London, March 2, 2003


'Martin, you devil. What took you so long to escape from the Russians?’ A tall, blond woman opened the door and pulled him inside. ‘What the hell were you doing at a missile base, anyway?’

      'I was lost,’ replied Martin with a faint smile. ‘And slipping away in one month is not a bad score, is it?’

         ‘What happened, didn’t you like the food in Lubyanka?’

         ‘Actually, I didn’t want to miss your birthday.’

          She smiled. ‘When did you come to London?’

         ‘Yesterday. I took the last flight from New York.’

         ‘Welcome to my party, then. It is the big thirty, you know.’ She took a sip from her champagne. ‘You only hit it once.’  

        ‘Trust me, Fiona; women always look at their best after their thirty.’ Martin turned her around slowly, holding her from her shoulders. In her short green dress that tightly enveloped her curves, she certainly didn’t look like that she would have much competition. ‘You look sizzling.’

        'You always know what to say,' she smiled. 'You don't look bad, either,’ her fingers touched his hair. 'You haven't changed a bit.'

        'I wouldn’t be surprised, considering that it’s been only three months since we last saw each other.'

        'People can change even sooner than that.' Her green eyes got cloudy for a moment. She smiled and took the large package. 'You shouldn't have.’

       'You have a nice party here,' Martin glanced at the saloon over her shoulder. The party was crowded, and noisy. It was still early in the evening, but the laughter and shouting had already drowned the ground-shaking rock music. The cigarette smoke that was billowing under the halogen lights was mixed with whisky and champagne breaths. The celebrity-magazine-socialites, actors, artists, the old and the new money, the crème of the London high-life, had been flying over the clouds. The hangers in the entrance hall where they stood were many times overfilled; a couple of fur jackets were simply abandoned on the floor.

       'You look beautiful', he raised his voice over the deepening music. 'But, I'm afraid I can't stay long. I just wanted to say “happy birthday” to you.’

        ‘Don't be such a killjoy,' complained Fiona. 'Have some fun, will you?  Your friends are here, too. I am sure they’d like to see you; particularly Malcolm. He keeps asking if I’ve arrived. I got tired of saying no in every ten minutes.’