Under normal conditions the ovum lies in the uterus for about 24 hours, waiting.

If fertilization takes place, then, instead of passing through the uterus into the world of waste, the organism- now a zygote-attaches itself to the uterus wall and sets about its built-in program of growth.

From the Diary of Virginia Whyte Importuna

DECEMBER 9, 1966

I wonder why I keep adding to this, oh,construction.

This higgledy-piggledy, slam-bang architecture of feelings… hopes, disappointments, terrors, joys, the lot. Is it because of the joys? The few I have? And the almost addictive need to express them? Then why do I keep dwelling on the bad scenes? Sometimes I think this isn’t worth the risk. If N. were ever to find you, Diary… Well, what could he do? After all!


He would, too. And not just to daddy.

Let’s face it, Virginia. He’s got you by the lady parts.

I feel… Today was the Bitch of Time. A bad one, yea, verily. It began on that marvelous self-generating morning note of hope, rising, raising the flesh really in a gorgeous thrill of beauty digging deep and a sense of much more under that, like Sutherland at the Met when she’s in top voice… Oh, stop drooling along like some ninny teen-ager rolling around in her first crush. At the age of twenty-five! And allegedly married.

The fact is I was on the upsurge, wanting, wanting to be alone with P., not daring even to look at him with that monstrous kipper of a Crump around watching with those fried eyes of his while that prissy mouth shapes those luscious “Madams” that sound as if he’s tasting me.

And old Editta with her red and squishy nose. I swear it twitched this morning when P. and I happened to nearly collide in the hall outside my dressing room. Or is that the hem of my guilt showing? To be afraid of a personal maid who can hardly utter an intelligible sentence in her own language, let alone mine!

I’m growing paranoid. The old soul’s probably coming down with the flu and wishing I’d bathe and undress myself for bed once. Editta cara, I wish I could. Why N. insists on this slavish servitude, as if I were a sultana, I’m not quite sure. Of course, he’s the sultan, so I suppose it’s a matter of his image, his ego, not mine. I exist for greeting and planning and hostessing and being decorative around his kowtowing friends and underlings and big-belly business associates from Europe, North Africa, the Middle East-a kind of glorified five-star housekeeper, as P. truly calls me (but not in N.’s hearing!).

There, I’ve got rid of the poor thing for tonight, anyway. I had to reassure her that the signore would never, never know. Maybe we could work out an accommodation, Editta and I, for the future. Happy, wishful thought. She’s so dad-blamed, all-fired scared of Nino, all he has to do is give her one of those evil-eye looks of his and she wets her mutandine, as Julio says with his customary refinement. And not from passion, either, she’s past the age. Poor Editta.

Poor me. A bitch of a day, I repeat. My “cover,” as the spy boys call it (don’t they? or am I misusing the term? I must consult P., he knows everything)-anyway, my cover, or cover-up, or excuse, or alibi, or whatever, was that I was to do some Christmas shopping (Saks,

Bergdorf’s, Bonwit’s, Georg Jensen, Mark Cross, Sulka, Brentano’s-the circuit), which would put me out of range of Crump’s Halloween eyes and Editta’s bunny nose and into the blessed pollution of Fifth Avenue, the tintinnabulation of the Santa bells, and the trivial perils of purse snatchers, panhandlers, and muggers. And with N. skillions of miles away, in West Berlin or Belgrade or Athens or wherever, scheming how to make his millions propagate more millions-what did Julio, or was it Marco, say yesterday the conglomerate is now worth, cold turkey? close to half a billion dollars? how does anyone digest sums like that!-with him on the other side of an ocean I was free… free to spend most of the day with Peter! Even to be reckless. Such as now, writing his name full out and fancied up like H*y*m*a*n K*a*p*l*a*n’s… P*E*T*E*R. p*jr*rp*E*R E*N*N*I*S.

There! Oh, Peter darling…

We were reckless sure enough. Luckily no harm was done. I think. But the way it turned out… Peter’s denouement… I don’t know. Who knows where harm lies? From which direction it can come, and when, and even why? Am I being paranoid really? Peter says that life in New York these days is an unending game of Russian roulette to which one either becomes inured or goes crackers. And after a while one even challenges it, he says- dares it sassily to do its lethal worst. While all the time, under the bravado, there cowers the wee sleekit mousie of a person being just-plain-damned-scared.

What’s a mugger in the dark behind you with a knife blade at your throat compared with being in the clutches of a demon like N.?

Dreadful thought. I’ve waked up well over a thousand times saying thank God it was a nightmare and finding out it wasn’t.

I know people would consider me off my bloody wicket if they could hear me sound off about N. like this. Why, darling, he’s the kindest, most generous-and richest-man on four continents! And he absolutely, positively adores you, loves you madly. Oh, N. loves me madly, all right, the way a Jivaro loves his favorite shrunken head. Love… They should know what that word means to him. And what it means for a girl to have to endure over four years of…

I need a drink, dear Diary.


It’s getting late and I’ve made hardly a start chronicling the day’s events. Well, who gives a flying damn? Excuse me again, Diary. That tasted like more.

Everything a wife could ask for. Their envy tells me that. Oh, yeah? I’d like to see the wife.

May as well set the bottle handy. Handy brandy. Can’t think of a rhyme for “cognac.” Except “Zatzo, Mac?” and that wouldn’t take fourth prize in a contest for idiots.

I wonder if Savonarola looked anything like Nino. One of these days I must look up a portrait of the kindly old fra of Ferrara. I’ll bet their profiles match.

What Nino really looks like is a wicked, wicked version of Federico Fellini, that’s what. I’m chained to an aging Fellini image who creates whole planets of illusion with a wave of his fat, wet hands. Those nine fingers of his… They revulse me.

It’s unkind of me. Really unfeeling. Nino can’t help an accident of birth any more than the Minotaur and Quasimodo could help theirs. I wouldn’t shrink from a man with, say, a gross harelip (unless he tried to kiss me, ugh). But something about that rubbery two-ply digit of his gives my stomach elevator-dropitis. And when he touches me with it… or should I say them?…

And his ridiculous superstitions. Beyond belief. Imagine a leading power in the business world, an authentic big wheel, one of the grand moguls of Wall Street, the Bourse, and points east, actually dropping the last two letters of his surname, the name of his father and grandfather and great-grandfather, and having the poor circumcised thing (that’s a bad metaphor, considering its location) conferred on him by the official act of a judge just because the name he was born with didn’t conform to his lucky number! That’s what’s called bending fate to your will with a vengeance. He really believes in that nonsense. Not even Marco, who was born to be the prophet’s disciple, can swallow that, though he does a manful little job of trying. This name business is about the only thing I can sometimes like Marco and Julio for. Editta’s told me what pressure Nino-Big Brother-used on them to get them to drop the final t-o of Importunato the way he did. But they never would.

What I seem to have tonight is writer’s wanderlust. Is what I seem to have tonight. No tittle, jot, or iota of discipline. Look who was going to be the Emily Dickinson of the 20th century! Only, how can the Muse compete with a third of half a billion dollars? Not to mention loyalty to a daddy who can’t keep his hands off other people’s property, thereby getting me into this hell of a hole in the first place? Oh, dad, dear dad, if only I didn’t love you, damn you, I’d let you rot where you belong, which is up the river and under the trees-six feet under. And you’d take

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