Unmasking Elena Montella(2)

By: Victoria Connelly

Swinging her legs out of bed, she got up and showered, hoping that the warm needles of water would wash away the remnants of her trio of bridegrooms. Some women collected shoes, she thought. Others preferred lipsticks, earrings or miniature teapots. But she had to go and be different. Her own particular collection was fiancés and, at that moment, she had three.

Men had always been a little weakness of hers; she just loved them but three at once could prove problematical from time to time. Her answerphone was usually chock-a-block with messages, and she had to think of all sorts of excuses to avoid treble-booking herself. Her diary was always a mass of colour because she used a different pen for each fiancé: Mark was blue, Reuben was red and Prof was purple. It should have been a simple enough system but she had been known to turn up at the wrong house at the wrong time and then have to explain herself to the fiancé she’d stood up. But, believe it or not, she hadn’t deliberately got herself into this situation; it all happened quite by accident.

Prof had been the first to propose, Elena remembered as she lathered her hair in apple shampoo, and she’d been so surprised that she didn’t really say anything at all as he’d pushed a ring onto her finger. And then Mark had proposed on the very night she was going to break up with him and, shortly after that, Reuben had gone down on one knee and done the same thing. Words had completely failed her. She loved each one of them and didn’t want to hurt their feelings and so, to avoid any kind of confrontation, she’d accepted. She knew it was weak-willed of her and that she wouldn’t be quite so popular if the truth ever came out, but it also felt overwhelmingly wonderful to be loved by three gorgeous men.

Nevertheless, things had got to change and she knew she was going to have to choose just one man if she was ever going to banish her nightmares and lead a normal life.

‘Elena, my babe,’ Mark had said to her at the beginning of the week, ‘we really should start thinking about fixing a date.’ He’d stroked her dark hair in that annoyingly sensuous way of his and she’d tried to push him away. They were, after all, in open view of the students on the way to class and she really didn’t want to encourage the teasing that was already going on.

‘I think the end of July would be perfect,’ he’d continued, his fingers stroking the oh-so-sensitive place behind her ear. ‘What do you think?’

Elena had looked at him in quiet bewilderment. ‘I - er - I have to get these worksheets photocopied,’ she’d said, ducking underneath his imprisoning arm and running into the office before he could stop her.

Mark, Elena felt, was the best friend a girl could wish for. He was sweet, attentive, boyishly handsome with bright mischievous eyes, and he didn’t get all huffy when she was in a bad mood like some men did. But, on the negative side, he had the bank balance of a Benedictine monk. She really had tried to look passed this unfortunate obstacle but one look around his flat had sent a shiver of horror down her spine.

A couple of weeks ago, after he’d presented her with dinner in his dingy kitchen and they’d sat snuggling on the sofa of a thousand stains, she’d tried to break it off with him. Was this what she really wanted out of life? she kept asking herself. But, just as she was going to tell him things weren’t really working out, he’d presented her with the ring. How could she have disappointed him? His eyes were so warm and full of love that she didn’t have the heart to say no.

But it wasn’t just Mark who’d been putting pressure on her, she thought, stepping out of the shower and drying herself with a fluffy pink towel. Her evening class professor had also been dropping very heavy hints in between lectures on nineteenth-century heroines.

‘Mother’s been asking again, you know,’ Prof told her last week. Elena knew she shouldn’t have asked him for an extension on her Emily Bronte paper. He always made conditions with such things.

Prof was Elena’s older man. She called him Prof because she just couldn’t cope with his ribbon of names: Sigmund Algernon Mortimer. They were far too posh and pretentious for her to use without bursting into hysterical laughter every time she did so. He was forty-nine years old, had a mind like Einstein and a mouth like a hungry porn star. He was handsome and self-assured; old-fashioned in the best possible way, dashing with threads of silver in his mahogany locks; and he was deeply protective - constantly checking up on her which could sometimes prove just a little bit exhausting. She was twenty-nine; she could look after herself. But he was the sweetest, tenderest man she’d ever met, and he always looked so cute in his little round glasses and paisley bow tie.