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Roger Partridge
Pfeuferstr. 36 • 81373 München (Munich)

Love Story or Why Don't Romantic
Relationships Come with a 2 Year
Guarantee? (2003, Roger Partridge ©)

With her sighs getting louder and more urgent he carefully shifted his considerable weight before entering her – only to be forestalled by the first few bars of Beethoven's For Elise . . . crescendo.

'Belinda, when will you remember to switch off your wretched mobile?!'

But she was already wriggling out from under him and reaching for her phone. 'Hello . . . yes, speaking. Correct, the flat is still available . . . Of course, what would you like to know? – Aaah' An involuntary intake of breath as her lover sat up and touched her between the thighs from behind. 'Well perhaps it would be better if I rang back tomorrow morning . . . All right, at nine thirty. I've got your number.' Dropping the phone on the bed she twisted round and gave him a long kiss.

'You know, David, self-control is not only a virtue but it's useful when trying to sell your flat at a good price.'

'A relentless, calculating yuppie who makes love like a world-class courtesan – who would believe it?'

'But isn't that perfect for a man? You don't have to support me and no competition. Lots and lots of love – physical and the other sort – and no strings! Come on, we're wasting precious time.'

Later he rolled over on to his back. 'Phew! You must be plugged into your own private power station.'

'You're too modest, David. Tenderness to make a girl weep – and megawatts to spare.'

'It must be catching – the same as being able to change the subject ten times in as many minutes. When we first met I didn't know what you were talking about half the time.'

'Poor you. I know you were struggling but now you keep up very well. I'm impressed – look, let's go out somewhere. After all, we don't want to lose the cutting edge'

An hour later they sat down at the last free table in the lounge bar. It was non-rock evergreen night with live music.

'It was a brilliant idea of yours coming here, David. You have a talent for guessing what I would like.'

Grinning he took her hand in his. 'Going out with you after making love is quite unlike other times, Belinda. You look different.'

She laughed. 'Perhaps it depends on who's looking. Listen, it's a Frank Sinatra number and there are a few couples on the floor. Let's have a smoochy dance.'

'If we'd stayed at home we could have snuggled up together the next three hours.'

'You know me. I like the bright lights.'

'Still, it's Sunday tomorrow. We could for a long walk in the afternoon.'

'Why not? If you like, you can try out lecture one of your "philosophy for sixth-formers" on me – oh, I'm sorry, no. I have to finish off this wretched presentation. But we can go and see the Monet exhibition Wednesday evening.'

'I was just about to go in on my own. You know I can't stand it when you're late, David. I came straight here without a chance to eat anything. And you? Just a silly grin all over your face!'

'Sorry but we must make a rather strange pair. You with your career girl outfit, lean and hungry look, not a hair out of place, –'

'– Quite, and burly you with your beard and Harris Tweed jacket. It's like having an Old English sheep dog padding along beside me. You could get a haircut now and then, you know.' Her frown vanished as she took his arm. 'Come on, I can't wait to see all those water lilies in the original at last.'

'Can you see what he's getting at?' The good-looking young man standing next to the picture managed to raise one eyebrow and smile at the same time.

'Oh yes.' And in rather less than one minute Belinda told him but then took David by the hand and walked on.

'Very impressive but you could have just ignored him, you know – he's at least five years younger than you, and certainly didn't take any notice of me.'

She laughed softly and kissed him. 'David! Don't be silly. And I suddenly saw what Monet must have seen – I couldn't keep it to myself.'

Two hours later they were sitting in a restaurant nearby. 'That was so exhilarating – much better than most modern films.'

'Yes and you were the best of guides, Belinda, but did we really have to keep darting backwards and forwards. Hanging them in a chronological order makes perfect sense.'

She laughed out loud. 'I just wanted to check back to see if he ever quoted himself, took up old subjects and themes – that kind of thing. Look, let's just have something quick and then go back to your flat. You don't have a very hard day tomorrow, do you?'

'What, a whole day's teaching with thirty adolescents every single period a "hard day"? But why talk about tomorrow?'

'Ah, there you are, you two. You've got a lot of catching up to do. We're already on to the second crate of prosecco.'

Five minutes later they'd been given a drink and their hostess at the office cum private party was welcoming the next arrivals. Belinda groaned. 'Oh dear, I told you it would all be a bore: here comes the office groper.'

'So you did come, Belinda. Some of the girls were betting you wouldn't.' The expensively dressed, fleshy man with perfect teeth didn't quite manage a note of easy charm.

'Oh hello', without warmth. 'Paul, David – David, Paul,'

'Well, David, I certainly compliment you on your good taste.'

'Hello, Paul. I wonder if you mean "good fortune" rather than "good taste".' David's tone was consciously friendly.

'Actually, Paul, David's too mealy-mouthed to say so but what he means is that I'm a . . . pretty . . . good . . . fuck!'

Paul's florid complexion turned almost purple. He tried to say something but then turned on his heel and left the room.

'Belinda! Was that really necessary? He could have had a stroke.'

'Serve him right – he's always putting his arms around the other girls' shoulders or brushing up against them. Acciden-tally, of course.'

'With you as well?'

'Just let him try! At the next opportunity – preferably when he's wearing one of his precious designer suits – he'd get a scalding hot latte macchiato grande right in the crotch.'

'Accidentally, of course.'

Later, having had enough of small talk, David came across a room well furnished with bookshelves and soon found something worth dipping into. But not for long. Belinda entered the room.

'Not the proverbial life and soul, are we? We might as well say "thank you" and go.'

Once in the car: 'I feel rather tired, David. You can take me back home.' Feeling more relieved than disappointed he just nodded.

Outside her flat he got out to open the door for her and said, 'don't forget dinner tomorrow evening. I'll pick you up at seven-thirty.'

'Forget – for your birthday treat? Never! But not pasta again I hope – choose something new and exciting.' They kissed briefly.

'I can see you're not planning a presentation this evening, Belinda.' She had just got in the car, wearing jeans and a washed out Fred Perry shirt under her unbuttoned duffel coat.

'You should know by now I like to relax a) at weekends and b) with you. But if you're ashamed to be seen with me I'll stay at home.'

'Don't lose your sense of humour. Anyway, I've booked a table.'

'Well I hope it's not next to the gents like last time.' Her laughter was without any rancour and David joined in.

They were soon sitting near the window in a French restaurant David estimated would use up his entertainment budget for close to two months.

Twenty seconds after the waiter had brought them two huge menus Belinda said 'I rather fancy the sole meunière – and how about a pinot gris to go with it?'

'Could you give me at least a minute?' It came out much sharper than he intended.

'That doesn't sound like the happy birthday boy.

'I'm sorry. I'm not quite in the mood yet.'

A short silence. 'Oh, I almost forgot.' She rummaged around in her hand bag and took out a small, intriguingly wrapped parcel. 'This should cheer you up.'

After unwrapping it he just about managed a neutral tone. 'A watch . . . what a surprise – thank you.' They'd been in a book shop together that week. He'd almost drooled over two new anthologies – ethics and metaphysics – but at fifty pounds each had to put them back reluctantly on the shelf. The watch must have cost at least two hundred.

'You know you always have problems with the time. I thought it would be just the job.' But her usual note of confidence was missing.

An hour later. 'Well the wine didn't last long and the sole was superb. How was your veal, David?

He smiled. 'It suited the plonque gris perfectly.'

Smiling back: 'So . . . how are things on the front line?'

'It's a struggle to keep them interested. Every year fewer and fewer seem to have the slightest wish to get involved with anything or anybody apart from the opposite sex or the MTV culture.'

'But surely you can inspire them.'

'When I started teaching ten years ago that's what I hoped. And I like to think I did. But now I'm not so sure.'

'Come on, David, where's that get up and go feeling?' He smiled wryly.

'Good, you've made it. With your abysmal punctuality it was a bit of a risk meeting here at the airport. But it was chaotic today at the office. Let's go and see what the coffee of the month is.'

As they sat down in the self-service with their hot drinks

David grumbled, 'I always forget how they hold you to ransom at airports. So you'll be away for three weeks?'

'Yes . . . but,'

'But what?'

'Let's stop now before there's nothing left at all.'

'Wow! Don't anybody ever say you're predictable.

'But we can both predict how things would go on from here.'

'Perhaps there's a way back – or has my successor already been appointed?'

Taking his hand in hers and smiling into his face she said 'Don't you know a serial monogamist when you see one?'

'Yes but somehow I hoped that with me the series had come to an end.'

'Well, for a few weeks I felt the same . . .' She shook her head.

He wanted to say something but a large and noisy group of people passed close by them.

'It's time for me to go through too.' They got up and she kissed him on the cheek.

Just three high-heeled steps on the way to passport control she stopped and turned round. 'We really were up there with the gods, David, weren't we?'

'Yes, Belinda, we were.'