Valetta looked out the window for the eleventh time in the space of thirty minutes. At the kitchen table behind her, Ignatius snapped the paper. “You know she’ll be home when she’s home.” He said. “Hasenpfeffer has her own mind about these things.”
Sighing, Valetta turned from the kitchen window. “Well I have to worry about somebody.” She said to the newspaper. “You won’t let me worry about you. What the hell else am I supposed to do, cooped up in this fucking house all day?”
The paper snapped again. “I really wish we didn’t have to have this conversation again. Every. Single. Day. You know how it tires me.”
One of the hands disappeared and Valetta heard the click of a lighter. When the paper came down, Ignatius Finklestein’s head was covered in a cloud of smoke. “She’s a thirteen-year-old girl and she will do as she likes.”
Though Valetta couldn’t see his face, she knew he was scowling at her. “And I stopped needing you to worry about me a long time ago. Why don’t you get yourself a job?” Ignatius barked. “And not another one of your god damn causes again. I won’t be dragged to another charity luncheon, I hate those fucking things.”
He turned and left the kitchen then, the smoke from his cigar trailing behind him. He left the scent of sour grapes in his wake, the smell festering in her nostrils. She could always smell him before he was coming, hours before he would be coming home. It was always the smell of grapes that preceded him.
Turning back to the kitchen window, Valetta resisted the urge to look in the cupboards. She knew what was waiting there for her, knew without a doubt that she would eventually look anyways.
Giving in was easier, she decided. She went to the cupboards and pulled out a decanter and a tumbler glass. She poured herself a hit of Rose Hip Sherry. The burn down her throat was like fire. Then she poured herself another.
“I need a job, do I?” She whispered. “Just you wait, Ignatius Finkelstein.” She took another hit of sherry. “Just you wait.”
* * *
Later, when Ignatius was out of the house, Valetta went to her bedroom. She lit herself a long cigarette and smoked it using a holder. She did this because her mother had always said “If you’re going to do something dirty, try to do it with a bit of class.”
Valetta took a small drag and positioned herself on the bed so that she could have a good think. She thought that the smoke added a nice effect to everything, made everything very alluring. She pictured herself in black and white, like a silent film siren.
Everyone looked better in black and white after all. It was far more flattering. Valetta didn’t like to think, but believed that, like all else, she should be as beautiful as possible doing it. Sighing, she flicked a bit of ash into a crystal ash tray and let her mind wander.
She had to get out of this house that much was clear. She could never leave Ignatius; despite the hate between them, they needed each other in some way. But how could she escape him temporarily?
She wasn’t good at anything, for fuck sake. She was a high society housewife. What the fuck did they do when their life went sour? She made a mental note to call Moxey Pickle; she would know what to do.
There was a knock at the door. “Yes?”
Geeves, her butler, entered the room. His name wasn’t really Geeves, of course. It was actually Walter Fickus, but all butlers were supposed to be called Geeves, right? He was the third in his family that had served their house. So technically he was Geeves the third. Valetta wondered if she should give him an official title?
“Miss Finklestein?” He said. Geeves’ voice was always soft and demur and she was always a Miss. Even at sixty seven, she could feel young again. “There is a woman downstairs to see you.”
“Oh, a guest, how fabulous.” Valetta sat up and readied herself. Perhaps this was the distraction she’d been waiting for. “Who is she Geeves? What is she here for?”
“Well, that’s just it Miss, she says she’s your daughter.” Geeves’ voice was a little softer than usual, as if he were uncomfortable delivering this news.
“You mean Hasenpfeffer?” Valetta let out a little laugh. “But that’s ridiculous; of course she’s my daughter.” Valetta let out another nervous laugh. She had a feeling that this was going to turn out to be a very bad day. She could feel it. God was fucking with her again.
“No, Miss.” Geeves said. He looked at her then and she knew that he was serious. “It is another girl and she says that she is your daughter.”Valetta nodded. “I see.” She stubbed out her cigarette and pulled her robe more tightly around her. “Well, Geeves.” She tried and failed to put some false cheerfulness into her voice. “Let’s go see this mystery daughter, shall we?”