Robert took Petra out every night that week. Wednesday he took her on a river boat ride. The water that was green during the day glimmered under moonlight. On Thursday they settled at a smoky club, claiming a corner table as theirs for hours. She talked about times before the war and reminisced. He looked into her eyes and got lost. On Friday he realized as evening was coming on that they had not made any plans. The evening loomed empty ahead of him and he stayed home with the cat and tinkered at the piano. About 9:30, the phone rang and he jumped up, catching it on the second ring.
“Robert, I need you. I need you please! Hurry!”
On the other end Petra sniffled. He said he would come, then realized that he had not asked where she lived. She’d met him each night. leading him along this lovely serenade of a walk through five days of fantasy and bliss. He was smitten. She gave him the address and hung up, as if rushed. As far as he knew this was her aunt’s home, a brownstone on west Armitage. He took a cab.
When he arrived, he found the place dark. He knocked to no answer, and when he tried the doorknob it opened up. “Petra,” he said, entering and walking, hearing his voice echo into the high ceiling. He heard nothing for moments, then her soft voice came to him from down the hallway.
“Robert, come,” she said in that Czech accent that drove him crazy. She sounded as if she was still crying. He felt along the wall and found the light switch, illuminating the hall. He followed her voice up the stairs into the second door, a bedroom. She sat on the corner of a bed. He followed her gaze to the floor where a body was covered by a blanket. He presumed it was her aunt. He cleared his throat.
“Dead?” It sounded cold, and unfeeling to his own ears.
“Yes,” was her muffled reply into gloved hands and a handkerchief. He went to her, his hands about her shoulders and guided her up, and into his arms. He held her that way for awhile, then took the handkerchief and wiped her nose with it, putting it back into her hands. He went to the phone and called the police, one arm still around her. After he called it in, he helped her down the stairs.
The next few days were a blur of helping Petra make arrangements, then attending the services with her, both at her aunt’s Catholic church and at the graveside. The next day, he asked her to marry him.