PARADISE WALK

By: Shirley Goulden

 Copyright (c)  Gavin Embry -- 2012ad

I have been here before,

But when or how I cannot tell:

I know the grass beyond the door,

The sweet keen smell,

The sighing sound, the lights around the shore.

You have been mine before, -

How long ago I may not know:

But just when at that swallow's soar

Your neck turned so,

Some veil did fall, -- I knew it all of yore.

Has this been thus before?

And shall not thus time's eddying flight

Still with our lives our love restore

In death's despite.

And day and night yield one delight once more?

 

"Sudden Light" DANTE GABRIEL ROSETTI.


Book One

CHAPTER ONE

Jennet Templeton Jay was pronounced dead at 8:32 on the morning of July 18, 1989.

The Templetons of Massachusetts had arrived in the United States, if not on the Mayflower, certainly (with their undoubted sense of occasion) in time for the Boston Tea-Party. Indeed the family had then, and in the future, played a prominent role in some of the more notorious political shindigs; for which reasons they had been banished from British shores, to recover their fortunes in the transport of cargo triangularly between the Colonies, Europe and the Caribbean. During the early fifties Elfrida Templeton married Faulkner Gardiner Jay, second son and subsequent sole heir to the colossal J.Y.J. gentlemen's underwear empire, thereafter producing a pair of all-American jocks and one daughter.

Jennet (or Jen) was the third child of this union, who by virtue of her costly and exclusive education possessed the outward attributes of a healthy wealthy young American socialite. Both her public image and personal appearance were glossy, bright and beautiful as her russet hair and lips and cheeks and carefully manicured nails: A paper doll, bandbox neat, fresh, aseptic and peppy as America's favourite mouthwash.

But there was a brightness of mind and spirit which in early youth had not emerged -- intelligence in her set being a drawback to popularity. At Radcliffe, however, she was encouraged to develop her intellect, and produced some creditable, and (discreditable), lampoons for the college magazine, a few fairly promising short stories and an intriguing but totally un-actable play. All of which experience inspired her interest in film writing as a career. Accordingly after college Jen travelled west to the movie Mecca.

Impressed by her family connections Jen was taken up by certain Hollywood hostesses, those married to celebrities but with no role of their own to play outside the party promotional scene. Jen had no ambition to be one of their decorative props, and though she attended some of the star-studded balls and wakes, it was only in the hope of penetrating that esoteric circle of actors, writers, directors and other artists who were the creative mainsprings of the industry. Unfortunately, though Jen's social qualifications may have provided an entree to the Beverly Hills party circuit, they actually minimized her chances of being accepted by this elite, most of whom had reached eminence only as a result of their own exceptional abilities. In due course she became bored and disillusioned with the idea of remaining in Hollywood.

Maxwell Maltz telephoned, waking her before six a.m. one smog-bound morning. Few either enjoyed or respected a regular night's sleep in those parts, least of all Max, who at all hours of the day and night was constantly arranging meetings of a social-cum-business nature between various important and beautiful people. He was a failed producer who had become a wheeling-dealing contact man, the payoff depending on who did what for (or to) whom as a result of his introductions. Thoroughly unscrupulous, Max possessed, and promoted to the utmost, an oddly persuasive fascination, which coupled with a sensual if somewhat raffish appearance, made him not entirely unacceptable to some women. He amused Jen, particularly since the relationship was uncomplicated by the fact that Max sought only to use her name and not her body. To do him justice Max did uphold one single principle, which was a conviction that business and pleasure should not be confused.

"Hi Jay-bird. Max here. You asleep or something?" He sounded aggrieved at the end of the line.

Jen, shocked awake by the bell's shriek mumbled incoherently. "Do me a favour Max -- drop dead 'till ten, will you?" she groaned.

"Who has time to die? I gotta party organized for tonight. How'd you like to meet Warren Wilcox -- you know Warren, he wrote Starfield and Armageddon? Warren's doing that Dem Dmitri picture for the Polaris outfit. We're eating at Spagos, seven thirty for eight -- Mark Travers might drop by. Gotta be there Jay-bird, I need ya!"

"Max, who needs you?", Jen gathered her energy to yell. "Not at this time of night, for heaven's sake!"

"Night's through, it's morning already, start of a great new day," announced Max, totally unabashed. "Get out in the world, meet a few people -- see ya later -- wear something gorgeous, Gorgeous." The line went dead before Jen could further express her indignation. Of course she went to the dinner, without quite knowing why. Everyone did for Max.

Mark Travers, suave movie idol for three decades, had been lured reluctantly from his Palm Springs retreat to attend the dinner. His agent had reminded him that he was then back-to-back two box-office flops and should not miss the chance of landing a part in the prestigious Dmitri production. Jen was seated next to him on one side, and though he was still extremely handsome, she had the impression that his scintillating charm was reserved only for the three minutes a day in which he was required to project it. She made sporadic efforts to engage him in a mildly controversial subject unconnected with the movies, and arousing small response turned to her partner on the left.

Her first impression of Dem Dmitri was his apparent lack of concern for anyone's opinion, particularly which of his faded wife Paula, who sat in the background, chic and champagne dyed, while her husband fiercely propounded his somewhat extremist political views. Jen thought him arrogant, self-opinionated and inordinately attractive. Although not particularly tall, Dem was of muscular physique, with shoulders of a prizefighter and a pair of startling blue eyes which flashed power as he spoke. She saw him as if surrounded by radiant energy; her illusions being intensified by an occasional disarming smile, which in rare moments of levity he directed at her. There was an easy intimacy in that smile, as if already they shared secrets. Jen had been in Hollywood long enough to be aware that this technique of total rapport did not necessarily promise more than an evening's entertainment; and yet she carried a poignant memory of him back to New York, where she returned soon afterwards to reassess her career.

Having failed to be dazzled or to bedazzle Hollywood Jen decided that, rather than again extend butterfly wings into the social whirl, she would apply herself to the construction of an historical novel. Since a trip to Europe some years back she had been captivated by eighteenth century art and literature, and now resolved to settle in London for a while. It was there, after several months, that she again encountered Dem Dmitri.

Jen had taken a tiny house in a picturesque Chelsea alley called Paradise Walk. Her New York literary agent liaised with an English firm whose managing director owned the property, and having fled London for the Home Counties had converted it into a company residence, complete with word-processing paraphernalia for the use of visiting authors. The quaint side street with its line of gaily painted doors was once Bull Walk, a turning off the formerly fashionable Paradise Row. She had been pleased by her good fortune in acquiring the little house, for this was a pleasant and historical spot.

Jen sensed the tranquility that had once graced this area near the river down which many a stately procession had sailed, and beyond whose banks stretched the once rural slopes of Stratham and the wind milled fields of Battersea. From the Botanic, or Physic Garden nearby the seductive perfume of healing herbs had wafted on the wind as far as the pleasure gardens at Ranelagh. Down at `The Swan' roisterers watched the river sports, while fashionable city folk in their carriages lent ton to the occasion. The famous Duchess of Mazarin had stayed there long ago, whose father the Cardinal had awarded her ten thousand golden pistoles, consequently receiving a proposal of marriage from the exiled Charles II which she could well afford to refuse. Nell Gwynn bore the king a son who lived at Paradise Row. It was said of her (and what was not?) that in order to receive recognition for the boy, she had presumed, in the monarch's presence, to call the child a `little bastard', thereby securing for him a dukedom. Pepys had visited, (and heard `forty poor sordid things' about Lord Castlemaine), and so had Walpole, who went everywhere. Professors and physicians there had been actors and artists. These peopled Jen's waking hours and dreams almost to the exclusion of modern acquaintance; she sought out no-one, and yet was seldom lonely.

Jen ran into Dem Dmitri in, of all unlikely places, the British Museum. She had emerged somewhat blearily from the Library, mentally still two hundred years or . so behind the times, and had lingered at the sculpture of a married couple seated close together. Despite their stony silence the pair communicated across the centuries from ancient Egypt an impression of erotic intimacy.

"Superb!" a male voice behind her observed. She turned and there he stood, obviously admiring not the statues but Jen. Dem raised a sardonic eyebrow in appreciation of her body-revealing kid suede jacket, rust coloured to match long loose hair, with narrow pants tucked into short boots. This was Jen's working outfit, and though masculine in cut and style, set off to perfection a narrow waist and long slim legs.

He was in London for a remake of Cleopatra, and with his penchant for authenticity, was checking material in the Egyptian section of the museum. Dem Dmitri was a professional dynamo who had never learned to delegate, and was more demanding of himself than of any employee.

Intensely dedicated, he threw every ounce of nervous energy into his projects. It emerged that Paula had not accompanied him to Europe, and Jen accepted his invitation to dinner the following night with some trepidation, since she had already re-experienced that first intimation of hidden understanding, and an awareness of her own heightened susceptibility to his considerable charisma. For all her absorption in work it was a relief to give some of her time to the frivolities and vanities of preparing for their date. She enjoyed applying an opalescent makeup which gave her naturally clear complexion an almost unearthly translucent look. Her nose and blue-green eyes were both slightly upward tilted as were the corners of the mouth, endowing the face as a whole with an enigmatic expression. Jen's appearance was usually impeccable, and this night she chose a classic black dress, well cut and dramatized by a high collar of pearls. Her hair was anchored in a knot at the crown with tortoise-shell pins -- several stray copper wisps escaping at the nape and sides to soften the style's severity.

He called at the last minute and asked her to meet him at `The Caprice', having been delayed unexpectedly at a meeting. There was no suggestion of sending a car for her so she was obliged to stand out on the street in her finery looking for a taxi. To punish him she made a point of being rather late, so that he was waiting with an almost anxious expression when she arrived. She realized that, for all his outward assurance, he had feared being stood up.

Dem made up for his earlier lack of gallantry by expressing great enthusiasm for the way she was turned out and Jen hoped ungraciously that he had been daunted by the favourable attention she had received from others on entering. Her slight pique soon vanished though, for the man was undoubtedly prepossessing. During dinner she found him, contrary to her previous impression, less egotistical than confident in his own abilities, and even touchingly frank and unassuming about his humble background. Jen learned that Demosthenes Dmitri owned this odd name to his widowed Russian immigrant mother, who had been reduced to renting the back room of their tenement on the lower east side of New York City to a Greek seaman. The Greek had loved her passionately, her voluptuous nature and body appealing to his own earthy virility; but although she bore him a child, Malka Dimitriovitch's orthodox Jewish upbringing precluded the possibility of marriage to a Gentile. Jen was intrigued as Dem outlined his early struggle to overcome poverty and the confusion of his illegitimacy, which resulted in an unsuccessful search for identity as an actor. Eventually the pursuit of this career took him to Hollywood, where owing to a chance opportunity, he discovered his true vocation on the opposite side of the cameras; and a decade later was recognised throughout the industry as one of movie land's outstanding directors.

The man's disarming frankness and warmth melted her own New England reserve and she found herself talking eagerly of her own work and aspirations, as to an old and trusted friend. He listened intently, captivated by her exhilarating freshness, and before the dinner check was signed, determined that they would end the evening sharing more than the Lobster Americaine. Impulsive in his desires, he did not trouble to suggest going to `Tramps' where in fact he had earlier had his secretary book a table, but directed a limousine to his suite at the Connaught. Jen put up no resistance for she had none; and this was new in her experience.

There had been no moment of reticence between them once they were alone. Expertly Dem released the fastening of her pearl collar which being the garment's sole means of support, caused its abrupt descent to the waist. He stared at her un-trammelled breasts, full but shapely, then cupping them together cushioned his head like a weary child, she responding almost maternally with a tender embrace. The mood changed to one of urgency as he uncovered her lower body and covered it again with kisses; she sank backwards on the bed, limbs spread in supplication to his vigour. They became one striving, pulsing entity, riding waves of passion to the crest of ecstasy.

Parting presently they lay sideways facing one another, sublimely content, yet during that blissful lassitude it was she whose eyes held the unspoken questions, and he who had none of the answers.

It was the start of a joyous affair. Jen and Dem spent every available hour together, he at Paradise Walk each evening after work, and she occasionally ventured onto the set where, in spite of the utmost discretion, some slight rumours began to circulate as to their relationship. They could not suppress the extraordinary magnetism that had newly vitalized their existence, and which they unconsciously generated when together.

Jen had not realized before how unfulfilling were her previous relationships with men. Until then she had been merely content to indulge in love among the poppies, that heady triumph of conquest and subsequent surrender to the soporific pleasures of sexual gratification. Nothing more. Now with Dem she had found an entirely new dimension of loving and being loved. Emotional bonding was for once more significant to them both than mere physical enjoyment; they now experienced that perfect harmony of body and spirit beyond which there could be no greater delight.

Sometimes during that spring Dem could escape his weekend script conference and laborious discussions with actors regarding interpretation of their roles. Then, weather permitting, they would drive into the countryside and put up at some picturesque inn. He came close to declaring himself on one of these occasions. They had finished their indifferent meal in the oak-beamed dining room and strolled out into the fragrant evening air. Behind the hotel was a lantern-lit paved courtyard with ornamental goldfish pond, lover's seat within a semi-circular hedge and a bed of stately red roses. The wine at least had been up to expectations, the evening mild and the surroundings romantic. Dem longed to convey to Jen his depth of feeling at that moment as he watched her, a light breeze ruffling the hair around her face into the semblance of a delicate blown rose in the flower-bed. Jen's clear skin was innocent of cosmetics, the expression in her pale green eyes tender and suppliant. She said:

"God, I need you so much it scares me." He made no reply, only putting a protective arm round her shoulder. The breeze had grown cooler and Jen shivered, resolving suddenly to risk a leading question. "Dem, what happens to us at the end of the year?" She had never before tried to nail him to any kind of commitment.

Again silence from Dem. Then: "Look, it's tough, but I guess there are circumstances we just have to face." He dropped his gaze. "Jen, the truth is I can't say to you what I'd really like to say. Sure I'm crazy about you, and when we're apart I'm going to miss you one hell of a lot."

The chill was within her now, icy fear clutching at her vitals, and he, sensing her panic, felt compassion. Jen's anxiety exploded in bitterness. "You lousy two-faced bastard. What you really mean is you want your cake and eat it. Well, this angel is no piece of cake, all sweetness and light, Mr. Married Man."

"Chrissakes, what's got into you Jen? I'm not just screwing about here; you've got to believe that."

"I believe what I'm hearing, Dem. You're planning to split when the movie's through, right?"

"No way. But Paula owns what I own, and I couldn't hack it financially right now, before the picture's wrapped. Also I have my kids to support, Jen, and not just with cash. I guess I never was around them enough, and believe me I owe them some time. Dan was into drug experimentation a year or so ago when I was off on location in Mexico. One of his buddies hyped him on speed. They decided to liberate my Porsche right through the back of the garage into the pool. By some miracle the brats got out unhurt....though I almost killed them myself when I got back and saw the bills." He flashed his inimitable grin, trying to defuse the situation. "It sure must have been rough on Paula having to handle the scene alone, though for some reason it's one of the few things she never has reproached me for. PauIie's still a little girl and close to her mother, but Dan is pushing sixteen. Between now and when he goes to college that character has to have a man in his life…"

Jen hit out where it hurt, resentful to be absorbing his guilt. "And just where's he going to find one, you rotten son-of-a-bitch?"

Dem's craggy chin jutted forward aggressively. He had overstretched his capacity for restraint, to an extent that might well have astounded his friends and colleagues, not to speak of his wife.

"What do you want of me? You're asking more than I have any right to give just now. You know how I feel about you, but there are problems I can't flush down the goddam john!" Now his voice had risen angrily, echoing through the quiet English garden. Jen felt suddenly drained of emotion.

"Lighten up, Dmitri, you're wilting the roses." Now she tried to play it down, but Dem refused to be humoured. They sat in gloomy silence until presently he stood up abruptly and led the way back into the hotel.

Jen half expected that he would suggest returning to London, using the quarrel as an excuse to make a clean break after all; but they remained for the night. His lovemaking was more perfunctory than usual, gentle for him, even apologetic. Ironically enough it had not occurred to Jen before that Dem would ever abandon her for his wife. Their relationship had been so profound, so binding that she regarded Paula, rather than herself, as the interloper. Back in town she managed to convince herself that Dem's attitude had been precipitated by one of Paula's frequent plaintive calls to him from the States, complaining about one or other of the children or of his long absences.

At any rate the affair continued apace, for with the start of Cleo she became indispensable to him by assisting with Egyptological research, her own reading being neglected for the time. She felt as much a part of his work as of him; and he enjoyed her eager involvement, deriving much that was constructive from her help and encouragement. The months sped by, Dem in and out of town on location, until June. On the last day of shooting she was invited to the rap' party at the studio. The cast were still in costume and the leading lady, Carina Lang, who had met and vaguely remembered Jen in New York, came swaying over oozing with champagne malice.

"Darling, how absolutely thrilling to see you", she gushed. "I hear you, and our blue-eyed whiz of a wonder-boy is quite an item these days. When Paula hears the glad tidings, darling, he'll be all washed up at the laundry. I mean absolutely cleaned out, poor dear!" Carina was a natural for `Cleopatra' since she possessed a vicious feline quality which at that moment was emphasized by heavily slant-lined eyes and a gold lame dress so tight as to endow her with the movements as well as the general disposition of an alley cat. Dem joined them, overhearing Carina's last line. Selecting a small skewered kebab from the buffet he presented it sharp end up to his leading lady. "Carina, my sweet, do us all a favour and stick it up your asp."

 

******************


 

 

The picture was over but Dem remained in London attending to editing and post-synchronization. He and Jen were able to share more time together on a regular basis, since this work only occupied him during the day. Each evening he would arrive at Paradise Walk for dinner, and there was an interlude during which Jen deluded herself into feeling almost as secure and complaisant as a suburban housewife. They dined always at seven-thirty and, sitting across the kitchen table, consumed pints of coffee,

whiling away the halcyon hours of twilight and loving away the nights. They had never been closer and Jen almost allowed herself to believe that she and Dem had found some spiritual haven, a citadel in Paradise Walk impregnable to the forces of reality. He too chose for a while to eschew the hard facts. It was for him a sanctuary; one which he was loathe to surrender. They had sometimes spent a weekend at the Connaught, but seldom did so lately, for Jen found trying Dem's obvious anxiety to avoid running into any of Paula's friends. Despite the interlude with darling Carina, Jen could not be disabused of the impression, however unreasonably in the circumstances, that he was ashamed of their relationship. Therefore the suite invariably echoed with battle cries, the suppression of which did  great credit to the fine hotel's old fashioned solidity. As a result they generally preferred to spend most of their time together at Paradise Walk. However during the last week of July Dem decided to spend a weekend at the Connaught on his own in order to collect some clothes and have a Sunday brunch meeting with some business contacts. He rang Jen on Saturday night, neither one caring to be out of contact for more than a few hours. A legacy of Dem's deprived and miserable childhood was an almost pathological fear of loneliness -- one of the reasons, perhaps, why he had remained with Paula. Now, independent as he had learned to be, Dem longed for the warmth and comfort of Paradise Walk and its mistress as he had once longed for the security of a loving home and parents. At the other end of the wire Jen too lay in her otherwise empty bed feeling equally bereft; missing the pleasing odour of him, the touch of him, the quintessential substance of the man. She made the absurd suggestion, for it was one a.m. that he take a taxi to Paradise Walk, returning for the meetings next day. Cautious of being overheard, Dem's conversations from the hotel were usually impersonal. But that night his voice was husky with emotion, though the words were light and bantering. "I have to finish a script tonight, baby. Besides, if I dropped by now I might never be able to leave."

"So what are you waiting for?" said Jen. "Never is forever, Dem."

 

******************


 

Paula had hitherto adopted the usual philosophical attitude to Dem's previous escapades, and there had been a few. Most tinsel town wives knew well their priorities and were prepared to overlook a great deal, provided the affairs were frivolous and conducted with discretion. Love was a four-letter word, however, and any hint of a serious involvement would send them scuttling to the stores in order excessively to run up their charge accounts. Not so Paula, who had an excellent head for business was a wealthy woman in her own right. Instead she draped her fashionable form into the first class seat of the next available aircraft bound for London.

Dem, leaving the suite for his meeting, opened the door directly on Paula and a bevy of porters. He was utterly taken aback by her arrival. Although he might have expected her to launch a surprise attack, he had not prepared himself for so immediate an encounter. Back in the suite their conversation was brief and took a legal and financial turn. During the late afternoon Dem called Jen cancelling dinner that evening and forestalling a further meeting for the next few days with the excuse that he had to go to Paris on business. It was not by any means that he lacked courage. Guts, talent and steely resolve were the very qualities that had earned him success. But Dem had always an irrational dread of returning to the degrading poverty of his youth. And Paula knew her Achilles.

Jen was unaware of Paula's presence in London and was not prepared for the consequences. Alone at Paradise Walk she did experience a certain sense of disquiet when Dem did not call during the week, but attributed his silence to whatever simplistic explanation came to mind, such as stress of work or the unreliability of European telephone systems. She tried to absorb herself in research as fully as possible, occupying her mind with matters of the past rather than those current. But her restlessness increased and when the following Saturday arrived without news, she herself placed a call to the Lotte in Paris where Dem usually stayed and found him unregistered. This she rationalized by assuming he had gone elsewhere in the city and spent an unrewarding evening ringing around all the better hotels in the French metropolis. By Sunday evening she had become frantic, fearing some illness or accident had befallen Dem. It was inconceivable to Jen that he was deliberately avoiding her. They had been inseparable during the past few weeks and had planned an imminent trip to the Continent.

She could no longer bear to sit by the infuriatingly mute telephone and, around midnight decided to see if he had yet arrived back at the Connaught. They connected her to his suite, and Paula took the call. The shock of that instantly recognisable voice totally knocked Jen off balance. She flung down the instrument and sat trembling with anguish and humiliation. It was impossible to deceive herself further about the situation. Dem had forsaken her and returned to Paula -- he had lied to avoid a confrontation with her -- he whom she had taken to be, if not a strongly moral man, at least a man of moral strength.

Jen had dedicated herself to loving him, believing in him and building her hopes and happiness on the security of their relationship. Once considering herself independent of men, she could no longer envisage the future without Dem Dmitri; only an infinity of agony and disappointment beyond bearing.

Jennet Templeton Jay, with calm detachment, as one performing a distasteful but necessary task, buzzed up a blender cocktail, one part Scotch and one part barbiturate, choked it down and went to leave a note cancelling her milk delivery permanently. The newspaper boy found her in the morning sprawled across the doorstep over the empties, and called the police.