Greta Again – Volume 2

Chapter 1


Greta Again – Marya StonesGreta stepped out of the plane onto the gangway. Finally, in New York again! Now just to get through Customs and Passport Control, and to collect her luggage.

And then what? Hopefully, Mike’s waiting outside to pick me up. And if he isn’t?
She really didn’t want to finish that thought. Whatever happens is for the best, she decided, bracing herself.
First I’ve got to get to the city and find a hotel. Or, I can call Mona. She’ll definitely come up with an idea where I can find a place to stay. Mona was in sales at Macy’s, the beautiful, big department store in New York. Greta had met Mona on one of her shopping sprees – and, luckily, they became really close friends. They got together whenever they could, mostly at Macy’s, or for coffee and a chat at Starbucks. In any case, Mona was a possible backup if Mike didn’t show up.
But why wouldn’t he . . .

Actually, there was no good reason why Mike shouldn’t be waiting at the airport today.  Just yesterday they had discussed everything in detail by e-mail and on Skype. Greta had found out why Mike had beat it out of the hospital in Munich so fast after the accident (it was because of his brother Steve again. Steve panicked and insisted that Mike go to New York for further treatment). But it still didn’t make a lot of sense to Greta, and Mike had said he’d explain it all to her in New York.

There were no delays at Passport Control and Customs and her suitcase had made it, too. Just a quick trip to the Ladies’ Room and a last look in the mirror ... After all, she wanted her Mr. Right to remember what a babe he had left behind in Munich – to regret having left her there alone, and to convince him never to do it again.
Greta studied her face carefully. Oh, man, she thought, the overnight flight from Chicago, and then the flight back to New York. . .this isn’t exactly a “fresh-as-a-daisy” look.
She twisted her hair into a topknot and secured it with a rubber band, pulling out a few strands around her face. Then she quickly brushed her teeth, dabbed on some powder and lipgloss, and finished with a spray of perfume. Glancing at herself in the mirror, she still wasn’t quite satisfied . But this is as good as it gets, she decided, and pushed her sunglasses on top of her head – I’m outta here.

Greta couldn’t help it: she felt her heart beating hard and loud. This can’t be happening; I’m not a teenager anymore. Heart pounding and butterflies in my stomach. Pretty soon I’ll start blushing. And I wanted to be so cool on arrival. Oh, man!

She stepped through the frosted glass doors that separated the arriving passengers from those  in the waiting area.  There were so many people and so many signs raised up in the air that at first, Greta saw nothing but a sea of faces.
Actually Mike should have seen me by now and be coming in my direction ... Nothing. She pushed her way through the crowd, clearing a path for the other passengers.
Still nothing. Where was Mike?

He should be there to greet her with flowers, a big smile, or at least with a big bear-hug. . .or his driver should be here waiting, with a big sign that said “Ms. Mayfield for Mr. Sloan.” But no one was here. Slowly, Greta began to scan the crowd of people. Mike definitely wasn’t among them.  Again and again, she studied the unfamiliar faces, but couldn’t find him. She was completely confused.

What now. . .? Should she wait? Was Mike just running late?
Oh, man, why is this happening again – it’s enough to make you want to vomit! I don’t want this! Why can’t it just be good for a change. This is not the way it’s supposed to be if this is Mr. Right. It’s about me, too.

A good twenty minutes passed – a long twenty minutes. Mike was nowhere to be seen. No message on the cell-phone either.
Fine, so I’ll call him.
His number lit up on the display panel and she dialed. After it rang a number of times, an answering machine picked up. Greta left her message. It was short. Hurt. Insecure. Humiliated.
What should I do now?
It’s actually senseless to wait any longer, she thought. I’ll ride into the city and get in touch with Mona. Having made the decision, she grabbed her roll-on bag and headed to the Manhattan subway. On the way, however, out of the corner of her eye, she couldn’t help but notice the limousines at passenger pick-up.

I should be sitting in one of them, she thought angrily. Oh, man, I’m really mad-- again. Really mad! This can’t be happening. Well, at least I’m awake now!
On the subway into the city, she was everything but happy. What was this supposed to mean, if you please? This sucks! She even thought of flying right back to Munich again.

That would be really crazy. Besides, I’m not going to let some unreliable creep ruin my beautiful New York for me! Greta dialed Mona’s number. Thank God! Mona answered the phone right away.
“Ooooh, Sweetheart,” she shrieked into Greta’s ear, “you’re here?”
“Yes, I’m here.”
“Wow, super, fabulous! You definitely have to come to the store tomorrow. We have such great things in stock, and I can give you a really deep discount. The new colors are perfect for you. I thought of you during the introduction of the collection. Did you get my –“
“Hey, Mona, can I stay with you tonight?” Greta cut in.
“Oh, why? Is the hotel fully booked?  Or did it burn down?”
“No, Luv, I just fell for it again with some idiot. He was supposed to meet me and didn’t show up. I’ll tell you the rest later, ok?"
“Sure. Come on over. I’m home.”
“You’re an angel. I’ll be there in about forty minutes.”
“Good, I’ll put the wine on ice. Or would you rather have a whiskey?”


Chapter 2


When Greta finally arrived at Mona’s, she felt pretty depressed and out of sorts. And that’s how she looked, too: her hair was messed up, her eyes were sunken, with deep, dark circles. As soon as Mona saw her, she gave her a big hug.

“You can stay as long as you want, Luv, don’t worry! Um, by the way, are you allergic to cats?”
“No, why?”
“Well, this is Mr. Popcorn and his best friend, Curly Bob.” Two tiger-striped cats crept around the door-frame; they looked like an aging gay couple. “They’re about fourteen years old and brothers,” Mona continued. “I saved them from the trash incinerator. Since then, we’re a team.”

The cats looked a little worn-out, their fur a bit shaggy, but they snuggled up to one another as if they were inseparable. At the same time, Greta had the impression that they were both striking a pose. Each of them wanted to outdo the other, to look more handsome and appealing. Obviously they were trying to impress the new visitor, namely her. Greta smiled, and immediately fell in love with both of them. They responded with short, almost gloating meows.

“The chemistry is right on with you guys,” Monica said, and wheeled Greta’s roll-on bag into a corner. “C’mon, let’s have a drink, and then please tell me about this Mike!”
“Oh, Mona! He’s one of those super good-looking guys that seems perfect – who really doesn’t exist. I was a little bit “Pretty Woman,” a little bit “Cinderella,” and he was Mr. Right ...”

Greta explained how they met on one of her recent flights to New York. Mike was just a really cool dude! She told Mona about their first date in New York, and how that appeared to be that. But since life almost always seems to interfere with one’s own plans, this same guy, who was not only good-looking but also successful and charming, with a fun sense of humor, who basically knew how to behave in any situation and was a great kisser, unexpectedly turned up on her friend’s terrace in Germany. That kind of thing doesn’t happen, except in the movies, right?

Well, they saw each other a second time, and the afternoon and evening were just perfect. He pampered her with gifts; they had drinks and a wonderful meal, one surprise after another, a fantastic night in a love-nest in Salzburg ... it was simply too good to be true.

And that’s what it was: After their night together they had a bad accident. Greta, unconscious, woke up in the hospital and he was gone. Without a single word.
“Can you believe it?” Greta stopped and asked Mona periodically during her story.

And now they wanted to see each other again here in New York. He lives here. He was going to pick her up at the airport, and yeah, right – he wasn’t there!
“So, Mona, what’s this supposed to mean? Am I a complete loser, or what?”

“Well, Greta, sometimes things happen that can’t be happening. That’s the way it is. You’re not seventeen anymore – welcome to real life! Welcome to the men in this world. Mr. Right – that’s fine, but the concept is just another word for ‘prince.’ Honestly, Sweetheart, I don’t want to rob you of your fantasies, but Mr. Right? I don’t know exactly. . .” Mona looked at her watch. “I have to go to work this afternoon, unfortunately. But we’ll talk about this some more later. Please don’t drink the whole bottle; get yourself together. Take your time. Then meet me at the store, and we’ll go shopping – a little distraction never hurts. And we’ll go get something to eat. It would be ridiculous if we didn’t figure this out! If the guy calls and asks you to meet him, go and tell him off. And I mean seriously. He’s not the kind that we’ve been standing around waiting for!”

Mona poured another little sip of whiskey for Greta, who was looking a little more relaxed. She had a little color in her cheeks again – the whiskey had done its job.
Mona quickly changed into some “business clothes,” threw on some make-up, and tied her hair into a knot. In no time, she looked classy – a lady – who turned men’s heads wherever she went.

“You look really good!” Greta burst out. She could feel the effect of the whiskey on an empty stomach. “Oh, dear, I have to sober up a little; but it sure does taste good,” she mumbled. Her tongue had become a little unwieldy.

Mona gave Greta a big fat kiss on the forehead, showed her the bath and the refrigerator (where there was absolutely nothing edible except for cat food) and where she hung the keys to the apartment. Then she slammed the door behind her and was gone. It was 5:00 p.m., New York time, and still no word from Mike. Greta was confused and tired. For her, the time was not early evening but just before midnight. And she had quite a few hours of flight-time behind her.

OK, she thought—enough of the drinking and into the shower! She drank the last sip of whiskey and looked around the apartment.

It was a great studio flat, with one and a half rooms. There was a wall of red bricks -- somewhat rustic --but the contrasting furniture was well chosen. A comfortable large couch leaned against the brick wall, with a lot of pillows in different patterns: flowers, plaids, solids . . .everything in Ralph Lauren style. A large rectangular matching ottoman with a tray on top stood in for a coffee table. The place had a wooden floor, dark, warm and friendly. Opposite the long brick wall was a large television that swiveled so that it could be seen from the adjacent bedroom.

The bedroom was super comfy. Greta would have loved to have fallen into the queen-size bed right then and there. Giant pillows, at least six of them in different sizes, were gathered on top of the soft green bedspread with white stripes. The wall décor was right in tune with its surroundings; even the flowers in the window – lilies –harmonized in color and gave off a mild, heavenly scent.

Totally Mona! Greta thought. She has great taste – and the opportunity at Macy’s to pick the furnishings that she wants. Everything in the bathroom was also chosen with great care, and although the room was small, it was beautifully put together with white, turquoise, and pink accents. Greta slowly got undressed and stepped into the shower. The soap and warm water not only made her feel clean, but she also began to feel better and clearer within herself. Suddenly her Mr. Right didn’t seem all that important – no longer so dominant. He was just another man in her life whom she could soon forget again. And if not? Add another couple of scars? Oh, so what; I can’t change what’s happened anyway.
Whatever happens will happen, and everything happens for the best, Greta told herself. As she expected, her guiding principle made her feel better.

After her shower, Greta wrapped herself in one of the wonderful soft towels, and with her hair tucked up into a turban, she fell onto the couch. Immediately Mr. Popcorn and Curly Bob jumped up and snuggled up against her.

“You’re both males, but Mona is lucky to have you, Greta thought. Funny how the world works.”

Greta found the TV-control and channel-surfed through the early evening programs, falling asleep without even noticing. Suddenly, the ringing of her cell-phone roused her out of a deep sleep. Mike! His number was blinking on the display panel. OK, now just keep calm. She answered the phone.

“Hello, Angel!” she heard his warm, familiar voice.
“Hi, Mike.”
“Where are you?”
“In the city.”
“Can we talk? – I think I have to explain something again and make amends, right?”
“Hmm, I don’t know if you can really make amends.” Greta was surprised how spontaneously she could respond and how right her response sounded.
“Wow. That’s hard.” Mike was taken aback for a moment. He seemed as surprised by her quick response as she was herself. “Will you give me a chance?”
“You know what? I don’t want to play these little games. I’m not seventeen any longer and I don’t like your having to explain things to me. I also don’t want to keep giving you a chance. This is the second or third time now. And each time you give me the feeling that everything else is more important than I am. I think I should simply trust my feelings, and forget about you for a change. How do you feel about that?”
“Okay, I wasn’t there! I feel shitty. I was held up by the police. I couldn’t get in touch nor could I send anybody. Where are you now?”
“I don’t want to tell you. And the police held you up? What’s that supposed to mean?”
“My brother was caught with drugs and the police think that I’m his dealer.”
“And? Are you?”
“Hey, Greta! No. What are you thinking?” Greta could hear that Mike was really shocked by her response. But what did she have to lose, she thought to herself.
“I don’t know anymore what I’m supposed to think,” she said after a short pause. “You really top everything.”
“That almost sounds like a compliment, the way you said it. . . .I want to see you, to touch you, to love you, simply to be with you. I want to tell you everything and spend the next few days with you. You’re going to be in the city for a while longer, right?”
“Stop! I don’t want that anymore.”
Mike seemed to hesitate. “Are you really sure? Can you just forget the hours in Salzburg so easily? What do I have to do so that we can at least see each other? I want to tell you everything. It wasn’t my fault. Don’t you want to know the truth?”
“Not now, not today, Mike. You have really spoiled the situation beyond repair. I don’t know what to think. Please – let’s postpone it until tomorrow.”
“Alright, Greta . . .I don’t want to push you. Should we meet at Carlos’ place again?”
Greta knew exactly how super it was the last time at Carlos’ place; their first date, after Mike had been in First Class while she was on duty on the flight to New York. She had experienced a lot in her time as a flight attendant, but to meet him that day was almost like the “Pretty Woman” story.
Well, tomorrow is another day and besides – everything happens for the best, darted through her mind.
“OK, Mike – we’ll see each other tomorrow morning at 7:30 at Carlos’ place.”

And she hung up without waiting for him to reply.


Chapter 3


Mona is going to kill me, Greta thought , after she had hung up and looked around. What time was it anyway? Oh, six-thirty – good, I can finish getting ready and pick her up. Man, oh man, what will I tell her?!

A bad feeling spread in her belly. But her curiosity and above all her feelings for Mike told her that she had made the right decision. Mike really would have to explain a few things. And what she then decided to do was strictly up to her. No matter whether he was Mr. Right or not – nobody could now predict how this would play out. Greta hurried to get ready, poured a little fresh milk into the cats’ saucers, grabbed the keys to the apartment and was gone.

On her way to Macy’s, Greta visualized a movie in her mind, starring herself: How she met Mike on the flight to New York, then the date (which she almost didn’t keep) at Carlos’ place, and the wonderful breakfast, the shopping tour with Mike, and the first meeting with his brother Steve at the end. Even then, he had already managed to drive a wedge between the two of them. Steve’s obnoxious behavior and his rude manner towards her were simply unbearable. And now it was Steve again, who threatened to drive her and Mike apart. Very strange, somehow.

Greta decided to walk to meet Mona. The fresh air felt good and she found that she could better sort out her feelings as she walked.

Actually, she thought, it was like a miracle when Mike appeared out of nowhere at her friend Stephanie’s in Munich, and when she found out later that he did a lot of business with her husband, Olaf.

Yes, and the hours thereafter, the time and the night that she spent with him, were just magical. As if nothing could ever again come between them. Almost too good to be true. Okay – yes – she heard her inner voice, which reminded her of something else – something awful: the accident. And Mike’s “disappearance” from the hospital. Or did he run away? It was all so strange.

And from that time on, the story somehow got on the wrong track. No more love story—more like the chaos that Greta knew from her earlier “men-stories.” Maybe I’m not made to have a relationship? What about the types of guys that I attract? It all leads to nothing.

Lost in her thoughts, she arrived at Macy’s, went in and allowed the nice atmosphere in the department store to sweep over her: the friendly colors, the scent of the perfume, the gentle light in the sales counters . . .a simply lovely store.
I can enjoy myself here and be happy!

She was already elated, thinking of the purchases that would surely goad her into a happier mood. Mr. Right was banished far away very quickly –at least for the next few hours.
Mona worked in the perfume department. Greta had already spotted her at her counter from a distance. She was a fantastic saleswoman—a woman who managed to sell beauty to another person. And to be with her was as if a part of her beauty and charm magically transferred to oneself: a radiance from within, a sincerity that was so personal, that it didn’t even register that Mona just wanted to sell something. She had something that every woman wished for – to be a little like Mona, or at least to be her friend. She had that flair that was glamorous and stylish and that absolutely had to be imitated. Women’s credit cards practically smoked from over-use when Mona was around.
Greta wasn’t much different. She was aware, of course, that she fell under Mona’s spell, but still had a wonderful time with her. And besides, Mona was actually her friend, and had already been for a few years.

Mona and Greta had met in the shoe department. Greta was shopping without anything particular in mind, and was basically “just looking.” Besides, it was a super cold, snowy day in late January – not a day to be strolling on the streets of New York.

Greta left the shoe department with three pairs of summer shoes, two pairs of winter boots, and a pair of athletic shoes. Two handbags appropriate to the seasons were added to the haul. The credit card celebrated and the girls did too. Later, Greta couldn’t get all of her new purchases into her suitcase. Mona spontaneously offered to keep the things at her home until Greta came to New York the next time. Greta was to let her know, and Mona would bring them to Macy’s for her. And that’s exactly what happened, and a fast and firm friendship developed that often included super shopping trips (and not only at Macy’s). Mona had really good contacts in a number of shops and was quite well informed about “insider clubs” and cafes. For Greta, Mona was more or less a “standing appointment” every time she was scheduled to stop in New York.

Once in a while, Greta came and went in New York without announcing her presence to Mona—namely then, when the bank account simply didn’t allow one of these sinfully expensive shopping tours. Today, however, wasn’t one of those days!

Greta had definitely decided to pamper herself and the credit card was already trembling in her hand. Mona had seen her arrive and waved. She had just finished with a customer at her counter and turned to her friend.

“Greta, I’m glad you’re here. I was afraid that you would fall asleep with the whiskey on the couch.”
“I did fall asleep –you have two wonderful roommates and your apartment is unbelievably comfortable. I immediately felt so at home. Many thanks for your trust. And for being there for me.”
“Oh, don’t be so sentimental, Greta. You would do the same for me. Tell me, what woke you up?”
“He called.”
“Oh! And what did he say?” Mona opened her eyes wide, seemingly dumbfounded, her eyebrows rising in surprise.
“He wants to meet me – and explain everything. It was something about his brother, Steve, again, and this time he couldn’t be there because. . .” – Greta looked around carefully and lowered her voice a little –“because of drugs and the police.” No, Mona, don’t ask. Mike wanted to see me today, actually, but I told him no. We’re meeting tomorrow for breakfast.”
“Well, I really wonder what kind of story this will turn out to be. You know, it’s not love that’s complicated; it’s definitely the people involved.”
“You’re absolutely right. And now to the important things in life: Which “must-haves” are waiting for us? Let’s shop and be happy for a while!”

The evening played out as expected: the credit card was swiped again and again, at first still lukewarm, but quickly began smoking, having reached a fiery glow. This caused Greta and Mona’s broad smiles to become even broader. After Mona got off work, the girls made the rounds, two cocktails here and a snack there. By 1:00 a.m. Greta was wiped out and wanted nothing but to go to bed. A few hours later she was to get up for breakfast. With him. Was he actually still “Mr. Right?”

Mike had absolutely earned this title after the last evening in Salzburg, with the private apartment overlooking the roofs of the city, the private dinner topped off by the incredibly delicious “Salzburger Nockerln,” and with the many little surprises (including in bed) that he had provided. But today Greta was no longer so sure if he really was the right one. Once again he had left her hanging. And again because of his brother. Basically, it seemed as if Steve came between them time and again and provoked one crisis after another.
Or maybe there’s another woman? And I’m just too stupid and naïve to check up on him? The thoughts in Greta’s head whirled.

The next morning (she had set the alarm; otherwise she would surely have overslept), Greta shuffled into the bathroom and looked in the mirror. Absolute catastrophe!
How can I pull myself together—even a little? Impossible – there’s not enough time.

She decided to wash her hair and tie it together wet, into a topknot. A little make-up and the new clothes that she had bought yesterday with Mona, that should do the trick: DKNY jeans with a matching shirt – everything cut very skinny – “double-denim” is best for that,” Mona insisted. Greta wanted to wear a knit jacket with the denim, but Mona couldn’t be persuaded that anything other than a leather jacket with rivets would go with jeans. OK, fine. But breakfast in leather and rivets?

Oh man, the thought crossed Greta’s mind, I’m so undecided again – and only because of this guy. This just isn’t worth it! Why do I constantly worry about everything? He certainly doesn’t make such a fuss, I’m sure.

Fine, Greta said to herself. This is as good as it’ll get. I’ll put on the leather vest with the rivets and the knit jacket over that. It doesn’t matter what Mona thinks, that’s what I’m going to do. Besides, it’s really cold outside. Now just the boots, and I’m outta here.

Just as she wanted to go out the door, she took a last look in the mirror. I shouldn’t have done that, she thought. If only I had bought other shoes yesterday! She stared at the boots. These are the boots that Mike bought for me in Munich.

He better not jump to conclusions because I have these boots on. I only brought a couple of pairs of shoes for these few days in the city. She pushed her sunglasses atop her head , headed out the door, and was on her way to Carlos’ place.

It was really quite cool already. Late summer was on its last legs, and the nights were clammy. Indian Summer in New York had arrived, and the first leaves were changing color. The wind took them along on its trip through the streets of the city. Greta was glad that she had decided to wear the warm jacket, and pulled it together tightly, wrapping her arms around her body.

Since she was running late, she hailed a taxi, which was luckily not a problem so early in the morning. A few minutes later she was standing in front of the café in which she had met Mike last summer for their first date. Her beating heart filled her entire body – or more accurately, it was pounding like a ghettoblaster next to a microphone. No, I’m not going in, ran through her mind. Her hands were sweaty and the heat was especially noticeable under her arms. No, I’m not going in. He can’t be Mr. Right. I don’t have to listen to all that he has to say. Let him stay with his stupid brother where ...

“Greta, my angel!”

Mike stood directly behind her. He had to have come around the corner just that second. Oh, yes, that’s right. His apartment was very close by; he mentioned that once. He must have walked over. Greta couldn’t say anything at all. She could feel how red her face had become, how her beating heart pounded in her ears, and how the heat under her arms was transforming itself into tropical moisture.

“Good Morning,” was all she could manage.
“C’mon, let’s go in; you look like you’re freezing.

Mike went in first. Inside the café, Carlos came toward them – he had reserved the same table for them as the last time. Greta acted as if she hadn’t noticed.

“Nice boots,” Mike said, glancing at her feet as they sat down.

Greta wasn’t about to answer – she tried to appear cool and kept quiet. Besides, she felt as if she had cotton in her mouth -- it had become so dry. Carlos waved to them and brought fragrant steaming bowls of coffee to the table right away. “Breakfast like the last time?”
“Yes, please ,” Mike said. “And you, Greta?”
Greta cleared her throat. “I’ll have a brioche, please, to start. Thank you.”

Mike took his time, studying Greta quietly. It seemed almost as if he wanted to absorb every fiber. It seemed like an eternity to Greta, and finally she couldn’t stand it anymore and asked about his injuries caused by the accident.

“Oh, the accident, Greta, my angel.” He said it as if he were about to tell a child a fairytale.
That was too much for Greta. She didn’t want murmurs, she wanted facts. “Don’t call me ‘angel.’ I’m not your angel, otherwise we would never have had the accident.”
“Greta, at least give me the chance to explain everything.”
“Then speak.”
“Why are you so being so brusque?”
“Listen, Mike, this isn’t a date. I came here because I want to know what’s going on. I can do without little games; they bore me. I think I deserve respect and honesty from you – that’s what I expect.”
Mike hesitated. “Okay. You’ve made yourself clear. I’ll try to abide by your wishes.”
“Don’t make fun of me. You asked for this meeting. Since you weren’t at the airport yesterday, I assumed that was that. I won’t allow you to play ping-pong with my feelings. That’s already behind us.”

Mike sat up straight, took a sip of his coffee and looked at Greta with a serious expression on his face.

Finally she had the feeling that she was looking him in the eye. Up ‘til now, it always seemed as if he had the upper hand in one way or the other. He was the one in charge, the one who made the decisions. Sure, she liked being pampered, not having to think, and allowing herself to be surprised. And certainly the surprises were mostly terrific and absolutely welcome. Nonetheless, a hint of dependence always lingered behind, a feeling of not being taken seriously, or a sense of “I don’t have a say.” Never before had she set the tone as she had now. Finally she felt that she was on the same plane with him. And she could see it in Mike’s body language and his facial expression. They were now equal.
“Fine, Greta, then I’ll lay it all out. The whole truth. It’s not all pretty, but you have the right to know. Today I also have the impression that you want it this way. It doesn’t matter what happens with us afterwards; you should know that I always meant it to be serious between us. I think of you as a super woman and I want more of you.”

Greta was taken aback. “Okay!” was all that she could say.

“You know that Steve lives in Jamaica,” Mike continued. “He lives in the mountains on a Finca and originally went there to deal with his handicap. It was actually working out pretty well – until he came into contact with drugs. That alone wouldn’t be so dramatic; the Jamaicans don’t take drugs all that seriously. They more or less grow up with dope. But if you want to participate, more or less as a babe in the woods, then it can go downhill pretty quickly. Steve had to realize that he can’t play around with drugs so easily. He slid deeper and deeper into the situation and then got into trouble with the authorities. The bad thing is that until last week, I didn’t know anything about it. I always associated his mood swings with his psyche. For me, the accident that brought about his spinal injury and paralysis was the reason for his behavior. I would never have come up with the idea that drugs were in play.”
After a short pause, Mike continued. Greta stayed quiet. She didn’t know what she should think about this conversation.

“So last week, Steve wanted me to give him some money. I gave it to him and felt sure that everything was okay. He didn’t want to ask our father for it; it was to be a short-term loan. I didn’t ask for any more information. Maybe I should have. Yesterday I was getting ready in my office to leave for the airport to pick you up. My secretary stopped me, and suddenly the police were in the office. I was totally surprised, actually thought there was a mistake and it had to do with our neighbor, who had some dealings with the police before. The police, however, asked me if I knew Steve Sloan. “Of course, he’s my little brother. Did he do something wrong?” I asked, joking. And then they arrested me. I had no idea why. At the Police Station I then found out from the chief that my little brother had also been arrested – because of drug consumption and drug dealing. On top of that, I was also accused of drug dealing. My brother had received the money for his dubious business from me, after all. They would find out for themselves if I also took drugs.

Well, I spent the entire afternoon yesterday and the evening with the police and dealt with the drugs issue. I had to have a blood test. Finally, I found myself a lawyer who got me out of there. Steve is still in custody. The hours at the station were awful. You wouldn’t believe what kind of people hang around there. When I finally called you, I couldn’t simply burden you with the whole story, right? I’m still quite numb from all of the goings-on yesterday. Honestly, I can’t believe that it all happened.”

Greta was quiet. She was completely confused. Should she simply believe him? Did it really happen? She didn’t trust his brother anyway. Loutish and repulsive, someone better to avoid. Somehow the whole story seemed to ring true – but then again, also crazy.

Mike continued. “I have to deal with Steve yet today. He’s still in custody. Since the police couldn’t prove that I took drugs and the story about the money was clarified by my attorney , I was released. But I haven’t been able to discuss anything with Steve yet, I haven’t even seen him. I have to return to the police station today. I don’t have any idea what I’ll be walking into there.”

Mike drank his coffee. Carlos also brought him his breakfast and Mike seemed to enjoy it to an astonishing degree . Greta, on the other hand, was so engrossed in his story that she couldn’t eat anything. She had taken a bite of her brioche; the rest still lay on the plate. What should she do now? she asked herself. I can’t just let him sit there. If the story is true, then he really isn’t at fault. He is still the same person he was last week, or maybe not? Is he the Mike who drove me to Salzburg in the convertible? With whom I was in bed, exchanging sweet-nothings, sharing kisses and caresses, moaning, hearing his voice, the rumpled bed-sheets . . . . is this still the same guy?!

Greta wanted to believe Mike’s story, she didn’t want her memories of their wonderful hours together to be replaced by the image of a drug junkie who made up stories. That didn’t belong in her world. Stop! She heard her inner voice say: what if there’s something to it? You don’t know him all that well. But what? I have to trust him – what would he get out of telling me such a whopper of a lie if the story weren’t true?

Finally, she said: “I really don’t know what I should think about all this, Mike. It sounds so insane and honestly, it has nothing to do with my life.” Somehow she had found her voice again and she listened to herself, completely aware. Greta surprised herself. “These are all things that are happening in your life, that affect you. But you should also know that I am serious about you. First of all, I’m in the process right now of giving you my heart and trusting you. That’s why I believe you. On the other hand, should I find out that you have lied to me, used me, or otherwise are playing with me, then that would be it. Forever. You don’t want to know what would then be in store for you.” Greta didn’t know herself with what she could threaten him, but she was completely serious. She didn’t want any games.

“Hey, you can be really tough,” Mike answered.

How can he be so light-hearted? Greta asked herself, way back in her mind. This isn’t about a parking ticket! Here I go again, I’m the super-deliberator again, the one who can’t stop turning everything on its head a hundred times. She forced herself to suppress her feelings. Besides, everything happens for the best!

“Fine, Greta. How should we structure the day? Would you like to come along to the police station?” Greta hesitated.
He wasn’t serious, was he?
“No, no, my love, don’t panic—I was just kidding. I’ll arrange everything today. You can bring your things to my place and we can spend the evening and the next few days together. Pamper ourselves, enjoy the city, and let the good Lord be a good guy. Okay?”

That sounded very tempting. Greta knew only too well that Mike was fantastic at pampering someone. But something wasn’t completely kosher. Something held her back. She couldn’t say what it was. It seemed to her as if an enormous blow would still follow. And she wanted to protect herself from that.

“Mike, that sounds super. But you know, I am already a little confused and I think it would be better if you handled everything that has to be dealt with by yourself right now. Call me when you’re done with it. Then we’ll see. I’ll be in the city for three more days. If there’s any time for us, we’ll be able to spend it together.”

Mike smiled. “You have such a wonderful way of making something sound positive though it’s actually a put down. You don’t want to see me right now, I understand that – but you don’t want to hurt me either.”

“That’s right, I don’t want to hurt you. But I know that you have to take care of something now that has nothing to do with me. That’s why you need time for yourself. I would only get in your way and would seem dispensable to myself too. And besides, your brother and I didn’t have the best start. It’s probably better if he doesn’t have to see me in the present situation. For me, too.”

Mike was quiet. He bit into his last piece of croissant with an appetite that was really astounding.
“Fine, Greta, that’s what we’ll do. I’ll take care of the whole situation today. I have your number. As soon as land is in my sights, I’ll call you.” Mike sighed. “I am a little sad that you won’t come to my place right away. But I understand what you mean. I’m sure, too, that by tonight, everything will be straightened out again. The coming days are ours. Should I call you a taxi, or can I do anything else for you?”
“No, thank you. I’m fine. New York is waiting for me. Call, if you can. See you later.”

Mike stood up, signaled to Carlos to bring the check and turned to Greta. He bent over to her, took her face in both hands and kissed her gently on the mouth. Immediately, the nape of Greta’s neck became hot. Everything was forgotten. Had she not insisted on being alone and gaining some distance, she would have given in to him on the spot. Mike was simply an unbelievably good kisser.

Mike let her go and walked away. At the door he turned around once more. His look transported Greta into another dimension momentarily. It was as if James Dean had given her a look over his shoulder –and it was only meant for her. The world stood still for a moment. “Til later, Babe.”
And he was gone.