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- Old Issues
“You might not believe this to look at me now, but I was a pretty famous model once. Back in my country. Russia. I was kind of a girl wonder. I was frightened, you see. Because I had never even had a boyfriend. The photographer took me to the woods. He touched my tee shirt. He said, take it off. Brown Eyes. So I did.”
Jeff crossed his arms over his handsome dark chest, and played with the gilded army chain a few times, leaning back in the German hotel bed. He watched his wife slip on a red silk teddy. He knew what she meant. She had laugh lines. She looked a little pale. Almost plain. The only thing about her that he could see that reminded him of a really beautiful woman was her hair, rich, brown, and glossy. Well, that and her eyes. Which were smoky and chesnut.
“I was a goth in high school, back in Russia.” She ran a brush over that beautiful hair and he stared at her mane. “I was born a blonde, like that beautiful actress Julie Christie. That was my birth name. Julie. Everyone nicknames me Vespa. But I could never be Julie Christie,” she explained. “I wanted to, but I never felt like a beautiful woman. That was a projection that the world saw on me.”
They moved into his expensive condo in Hamburg, Germany immediately. He worked at his high end army job. He was a big shot. Jeff could be cocky. Maybe that was why he had so little serious girlfriends. Yes, there was Alexandra, some caustic, French girl, with red hair, hefty curves and no manners. His parents back in the States did not like her so much. That was why he turned to the internet for dates. And mail order brides.
Vespa cooked, extravagant dishes that got bigger and more grand the longer they lived together. Lobster bisque. French soup. Cherry chocolate mousse. They made love in the light of the TV and it was hot in the beginning, her wild model antics, and it stayed hot. He loved kissing her. He could almost believe it was love.
When, he came home, he found her weeping. She was not a woman that cried. So he was surprised.
“Tell me, doll face?” he asked. All at once, he saw the model in her. He saw what the photographer’s saw. The ivory skin. Dark straight hair. Indeed, the hair, coming loose from it’s ponytail, and falling to her bare shoulder, revealing a red bra strap. She had lit candles all over the house and she glowed. She looked a little Israeli, actually, by the light of the evening and he wondered.
“I was watching a soap opera about mail order brides and it made me cry. It reminds me of Russia.” she whispered brokenly. But he knew. It reminded her of now.
Once, in anger, he threw something at her. A dish. He didn’t mean to. Still, he was passionately angry and the dish just flew from his hand. She caught it was the back of her hand, athlete that she was. Then, she crouched over the stove and wept again, privately.
He liked to take her out on the town, to restaurants, so men could see her with him, this tall thin Russian model dame on his arm. He urged her to wear something nice for her twenty third birthday. When she put on some red lipstick and black sequin cocktail gown, she could still knock it out of the park.
“We have the good life, baby,” he would say and put on a Bobby Womack. Jeff had a real kick out of Motown. He was so white bread on the outside, he knew his army friends would laugh. He liked to dance with her at night to Marvin Gaye.
Sometimes, he took Vespa to the base parties, to meet the other officers’ wives. He had a high standing on the base. He had fought overseas, valiantly, and thought he would never have to fight again, he was awarded some monetary compensation. The base parties were held at a supper club, near a golf course and tennis court. These women were pretty uptight though, she told him. I like rock n roll. I like David Bowie and the Kinks. All the women on army base talk about is dress patterns and cooking apple pies.
She went back into the modeling schitck. She did a little fashion work at a local German agency called Agency One. They liked her, even at 23, which was getting mature for the high end editorial work in Vogue. Her body was getting a bit voluptuous from all that lobster bisque soup though. They really wanted her to do a shampoo commercial, with all that glossy mahogany hair of hers. She was a brunette and a touch exotic, which the Germans liked. She was popular in the local Macy’s catalog too.
She showed him the cover of the local flier, around Christmas time, where she wore a fur coat and red high heels. She looked lush. There was a discrepancy. The uptight office wife way, she looked in public at the base parties, and the rose she bloomed at, under the camera. The camera loved her the way no man could. It was that fashion chutzpah that she craved.
She was curiously numb though. She would read Cosmo magazines for her bedroom tips. She was a very sexual woman. It never stopped surprising him. She had a modern model’s lack of inhibition. He liked to juxtapose that with the image of what she had first told him, at fifteen years old, the girl that had met the photographer.
In her blood, she was a woman with a stolen girlhood that Jeff Greckman and his TV shows would never understand. Only she knew the truth. As facts went, she hated her fancy military awarded husband, and wanted to go home. Back to the land of snow, the Communists, the vodka. Back to the blonde, she had been born as, her name sake. Julie Christie, with her long blonde hair, her china eyes, the most beautiful woman in the world, but so terribly sad.