Although not tall, gorgeous, rich, or powerful, the natural energy and strength of Eleanora Russell, a Yugoslavian expat living in London, was a formidable force. Her head seemed a little large for her muscular, hardworking body, but her long shaggy hair and beautiful, dark, almond-shaped eyes were her best features. Her reactions were quick, generous, witty, and always very caring. Nora didn’t actually do a whole lot of thinking on her feet, just reacting. Sharp as panther claws were her animal instincts; she was loyal, protective, and not always smart when it came time to make sensible decisions or when judging people or situations.
Nora had such a good heart, though, and worked hard. She was also kindness incarnate. Her deep, sexy voice really did speak the way that I quote her (lots of “dahlings!” and exclamation points). A major league character, of course Nora became a fast friend. We met at the Main Squeeze, where she was doing the scut work, washing dishes and anything else. Because of her unpredictable ways, the management tried to keep her off the floor, although she did love to waitress, flirt with customers, and give her emphatic, uncensored opinions on just about everything.
Oh, did I mention: Nora was a major pothead -- or hashhead. One of her best friends was a drug dealer (just pot & hash -- nothing hard) from Greece, who was a really nice guy, too. Nora also loved getting blitzed on champagne cocktails (Bucksfizz) and vodka drinks. She also didn’t have the ability to “filter” thoughts for public consumption -- and in a place like England, one really needs to use discretion.
“Nora, dahling -- call me Nora!” From the moment she extended her hand and gave mine a good, strong squeeze and a warm shake, I knew I was in the presence of an exceptional human. About five years my senior, Eleanora Russell was more experienced in the ways of the world and, especially, London.
IN a place where I was the new girl and outsider (the Main Squeeze), the garrulous and protective mother hen, Nora (also an outsider), befriended me in more ways than one. For a start, I needed a place to live because Gervaise was due back from her three-month sojourn in America, and I would no longer be welcome as a flatsitter or flatmate. Really, there was no room -- and she had no obligation to help me further.
“Dahling! Stay with me! I’d be so happy to have you share my flat!” Here I hardly knew this woman, but she so kindly offered and my back was against the wall, so to speak, so I agreed to come and see her flat -- in lovely Knightsbridge, just a tube stop or two distant. . .