Over a latte and some dry biscuits, Mr Lush and Olivier have a quite wonderful chat with the proprietor of the antique bookstore, Rose. Mr Lush was (and still is) reticent at the idea of following the ocelot’s rash proposal to work at the shop. He would describe his literary pursuits – in a rare moment of self-generosity – as below average. Although he has always enjoyed reading and more than one literary classic passed through his hands during his time at Eton, the ever-knowledgeable ocelot and Rose are on another level entirely. As such, he keeps to himself during the conversation, allowing Olivier to do what he does best. While Olivier holds court on the work of the great modernist poets, Lush observes the scenery. The cafe is filled with thoroughly modern young women. Their talk revolves around the diet fad du jour, the best fitness coaches, and absent girlfriends’ poor taste in dress. Lush is overwhelmed by the glorious cacophony of it. While Olivier continues to seduce the book shop owner with his erudition, Lush excuses himself and steps outside for some fresh air.
A second later, he stands smoking one of his last cigarettes in the small but picturesque courtyard of the café. Two awnings bear the brunt of the inclement weather and allow the antique patio furniture to go about its business unperturbed. He sits down at one of the beautifully carved tables puffing smoke rings. He stares at the small garden in the middle of the courtyard. Quite fantastically, a near infinite variety of flowers bloom in this tiny space. Lush is dazed by the nicotine and the beauty of nature. He is startled back to reality by a knock on the glass pane in the patio door. A quite beautiful (if unknown) woman stands in front of him:
What are you doing here?! I read your silly letter. You’re the laughing stock of the whole town.
Mr Lush cannot hold back a gasp as he retreats from his accuser. He had not recognised his wife and now he fears the worst.
Let’s get this over with. We both knew this was coming. You are more than welcome to abandon your previous life. You shall not be missed! At least my boyfriend has some decency. I will continue living with him and will go back to using my maiden name. Adieu!
She turns to leave, but hesitates.
One final question: Why did you ask for my hand in the first place?
Mr Lush draws deep from his cigarette before snuffing it out in the ashtray. In a calm, clear voice, he explains:
I found you physically attractive.
The door shuts. He is alone again. He realises now that he is sitting in between two awnings. He is soaking wet. He does not care. A span of time elapses (Lush doesn’t know if it’s been five minutes or a lifetime) before he hears another knock. Olivier and Rose step out. Mr Lush is still sitting in the rain between the awnings.
You look like you’ve seen a ghost, says the ocelot.
Something like that.
Are you alright? Rose asks anxiously.
I’m getting there.
Come back inside. You’re drenched. Olivier and I have come to an agreement. This calls for a celebration! Rose beams.
With pleasure, Lush whispers, feeling a smile begin to form at the edges of his mouth. DC/MM