I couldn’t wait to see Maxime although I was still cut up about what happened last night in his flat. We were so close to making love when he suddenly broke off the kiss and pulled back, telling me that he was going to take me home. I couldn’t believe it. I was extremely turned on and he was too but he stopped just as things were getting hot and heavy between us. He said that it wasn’t the right time for us to make love. When was the right time?
Was he waiting until I turned twenty-one which was the age of adulthood? That didn’t make because here in England and in the US, a person is legally an adult at 18. And I’m 20. I can have sex, get married, buy alcohol which I don’t intend to do because I’m not into that. The only thing I can’t do until I’m 21 is to adopt a child.
Then, I remembered what he said about making love in his bed at Brierwell Manor when he had explained why he hadn’t invited me up his hotel suite in New York. He didn’t think that was the proper place for us to make love even though it was a five star hotel. Perhaps he wanted our first time to be in his bedroom at Brierwell Manor. He had sent me photos of it and it was magnificent. It looked like something out of a historic home like Downtown Abbey with its fireplace, antique furniture, two sets of French doors opening onto the balcony overlooking the garden, a chandelier and painting in the ceiling. I couldn’t wait to see it in person and smiled as I imagined him sweeping me off my feet and carrying me over to the bed.
The doorbell rang and I heard voices. Maxime was here. I took a quick look at myself in the mirror to make sure I looked fine and then, I rushed out of my bedroom, anxious to see him. My aunt and he were standing in the foyer talking. They turned when they heard me. My heart skipped a beat when I looked at Maxime and our eyes met. He looked so handsome in the black shirt and black trousers. I wanted to throw myself in his arms but I couldn’t, not with my aunt standing there. I would hug and kiss him in the elevator if we were alone.
“Hello, Maxime,” I greeted him with a big smile, aware that I sounded a little breathless.
He smiled in return. “Hello, Sarifina.”
“Enjoy the ballet,” my aunt said to me.
“Thanks, Aunt Sianeh. I’m sure I will.” I kissed her.
“Goodbye,” she said to Maxime.
We left and walked down the corridor to the bank of elevators. I pressed the button and one arrived almost immediately and it was empty. As soon as we stepped inside and the doors closed behind us. We hugged and kissed before I remembered to press the button for the lobby.
“I’ve been thinking about Swan Lake all day,” I told him when we pulled out of the parking lot and onto the quiet street.
He glanced at me and his eyes twinkled as he inquired, “Was that all you have been thinking about?”
“No. I have been thinking about you too–more than the ballet–more than anything else. I couldn’t wait to see you. I’m going to miss you when you go back to Cornwall.”
“Lets not think about when I leave,” he suggested. “Let’s just look forward to a lovely afternoon and evening together.”
“All right. That’s lovely music. What is it?”
“It’s Saint-Saëns’ The Swan.”
I smiled. “How very appropriate.” It seemed perfect because it was about a swan and we were going to see Swan Lake.
“I thought you might enjoy it.”
“It’s beautiful and relaxing.”
“Yes, it is. It’s one of my favorite pieces. I like to listen to it when I’m relaxing in the study at Brierwell and am reading a book.”
“What’s the composer’s name again?”
“Camille Saint-Saëns. He was a child prodigy on the piano. At the age of 11, he gave his first recital. He was very good friends with Franz Liszt. Saint-Saëns also composed the opera Samson et Dalila which was rejected in Paris, his birthplace.”
“Why was it rejected?”
“I guess because there was a prejudice against biblical characters being portrayed on the stage but it was given in German at Weimar in 1877 on Liszt’s recommendation. It was finally staged in Paris in 1890 at the Théâtre Eden and later became Saint-Saëns’ most popular opera. He dedicated his Symphony No. 3 to the memory of Liszt.”
“I’m happy he did that because Liszt was a good friend and I’m sure he was grateful to him for getting Samson et Dalila to play at Weimar.”
“Yes. I’m sure he was.”
“Have you ever seen the opera?”
“No. But guess what? It’s currently on at the Royal Opera House. We can go and see it next week Sunday afternoon if you like.”
My eyes brightened. “I would love to go,” I said.
“I’ll get the tickets.”
We talked about other things until we arrived at the Royal Opera House. I was dazzled by its opulence my eyes darting everywhere as we were escorted to our seats. Maxime watched me with an indulgent smile on his handsome face. I noticed that a few women had thrown admiring glances in his direction and that made me feel good because he was with me. “This is such a beautiful theater,” I exclaimed.
“The main auditorium seats 2,256 people which makes it the third largest in London.”
As I sat there, looking around at the interior and the people as they filed in, quickly filling the boxes and balcony and the seats around us, I couldn’t help wondering if Maxime and his wife came to this theater. Did they spend much time together at his flat here in London? I wanted to ask him so many questions about her but I didn’t want to come across as nosy. Was she beautiful? Had he been in love with her? Where did they meet and how long after they met did he ask her to marry him? Was it a lavish wedding with hundreds of guests and was the reception at Brierwell Manor?
“What’s going through that lovely mind of yours?” Maxime asked me.
“I’ll tell you when we’re having dinner.”
“All right.” He reached for my hand and held it throughout the first act of the ballet. It felt so good holding hands.
Fifteen minutes later, the lights dimmed and the ballet began. I sat there, staring transfixed at the stage, captivated by the love story of Prince Siegfried who falls in love with Princess Odette who is transformed into a white swan and the evil sorcerer Rothbart who enchants her. “I loved it,” I told Maxime when we were having dinner at Prezzo Restaurant. “The dancing, the music, the costumes, the beautiful sets. It was so amazing. I didn’t want it to end.”
Maxime smiled. “I’m happy that you enjoyed it. It’s one of the most popular ballets of all time, despite its initial failure.”
“I can’t imagine it being a failure at all.”
I was enjoying my generous serving of Penne Arrabbiata. It had a nice kick to it. Maxime seemed to be enjoying his Chicken Alfredo Tagliatelle. I helped myself to another piece of Garlic bread. It’s one of my weaknesses. “There have been many productions of it,” Maxime said. “One of them was by Graeme Murphy, an Australian choreographer. It was loosely based on the breakdown of Princess Diana’s marriage to Prince Charles and his relationship with Camilla Parker Bowles.”
I stared at him. “Really?”
“Yes. He combined the roles of Rothbart and Odile into that of a Baroness and the focus of the story a love triangle.”
“Act four was very sad. I cried when Odette chose to die rather than remain a swan forever and Siegfried chose to die with her and they leap into the lake, where they will stay together forever. I wish it could have had a happy ending–that they didn’t have to die.”
“At least their decision to die breaks Rothbart’s spell over the swan maidens which causes him to lose his power over them and he dies.”
“Yes. He deserved to die because he was so wicked. Have you ever seen a black swan?”
“Yes. I saw them a couple of years ago in Dawlish, an English seaside resort town in Devon. They were paddling about in the brook which runs through the center of the town.”
“Are they as beautiful as the white swans?”
“Perhaps when you’re in Cornwall, we can take a drive to Dawlish so that you can see them.”
“I’d like that very much.”
“Good. Do you think you’ll have room for dessert?”
“I always have room for dessert.”
“What do you fancy?”
“There’re so many to choose from but I’ll have the Raspberry Sorbet.”
“And I’ll try the Honeycomb Smash Cheesecake.”
As they waited for their desserts to come after ordering them, I said, “Remember you asked me what I was thinking about when we were at the theater?”
“Well, I was thinking about you and your wife.”
His eyebrows arched. “What in particular were you thinking about?”
I hesitated, wondering if I should make something up but my curiosity got the better of me. “I hope you don’t think I’m being nosy, Maxime but I have all these questions about you and your wife. Such as was she beautiful? Were you in love with her? Where did you meet and how long after you met did you ask her to marry him? Was it a lavish wedding with hundreds of guests and was the reception at Brierwell Manor?” I held my breath as I waited for him to answer.
Several minutes elapsed before he replied. He had a guarded expression on his face and his voice sounded emotionless when he said, “Yes, Virginie was very beautiful. In fact, she was easily the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. We met at a charity ball. She was there with her family and I was alone. The host introduced us and we spent the rest of the evening together. We started seeing each other after the ball and it was a few months later when I asked her to marry me. Yes, it was a very lavish wedding with hundreds of guests but it wasn’t held at Brierwell Manor. It was held at the Château de La Colaissière near the Loire Valley in France. Virginie wanted a fairytale wedding so the castle was ideal.”
I couldn’t imagine what it must have been like to get married in a castle. It did seem like a fairytale. “Where did you go for your honeymoon?”
“Reims, the champagne capital of France. We went on tasting tours and explored cellars in the majority of champagne houses. We visited Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Reims where French kings were crowned and the Palace of Tau. We stayed at the Grand Hotel des Templiers.”
“Did you love her?”
“I did. That’s why I married her. However, shortly after the honeymoon, I discovered that the woman I married was not the same woman I fell in love with.”
“I’ll tell you about that another time. Right now, I prefer to talk about something else.”
“All right. Tell me about your parents. What were they like?”
His expression changed as he spoke about them. It was clear that he loved them dearly and that they were very close. I sat there, enthralled, listening to him share memories and wishing that I could have met them.