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Книга The Godfather. Страница 41

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He never ate much but he knew young pretty girls ambitiously starved themselves for pretty clothes and were usually big eaters on a date so there was plenty of food on the table. There was also plenty of liquor; champagne in a bucket, scotch, rye, brandy and liqueurs on the sideboard. Johnny served the drinks and the plates of food already prepared. When they had finished eating he led her into the huge living room with its glass wall that looked out onto the Pacific. He put a stack of Ella Fitzgerald records on the hifi and settled on the couch with Sharon. He made a little small talk with her, found out about what she had been like as a kid, whether she had been a tomboy or boy crazy, whether she had been homely or pretty, lonely or gay. He always found these details touching, it always evoked the tenderness he needed to make love.

They nestled together on the sofa, very friendly, very comfortable. He kissed her on the lips, a cool friendly kiss, and when she kept it that way he left it that way. Outside the huge picture window he could see the dark blue sheet of the Pacific lying flat beneath the moonlight.

“How come you’re not playing any of your records?” Sharon asked him. Her voice was teasing. Johnny smiled at her. He was amused by her teasing him. “I’m not that Hollywood,” he said.

“Play some for me,” she said. “Or sing for me. You know, like the movies. I’ll bubble up and melt all over you just like those girls do on the screen.”

Johnny laughed outright. When he had been younger, he had done just such things and the result had always been stagy, the girls trying to look sexy and melting, making their eyes swim with desire for an imagined fantasy camera. He would never dream of singing to a girl now; for one thing, he hadn’t sung for months, he didn’t trust his voice. For another thing, amateurs didn’t realize how much professionals depended on technical help to sound as good as they did. He could have played his records but he felt the same shyness about hearing his youthful passionate voice as an aging, balding man running to fat feels about showing pictures of himself as a youth in the full bloom of manhood.

“My voice is out of shape,” he said. “And honestly, I’m sick of hearing myself sing.”

They both sipped their drinks. “I hear you’re great in this picture,” she said. “Is it true you did it for nothing?”

“Just a token payment,” Johnny said.

He got up to give her a refill on her brandy glass, gave her a gold-monogrammed cigarette and flashed his lighter out to hold the light for her. She puffed on the cigarette and sipped her drink and he sat down beside her again. His glass had considerably more brandy in it than hers, he needed it to warm himself, to cheer himself, to charge himself up. His situation was the reverse of the lover’s usual one. He had to get himself drunk instead of the girl. The girl was usually too willing where he was not. The last two years had been hell on his ego, and he used this simple way to restore it, sleeping with a young fresh girl for one night, taking her to dinner a few times, giving her an expensive present and then brushing her off in the nicest way possible so that her feelings wouldn’t be hurt. And then they could always say they had had a thing with the great Johnny Fontane. It wasn’t true love, but you couldn’t knock it if the girl was beautiful and genuinely nice. He hated the hard, bitchy ones, the ones who screwed for him and then rushed off to tell their friends that they’d screwed the great Johnny Fontane, always adding that they’d had better. What amazed him more than anything else in his career were the complaisant husbands who almost told him to his face that they forgave their wives since it was allowed for even the most virtuous matron to be unfaithful with a great singing and movie star like Johnny Fontane. That really floored him.

He loved Ella Fitzgerald on records. He loved that kind of clean singing, that kind of clean phrasing. It was the only thing in life he really understood and he knew he understood it better than anyone else on earth. Now lying back on the couch, the brandy warming his throat, he felt a desire to sing, not music, but to phrase with the records, yet it was something impossible to do in front of a stranger. He put his free hand in Sharon’s lap, sipping his drink from his other hand. Without any slyness but with the sensualness of a child seeking warmth, his hand in her lap pulled up the silk of her dress to show milky white thigh above the sheer netted gold of her stockings and as always, despite all the women, all the years, all the familiarity, Johnny felt the fluid sticky warmness flooding through his body at that sight. The miracle still happened, and what would he do when that failed him as his voice had?

He was ready now. He put his drink down on the long inlaid cocktail table and turned his body toward her. He was very sure, very deliberate, and yet tender. There was nothing sly or lecherously lascivious in his caresses. He kissed her on the lips while his hands rose to her breasts. His hand fell to her warm thighs, the skin so silky to his touch. Her returning kiss was warm but not passionate and he preferred it that way right now. He hated girls who turned on all of a sudden as if their bodies were motors galvanized into erotic pumpings by the touching of a hairy switch.

Then he did something he always did, something that had never yet failed to arouse him. Delicately and as lightly as it was possible to do so and still feel something, he brushed the tip of his middle finger deep down between her thighs. Some girls never even felt that initial move toward lovemaking. Some were distracted by it, not sure it was a physical touch because at the same time he always kissed them deeply on the mouth. Still others seemed to suck in his finger or gobble it up with a pelvic thrust. And of course before he became famous, some girls had slapped his face. It was his whole technique and usually it served him well enough.

Sharon’s reaction was unusual. She accepted it all, the touch, the kiss, then shifted her mouth off his, shifted her body ever so slightly back along the couch and picked up her drink. It was a cool but definite refusal. It happened sometimes. Rarely; but it happened. Johnny picked up his drink and lit a cigarette.

She was saying something very sweetly, very lightly. “It’s not that I don’t like you, Johnny, you’re much nicer than I thought you’d be. And it’s not because I’m not that kind of a girl. It’s just that I have to be turned on to do it with a guy, you know what I mean?”

Johnny Fontane smiled at her. He still liked her. “And I don’t turn you on?”

She was a little embarrassed. “Well, you know, when you were so great singing and all, I was still a little kid. I sort of just missed you, I was the next generation. Honest, it’s not that I’m goody-goody. If you were a movie star I grew up on, I’d have my panties off in a second.”

He didn’t like her quite so much now. She was sweet, she was witty, she was intelligent. She hadn’t fallen all over herself to screw for him or try to hustle him because his connections would help her in show biz. She was really a straight kid. But there was something else he recognized. It had happened a few times before. The girl who went on a date with her mind all made up not to go to bed with him, no matter how much she liked him, just so that she could tell her friends, and even more, herself, that she had turned down a chance to screw for the great Johnny Fontane. It was something he understood now that he was older and he wasn’t angry. He just didn’t like her quite that much and he had really liked her a lot.

And now that he didn’t like her quite so much, he relaxed more. He sipped his drink and watched the Pacific Ocean. She said, “I hope you’re not sore, Johnny. I guess I’m being square, I guess in Hollywood a girl’s supposed to put out just as casually as kissing a beau good night. I just haven’t been around long enough.”

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