A small branch detached itself from the branch of the old cedar on the corner of Chester Gate and Albany Street, was grabbed by the wind and soon fluttered down Robert Street, where it lay before the threshold to No. 21. Then it was windless again.
Anselm just unlocked the door. He picked up the twig, took it into the house and laid it on the mantelpiece.
Then he started thinking again.
In less than an hour he would meet the Fräulein von Hallmackenreuther. What should he wear? And which perfume would be the right one?
He chose the washed-out Army chinos and the dark blue Comme Des Garcons jacket, which he had bought in the small second-hand shop at Portobello Market. And the old brown Edward Green Monks. In no other shoes did he feel safer.
And now for the scent. That would be a lot harder. But then he had an intuition. Why not this new one from Bottega Veneta? That wasn't too fashionable, but it wasn't too old-fashioned either. Kind of timeless. That's what he wanted to look like, isn't it? Maybe she'd finally see him as he saw himself.
Sometimes he had the strange feeling that they'd known each other for a hundred years. That some curious trick of fate kept bringing them together. And then again, didn't get together.
He sniffed the pretty Flakönchen once more. Yes, a wise decision. He liked that water. At first a little lemony and fruity, but tuned deeper than usual. Maybe a third down. And then so darned fairy-like resinous, almost forest magic, soft dark green anyway. Later also sweet, but still spicy. Undecided like himself. Kind of yesterday and hip at the same time. He didn't like that word at all. And yet he secretly used it often. He felt so out of time again.
Anselm took a few sprays and set off.
Several blocks further on in Fitzroy Square a young woman with a short curly head stood in front of the wardrobe and conscientiously sounded out the contents.
Lina von Hallmackenreuther opted for the spotted light blue dress with the cubic collar. If she had to meet him in a shop like Groucho's, she'd at least want to take advantage of it. There weren't that many places she felt comfortable in that dress. As an antipole to the dress she would put on a men's scent. She knew immediately which one. Illusions.
It suited her because he didn't commit. Herb, fruity, woody and yet sweet. And soft at the end. Would that be her, too, in the end? Soft?
Anyway, she wanted Anselm to make her... She didn't really know herself. Unconventionally, he should find her. Not like the others. This was the right perfume for that.
When wind came up again in the big city and the clouds floated over the sea of chimneys like lost sheeps, the two sat at a small table in the back part of Café Groucho opposite each other.
Anselm was particularly calm. He sniffed carefully in her direction because he wanted to know what kind of scent she had chosen for him. After all, at least this one thing that connected her was her love of perfume. One of the few things they both knew about each other.
He sniffed and sniffed - but... there was nothing. Only his own scent could be heard, the fine, soft-sweet aura of illusion. That's weird. What did that mean? Should she have changed to go out unscented? Suddenly it fell off his eyes like scales. She wanted to show herself to him without any embellishment, without games, without scenery. She didn't want distance, maybe more proximity instead.
Anselm's heart began to beat.
Lina wasn't really excited, but she was kind of... nervous. Like there's something unusual in the air. She was sniffing in his direction. I'm sure he was wearing Grey Vetiver again. But no, there was nothing of vetiver or anything like that, there was... she couldn't define it. Then she almost got scared. She leaned over to him to take a lint off his collar. He obviously wasn't wearing any scent today. Only her own scent was there, only illusions, nothing else. What could that mean? Was he trying to tell her something? That he wanted to be a different person? Bullshit.
Suddenly a thought came to her. Yeah, that could be it. She was almost sure. He didn't want to trump her, show her that she was alone enough with her aura, let her feel that you alone should be the center...
The waiter came and brought the coffee. He looked a little weird. He was wearing some kind of robe. Pretty hip territory, the Russell Square area. He turned off the cups and smiled at them both.
"You smell good," he said. "Illusions... I like them too!"