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The doorman greets me as I enter the majestic building that never ceases to take my breath away. Since the first time I visited Bette in Paris all these years ago, the Ritz was my place to go. I love the old grandeur, with a touch of avantgarde and the smell of extravaganza. From time to time we went to lunch or dinner here and now she’s staying here it seemed like the right location to have lunch again. After making myself known to the host, he leads me through the impressive dining room, where Bordeaux red predominates. The soft mumbling of the visitors accompanies me on my way to our table, where I discern Bette standing with a bright smile, seemingly enjoying the conversation she is having with a woman, who’s back is turned to me. Bette looks like she is treating this lunch as a business meeting, wearing one of her most formal suits, but looking stunning as always. When she sees me she motions at me to her collocutor, holding out her hand for me to take it. ‘Here she is.’ She tells, the woman who I now recognize as her former secretary at the Louvre. When my palm slips over Bette’s and our fingers intertwine as if we are still holding hands daily, I turn to the secretary and greet her warmly. I always liked her for the way she worked together with Bette and used to enthusiastically help me every time with planning surprises for Bette. Now I don’t know how I feel about seeing her, I just know that Bette is standing right next to me, her closeness confusing, and yet the touch of our hands causing my heartbeat to rage against my ribcage.
‘Mrs. Porter! How nice to see you again!’ The elegant woman in her forties exclaims warmly. I shake her hand trying to ignore the further increase of my heart beat caused by the reference. Before I used to beg her to call me Tina, but she never caved in and now I don’t want to draw extra attention to it. ‘Although the reason for your visit saddens me.’
‘I just told Marie that we arrived a few weeks ago to be here for Renee.’ It’s obvious Bette is putting on a show, a façade to cover up the state of our marriage and the small squeeze in my moist hand, asks me to play along with her white lie.