“Rubia? Darling? Are you about?” I walked quickly down the dark, narrow hallway of our fin-de-siècle apartment and took a swift right into the living room. As always, it was steeped in semi-darkness, with at least twenty or thirty candles stationed around its perimeter, perched on every possible surface. They winked and glimmered, casting a light by turns gloomy and romantic around the room. The deep red velvet that covered the chaise lounge, the armchairs and the ornately antique sideboard alleviated the possible bleakness though, giving the room the appearance instead of a shabbily decadent bordello.
Circe, Rubia’s haughty black cat, circled my ankles with a smile playing on her lips. Layla, who was two steps behind me, began to growl. She hated the cat and so, frankly, did I. Circe was a malicious creature who always killed for the sake of killing, never for the more justifiable reason of simple hunger. And why would she be hungry? Rubia fed her chicken livers in aspic on her own monogrammed plate, then French chocolate truffles from her own fingers.
“Rubia?” I called again. Where was she? She never went out without me. I heard a faint noise from behind the bedroom door and I began to walk towards it. Perhaps she was having a rest—at the slightest discomfort, upset or change in the breeze she would proclaim herself ‘exhausted’ and retreat to the boudoir. “Rubia?” I opened the white gilt-edged Louis XVI double doors (which we had actually ‘borrowed’ from Versailles).
Lying luxuriously back in our satin-bedecked bed was Rubia, my lover and partner-in-crime for the best part of two hundred years. She watched me for a moment, sharing Circe’s mischievous smile, as I stood there open mouthed. Then she touched his head, Frederick Zolona’s perfectly groomed head, and he raised himself out of her bosom. “Zero’s here, Frederick.” She said. Frederick, with whom I had fought bitterly since the days of the French Revolution, turned to me and smiled a slow, contemptuous, repitilian smile. “Zero. Good to see you.”
I turned on my heel and fled the room, fled the flat. I walked the dark streets of night-time Vienna for hours, with Layla clipping anxiously at my heels. This was the final straw! The last piece in the destructive puzzle we called a relationship. I’ll do anything, I thought desperately. Anything to get away from Rubia and this misery, escape from this life—anything. Anything? The trees began to whisper around me. Anything, I said emphatically.