“I won’t ask you where you’ve been last night, Irene. Yet I beseech you to refrain from such a breach of trust in the future. I would be extremely embarrassed if my only granddaughter became the target of a malicious gossip. How can you misbehave so blatantly, child? I just can’t understand what went wrong. You were given a sheltered upbringing and we all tried our best to set you a good example. Look at yourself in the mirror, Irene! Your hair lacks lustre, your skin is sallow, not to mention these ugly, all-disclosing rings under your eyes! You’re driving me to despair, child! Can’t you have a bit of patience until the day of your wedding?”
My grandmother, unbeatable in the great art of forgiving, encloses me in her soft embrace.
“No need to beat about the bushes, I know all from my dear Leopoldine’s mouth. Her beloved grandson has no secrets from her, -what a pity it isn’t the same between the two of us - and I know you two just couldn’t part last night after having decided to get married. Believe me, sweetheart, spending the night with your fiancé isn’t done, even as shortly before your wedding! We’ll let now bygones be bygones and tackle the D-day together. My first task is to get your mother’s backing and I’m reasonably certain I can handle her. If Lily is won, all is won. Your father is putty in her hands. Frantisek just can’t say no to her. Trust me, sweetheart, it will go on very smoothly. Settling on June was a wise choice. By then, Leopold will have finished his studies, his parents will move to Antibes and you’ll have that grand villa just for the two of you. Of course, Zita will keep her well-trained staff which gives you the great advantage not to be spied upon under your own roof. No need to panic, you’ll manage. I’m quite sure your mother will let you have Mary, especially if I assure her that I shall find a suitable replacement for her. You can lock up a part of the house. I doubt your in-laws will call on you in the near future. Egon is physically handicapped and it also will be the first time they are given a chance to be on their own. Leopold arrived much too soon, before they had learned how to live together. A child in the first year of marriage is a harrowing experience, sweetheart. Yet, as far as I know our dear Leopold a most considerate man, that’s hardly the problem you’ll be faced with.
“How touching to see Zita and Egon cooing like two turtledoves, enjoying their second honeymoon,” my grandmother sighs longingly, remembering her lost youth. Yet called by her grandmotherly duty, she promptly returns to the essentials.
“We agreed that your wedding will be announced officially at the Medical Ball and that it will be celebrated on the first Saturday of June at the church of the Virgin-Mary-Under-the-Chain where, as you know, both your mother and I were married most happily. We’ll make it to the event of the year, something Prague shall remember, and…” I scarcely listen to my grandmother’s ambitious dreams. Traumatised by my harrowing experience with Beda, I am not sure whether Milan will see the bright side of my marriage. Better keep it a secret until it comes like a bolt of the blue at the Ball.
“I’ll talk to Hanna Vodolska about it, of course it will have to stay under the seal of secrecy, and I’ll ask her to design a unique and very beautiful wedding gown for you, my little darling. It will be my gift to you, Irenchen.”
I consult my wrist-watch discreetly. A quarter past four! High time to leave.
“How extremely kind of you, grandmother. Regrettably, I must go and study now. Better humour my father’s wishes before breaking the news to him.”
I leave my grandmother on a hug and hurry to make Milan so drunk on my kisses that he won’t be able to reject me when he learns the news.