My name is Cassandra. Maybe you have heard of me already. I don’t mean to appear egotistical when I say that, but it never ceases to amaze me how many complete strangers seem to know about me. I don’t know if that is just because of my striking appearance (I am rather tall, and my hair is very red, and I wear rather outré clothes) or if it is something else. It appals me to think that strangers might know my business. I must not give way to paranoia: I am crazy enough already.
Would you care for some vodka? It’s Polish, and very smooth. There is plenty of ice, but I don’t have anything to mix it with. Yes, I know it is rather early, but what the hell. There was some Guinness in the fridge, but I think I’ve drunk it all.
You can probably tell I have been crying for a long time. On and off for nearly three days, in fact. I heard the news by letter. It seemed a strange coincidence, that I had just been thinking to myself that I must take the time to make a trip to Bruges and see Georges again, after not having seen him for nearly two years. I didn’t know how I had lasted that long without seeing him. I would usually see him at least every six months. Even a day or two in his beautiful flat would make me feel re-charged: relaxed and happy in a way that no other experience produces in me – not even drinking the very best champagne.
Some people seem to think there is – was – sorry – I think I am starting to cry again – something kinky about the relationship between Georges and me. I know he is – was – forty years my senior, but what is wrong with that? He was so full of vitality. Our trips round Paris and Brussels and Amsterdam used to tire me out much more than they did him. And of course, he was as queer as a nine-shilling note (though not so energetically promiscuous as he was in the old days). But we just got on so well together. I think he was my only real friend. As I was his. At least I was nice to him, which is more than I can say for those street-urchins in designer clothes that he used to dine with. The things they used to say to him, and their breath-taking ingratitude! Talk about biting the hand that fed you.
You’ll never guess where I met him. Go on: have one guess (but if you don’t know, you’ll never get it). What was that? No. I first met him in – of all places – Tallinn. Have you ever been there? It’s a funny place. It has become very modern in the last few years, but it still retains much of its mediaeval character. Parts of it look like the set for a Dracula film. It has some little cafés and bars in very atmospheric, dark, stone cellars, with arched ceilings and cobbled floors. You wouldn’t want to wear high heels in those places: you’d go flying. I was having a row with a little pipsqueak of a desk clerk about some misplaced allegations to do with the mini-bar, and Georges intervened. He spoke to the chap in fluent Finnish (a lot of Estonians speak it, and they are remarkably more forthcoming in Finnish than they are in English). The problem just seemed to melt away. He does – did – that with many of my problems. I am a person who has a lot of problems.
I could never understand how some-one with such impeccable taste as Georges could also work so hard for a living. I am absolutely allergic to work, which is one reason why I have always been so poor. He ran a designer clothing company, marketing mainly to a network of wealthy gay men, most of whom were his personal friends, or friends of friends. This handkerchief I’m using is one of his. See how superb the quality of the silk is? He designed some dresses for me when we were seeing each other more frequently. They are breathtaking, but I hate to wear them in restaurants or clubs – anywhere outside the apartment, in fact – I would be heartbroken if they got stained or wore out. They will be my best reminders of him, I suppose, along with the letters he wrote to me. How many people do you know who still write letters? Georges could be very expressive, in several languages. I really think he loved me, even though there could never be – have been – anything physical between us.
Anyway, I should be able to endure my grief in tolerable comfort, because the letter I told you about was from the lawyers who are handling his estate, and he has left me ninety-eight million euros. That little fashion-house of his must have been doing rather well.