Hugo Jirousek tends to my hair humming “Jealousy”, a tune I would give my soul to be forgotten
“Relax, darling,” he pins up another lock and throws me a radiant smile, delighted with the result of his dexterity.
“I’ll turn you into the Belle-of-the-Ball, Irene! Of course, any other lady, whose hair I’ve in hand, is entitled to a perfect hairdo. Noblesse oblige! But you, darling, shall embody the hair-styling moment of the Season! Irene? What’s got into you, darling? You’re a bit off-colour, recently. Nothing wrong, I hope? I can tell by that stiff, intent set of your head that you’re ill-at-ease. Believe me, sweetheart, there’s no use losing your sleep over Bessie. Naturally, she is very sexy and, sure enough, more than a man’s flesh and blood can stand. But Goodness, Irene! That girl is no match for you! She’ll be overblown before she has left her teens behind; which, of course, isn’t her worry for the time being. I did her hair last night and she paid me back in her own coin,” Hugo’s grip on my curls tightens, his eyes blink dreamily.
“That girl knows how to make a man raving mad and believe me, darling, I could tell you some very exciting bedtime stories!
“I’ve finished now; take a peek at the result, Irene,” Hugo prompts me to check his masterpiece in the mirror.
“You’re more than gorgeous, darling, you are dazzling!” He brings my hand to his lips paying a compliment to his achievement.
“It breaks my heart to leave you but, alas, I must attend to your grandmother’s hair and a flock of impatient ladies are awaiting me at the salon.”
“Must you really go, Hugo?” I ask pleadingly, dreading the moment when I shall be left alone in the void stretching between now and the Ball, feeling unfit to pull through it.
“Absolutely REALLY, sorry, darling! Cheer up, Irene! It will go off like a dream. Trust me!” He slinks away without a backward glance.
I am tempted to resolve my problem getting drunk; so stoned that I wouldn’t be able to appear at the Ball, thus preventing the announcement of the wedding and forcing Leo to break our engagement off. Of course, it would be a devastating act of treason to my grandmother! To top it, it would turn me into a social outcast. Do I mind? I most certainly do! I have a crying need for all the privileges that the fact of being “a nice girl” brings with. I would feel like a fish out of water if banned from my grandmother’s world. Of course, I shall always have my father who is totally unconcerned by etiquette and spurns completely my grandmother’s code of social decorum. After all, now, when I have learned everything about falling in love and had “my share of losing”, I may, until further, focus my life on more serious things, like my studies and please, for a change, also my father. All considered, my breach of promise could prove convenient for Leo, just the same, which I doubt, given the present circumstances. My desertion will make the poor boy a game bird for Bessie. Aren’t men “strange creatures” prone to lose their head, heart and face, and even their career, eventually, over carnal affairs?
“Your grandmother wants you, Liebchen,” Mary’s intervention seals Leo’s destiny and mine. I get up to follow its call.