They married in 1981, and the following year, Hitchens, who had been writing frequently for The Nation, accepted the magazine's offer to become Washington correspondent. "Christopher had to get out of Britain to be free," says Martin Amis. "There were too many depressing memories and connections." Meleagrou, then attending the London School of Economics, joined Hitchens in D.C. after she graduated, working first for a Greek-American newspaper and then for a Greek-American lobby. "Eleni was greatly adored," says Hamilton Fish. "She was exotic, and Christopher made her more so by describing her as a terrorist -- his terrorist."
Friends who visited their Capitol Hill townhouse remember it as an exciting, chaotic environment, with constant impromptu dinners featuring visiting dignitaries, politicians, and novelists. In 1984, the couple's first child, Alexander, was born. Hitchens said he had an odd thought in the delivery room: "When I saw my son being born, I thought that the part of my funeral director had just been cast."
Around that time, Hitchens met Blumenthal, then a journalist writing regularly for The New Republic, at a foreign-policy seminar, and they became fast friends. "We would conspire together," Hitchens says. After Hitchens discovered his Jewish roots and that one branch of his family had been named Blumenthal, the two men began to affectionately refer to themselves as "cousins."
Although his journalism career was flourishing, by 1989, Hitchens was restless, unhappy at home. "Eleni became shut in, she lost her spontaneity," Hitchens says. "I felt guilty about that, that it was my fault. I resented it, too." They argued over having a second child; Meleagrou nonetheless became pregnant. Hitchens adores his daughter Sophia, but at the time he felt trapped.
What better reason to leave town than to go on a book tour? Hill & Wang had just published a collection of Hitchens's work, Prepared for the Worst, and publisher Steve Wasserman, now the editor of The Los Angeles Times Book Review, offered to fly Hitchens out to L.A. to appear on a panel. Since the publisher's budget didn't allow for a hotel room, Wasserman arranged for Hitchens to stay with a longtime friend, Carol Blue, a journalist and screenwriter.
Hitchens and Blue apparently took one look at each other at the LAX baggage-claim area, and that was it. ("I was just glad such a person existed in the world," says Blue, an intense, stylish woman
who still speaks of her husband with almost Nancy Reagan-esque adoration.) Hitchens returned to Washington and told his wife he wanted out of the marriage, which, given her pregnancy, was a caddish thing to do. "Christopher knew he was doing something unforgivable," says Elise O'Shaughnessy, a Vanity Fair editor and Hitchens confidante, "but he couldn't not do it."
Ask Eleni Meleagrou about this episode of her life, and she speaks in a sadder-but-wiser tone. "Christopher fell in love with Carol, and he expected me to understand. 'Don't you see? I'm really in love,' he'd say, and my reaction was, 'Bug off.' He told me he was doing me a favor. Maybe now I think he did."
She pauses to explain, "His life is such that you either fall in line or you're left behind. I didn't want to follow anymore." After the divorce, she went to law school, and two years ago she moved with the two children from Washington to London. ("I could have fought it," Hitchens says, "but I thought if Eleni was happy, the children would be happy.") The couple seems to have worked out a remarkably amicable arrangement; the children, just in town for Easter break, get along well with their stepsister, Antonia, Hitchens and Blue's 5-year-old daughter.