The Soft Clock. Joanna's Page 23
But she has no strength to go away.
He jumped out of the first carriage and, grabbing Yana with both arms, managed to jump on through the doors that already were coming together.
It turned out he stayed too long at his boss's place.
"I chase after him," Yana strictly stated.
She could smell of wine and his foreign cigarettes of his breath, Yana heard his story about his boss's remarks concerning his film footage and thought, 'Maybe, that's what happiness is.'
It was a luxurious house in a quiet side street. It had unapproachable oak doors and a huge front door with the same unapproachable lift operator who looked like a wolf in the disguise of an old woman.
'Congratulations on the holiday, aunt Lena,' said Denis. The lift operator suspiciously looked at Yana, and Denis put a bar of chocolate on the table.
"Which celebration is today?'
'Today is the day of a miner.' Denis pushed Yana towards the lift, saying hush to her.
'Do you remember my instructions?'
Yana could remember the instructions. Denis should open the door by his key and come in. If his grandmother iwas not in the entrance hall, he should find her and keep her at that place. In the meantime Yana should steal through the open door of the flat and then, not taking off her coat, she should steal to Denis' room - it was the first door to the right. There she could take off her coat and wait for him, not turning off the light.
Yana sat on the ottoman that was covered with a bearskin. She peered into dim shapes of an unfamiliar room, could hear voices and laugh from behind a wall and wondered that humiliating twists and turns of that evening finished so safely for her. 'That's what you have come down to,' she thought of herself, 'You have neither pride, not dignity, and let it be.' And again she was surprised at her own indifference. 'Let it be. I'm just one of them, like Lyuska and the fateful girl. I will have a lover! Oh, my God!'
Yana was choked by her laughter. She groped to a window, stumbled over something lying on the floor and slightly opened an angle of a heavy curtain. She could see a snow-covered yard, a woman in a fur coat with a dachshund on a leash.
The door creaked. Yana couldn't hear his steps but simply felt his approaching. But enjoying his embraces - an illusion of unity - she also could feel his inner imperturbability despite impatient intimacy of his endearments.
"Turn off the light or your grandmother can see us."
"I have put granny to bed and sang a lullaby for her."
A pink stand lamp flashed out, lighting up the room. While Denis bothered with a tape recorder, Yana's look scanned low armchairs with silken and stripy upholstery, a small table with a pile of Polish magazines 'Film', bookshelves with classic literature mingled with bright foreign pulp books, polished furniture, a carpet on the floor and a stand lamp. In the fiftieth such an interior seemed to be defiant and extravagant.
On the floor in a paunchy ceramic vase there were tulips - red and yellow ones as if they were just cut off. Tulips in January! Yana bent down to them and understood that the flowers were artificial. She pulled away her hand, drew herself up and turned out to be face to face with a reproduction on the wall. Something strange and formless was painted on it with a dial plate and a hand.
"Oops, what is it?"
"This is 'The Soft Clock' by Salvador Dali." Denis told about surrealism, Alfred Hitchcock and horror films.
Where has Ray Connif got to? Shall I put Glen Miller? Have you watched 'The Serenade of the Sunny Valley? Or do you want to listen to something more modern?"
She liked everything: the soft music, the soft light of the stand lamp, tenderly embracing armchairs, the bath with black and pink tile where she had a shower, odorous liquid soap in bottles, a fluffy dressing gown, home slippers with pompons that were brought to her by Denis, magazines and glasses on napkins he placed on the table - all this exotica was never present in her and her mother's room and in houses she visited. Maybe the fateful girl also wore this dressing gown, slippers and sat in this armchair, and others girls too - let it be. All the same she liked all off that except one thing: she didn't like to like it.
In one of her feuilletons she could have expose the narrow-minded comfort of this room! And she wouldn't have omitted such details as artificial flowers, pulp books among classic authors and the picture of that surrealist symbolizing the everyday life of this flat's residents where people were enslaved by things. She also would have mentioned a girl who got into captivity of that narrow-mindedness.
But while Yana-accuser tried to compose her supposed writing material, the accused Yana was tormented by her awareness that the tape recorder with an excellent sound, music by Gershwin and Ellington and the frivolous dressing gown with slippers didn't repulse her. What a cheap woman she was!
They were waiting for a call from London. Peacock opened the cupboard door, and Yana saw a lot of bottles with bright labels.
She stopped exclaiming and didn't ask anything. Yana-accuser shuddered inwardly because this bar was a synonym of a public house for her. But Denis didn't guess her inner conflicts that tormented her, or held his tongue tactfully, or really believed that all his bars and tape recorders were the same as cutlets for her. But most likely, he simply didn't think about all of that.
"Would you like some gin with tonic?"
Yana carelessly nodded, and before her there appeared a high crystal glass with little piece of ice inside it and with a piece of lemon.
"It is as in the best homes," Denis said.
Denis - a sunny day.
Perhaps, Yana was a little drunk. She was feeling hot, easy and merry. Suddenly she felt hungry and remembered that last time she ate about twelve hour ago. Denis brought huge sandwiches with sausage and cheese, a herring's tail and a can of sprats. His sophistication in interiors and drinks was quite equal to his full disregard to cookery. The coming housemaid Tasya cleaned up and cooked dietary soups and mashes for Denis' granny that were detested by him. Yana could remember how he gulped cutlets at her place. Poor Peacock. She drank gin and ate up sandwiches, sprats, leaving of liver paste and a herring tail.
"Would you like some soup?" asked he in a whisper for some reason. What face he had! He was stunned by her appetite. Yana couldn't help laughing. Denis tried to say something and also began to laugh.
Then there followed their silent and exhausting fight on the ottoman in the dark room when Yana could neither yield to Denis, nor reject him. There were two Joannas and one Denis. A phone call sounded as a saving gong. Yana could hear Denis talking with London. He talked about Tasya, his study at institute, his film and some acquaintances and relatives.
Of course, nobody would know that Yana now was in his room. London was busy with other things. Cabs, double-deckers, omnibuses picked their way there; gentlemen with their black umbrellas hurried to their fireplaces and, rising collars of their grey coats, thought about rise in prices, inflation and their tall and thin Englishwomen. And there were more dozens of countries, hundreds of cities and millions of people who didn't care about the fact that Yana Sinegina was spending her night in Peacock's room. It was only her own concern; she harmed only herself but nobody else in the world.
Suddenly she was filled with a feeling of freedom and permissiveness. It seemed that Denis' low voice and laughter when he talked with London separated the night room and the ottoman with whitening sheets and pillows form the other word and her, Joanna, who was free and doomed to solitude like Robinson after the shipwreck.
Her dressing gown fell on the floor, and her own nakedness, which seemed to be shameful only a moment ago, now looked so naturally and beautifully. Joanna immersed her hot body into tender coolness of sheets like into a river.
Neither before, nor later Joanna felt such hopeless solitude as it was in his passionate embraces. But yielding his rough endearments she would always remember him lying on her arm and talking hardly understandable things. He said that he took her for an explosive mixture of a scribbler and provincial Messalina because she described bed scenes very smartly and convincingly, but then he became embarrassed and silent. At last she touched his face, hair, a small chain on his breast, closed eyelids and lips and felt that her lips responded her touch; their softness and warmth rewarded Joanna for all troubles of that night.
At that moment he belonged to her!
It was a unity of souls and bodies. An eighteen-year-old master of describing bedroom scenes understood that day, many years ago, that in passionate embraces you could die from loneliness and your own coldness and immediately revive from his voice, breathe and lips, which dreadfully responded to your touch. The more lonely and cold she felt that night, the more desperate and insatiable was her longing for the 'unity of souls' because it was only her who burned with passion.
Next day at dawn, going out of the house without being noticed, they walked along bluish snowy streets, waiting for the opening of a caf?, and she entertained Denis telling him fantastic stories. After the sleepless night her brain and imagination worked with painful acuity and at full stretch.
In a few days, which didn't change almost anything, they started to spend nights at Denis' place and days at her place. Their meetings were feverishly hasty; they were afraid of her mother who could come back earlier. She noticed that her mother hatefully looked at Denis and the fateful girl looked at Yana in the same way. At the same time he happily finished shooting of his film and she passed her final tests at the university. Her writing materials were published in every issue of the newspaper she worked in. It was because she already began to get used to those sweet torments, and the more she realized her incompatibility with Denis, the more she fell in love with him. The heavier was her burden, the more precious it was.
Later he asked her to marry him; he did it in a dull way, among other things, as if he invited her to drink a cup of coffee in a bar, and Yana kept silence, being unable to say something proper to that case - all her words at once turned into empty sound shells without any meaning content.
And then his look revived - something unusual was in his eyes. Was it embarrassment, agitation or fear that she would refuse? Anyway, that 'something' replaced his loving outpourings as it was at their first night when his lips thankfully and tenderly touched her fingers.
He needed her. He waited for her answer like a baby whose rattle was taking away.
Denis - a sunny day.