Naked in front of the floor-to-ceiling mirror in the Ladies’ room, I am taking my time through my face-and-body-care procedure.
I spread a few drops of Number Five on my mons veneris. This is the first time I do that in the very presence of a man. Drago is there, standing in the corner, immobile, solemn and imposing like an ancient Kouros. Sarge and Lad are spying on me through the one-view mirror but they didn’t insist on getting in with him, of course. Make-up is considered the ultimate female secret, Lad said. Commendable gentlemanly thinking. But Drago’s Glock also played a role in the decision, I suspect.
Though the mirror, I can see Drago’s big hand getting closer to his jacket’s lapel and to his beloved weapon, as he does when he is getting nervous about the valuable property his Master entrusted to him. Better make him more comfortable – I decide – so I bend over, showing him that the Fabergé egg is still in its legitimate place. He relaxes visibly, and his hand moves out of his lapel and closer to his crotch. He seems to need a cock adjustment. But when he notices I am looking at his hand an amazing thing happens. He freezes, and actually blushes. And the blush is quite apparent on his stern, smooth, pallid face. Still bent over, moved by the unexpected fragility he is showing, I smile at him, and he smiles back timidly, muttering something in an apologizing tone:
“Proshu proshcheniya, moya Printzsessa…”
We are in a small classic building, the premises of the Courts, which hosts posh toiletry facilities. The ladies are given time to prepare before appearing in front of the ‘Judge’ -whoever he may be. But I am taking my time because this is also a precious moment to finally trigger the insight I am seeking. To connect the amazing, contradictory events I witnessed in the garden. And hopefully, to find a meaning. The disturbing fact: Orlov’s obsession with me is hardly explained by my resemblance to the Princess. He incurred extraordinary efforts and expenses just to get me and the egg here together. But then, it is not just the expenses. He is a billionaire after all. But I can’t forget that parting smile. Call it empathy. There was not just anticipation and lust in that smile. There was something more. A deeper desire. A stronger longing. But what?
In the garden, I have discovered how I can control the amazing Fabergé egg. It stays silent as long as its movements are smooth and fluid. But when it feels an acceleration beyond a certain threshold, the diabolic thing chimes his tune. Time to check better.
I step in front of the big mirror, right where I guess Sarge and Lad are spying on me from outside. I get sure they can also see my big bodyguard back there. Then I flaunt my breasts the way I know will gather their attention. And that is the moment. I spread my feet, flex my knees, and perform that Haka move I like so much, the one I have ameliorated by adding the middle fingers’ show. Almost immediately I regret it. Such an unladylike thing, shoving the poor buggers the finger. What a mean person I am. But it is too late. It’s done. I jump to complete the Haka move, and the Tzarist bars hit my nervous terminations down there. As usual, the tune makes me smile. But this is the first time I can see my own Fabergé-induced smile in the mirror.
And there it is. Irina’s smile. Great-grandaunt Irina’s mysterious, Giocondesque smile. On my face. Breakthrough! Princess Irina was wearing the Fabergè egg when she was posing for the painting.
But why? It was an official painting. But possibly the painter completed it without the presence of the important depicted persons, from a photograph, a shortcut even the best painters often do take. So, the right question is: when was the photo taken? Was there a special reason for that? I am still missing something crucial. And I am running out of time. Drago is shuffling his feet. It is time to get moving.
But as I look toward the Secret Garden through the columnated Renaissance small portico, a single image materializes. The last missing element of the puzzle.
I am in a very green garden, spotted with white stones. I am looking at it through white columns of marble. I am a little girl, hand in hand with my grandmother. I like this big garden, but I cannot understand the meaning of the white stones. So, my grandma tells me a fairy-tale, one I had long forgotten, and only now I suddenly recall. The tale of the Russian Doll.