Its orange colour glowing behind the rusty red rooftops, the sun was setting slowly over Budapest. A bottle of Tokaji white wine stood on a small, round wooden table in the middle of the balcony. Next to it, Indian essence burned and filled the surrounding air with an exotic eastern scent of sandal wood. On the floor, behind the table, a half-eaten pizza laid in its box. Two girls, dressed in cotton summer dresses, sat comfortably on the bamboo chairs, their legs bent and folded like a fakir in the streets of Calcutta. Each held a glass of wine.
Joana had been listening thoughtfully to Adel’s story. She gathered her long, silky, light brown hair into a pony tail, and then softly passed her slender fingers on her fair white skin, and with sad eyes she said:
“I’m so sorry to hear that honey. He’s such a bastard! I would have never imagined him to treat you that way!”
She took a sip of her wine and took a deep breath.
“Seems that men can really never be trusted. But Istvan is different. I do trust him.”
Adel smiled as she lit another cigarette. Next to her on the ground was the ashtray, already full of cigarette butts. As she blew the smoke out, she looked towards her friend and shook her head:
“Oh Jo, you will never change, always living in your dreamy world. When will you finally realise that? Yes, men cannot be trusted. Even Istvan. We love them, we trust them, and they screw us up!”
Joana turned her head to the other direction, looking at her Yorkshire sitting by her side. She smiled and turned back to Adel.
“I think Bella wants to go for a walk.”
Adel frowned and looked at Joana with a stare that showed that she knew she wanted to avoid the discussion.
“Joana, we just took her for a walk less than an hour ago! Don’t try to change the topic, you need to realise that this is how life really is, for all of us.”
Joana got up and reached out towards the pizza box on the floor. She picked a slice and, biting on her snack, her face frowned as she realised how cold the pizza was now. She put back the slice in the box and took a sip of her wine to change the taste of the cold pizza in her mouth.
Adel took a sip from her wine and adjusted her long red hair.
“Life isn’t a fairy tale. We need to be strong and move on! I have a goal I want to achieve, with or without him, I will continue on my road for myself, not for anyone else.”
“So, you don’t love him anymore?”
“Yes, yes I do love him. But I love myself more. I gave him everything, my heart and soul. But he used me and didn’t appreciate all that I put into this relationship. It hurts. No doubt, it hurts.”
Adel stopped for a moment, she took a deep drag from her cigarette, her eyes were wet and filled with tears, but she held them back and pulled herself together as she went on explaining:
“But that doesn’t mean I’m worth less now that he left me.”
Adel shook her head and put her eyebrows up. “I took the best I could out of that relationship, and I did enjoy it while it lasted. I did.”
“That’s horrible! How could you say that?”
Joana could not imagine ever treating or speaking of a person in that manner. She wondered how Adel could claim to love Gabor and then speak of their relationship in that way.
“No Honey. That’s real.”
Adel took another sip of her wine. Savouring it, she refilled her glass.
“I also used him. Many women would fall apart realising that their Cinderella dream has come to an end, and their wonderful relationship was meaningless. But we, we’re not Cinderella! This is the real world, and like it happened to me, it could happen to you.”
“No! Istvan loves me! He would never leave me for another woman!”
Joana took a deep breath, in near religious contemplation, as if she hoped the sky could hear her and make her words be true.
“Sure! I also believed that Gabor loved me! Forget this Hollywood chick flick movie world we’ve been fed. It’s about time you woke up!”
Joana stared into the distance, with a blank expression on her face, overwhelmed by the thought that her romance could fall apart, like a sand castle flooded by waves. Her eyes wide open, she asked for a cigarette.
“But you don’t smoke!” Adel said.
“Now, I need it.”
Adel handed her a cigarette and lit it for her. Joana took some small drags first, before she took a deep and long one. Adel watched, waiting for her friend to start coughing from the amount of smoke that had just entered her lungs. But she didn’t.
After a moment of silence that felt like an eternity, Joana finally said:
“I wish I could be like you, Adel.”
Adel smiled as she got off her chair and hugged Joana strongly.
“Oh Jo! Now that, I will drink to!”
The girls giggled and drank.