung up without saying goodbye.
Sitting behind her office desk, Tina leaned away from her PC. She didn’t know if Genevieve would be coming, or when she’d see her again if she didn’t make their appointment. Genevieve was the only one who made that decision. Each time Tina could only hope that the mood wouldn’t last for weeks, but perhaps only for a day at a time.
“Special delivery!” One of her colleagues steered towards her beamingly with a plate full of cake. “Baked today especially for my birthday. I’m not taking ‘no’ for an answer!” She laughed and put the plate on Tina’s desk.
Tina groaned. “When am I supposed to eat all of that, Mechthild?”
“You’re too skinny anyway,” Mechthild answered sassily. “It wouldn’t hurt you to put a little meat on your ribs.” That Mechthild had too little on her ribs was something that no one would ever say; she was extremely plump. But it didn’t bother her a bit. She just loved to bake – and then of course the cake had to be eaten.
Tina smirked. “If you say so. But at the moment I really don’t have an appetite. Maybe this afternoon, for coffee.” She’d lost her appetite during her conversation with Genevieve. Genevieve often made her choke. And in spite of that, she loved her; there was nothing she could do about it. No matter what Genevieve did, she longed for her, and each long-hoped-for meeting was like a gift.
When Genevieve and Tina first got to know each other, it didn’t look like they would ever become a couple. Genevieve had a man in tow who seemed more like her lapdog, and who plainly belonged to her. And when the two of them went off together, Tina didn’t make the assumption that it was to have a cup of coffee.
Tina had first observed Genevieve at an art gallery opening, to which Tina had been invited by a fleeting acquaintance who then didn’t put in an appearance. She didn’t believe that Genevieve had noticed her in the least that evening. Tina thought of herself as too insignificant for that.
Mar hadn’t been the first one who had assured her that she was pretty, but Tina didn’t believe it. Often she even thought that people just wanted to make fun of her.
The evening in the art gallery went as always: she came alone and she left alone – in contrast to Genevieve, who never seemed to be alone. Not only did her companion stick to her like glue, but plenty of other guests at the exhibition’s opening greeted her, seemed to know her, and were apparently fascinated by her presence.
Genevieve exuded self-confidence. An aura of success surrounded her and, yes . . . beauty as well. She wore an evening dress that offered some stunning views. And in her glamour, she seemed considerably more statuesque than she was. Tina was amazed when she ran into her in the hall outside the ladies room and noticed that Genevieve was smaller than she was.
A couple of days later, Tina went shopping at a boutique because she needed a new blouse for work, and she was astonished when Genevieve suddenly popped out of the background. She would never have thought that the place was in Genevieve’s price range.
“You were at the vernissage on Saturday.” Genevieve smiled at her, and that smile seemed to pull the rug out from under Tina’s feet. She almost fell over, she felt so dizzy. Genevieve’s smile changed slightly. She had noticed Tina’s reaction. “Did you enjoy yourself?” she continued.
“Y-yes,” Tina heard herself stutter, as if she were a teenager. She would have liked nothing better than to support herself by grabbing on to one of the racks that the blouses were hung on.
“The pictures weren’t exactly le dernier cri, were they?” asked Genevieve, and her French accent was accentuated even further as she used the French expression.
“I . . . I . . . liked them,” Tina stuttered. “I like objective art more than abstract.”
Genevieve’s lips puckered in a way that Tina could not interpret. “You are a down-to-earth person,” she said.
“Prob- . . . probably,” Tina took a deep breath. “And I was also under the impression that this was a down-to-earth boutique. But apparently I was mistaken.” She wanted to turn to leave.
“No, no.” Genevieve’s warm, soft hand on her arm held Tina back. “That is the way it is. I have various boutiques, and this one is definitely . . .” she smiled indefinably, ‘down-to-earth.’”
“The boutique belongs to you?” Tina almost stumbled. It wasn’t the fact that Genevieve was the owner of a boutique that threw her off balance, but rather Genevieve’s scent, which seemed positively to envelop Tina, taking her breath away.
“Like it says over the door,” smiled Genevieve. “Genevieve’s.”
Tina hadn’t known Genevieve’s name until then; they hadn’t been introduced.
“Aha,” Tina swallowed. “Yes, I know that there are several of those.”
“Not only here, either,” said Genevieve. “I am represented in all the larger cities.” Her voice rang with the type of pride that bordered on complacency. “Have you found anything that you like?” she asked graciously. Apparently she could also be an accomplished saleswoman – when she wanted.
“I . . .” Tina looked around in slight confusion. “I haven’t gotten around to that yet.”
Genevieve took two steps and reached for a hanger on a stand, removing a blouse from the rack. “This would certainly suit you,” she noted with a professional look at Tina, and held the blouse slightly up at a distance to better judge the effect. “Yes, definitely.”
She came over to Tina, but didn’t give her the blouse. She made straight for the changing room. “Just come on in and try it on.”
“Oh . . . uh . . . one of your salesladies could –” Tina stammered.
“No, no, I prefer to do it myself,” Genevieve smiled mysteriously.
Tina felt more than confused, but she followed Genevieve as if she had no other choice. In the changing room, Genevieve closed the curtain and handed the blouse to Tina, “I really think it was made for you,” she added, smiling.
Tina felt odd, with this strange woman in the room, but she gave herself a push. After all, it was quite normal for a saleslady to advise a customer, possibly even in the changing room. Only Genevieve was no saleslady . . .
Tina undid the buttons on her blouse, took it off, reached for the blouse that Genevieve still held ready for her, and noticed that Genevieve’s gaze was focused on her bra – or rather on what was resting inside it.
In that moment, as Tina took the blouse from Genevieve, Genevieve reached for her, pushed her into a corner, and kissed her naked shoulder.
Tina was breathless. She had never experienced anything like this. Certainly not from a woman she didn’t even know and who she’d assumed was straight. “Genevieve . . .” she whispered. Even her name sounded like music.
“Oui, ma chérie . . .?” Genevieve’s voice clearly sounded aroused.
“I . . . I . . . Genevieve . . . this can’t be happening . . .” Tina imagined that at any moment the curtain would open and the saleslady would ask her if she had any further wishes. But maybe she knew her employer and knew that she was already engaged in satisfying all her wishes.
“Are you okay with it?” Now Genevieve’s accent was so strong that it sounded as if she were using it intentionally to sound more harmless, even cute.
“Certainly not here,” Tina whispered. “Please . . .” Hot needles shot through her veins. It was difficult for her to speak.
“Why not ’ere?” The “h” was, as one would expect with a Frenchwoman, entirely missing. Genevieve looked up at Tina in blue-eyed innocence – except that her eyes weren’t blue – as if she couldn’t in the least imagine what Tina was objecting to.
“Genevieve . . . I . . . don’t you understand . . .” Tina tried to push back her raging emotions. “Can’t we go someplace else? To your place? To my place?” She was breathing hard.
“Why?” Genevieve feigned innocence as her fingers explored between Tina’s legs in a manner that was not at all innocent.
She seduced Tina in the changing room.
That was the start of their relationship.
Tina thoughts returned to the present. Since then, nothing much had changed in their relationship. Genevieve made the decisions and Tina mostly did what Genevieve expected of her, no matter how hard it was.
Genevieve was an extremely dominant woman, in private and in business; that was part of her success. That, coupled with her attractive appearance, often misled her negotiating partners. A petite, sweet Frenchwoman with an enchanting accent could not possibly be, after all, such a hard-nosed businesswoman. Except that she could.
“Are you coming with us to eat?” Mechthild decisively ripped Tina out of her reverie. “We’re going to the cafeteria.”
“N-no,” Tina shook her head. “I’m going into town, I have – I’m going shopping.”
“Well, okay.” Mechthild gave a small wave of her hand. “Then see you later. And don’t forget the cake!” She laughed and strolled to the elevator with the others who had decided to eat together in the cafeteria.
Tina slowly stood up. She didn’t know if Genevieve would be there . . . in the restaurant in which they’d decided to meet. Whether she would come at all. But she herself would be there, that she knew.
She couldn’t do anything about it. It was like an addiction. In the beginning she’d tried to resist, had tried to cancel appointments, or simply not to show up . . . but ultimately she’d simply surrendered to her fate. It was hopeless. Genevieve filled her body and soul, and she couldn’t conceive of any other way anymore . . . of anyone else. It was an obsession, and she felt completely helpless, as if someone were pulling the strings, as if she no longer had a will of her own. Her entire life consisted of Genevieve, whether she was present or not.
Sighing, she pulled open the drawer, took out her purse and left the office.
“Oh, excuse me,” Tina said. Completely lost in her thoughts, she’d run into someone.
“Really, can’t you –?” an aggravated voice began, and then fell silent. “Tina?”
Tina looked up. She’d paid no attention to the person she’d run into. “Mar?” she asked in astonishment. She looked at Mar from top to bottom. “You . . . is it really you? You look so different.”
“Unfortunately, no one would take me seriously in a t-shirt and shorts,” Mar laughed. “This type of suit makes a much more serious impression.”
“Oh . . . yes,” Tina stammered. “Really serious.”
“Are you disappointed?’ Mar watched her. “Did you like me better in shorts?” She laughed again.
“I . . . no, of course not,” said Tina. “You look very good. It suits you.”
“Thanks,” said Mar. Her glance took Tina in as if by chance. She hesitated a moment. “You look very good, too.” She seemed to pull herself together and continued, “What are you doing right now?”
“Going shopping?” They’d met in the middle of the crowd at the farmers’ market. “No, actually . . . I’m on my way back to work,” said Tina. Genevieve hadn’t come. Tina had waited for her in the restaurant for her entire lunch break, and tried to call her, but Genevieve hadn’t picked up. Not for the first time.
Finally, Tina was forced to admit that there was no point in waiting. She had to go back to the firm – and now this. She’d run into Mar.
“Have you got five minutes?” Mar asked. “For a coffee?” She looked around as if she were already searching for a cafe.
“N-no, my lunch break is over,” answered Tina hesitantly. “I’m way more than five minutes late, as it is.”
“What a shame.” Mar obviously regretted it. She looked at Tina. “Would you . . . would you perhaps be willing to take a different time into consideration?”
“Into consideration?” Tina had to smile.
“Sorry,” Mar laughed lightly. “I’ve just got out of court. It’s affected my language somewhat. I’m a lawyer,” she added, in answer to the questioning expression on Tina’s face.
“A lawyer.” Tina looked at Mar in astonishment. “I wouldn’t have thought that.”
“Yes, it’s regrettable. In the meadow I didn’t have any business cards with me,” Mar smiled. “But then, I wouldn’t have had anything to carry them in.”
“Hardly a thing.” Tina suddenly had to laugh, as she thought of Mar naked in the meadow. Why did she feel so light and free all of a sudden? Just a moment ago she’d been so depressed.
“I see that you remember,” laughed Mar.
Tina tried to pull herself together. The thought of the lovely hours with Mar in the Rhine meadows really wasn’t the thing that she needed right now. She’d felt lonely, Genevieve had once again dumped her, and it had just happened. But it had no meaning. None at all.
Her body had felt attracted to Mar, reacted to her touch and enjoyed it, but her soul was occupied territory. She hadn’t gotten the feeling that Mar was interested in love, and that was a good thing, because she had none that she could have given her.
“I had almost forgotten,” she replied, lost in thought.
“Too bad,” said Mar. “I found it very beautiful, and I like to think of it now and again.”
“I . . . I’m sorry, Mar.” Tina turned around, but then it occurred to her that she would be going in the wrong direction, so she turned back to Mar again, gave a short glance at her and walked past her. Mar followed her with a couple of seconds’ delay, and caught up with her. “What’s wrong?” she asked.
“Nothing.” Tina briefly looked up at her, and then straight ahead along the pedestrian zone, at the path that was supposed to take her back to the office.
“You’re not OK,” Mar decided. “Or is it because of me that you’re so uncomfortable?”
“I’m not . . . uncomfortable,” Tina answered, irritated. How was her level of comfort any of Mar’s business?
“I disagree,” said Mar. “I mean, I don’t think that I’m the reason for that. Even if you actually didn’t want to see me again.”
“No, I didn’t.” Tina stood still and glared angrily at Mar. “Why don’t you leave me alone?” She remembered the feeling as they had kissed goodbye, as she had lay on Mar’s chest and had simply felt good. She hadn’t had that feeling in a long time, but Mar was not the woman she wanted to have that feeling with. She didn’t love Mar, and it was wrong to feel so good with someone you didn’t love. “I’ve already told you, I don’t want to see you again, and that’s the way it is,” she continued in irritation. “This meeting was just a silly coincidence, and we should forget about it as soon as possible.” She continued quickly on her way.
“I haven’t forgotten you since the meadows.” Mar overtook her with ease and stayed beside her. “You left a very deep impression on me. Why –” she hesitated. “Why did you do it?”
“What? Leave an impression?’ Tina broke into a dry laugh as she tried to walk even faster, but Mar was taller than she was and had longer legs. Tina would have had to run to get away from her. And even then . . . Mar seemed in good shape, she could still remember that very well.
“You know what I mean,” said Mar. “I asked you if I could kiss you. You only had to say no, and then nothing would have happened.” She took a deep breath. “If you dislike remembering it so much now. That must mean that you actually didn’t want to do all that.”
“You must be a good lawyer,” Tina replied bitingly. “Your cross-examination tactics show excellent skills.”
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