“Where are you taking me, Eli?” She spreads around her the perfect gown it took them the whole afternoon to find combing designers’ boutiques at the Croisette.
“Do you think we could keep the Lamborghini a little longer, Eli?”
“It depends on your tonight’s achievements, sweetie. As glamorous as you are it must be a colossal success! A propos, how good is your Russian?”
“Can’t be better; we had it as the second language at school and I not only excelled in it but was Comrade Antonov’s special pet. Why do you ask, Eli? You don’t intend to sell me to some Russian Mafioso, do you?”
“Some isn’t the right word, Magda! Boris Dunaev is an oligarch with a super villa at Cap d’Antibes. His garage is crammed with designer cars, the latest models as the vintage ones; he has a yacht docked in front of his villa and…”
“Shall we get there some dinner? I am starved and a couple of cocktail tidbits will hardly fill me up!” She interrupts unmannerly his praise of her new client.
“But of course, Magda, we are officially invited to Dunaev’s birthday dinner. I wonder how Alex could succeed! You can eat your fill. Russians swear on bouncy women, so no need to get starved; the very moment Dunaev sinks his hands into your voluptuous love handles the battle is won!”
“Do you know, by any chance, how many birthdays he has celebrated as yet?”
“Not your worry, Magda, First, with you even a Methuselah would become a starry-eyed youngster, secondly, don’t forget you are on a job and not at a pleasure party.”
“I’ll do my best, Eli!”
She rolls the window down and lets the sea breeze flood the car. The night life of Juan les Pins with its fun seeking crowd of Arabs descending from their surrounding heights above the sea mingle with the tourists going for the low prices before the start of the season. Eli bangs the window shut.
“Are you asking for trouble inviting these riff raffs to steal your pocket book and snatch your jewels from your neck? Only recently there was a raid at the “Jean Marais Open-Air Theatre” at Golf Juan. The audience was stripped of all their belongings before the police made an appearance, so watch your step and don’t forget that your jewels are on loan and the insurance won’t cover any goods stolen from an open car window.”
“If you say so, Eli!” She retires to her corner with a sigh.
The night is magnificent. The full moon on the French Riviera rivals with the magic of Hollywood movies. Elijah takes his full of Magda’s scent that in the closed space of the car has gained all its subversive power. Why not pull the car to the roadside and put Magda in the mood for her job? Yet it won’t do. Alex’s order was explicit: to keep his hands and any other part of his body off Magda.
“Are you all right, Eli?” Magda puts her hand tentatively on his thigh signaling her readiness to take whatever will be offered.
“Stop it, Magda!” He brushes her off with a violence that makes her shudder.
“Stop playing with fire, sweetie, and keep in mind I am just the delivery boy not up to your ambitions!”
She watches him closely, uncertain if she really knows what she wants. He isn’t rich enough, or her type of man, nor even handsome except when she chooses to see him so and for an idle teasing there is neither time nor place. He is a tough guy taking her to a tough place where neither of them really wants to go.
The car is flooded with the moon light catching the breaking wave as it comes nearer and she longs to open the door and run for it becoming again the little girl at the Balaton Sea knowing nothing about the fear of losing desirability nor about the difficulties of complying with the expectations and demands of a potential lover.
At the end of Antibes calm, remote and aristocratic after the hustle of Juan les Pins they leave the coastal road and drive up the winding path through the hushed up silence of the villas, not yet opened for the season, until the very summit ending by a massive metal gate, high and prohibitive like the entrance to a magic castle. Elijah hoots the horn, the gate opens, he flashes their invitation card at the gate, they are checked on the monitor and ushered towards the parking lot.
“You see how right I was to make you rent a Lamborghini? Your battered clunker would look somehow uncouth amidst these shiny motors.”
“Aren’t you always right, sweetie? A propos, let me congratulate you on your gown, it’s amazing! An excellent choice, much better than the one we bought today at the Croisette.”
“Oh that! Alex gave it to me for some future special occasion. It’s a McQueen, not my choice. It feels yucky to put on a creation of a guy weird enough to commit suicide at the height of his fame. You don’t look also half bad in your tax, Eli! Give me your arm and let’s venture into the lion’s den. These Louboutines are killing me. In case I have to put them on frequently I’ll have that famous silicone shot under my heels even if it costs a fortune and doesn’t last long. If Alex wants me sexy let him cough up the money. Let’s hurry, I am starved!”
Wiggling her hips she joins the procession of the other contestants tottering up to the villa dressed in light. The entrance hall, resounding with the chirping of tropical birds, evokes a lush rainbow forest fragrant with perfume of exotic flowers in full bloom. Lighter than air Magda dances into the garden of delight.
“Look, Eli, can you believe that’s real and not a Disney movie?” She points to a butterfly venturing into her cleavage.
She collects a glass of champagne from a tray, dips her finger in and feeds it to her winged swain.
“Poor creature, he was dying for a little treat!”
The butterfly swigs the bubbly down and takes wing like appeased lovers do.
“Males are males; whatever the species!” With a wistful sigh she reaches after another glass.
“You had enough, Magda!”
Elijah stops her hand in flight and leads her up the staircase where the lord of the mansion receives his birthday guests. Elijah puts the gift into her hand and propels her forward.
“Many happy returns of the day!”
Stunned by a searing blow of lightning sweeping her overboard she drops a curtsey to the hazy outlines of a dream who collects the golden wrapped parcel from her hand.
“Thanks for your attention!” He bestows upon her a divine smile and she feels like falling on her knees and swearing him eternal bondage. Somewhere in a dizzy distance Elijah’s hand on her shoulder reminds her to make place for the other guests.
“What’s got into you, Magda? I can’t believe that two glasses of champagne could have that effect on you! Haven’t I seen you drinking like a sailor, and not just wine, and holding it? Are you on drugs?”
“Of course not, Eli: I don’t know what is happening to me. God forbids it’d be that legendary falling in love! “
“Let’s hope not, Magda! It’s the last thing we’d need. Get this clear for once and for all: YOU are the one to use him, not the other way round!”
“Right you are, Eli, let’s hope it is only my hypoglycemia. I would have fainted if you had not held me tight. The best cure for it is a hearty dinner. Do you think we get some soon?”
“Let’s hope so, my dear!”
She leans upon his arm dazed and bewildered, the world turning madly around her. Too many things are happening to her, most of them against her wish. This is hardly how she expected her life to be when leaving Budapest and not a way how to pursue her plan to marry a rich man and live a life of luxury.
“You look strange, Magda. I hope it’s nothing a hearty meal can’t mend. Hear, the gong is calling us to dinner. Let’s hurry up!”