“What’s this?” I asked.
And she said, “Just something I wrote. I want you to have it. Something to remember me by when you go back to London.”
I dropped to one knee at the side of the bed and raised my eyes to her, watching her long fingers as they smoothed over the flap of the envelope to make sure it was sealed.
“Let me read it, then,” I said.
“Oh no, Lenny. Not now.”
“At least, give me a little hint, Natashinka. Tell me what it’s all about.”
She blushed. Then she touched her cheek, trying to calm herself down, because now she was blushing over having blushed before. Meanwhile I noticed the silky fabric of her camisole. The edge of it came into view briefly, peeping out under the scarlet bow, right here at the lip of her sweater blouse. Then it disappeared.
At last she said, “It’s a page from my diary. It’s where I record my thoughts.”
“Is it about last night?”
“Oh no. It’s about the first time we met.”
I was moved, and told her so. Her eyes widened as I took the notebook out of the pocket of my jacket and opened it to look at the envelope. On the back side of it there were only two letters, N for Natasha, L for Lenny. They were drawn together in a fancy pen stroke. I touched my lips to it and put the envelope back in place without losing a beat and without trying to pry it open.
“I shall save it for later,” I said.
“And for always,” said she.
“Yes,” I promised. “For always.”
Natasha smiled, bouncing happily between one pillow and another. Wave after wave, her hair unfurled around face, her neck. She turned over to lie on her belly, swinging her feet back and forth in the air.
“Here, I brought you a little something,” I said, presenting the chocolate box I had bought for her.
She found it charming. I opened it. Inside were Liliput confections in red, pink, green, and black, each one hand-made: whipped, rolled, filled and ornamented. We looked at each other, wishing to surrender to temptation and at the same time trying to resist it, because at first glance, these sweets were too precious to eat. But this craving was stronger than both of us, and the only question was, would she yield to it before I did?
And another thing: how long could I hold myself back from making love to her?
Natasha leaned closer to me with a playful glint in her eye and reached over to pick a miniature chocolate ball, which she let melt on her tongue. She gave away a little moan, as if her delight came from the gut and couldn’t be expressed in mere words.
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- Grady Harp, Hall of Fame Reviewer
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