AFTER SHE HAD finally purged her life of her husband, Céleste invited me over. I wasn’t surprised they had gone their separate ways, but Céleste had often spoken lovingly of Georges, a man of business, a man of ideas, a man she could depend on. It was a relationship consecrated in a cathedral, celebrated at a manor, formalized with the necessary paperwork.
They also had a child.
Then, just like that, in a matter of eighteen months or so, there had been a crumbling, a dissolution, a reversing of the course. Everything she loved about Georges she now despised. She disliked the way he drove, especially. I wasn’t sure if infidelity was involved. I never dared to ask, but I had my suspicions. If anything, Georges was more married to Pierre on his hockey team than he was to his wife Céleste. As soon as she had banished him from the home, she invited me over to dinner. I went there accordingly. I had no idea what to wear or to expect.
When I arrived at their house, the door was open. I knocked and rang the bell and when no one answered, I went in. I could hear that someone was in the shower downstairs, and then Céleste’s mother came out from the kitchen, holding little Antoine in her arms. She invited me in, and I saw that Georges was very much still in the house, eating dinner together with Pierre. They said they were both going to play ice hockey, and then asked if I’d like to come along.
Naturally, I thought they were plotting to kill me. Georges must have known there was something going on between me and Céleste. Perhaps he had even read our erotically charged letters? Or seen some of the photos she had sent in her more vulnerable, early morning moments? I studied him as he walked toward the rink. He was no doubt regarded as handsome, I thought but at the same time, a rather stale, dry kind of character, the kind who breezes through life into positions of power, even ascends to the presidency, or who collects great wealth, but in person is rather a bore. Such a character is the very epitome of manhood by all metrics, yet lacks anything that would distinguish him as a man. The only thing that defined Georges was his love for hockey. He knew statistics associated with all of the players. He played hockey. He watched hockey. He was hockey. During that solemn walk, I did not dare mention his failed marriage, but the man never mentioned it. Instead he spoke of the game with Pierre, and they recalled with great accuracy different plays from the season. His only lament was a sore shoulder that was taking too much time to heal. I suggested he take some time to recuperate. Georges sneered at me as if I knew nothing and said one word: “Never.”
I left the two players at the rink and walked back to the house for my dinner with Céleste. The evening had just begun and yet had already taken a strange turn. Even the trees down the boulevard looked sinister. In a nearby park, a man tossed some breadcrumbs to some pigeons.
At the house, Céleste was waiting for me. She had put on a red dress, and draped herself in a white shawl. Her blonde hair was pulled back. She held a glass of red wine before her and stared at it in contemplation. I knew she wanted something from me, but did she want it all, and tonight? The grandmother had apparently left, and Antoine was sitting in his high chair.
“Well,” said Céleste. “At least you came.”
Dinner was nice. Afterward, she told me she wanted to show me the cellar. We came down an iron staircase to a series of underground rooms, full of antiques, magazines, and a plush bed in the corner beneath a ground floor window, through which shone some early evening sun. The child held to its mother. When she set him down on the ground, he started to scream.
“Please kiss me now,” said Céleste. I obliged and kissed her. She fumbled with my pants, grasping at my underwear. “Now I want you to make love to me,” she said. “Would you?”
Of course I said yes. “Please do it. Here, like this. Take me from behind.” I complied. Antoine kept sobbing. Then, from outside the window, I could see a shadowy figure approaching us.
“Don’t stop, ” Céleste said. “Whatever you do, do not stop.” “I am not stopping,” I told her.
The figure put his face to the window and began to speak through it in hurried French.
It was Georges! He had returned to the house to fetch a hockey stick. That was all he said. Céleste put her face up to the window and began to pelt him with obscenities. I tried to make myself invisible, but this was impossible. How do you make yourself invisible when you are servicing another man’s wife in a messy basement with a screaming child on the floor? I was wrapped up tight, deep inside the lady of the house. There was no way back or out of this thing. “Céleste, please come to your senses,” I heard Georges say through the small window.
“No, I want you to watch,” Céleste responded. “I want you to watch this all, Georges. This is how I feel now. This is exactly how I feel about you, and us, and about the game of hockey.”