Unmasking Elena Montella(3)

By: Victoria Connelly

She wouldn’t have felt quite so pressured with just Mark and Prof hounding her for an answer, she thought as she blow dried her hair upside down, but even Reuben had been getting in on the act.

‘ELENA!’ he’d shouted across the studio the other day, paintbrush poised in the most threatening manner. ‘You’re driving me crazy! I want to make an honest model out of you!’

Elena really did find it most off-putting to be told such a thing when naked on a chaise longue. She’d ignored him, as usual, because he was rather prone to these little outbursts. She thought it was all part of the artistic temperament. However, this caused him to become even more furious until, finally, he’d ripped his canvas with a palette knife and told her to go home without so much as a ravishment for her pains.

Elena had, on two separate occasions, walked out on Rueben and threatened not to come back. Sometimes, she felt that his ego was far greater than his talent and she wasn’t at all sure that she could put up with him for the rest of her life, but something kept on pulling her back to him.

Men! They really were the most unpredictable of species, she mused, choosing a crisp white shirt and pair of black cotton trousers for the day ahead. She couldn’t believe that she’d managed to pick, perhaps, the only three men in the world who wanted to sprint up the nearest aisle. Didn’t anyone want to live in sin anymore? Her only explanation was that each of her paramours had come to the realisation that they might not be the only ones in her life, and that had brought their hunter-gatherer genes to the fore. She couldn’t really believe that they had found her out, though, as she kept each one of them very separate.

Mark was Elena’s work colleague at the foreign school she taught at in West London. She saw him four days a week when she was teaching, and kept Saturday morning’s free for him.

She saw Prof every Thursday evening for her literature class at evening school and occasionally dropped by the university during Friday lunchtimes when she knew he wasn’t tutoring.

Sundays were for Reuben and, because he had a whole posse of models, she didn’t think he minded only seeing her once a week. He certainly hadn’t questioned her about it. So, why the sudden urge for each one of them to get married? Whatever the reason for their Mrs Bennet behaviour, it spelt trouble for her. Hence her decision to make some life changes.

She was going away. Her bags were packed and she was just about ready to leave for the airport.

It was the Easter holidays and her flight to Venice was in three hours’ time and she was going to stay with her sister, Rosanna, who was sitting an artist’s apartment there and getting paid for the privilege.

She’d phoned Rosanna the week before but she hadn’t sounded too pleased to hear from her.

‘What do you want, Elena?’ she’d asked.

‘I want to come and see you,’ she said in her sweetest sister’s voice, but Rosanna wasn’t having any of it

‘What for? Are you in trouble again?’

‘Yes, I am,’ she said matter-of-factly.

‘Dio Mio! I knew it.’

‘I was joking!’ Elena said. ‘I just want to see you. What’s wrong with that?’

‘Nothing,’ Rosanna relented.

‘Good! I’ll book a ticket, then,’ she said, laughing at her little sister’s bossiness.

Elena had a distinct memory of Rosanna wagging her finger at her from her cradle, but maybe she was mistaken.

Sitting on a plane can be a very soporific experience for some people, and Elena happened to be sat next to such a person. No sooner had they taken off from Gatwick than the woman in tartan beside her was snoring sonorously. Her glasses had fallen half-way down her nose, and her mouth hung open like a dog’s on a hot day. Elena looked down at the lady’s left hand, and saw two gold rings: a stunning emerald surrounded by diamonds, and a thick gold wedding ring. She wondered who had placed them on her finger and if they’d known she snored as they’d done so.

Mark had seen Elena off at the airport. That was why she was wearing his ring - a classic diamond solitaire. It was a bit smaller than she’d hoped for but she knew he didn’t have much money. Her other rings were hidden in a red velvet pouch in one of her stockings. There was Reuben’s row of rubies, and Prof’s antique amethyst. All of the rings were so beautiful, and all so very different, just like the men who’d given them. So, how was a girl meant to choose just one?