genuinely interested in art, almost to the point of being a nerd. Secondly, she was able to articulate her frustration at being part of a system that waged war against people who did not want to be part of Western capitalism. It was Diana who had explained to me that industrialised countries’ exploitation of the Third World minus Third World aid made, and had always made, a plus. Thirdly, she had a sense of humour, my sense of humour, a prerequisite for guys like me to get women taller than one metre seventy. And fourthly – and this is without doubt what did it for me – she was poor at languages and good at logical thought. She spoke clumsy English, to put it mildly, and with a smile she had told me that it had never even occurred to her to have a go at French or Spanish. Then I had asked whether she had a masculine brain and liked maths. She had just shrugged, but I had persisted and told her about job interview tests at Microsoft where candidates were presented with a particular logic problem.

‘The point is as much to see how the candidate deals with the challenge as whether or not they can solve it.’

‘Come on then,’ she said.

‘Prime numbers-’

‘Hang on! What are prime numbers again?’

‘Numbers that cannot be divided by numbers other than themselves and one.’

‘Oh yes.’ She still hadn’t got that distant look women often get when numbers are introduced into the conversation, and I continued.

‘Prime numbers are often two consecutive odd numbers. Like eleven and thirteen. Twenty-nine and thirty-one. Are you with me?’

‘I’m with you.’

‘Are there any examples of three consecutive odd numbers being prime numbers?’

‘Of course not,’ she said, raising her glass of beer to her mouth.

‘Oh? Why not?’

‘Do you think I’m stupid? In a sequence of five consecutive numbers one of the odd numbers has to be divisible by three. Go on.’

‘Go on?’

‘Yes, what’s the logic problem?’ She had taken a large gulp of beer and looked at me with genuinely expectant curiosity. At Microsoft, candidates are given three minutes to come up with the proof she had given me in three seconds. On average, five out of every hundred could do that. And I think that was when I fell in love with her. At least I remember jotting down on my serviette: Hired.

And I had known that I would have to make her fall in love with me while we were sitting there; as soon as I stood up the spell would be broken. So I had talked. And talked. I had talked myself up to one metre eighty-five. I can do the talking bit. But she had interrupted me when I was in full flow.

‘Do you like football?’

‘Do… do you?’ I asked, amazed.

‘QPR are playing Arsenal in the league cup tomorrow. Interested?’

‘Certainly am,’ I said. And of course I meant in her. I couldn’t give a toss about football.

She had worn a blue-and-white-striped scarf and screamed herself hoarse in London’s autumn mist at Loftus Road as her poor little team, Queens Park Rangers, were being thumped by their big brother, Arsenal. Fascinated, I had studied her impassioned face and derived no more from the match than the fact that Arsenal wore attractive red-and-white tops while QPR had diagonal blue stripes on a white background, making the players look like lollipops in motion.

At half-time I had asked why she had not chosen a big winning team like Arsenal instead of comical small fry like QPR.

‘Because they need me,’ she had answered. Seriously. They need me. I intuited a wisdom I could not fathom in her words. Then she had laughed that gurgling laugh of hers and drained the plastic beaker of beer. ‘They’re like helpless babies. Look at them. They’re so sweet.’

‘In baby outfits,’ I said. ‘So, suffer the little children to come unto me, is that your life’s motto?’

‘Erm,’ she had answered, angling her head and looking down at me with a broad beam, ‘it might become that.’

And we had laughed. Loud, liberating laughter.

I don’t remember the outcome of the match. Or, rather, I do: a kiss outside a strict girls’ brick boarding house in Shepherd’s Bush. And a lonely, sleepless night of wild dreams.

Ten days later I was looking down into her face in the flickering gleam of a candle stuffed into a wine bottle on her bedside table. We made love for the first time, and her eyes were closed, the vein in her forehead stood out and her expression varied between fury and pain as her hip bones thrashed against mine. The same passion as when she had watched QPR being sent out of the league cup. Afterwards she said she loved my hair. This was a refrain I had heard throughout my life, yet I seemed to be hearing it for the first time.

Six months were to pass before I told her that because my father worked in the diplomatic service it didn’t necessarily mean he was a diplomat.

‘Chauffeur,’ she had repeated, pulling down my face and kissing it. ‘Does that mean he can borrow the ambassador’s limousine to drive us from the church?’

I had not answered, but that spring we got married with more circumstance than pomp at St Patrick’s Church in Hammersmith. The absence of pomp was down to my talking Diana into a wedding without friends and family. Without Dad. Just us, pure and innocent. Diana provided the circumstance; she shone like two suns and a moon. Chance would have it that QPR were promoted that same afternoon, and the taxi crawled back home to her bedsit in Shepherd’s Bush through a jubilant procession of lollipop-coloured flags and banners. Joy and merriment everywhere. Not until we had moved back to Oslo did Diana mention children for the first time.

I looked at my watch. Ove ought to be here by now. I raised my eyes to the mirror over the counter and met those of one of the blondes. Our eyes held for just as long as it takes to misunderstand whether we wanted to or not. Porn-attractive, good surgical work. I didn’t want to. So my eyes drifted away. In fact, that was precisely the way my only shameful affair had started; with eyes holding on for a little too long. The first act had taken place in the gallery. The second here at Sushi &Coffee. The third act in a small flat in Eilert Sundts gate. But now Lotte was a thing of the past for me, and it would never, ever happen again. My gaze wandered round the room and stopped.

Ove was sitting at the table by the front door.

To all outward signs, reading Dagens N?ringsliv, a financial paper. An amusing idea in itself. Ove Kjikerud was not only totally bored by the movements of stocks and shares and most of what was happening in so-called society, he could barely read. Or write. I can still picture his application for the security boss job: it had contained so many spelling mistakes that I had burst out laughing.

I slid off the stool and walked over to his table. He had folded up Dagens N?ringsliv and I nodded towards the newspaper. He gave a fleeting smile to indicate that he had finished with it. I took the paper without a word and went back to my place at the counter. One minute later I heard the front door close and when I peered at the mirror again, Ove Kjikerud had gone. I flicked through to the shares pages, discreetly wrapped my hand around the key that had been left there and slipped it into my jacket pocket.

When I returned to the office there were six text messages waiting for me on my mobile phone. I deleted five without reading them and opened the one from Diana.

Don’t forget the private view tonight, darling. You’re my lucky mascot.

She had added a smiley with sunglasses, one of the sophistications of the Prada telephone I had given her on her thirty-second birthday this summer. ‘This is what I wanted most!’ she had said, opening the present. But we both knew what she wanted most. And which I was not going to give her. Nonetheless she had lied and kissed me. What more can you ask of a woman?


ONE METRE SIXTY-EIGHT. I don’t need a brain-dead psychologist to tell me that compensation is a factor, that small physical stature is a great motivator. A surprisingly large number of the world’s great works of art have been

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