Snowleg by Nicholas Shakespeare

Book: Snowleg by Nicholas Shakespeare Read Free Book Online
Authors: Nicholas Shakespeare
– and with a slight shadow under them. She’s my age, he thought, and reached out his hand. He half expected her to draw back, but she faced him square on, not moving, watching him as he dug down his fingers between her jeans and waist. Feeling for the contour of the stolen book.
    She helped him. A novel with a flock of swans on the cover. “You’re from North Germany, aren’t you?” glancing at his shoes.
    â€œNo, England.”
    â€œReally? I wouldn’t have taken you for English. Why are you here?”
    â€œI’m with a mime group,” and described his involvement with Pantomimosa. He sensed her interest fading.
    â€œWhy are you following me? I should report you.”
    â€œExcept you’ve stolen property on you.”
    She grabbed back the book and started to put on her coat, at the same time quickening her step.
    â€œI saw you in church.”
    â€œI know.”
    â€œIt’s a rare person who doesn’t notice someone looking at them,” and he hated the inanity he heard in his voice.
    She said nothing.
    â€œI love Bach,” he went on, making an effort to catch up. Then, as he drew level, he made a stupid remark that wasn’t what he meant to say at all: “I forgot Bach spent so much time in Leipzig.”
    She stopped in her tracks. She didn’t believe what she had heard. “This is Bach’s city! He spent 27 years of his life here. He belongs to Leipzig.”
    â€œYes, I know –”
    â€œWhat do they teach you over there? Melchior Lotter printed the first music here. Grieg studied here. Clara and Robert Schumann started their life here.” She pointed, the East German greyness about her face disappearing as she tried to educate him. “Look. See the Konsum? Richard Wagner was born there.”
    Even as she spoke his heart sank as it did on occasions with Anita. Something humourless and dutiful had stormed in. An agenda he couldn’t locate. Maybe she was a tour guide. Maybe she was a bore.
    He apologised: “I don’t know much about Leipzig.”
    â€œIt’s a lovely city and it always was.” Poised to go on, she changed her mind. “That’s OK. Have you a cigarette?”
    He offered her a West Light and she inclined her head to his lighter. Long eyelashes and a blackberry undercurrent to her hair and skin that he wanted to touch. He forgot his worries.
    â€œHave you a moment?” squeezing his arm. “Come, I’ll show you something.”
    She walked in long strides ahead of him along a pavement crumpled and broken, as though something under the earth had shifted. She turned into a street and waited for him, smoking his cigarette. “This is the Brühl.”
    â€œNamed after Count Brühl?” He was pleased with himself.
    â€œNo, that’s in Dresden. This is the Leipzig Brühl. Our Brühl is Slav for swamp. See those windows? Fifty years ago, this street was the centre of the world fur trade.”
    She took a deep breath. Closed her eyes. Savoured the air that tasted of coal dust. “This is where I’d come if I wanted a mink coat. Or ocelot. Or moleskin. But I’d make sure to buy my coat in sunlight. Not on a day like today.”
    He craned his neck at the blackened facades. The sky and topmost storeys dissolving into one another. “Hard to imagine.”
    â€œNo, it’s not,” opening her eyes and giving him a heated look. “If all students in the West are like you, they must be a stupid lot. Look, there – below the ledge.”
    He didn’t notice them at first: camouflaged with dirt, the mouldings of three faces. A Chinaman. An African. A Red Indian.
    â€œThere’s a story of a Canadian trapper. He sent a letter to ‘Brühl’ – just the one word. It started in February in Montreal. From there it was sent to Bremen and it was here in Leipzig by March.”
    Without waiting for his reaction, she

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