Lovebirds gone stray

I waited a whole hour outside Dima’s office before finally catching up with him on his way out.

“Darling, what brings you by?” he breezed like a soothing autumn day and the gazillion things that interposed our latest meeting that morning, flooded my mind, electrocuting every attempt to speak to him in an orderly fashion.

I spent a minute, silently gazing over his tired but familiar face. I noticed that the lines framing his magnificent, imposing eyes were deeper than ever before. He looked older.

“I’m sorry for barging in to your office…”

“What are you talking about, Bella, didn’t barge in at all…” He pulled me closer and used our proximity as an opportunity to lean his head against my shoulders, momentarily.

“You know how I hate coming here, Dima,” I whispered, only to be met by his welcoming lips.

I continued to babble through our joint mouths, “I mean, sorry for even coming up to the Tower. Fuck… this is…” Dima pulling away only when I bit his lower lip.

“What’s the matter? You’re shaking, Bella.”

I tried to compose myself. To keep a strong face.

“Something, happen?” He was alarmed. Gone was the retiring evening.

God knows I didn’t mean to scare Dima. But I couldn’t. I felt as though my self-protecting cloak had been invaded. I was exposed. Even more so,  when Dima insisted that I revealed the cause of my evident panic.

“Here, let’s go back inside,” he murmoured. “Let me call Joe to let him know that I’ll drive us back home, later.”

“No! Joe should stay with  us.”

Dima’s stare was a mixture of shock and bewilderment. This time round, I was too scared to ease his concerns. Terrified to think about anyone but myself in this situation.

“Bella, it’s ten o’clock in the evening. Joe’s probably tired.”

“Have a look at this.”

I slipped into his hands the creased blue piece of paper that had me shaken to the core. Then, for the first time in my life I actively fought back hyperventilation.

“What is this?”

He peeled the note open and read it, in silence.He ran his fingers through his feshly trimmed hair-he’d been to the barber’s only the day before-then turned up to see me with a stormy look on his face. Similar to the type of anger and fear that had been brewing inside me ever since I laid eyes on that note.

“How do they know such intimate details about you, Bella?”

“Is that the issue here? How the hell should I know?”

“Where did you get this?”

“Oh but that is exactly what’s made me scared beyond belief, Dima. Get this, I walk to my car after Russian class at the University and the note is neatly folded in between my car glass cleaners.”

“This happened today?”

“Five hours ago to be precise. I thought it was a commercial at first, some sort of leaflet or something. I was about to throw it away but then the paper seemed quite thick and shiny so I opened it up. And I read this nonsense…”

“Five hours ago? You waited five hours to tell me that there’s a pervert out there who wants you like this?”

“Like I would’ve interrupted your meeting with the head of state for this, Dima. Come on…”

“I don’t care who the fuck I’ve got a meeting with. This is serious stuff, Bella. This is…unbelievable… No more driving alone, Bella. You’ve done it, you know you can do it, from tomorrow Joe will be driving you everywhere.”

No matter how hard I tried, there wasn’t going to be an end to Dima’s over-protectiveness. I was frightened by the prospect of someone following me and waiting for the right time to bring his vile thoughts into reality. But I wasn’t willing to give up my freedom in exchange for a life lived in fear. Not just yet.

“Let’s talk about this, Dima. Let’s go home first, and then we can decide what to do, what course to take next.”

“There’s nothing to talk about, Bella. You’ll steer clear of public places for a while until we manage to catch this fucker who thinks he can threaten us like this and then you’ll continue to move around with Joe. End of story.”

Only it wasn’t the end. It was the beginning of a different story. That of lovebirds, gone stray.

Gliding on ice -Bring on the magic

I’ve been an avid skater from a very young age. Mum says I skated before I even walked properly and by the looks of that tiny scar over my left eyebrow, Mum is probably right. You see, some people find it difficult to level on rollers or blades but it’s always been so inexplicably… easy for me to do. I used to get in the ring, put on the gear and glide. No fears, no second-thoughts, nothing. It was freedom in a form that was dangerous and attractive to me at the same time. The breeze blowing my hair back, the snowflakes melting on my face when skating al fresco, even my bruised knees at getting that change-foot-sit-spin right, are memories I can’t ever let go. And I miss skating. So much.

Which is why I’m pretty excited about the Young Artists Showcase that’s aimed at promoting creativity on ice among young artists who, like me, enjoy ice-skating. Unlike me, these guys are pretty excellent at what they do. They even do their own choreography.

So without further ado, click here http://youngartistsshowcase.net/ and watch talented ice-skaters in action.

You can also vote for your favourite ice-skater until midnight EST Sunday 1st September.

My vote goes to ice-skating sensation Matej Silecky. Have a look: http://youngartistsshowcase.net/?s=matej+silecky&submit=Search

Bella Nars

Demons, my friends

I wonder if our fears had a colour, what colour would that be? Some would say black -the obvious choice. Mine we would probably be red. My favourite colour. I catch myself daydreaming of the void those ash-covered days when the heat-burning forests give in to the blazing summer and suck the oxygene from our lungs. Tall, snow-covered mountains equally deadly as the force of the untamed, ruthless, unforgiving ocean. Flirting with the unknown has been my nemesis ever since I can remember. Red, the colour of passion, the colour of love. And yet, if I could colour my demons they’d be red. Expectations, great or little they sting the same when they remain unfulfilled. 

As I jump forcefully from the cliff into the marine-glazing sea, I escape those demons that can only pull me back. They catch up with me as my feet hit on the rocks, the water fills my lungs my breath becomes but a memory of a time that was -in retrospect – happy.

Getting too close stings  yet staying away is numb. My demons are red and they’re pretty happy dancing in their shiny shoes all over my fears. Glad to have made the introductions. This is my kingdom, come.

 

Bella Nars

Our version of events

There’s always two sides to a story. A universal truth alright, but it still bugs me when I hear it. And I’ve felt this way for as long as I can remember. Not because I doubted its verity but mostly because it annoys me when it’s used by people who want to give reason to unreasonable situations. And isn’t it obvious? Everyone has a reason for doing something. What upsets me, is the expectation that hearing the other side could somehow alter one’s take on things. I don’t know if the fact that I listen to both sides by profession has made me fed up with the scope of abuse which this simple sentence, this truth, carries. I find that this universal truth, this expectation to hear both sides before you can condemn an action or an event, isn’t universally applicable.

What prompted this thought was my recent conversation with a friend over the insensitive behaviour of an ex-colleague. Luckily, I wasn’t the recipient of this less-than-kind treatment, but I sure had my take on how malevolent this ex-colleague behaved. My older and arguably wiser friend Amy, rushed in to explain that there may be reasons for this ex-colleague’s behaviour that explained why she acted the way she acted. A trigger that would, potentially, justify her malicious act towards Joni, a person Amy and I care deeply about.I wanted to hear none of it.

My friend Amy, a forty-year-old banker, had her fair share of mishaps and back-stabbings in life. She survived it all -possibly not so intact- but definitely wiser. I criticised her forgiving nature, telling her that there are certain things that cannot be forgiven no matter how many sides there may be to a story. Not even by the bearers of the biggest hearts. Stealing one’s husband, which is what my ex-colleague Cassandra had committed, was certainly top of my list. No matter how rationally I tried to test Amy’s suggestion, that we knew only one part of the story, I couldn’t see myself forgiving or justifying the callous way in which Cassandra had treated Joni. Not even if Cassandra had acted in the name of love.

I remember the office parties, the social gatherings where Joni would attend to with her husband and Cassanddra would be there as well. My mind brings back memories of happier times when all of us, the three of them included, would cheer, clink glasses and share wishes for love, health and prosperity- a bunch of blissful idiots. What a joke that was. Then little details pop to my head, that I hadn’t given much thought to at the time. For example, the Christmas office party of 2010 which Cassandra didn’t attend to because she was supposedly sick -she was alive and kicking just hours before the event, I bumped into her at Selfridges shopping. Well, Joni’s husband missed it as well, apparently there was an urgent conference call he couldn’t miss or reschedule. And then there was the spring team-building trip to Courchevel which again by coincidence both Cassandra and Joni’s husband missed in lieu of other engagements. I think of Joni’s snowboarding accident at the time, and how lonely she felt travelling without her husband, her long-term partner and companion. I remember her talking about her husband in the sweetest way, telling me that had she known he wouldn’t make it, she wouldn’t have travelled either. Her mellow tone as she told him she missed him over the phone, revealed even discreetly, how much she longed to be with him. And to think that he was probably playing tootsie with Nasty-Cassy back home. Just thinking about it makes my skin shrink and crawl.

Getting caught up in a matrimonial division is a risky business. First and foremost for the couple involved but also for the friends and family who find themselves having to choose sides and make up their minds over which version of events to believe. Amy, who happens to be Joni’s friend since they were kiddies, and who happens to love her beyond doubt, rushes to point out to me that noone on the outside knows what goes on in the marital home. But in the end, who cares? Cheating is cheating and stealing one’s husband is condemnable no matter how many sides there are to a story. In the end of the day, there is only our version of events. We can’t expect anyone else to believe it but that alone doesn’t mean we have to water down what we believe has happened.

At the end of my conversation with Amy, a thought sprang to mind about my dear banker friend. Rushing to explain the mischievous acts of an infidel husband is fishy by itself. I am not one for prudence -no matter how desirable that may be to leading a by-the-book life. But at the same time, why would anyone try to justify Nasty-Cassy’s claws into another woman’s husband? I don’t care how important maintaining a healthy sex life is for a relationship or how essential mental stimulation is to a couple. The facts were there: Nasty-Cassy pretended to be just a colleague to Joni’s husband for years in front of everyone. And Joni’s husband broke his vows in the meanest, dirtiest possible way. Not to mention that he did that for the meanest, dirtiest person I have ever met. And that is simply my version of events. Does anyone need to hear another version before casting an opinion in a situation like this?

Kiss the rain

I drove fast, I ran faster and ended up jumping over a wooden fence in order to follow Hector. Sweat was dripping down my spine like a leaking faucet. After a two-hour undercover pursuit I finally discovered where he was hiding all the times he went missing from the hotel.
He glanced backwards momentarily before entering the white beach house that separated him from the azure waters of the Mediterranean Sea. I don’t think he noticed me because I rushed behind a eucalyptus tree right on time. Damn it! Fear made my heart thump and my blood roast. The salty breeze settled onto my dry mouth and there were only a handful of things I wouldn’t do for a glass of cold water. As the wind blew stronger, the eucalyptus leaves dropped all around me while I still panted from running a marathon to get there, in the middle of summer. I sat on the pale dirt to catch my breath and waited for Hector to make his next move. I hadn’t waited too long before I heard a car engine from a distance. I fervently searched for a new hiding spot and, although I hesitated at first, I swiftly moved round the back of the house. I hid behind columns of junipers that were neatly pruned but tall enough to offer me cover. I couldn’t see the front door from this angle but I had a clear view of the driveway. Soon after, a blue E series Mercedes parked near the eucalyptus trees. Phew! That was close.
A tall blonde chick hurried out of the passenger seat followed by an even taller tattooed young man who took his time walking up to the house. He threw his cigarette bud onto the freshly cut grass, which I thought was a rather crass thing to do. I could only see them from the side, but there was something eerie about these two. They were clearly siblings. Twins, perhaps. Their faces were too far for me to tell for sure, but the way they carried themselves combined with their young age seemed to suggest a familial bond of some kind. The woman rushed inside the house as if in panic. I could hear them speak in Russian. I couldn’t tell exactly what they were on about. I understood the words, ‘danger’, ‘pain’, ‘car’ but the rest was spoken either too quickly or in a dialect I wasn’t familiar with. My cell buzzed. Dima was calling. I looked at my wrist-watch and it was already half past two in the afternoon. Shit, I had completely forgotten about our lunch date at the hotel! I had two options, one, to answer and try to explain where I had gone –which on second thought wasn’t really an option if I didn’t want to blow up my cover –or two, to text him briefly a plausible reason for disappearing. A simple dilemma. One, that under other circumstances wouldn’t trouble me much. But this time, I barely found time to consider it long enough My dilemma was interrupted by a gunshot; A single, gut-wrenching gunshot. Fuck!
I slid to the ground again instinctively, and memories of the bloodbath I’d survived in Minsk flooded my mind. I could feel my heart batter violently against my chest bones and my breath was coming to me in tranches. Fear enveloped me in completely, like an intoxicating addiction. I can’t tell if there was mayhem going on inside. I was too busy trying to calm myself but there was also an unnatural silence coming from the house. I made an effort to control my breathing and counted five minutes before seeing the young, tattooed man walk out. I watched his feet stomp across the lawny driveway in a hurry. His trainers were muddy, and I suspected the burgundy-coloured liquid embossed on his soles were blood stains. I stared at his arms thinking what a waste to have them dipped in ink but I soon concentrated on a mark I’d recognised from before. I hadn’t even finished my recollection of the Bratva mark which was proudly displayed at the back of his left arm and he was gone. He sped off in the Merc like a maniac. I crouched up mustering some courage, and observed the house from in between the branches, searching for further movement. I realised how dangerous it’d be for me to make a run for it now. My cell buzzed again. Dima must have been furious with me. I fished my phone out of my side pocket and pressed ‘dismiss’. ‘Honey, I’m soaring under the Cypriot sun’, my text message read. I was trying to buy time, but I should have known my insisting fiancée would take none of it. A second later he started calling me relentlessly. I had to turn off the phone to keep focused.

“Bella, what the fuck are you doing here?”

Hector Rodrigo Lopez

Dima had a small circle of friends. In fact, there were times I thought it was tiny. That it only included me. But one night we were headed to a birthday party the likes of which I hadn’t come across before. It was extravagant. And though by the time of the party I had been exposed to my share of extravagance, this topped it all. To be perfectly honest, it made me feel uncomfortable. And I’d be lying if I referred only to the money aspect.

Hector Rodrigo Lopez’s birthday party was celebrated in the island of Cyprus, amongst the gems of the Mediterranean Sea. It was late in the summer, August the twentieth if my memory serves me right.The party was taking place at a floating bar of a lavish beach hotel. Dima wore a black linen pair of trousers, a matching loose-fitted shirt with his collar lifted upwards just the right level of messy and tan leather loafers. I felt comfortable in a strapless mini chiffon dress, the colour of the midnight sky. Dima said it complemented my olive skin tone and that I should wear it more often. All I could think of was how long it would take him to peel it off me. As we talked and laughed and slow-danced, I would occasionally lick my lips simply to taste the saltiness; the sea-breeze carried with it salty moisture and I enjoyed how it gently cloaked my skin.

Being deeply and irrevocably in love with Dima didn’t leave me much liberty to admire other men, but it was impossible to ignore the strong presence of Hector Rodrigo Lopez. Tall, with a naturally tanned, wheat-coloured skin tone and collar-length dark hair, his dark piercing eyes, were not only striking but also immensely inquisitive and expressive. While his eyes didn’t reveal what he was thinking, they did reveal who intrigued him. His Argentinian-accented English made him, I suppose, a rather ‘menacing’ male combination for women. I knew then that if my heart wasn’t already taken (conquered, claimed and voluntarily handed over, all together) I’d be in serious trouble.

In his La Martina bright blue polo-shirt snug tightly over his toned biceps and in tailored faded jeans, Hector Rodrigo Lopez moved from hug to hug until he welcomed all fifty of his precious guests at the party. We drank vodka and Cristal and nibbled on caviar, sushi and golden flaked pralines -among the birthday boy’s favourites. Quite a few champagne glasses later, I escaped a rather boring friend of Hector who wanted to discuss the latest fashion trends of Milan, and took cover at the small pier by the edge of the floating bar facing the moonlighted horizon. I was thinking of Dima, of the official opening of the Bella Nars Foundation in late autumn and how incredibly busy I’d be when Hector Rodrigo Lopez brushed past me along the small pier.

“It is magnificent, no?” he said, pointing at the moon.
“It sure is,” I agreed. “Where’s Dima,” I asked him turning round to look for my beloved Russian.
“Oh, he was speaking to Sofia, have you met, Sofia?” he asked, and took a step closer. He swiftly ran his arm over my shoulders before saying “come here, I’ll show you, she’s that tall blonde beauty over there,” pointing at Sofia’s direction with his other arm. I saw Sofia alright, and yes, she was tall, platinum blonde, a real beauty too, but Dima wasn’t there with her. I admit that I felt a bit awkward with this sudden proximity, but I’ve learned not to judge people until I’ve actually had a chance to get to know them. As a precautionary measure, I took a couple of steps on the side avoiding Hector’s embrace discreetly while complaining about the humidity. Before he had a chance to say anything I remarked on how delicious his birthday cake tasted.

“I had it delivered from Laduree patisserie of Paris, this morning,” he boasted.
“Really?” I wasn’t truly amazed. I’d have preferred if he got something local instead. I mean come on Hector, it’s not like we’ve never been to Laduree in Paris. Surely, Cyprus patisseries could accommodate a high-end demand for delectable birthday cakes.

“Come with me,” he said, presumably responding to me petting his ego. I promised myself I’d stop using ego boosts as a manuevre but sometimes it’s too tempting not to.
He grabbed my hand to lead me away from the small pier but I pretended to trip over the foamy plastic nuggets that made the bar float, and held back.

“Something wrong?” he asked. And I guess nothing was wrong, but I sort of wanted to be with Dima. Plus I sort of felt weird having Hector hold my hand. My angel must have sensed my calling because before I had to reply to Hector, I saw Dima walk towards us in his proud stride that made me sigh sigh sigh.

“Of course not,” I eventually replied to Hector. “Let’s go. Dima can walk with us,” I said pointing at my man in the distance.

When Dima finally took hold of my hand – my much coveted hand as it turned out that night- our fingers intertwined and I felt safe again. Thus more able to smile, to laugh, to be interested in a conversation. Dima’s soft kisses on my forehead and my hand while he spoke with Hector made me realise that he felt comfortable with Hector, to show him this significantly personal side of his. It was the first time I met Hector, but already I knew that he was special to Dima. The more I listened to both of them speak, the more it became apparent that they were like brothers. I wondered what could bring a Russian metal tycoon so close to an Argentinian retail mega-magnet. What was it that they had in common other than their mythical fortunes?

The night I nearly lost it all (Part 2)

I hadn’t realised how sick I’d grown of these club-rituals until I found myself struggling to walk in through the main entrance. Dima held my hand as we paced along the red carpet, but it was hardly the two of us on it. There was Joe on my side, Igor on Dima’s side and another two buff men whom I didn’t recognise walking close by keeping their backs to us. Another stark reminder that I was engaged to Moscow’s most sought-after businessman. They say that women have a sixth sense and I can attest to that. Only because, as we were striding along, I could have sworn my eye caught a glimpse of someone who didn’t fit well with the crowd.

An insistent photographer broke Dima’s man-chain and managed to take a picture of us up close. I felt sorry for him when Joe grabbed his camera and elbowed him away. Only because Joe’s elbows are not like the average man’s. The photographer fell on the ground like single card from a deck and his camera landed next to him a second later.

“Are you OK, Bella?” I wish he didn’t treat me like a baby, but Dima’s worry over my well-being was the only thing that could make him stop and turn amidst the crowd.

I nodded ‘yes’ and then we resumed our walk and finally made it inside. It was right on time too, because drizzle had began and I’d have hated to mess up my hair, which I had only hours ago fixed back at the mansion.

Joe led us to our usual spot inside -people like Dima have their usual spots which are nothing like spots really, more like studio-sized areas where they can lounge in privacy. I noticed Mr. Colson opposite us, sitting comfortably in a velvet armchair, and nasty-Cassy dancing away so out of beat right by his side. I watched them from a distance and I found it hard to believe that all this time the two had been an item. He caressed her behind, and she would occasionally lean in to give him pecks on his nose. Yuck! I mean, he was probably old enough to be her dad for heaven’s sake. I was about to turn my attention to more deserving sights, when I noticed Mr. Colson stand up to greet a man, whom I’d recognised from before. In fact, Mr. Colson and nasty-Cassy were privileged to be in the presence of well-known Argentinian businessman, Hector-Rodrigo Lopez. Hector was a sight for sore eyes, if I must speak the truth, and more importantly, he was part of Dima’s small circle of friends. I met him a couple of months back at a birthday bash.

“Honey,” I turned to Dima, who was checking his BlackBerry -much to my dismay since I’d told him time and again to give it a rest when we went out but he never listened- “what’s Hector doing with Baldy and nasty ehem, Cassandra?”

There were but a handful of Dima’s gestures which I instantly recognised as demanding my undivided attention. When he pulled me so close to him that I could barely breathe, I was positive he wanted just that.

“If I tell you, do you promise to keep it to yourself?” He whispered these words and I could feel my blood boiling instantly.

“Your lack of confidence in me, is a little insulting, honey. Now, tell me, what is Hector doing over there?”

As always, Dima was one step ahead. Of me, of Hector, of everyone who was around him. And in retrospect, he was right to have asked me to keep it to myself. I wouldn’t. Only because telling, would have been the right thing to do.

What Dima revealed was degrading for Mr.Colson, to say the least. And it was too much information that I wished -later- that I hadn’t become privy to. But as though an invisible power wanted to take revenge for Dima’s revelation, that night out at our usual club, became the night I nearly lost it all.

It was a single gunshot. I’d survived more. It ran past me. I’d survived more. It hit Dima. I went into shock.