Because no hell broke loose, I presume Beda managed to leave without being noticed. So it seems, I still have Beda and can count on him unconditionally; which is good.
I endure my classes without being tested and eat my luncheon with my grandmother who is so absorbed in her neat plotting of my steady future that she turns a blind eye on my shaky present. I wait strategically until the dessert to tackle the problem of my dancing lessons.
“You’re such a prudent little darling, Irenchen! Of course one can give up on any other dance partner when engaged to a von Zwettler! You know me well enough to understand how strongly opposed I am to any distasteful class-less company and I am the last person who’d encourage you to take risks. By the way, I’ve a marvellous surprise for you, sweetheart! Leopold is due home today and I’m quite sure he’ll come running to you. I’ll never forget the moment when your dearest grandfather came home from his study journey in Italy and ...”
With a polite smile, I yield to the humming of my grandmother’s voice. How thrilling Zita’s and Leo’s journey must have been through the French Riviera’s spring and the Germany’s white romance towards the gloomy Prague! How wonderful would it have been driving back home with Milan, staying at lovely country inns overnight and…
“Irene! Are you daydreaming again? We mustn’t be late for our appointment with Hanna Vodolska to discuss your gown for the Medical Ball. Irene! You’ve scarcely touched your luncheon and now you don’t care for your favourite Black Forest Torte! I shan’t stand for this, child! If you continue to eat so little, you’ll soon be looking unattractively thin. Of course, you feel lonely without Leopold. I know how it feels when lovers part. Yet keep in mind, Irenchen, a lady is a mistress of her feelings however strong they may be. Well, you’re still so young and perfection needs a lot of training. Let’s go and do some shopping. I made an appointment at the hairdresser’s for you. There’s no harm looking one’s best and Leopold’s mother is always so impeccably groomed and dressed,” my grandmother’s voice wavers just a little before becoming its own trained self.
“I shouldn’t have left you on your own after Antibes, sweetheart, but I had so much to do and then I had to pay my dear Ludwig back for my absence,” my grandmother blushes crimson and I feel so lost and vain that even my longing for Milan drains away and he reminds me of a statue of a marble Apollo at the far side of our snow-covered lawn.
“Irenchen, time to go,” my grandmother puts on a worldly expression hanging on her young girl’s face like a mask. How long will it last until I am like her? And I decide to go to “The Flaming Heart” tonight, get seduced by Beda’s music, get drunk with him and then make love, not for his but for my own sake.
“A telephone call for Irenchen,” Mary interrupts my brooding.
“Lucky girl! Who else but your Leopold! Run, sweetheart, run, don’t let him be waiting! We can always postpone our dates if he wants to see you straightaway!”
I pick the receiver with a cautious “Hello.”
“Lolita! I’m awaiting your call! This is no way to behave towards your fiancé’s father! I’ll take a tougher line with you in the future, little tease! By the way, Zita and Leopold are delayed. I don’t know exactly what went wrong, some problem with the engine, snow on the roads, whatever. So it seems they are still somewhere in Germany and aren’t certain for how long it might take before setting out on the road. Aren’t we lucky, pet? I’m waiting for you at the flat. Take a taxi and tell your grandmother I phoned to excuse my son’s delay.”
“I can’t. My grandmother and I are on our way out and we have a lot of important appointments.”
“Nonsense! You’re a smart girl, find an excuse! As far as I know, you’re a master of doing whatever you wish. See you, sweetie. I won’t take “no” for an answer, is that understood?” He bangs the receiver down.
“What is it, Irenchen? You look upset. Has anything happened to Leopold? Mary told me you had his father on the phone.”
They are delayed by en engine trouble. They don’t know when they’ll be back.”
My grandmother’s “OH!” sounds very shocked. “Poor darling! Well, we must be glad it wasn’t an accident. A new car will be a welcome wedding present. What can I do to cheer you up, Irenchen? We can see a nice film, if you wish and you will join us later for our Opera night. Tonight, they are giving Wagner, so we can count on your dear grandfather’s company, even if “Lohengrin” isn’t his favourite piece of music. Anyway, you can’t stay alone after such disheartening news. Your parents won’t be at home either. They will meet in front of the Stock Exchange and go straight to some social event. Well, that’s what your mother told me when I asked her to join us for “Lohengrin”. Cheer-up, my little one, we’ll have a grand time together. Now go, fetch our coats and tell Mr. Tichy to bring the car forth.”
I do as I am told. No need to fight for Egon, is it?