I hold out my hand to Egon and feign surprise. His mouth brushes against it in a masterly hand kiss, as talented as much practised.
“My son’s exam lasted longer than he expected. May I have the pleasure to stand in for him and accompany you to the Rotary, Irene?”
My grandmother watches me with concern. Will the child take it for another proof of her fiancé’s neglect?
“It’s most kind of you, Egon!” I chirp all sweetness and light.
“Don’t forget to congratulate Leopold on my behalf, Irenchen. As always, he passed his exams with honours.”
“I have to renounce on your charming company, Gnadige Frau, and take my leave.” Egon kisses my grandmother’s hand, helps me into my wrap and escorts me to the Ferrari.
“You’re so cute I could eat you, Lolita! My heart bleeds at the idea that I’ll have to pass you over to Leopold. Frankly, my dear, this is not how I usually treat a charming young lady “after”! It seems like ages since I saw you last! I had to go to London, then to Brussels, everything took much longer than I expected. Next time, I’ll take you along with me.”
“That will scarcely be possible, Herr von Zwettler!”
“Nonsense! How about an evasion with your fiancé, let’s say at Easter? Leopold seems to be rather accommodating. He’ll fall sick and I’ll step in for him at the last moment.”
“I don’t think that will be possible, Egon. Going away alone with one’s fiancé isn’t done either. I wouldn’t encourage Leo to ask for trouble. Don’t let my poor grandmother lose her illusions about your son.”
“Marry him then, my sweet Lolita! Your grandmother and my mother will be overjoyed.”
“Not my father! He won’t allow it.”
“Who cares? Elope with Leopold and present your father with a fait accompli. He can’t allow the world throwing mud at his daughter, can he? He loves you too much for it. Wouldn’t it be bliss to be linked by the bonds of the holy matrimony, my sweet Lolita?!”
“How will Zita feel about it?”
“Oh, her! Never mind. And then, isn’t it a way how to keep her darling son for now and forever?”
“How about me, Egon? I’m not sure marriage has a purpose in my life. Leo as my husband! What a scream!”
“That’s where you’re completely wrong, my lovely! With Leopold you can eat your cake and keep it, enjoying all the advantages of a married woman while staying as free as a bird.”
Leo, pacing up and down the Rotary entrance, greets us with a most charming smile. With a flippant grin, Egon passes me around.