Read Adultery Online

Authors: Paulo Coelho

Tags: #Romance, #Literary, #Fiction, #Visionary & Metaphysical, #General

Adultery (9 page)

BOOK: Adultery
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She doesn’t take her eyes off me. I decide to resume my role as journalist and ask if she has anything more to add. Has she organized a party at home for close friends?

“Of course not! Imagine how much work that would be. Besides, he’s already been elected. You hold any parties and dinners before an election, to draw votes.”

Again, I feel like a complete imbecile, but I need to ask at least one other question.

Is Jacob happy?

And I see that I have hit home. Mme König gives me a condescending look and replies slowly, as if she were a teacher giving me a lesson:

“Of course he’s happy. Why on earth wouldn’t he be?”

This woman deserves to be drawn and quartered.

We are both interrupted at the same time—me by an aide wanting to introduce me to the winner, she by an acquaintance coming to offer his congratulations. It was a pleasure to meet her, I say, and am tempted to add that, on another occasion, I’d like to explore what she means by consensual sex with the wife of a friend—off the record, of course—but there’s no time. I give her my card should she ever need to contact me, but she does not reciprocate. Before I move away, however, she grabs my arm and, in front of the aide and the man who has come to congratulate her on her husband’s victory, says:

“I saw that mutual friend of ours who had lunch with my husband. I feel very sorry for her. She pretends to be strong, but she’s really very fragile. She pretends that she’s confident, but she spends all her time wondering what other people think of her and her work. She must be a very lonely person. As you know, my dear, we women have a very keen sixth sense when it comes to detecting anyone who is a threat to our relationship. Don’t you agree?”

Of course, I say, showing no emotion whatsoever. The aide looks impatient. The winner of the election is waiting for me.

“But she doesn’t have a hope in hell,” Marianne concludes.

Then she holds out her hand, which I dutifully shake, and she moves off without another word.

I SPEND
the whole of Monday morning trying to call Jacob’s private mobile number. I never get through. I block his number, on the assumption that he has done the same with mine. I try ringing again, but still no luck.

I ring his aides. I’m told that he’s very busy after the elections, but I need to speak to him. I continue trying.

I adopt a strategy I often have to resort to: I use the phone of someone whose number will not be on his list of contacts.

The telephone rings twice and Jacob answers.

It’s me. I need to see you urgently.

Jacob replies politely and says that today is impossible, but he’ll call me back. He asks:

“Is this your new number?”

No, I borrowed it from someone because you weren’t answering my calls.

He laughs. I imagine he’s surrounded by people. He’s very good at pretending that he’s talking about something perfectly legitimate.

Someone took a photo of us in the park and is trying to blackmail me, I lie. I’ll say that it was all your fault, that you grabbed me. The people who elected you and thought that the last extramarital affair was a one-off will be disappointed. You may have been elected to the Council of States, but you could miss out on becoming a minister, I say.

“Are you feeling all right?”

Yes, I say, and hang up, but only after asking him to send me a text confirming where and when we should meet tomorrow.

I feel fine.

Why wouldn’t I? I finally have something to fill my boring life. And my sleepless nights will no longer be full of crazy
thoughts: now I know what I want. I have an enemy to destroy and a goal to achieve.

A man.

It isn’t love (or is it?), but that doesn’t matter. My love belongs to me and I’m free to offer it to whomever I choose, even if it’s unrequited. Of course, it would be great if it were requited, but if not, who cares. I’m not going to give up digging this hole, because I know that there’s water down below. Fresh water.

I’m pleased by that last thought: I’m free to love anyone in the world. I can decide who without asking anyone’s permission. How many men have fallen in love with me in the past and not been loved in return? And yet they still sent me presents, courted me, accepted being humiliated in front of their friends. And they never became angry.

When they see me again, there is still a glimmer of failed conquest in their eyes. They will keep trying for the rest of their lives.

If they can act like that, why shouldn’t I do the same? It’s thrilling to fight for a love that’s entirely unrequited.

It might not be much fun. It might leave profound and lasting scars. But it’s interesting—especially for a person who, for years now, has been afraid of taking risks and who has begun to be terrified by the possibility that things might change without her being able to control them.

I’m not going to repress my feelings any longer. This challenge is my salvation.

Six months ago, we bought a new washing machine and had to change the plumbing in the laundry room. We had to change the flooring, too, and paint the walls. In the end, it looked far prettier than the kitchen.

To avoid an unfortunate contrast, we had to replace the kitchen. Then we noticed that the living room looked old and faded. So we redecorated the living room, which then looked more inviting than the study we hadn’t touched for ten years. So then we went to work on the study. Gradually, the refurbishment spread to the whole house.

I hope the same doesn’t happen to my life. I hope that the small things won’t lead to great transformations.

I SPEND
quite a long time finding out more about Marianne, or Mme König, as she calls herself. She was born into a wealthy family, co-owners of one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies. In photos on the Internet she always looks very elegant, whether she’s at a social or sporting event. She’s never over- or underdressed for the occasion. She would never, like me, wear jogging pants to Nyon or a Versace dress to a nightclub full of youngsters.

It’s possible that she is the most enviable woman in Geneva and its environs. Not only is she heiress to a fortune and married to a promising politician, she also has her own career as an assistant professor of philosophy. She has written two theses, one of them—“Vulnerability and Psychosis Among the Retired” (published by Editions Université de Genève)—for her doctorate. And she’s had two essays published in the respected journal
Les Rencontres,
in whose pages Adorno and Piaget, among others, have also appeared. She has her own entry in the French Wikipedia, although it’s not often updated. There she is described as “an expert on aggression, conflict, and harassment in the nursing homes of French-speaking Switzerland.”

She must have a profound understanding of the agonies and ecstasies of being human—so profound that she was not even shocked by her husband’s “consensual sex.”

She must be a brilliant strategist to have succeeded in persuading a mainstream newspaper to believe in her, an anonymous informer. (They are normally never taken seriously and are, besides, few and far between in Switzerland.) I doubt that she identified herself as a source.

She is a manipulator who was able to transform something that could have proved devastating to her husband’s career
into a lesson in marital tolerance and solidarity, as well as a struggle against corruption.

She is a visionary, intelligent enough to wait before having children. She still has time. Meanwhile, she can build the career she wants without being troubled by babies crying in the middle of the night or by neighbors saying that she should give up her work and pay more attention to the children (as mine do).

She has excellent instincts, and doesn’t see me as a threat. Despite appearances, the only person I am a danger to is myself.

She is precisely the kind of woman I would like to destroy pitilessly.

Because she is not some poor wretch without a resident’s permit who wakes at five in the morning in order to travel into the city, terrified that one day she’ll be exposed as an illegal worker. Because she isn’t a lady of leisure married to some high-ranking official in the United Nations, always seen at parties in order to show the world how rich and happy she is (even though everyone knows that her husband has a mistress ten years her junior). And because she isn’t the mistress of a high-ranking official at the United Nations, where she works and, however hard she tries, will never be recognized for what she does because “she’s having an affair with the boss.”

She isn’t a lonely, powerful female CEO who had to move to Geneva to be close to the World Trade Organization’s headquarters, where everyone takes sexual harassment in the workplace so seriously that no one dares to even look at anyone else. And at night, she doesn’t lie staring at the wall of the vast mansion she has rented, occasionally hiring a male escort to distract her and help her forget that she’ll spend the rest of her life without a husband, children, or lovers.

No, Marianne doesn’t fit any of those categories. She’s the complete woman.

I’VE BEEN
sleeping better. I should be meeting Jacob before the end of the week—at least that’s what he promised, and I doubt he would have the courage to change his mind. He sounded nervous during our telephone conversation on Monday.

My husband thinks that the Saturday we spent in Nyon did me good. Little does he know that’s where I discovered what was really troubling me: a lack of passion and adventure.

One of the symptoms I’ve noticed in myself is a kind of psychological nearsightedness. My world, which once seemed so broad and full of possibilities, began to shrink as my need for security grew. Why could that be? It must be a quality we inherited from when our ancestors lived in caves. Groups provide protection; loners die.

Even though we know that the group can’t possibly control everything—for example, your hair falling out or a cell in your body that suddenly goes crazy and becomes a tumor—the false sense of security makes us forget this. The more clearly we can see the walls of our life, the better. Even if it’s only a psychological boundary, even if, deep down, we know that death will still enter without asking, it’s comforting to pretend that we have everything under control.

Lately, my mind has been as rough and tempestuous as the sea. When I look back now, it’s as if I am making a transoceanic voyage on a rudimentary raft, in the middle of the stormy season. Will I survive? I ask, now that there is no going back.

Of course I will.

I’ve survived storms before. I’ve also made a list of things to focus on whenever I feel I’m in danger of falling back into the black hole:

·   Play with my children. Read them stories that provide a lesson for them and for me, because stories are ageless.
·   Look up at the sky.
·   Drink lots of iced mineral water. That may seem simple, but it always invigorates me.
·   Cook. Cooking is the most beautiful and most complete of the arts. It involves all our five senses, plus one more—the need to give of our best. That is my preferred therapy.
·   Write down a list of complaints. This was a real discovery! Every time I feel angry about something, I write it down. At the end of the day, when I read the list, I realize that I’ve been angry about nothing.
·   Smile, even if I feel like crying. That is the most difficult thing on the list, but you get used to it. Buddhists say that a fixed smile, however false, lights up the soul.
·   Take two showers a day, instead of one. It dries the skin because of the hard water and chlorine, but it’s worth it, because it washes the soul clean.

But this is working now only because I have a goal: to win the heart of a man. I’m a cornered tiger with nowhere to run; the only option that remains is to attack.

I FINALLY
have a date: tomorrow at three o’clock in the restaurant of the Golf Club de Genève in Cologny. It could have been in a bistro in the city or in a bar on one of the roads that lead off from the city’s main (or you might say only) commercial street, but he chose the restaurant at the golf club.

In the middle of the afternoon.

Because at that hour, the restaurant will be empty and we’ll have more privacy. I need to come up with a good excuse for my boss, but that’s not a problem. After all, the article I wrote about the elections was picked up by lots of other newspapers.

A discreet place, that’s what he must have had in mind. But in my usual mania for believing whatever I want, I think of it as romantic. Autumn has already painted the trees many shades of gold; perhaps I’ll invite Jacob to go for a walk. I think better when I’m moving, especially when I run, as proven in Nyon, but I doubt very much that we’ll do any running.

Ha, ha, ha.

Tonight for dinner we had a cheese fondue that we Swiss call raclette, accompanied by thin slices of raw bison meat and traditional rösti potatoes with cream. My family asked if we were celebrating something special, and I said that we were: the fact that we were together and could enjoy a quiet dinner in one another’s company. Then I took my second shower of the day and allowed the water to wash away my anxiety. Afterward, I slathered on plenty of moisturizer and went to the children’s bedroom to read them a story. I found them
glued to their tablets, which I think should be forbidden for anyone under fifteen.

I told them to turn their electronics off, and they reluctantly obeyed. I picked up a book of traditional stories, opened it at random, and began to read.

During the ice age, many animals died of cold, so the porcupines decided to band together to provide one another with warmth and protection. But their spines or quills kept sticking into their surrounding companions, precisely those who provided the most warmth. And so they drifted apart again.
And again many of them died of cold.
BOOK: Adultery
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