We walk into the lobby, a big room bathing in red velvet, mirrors curly gold frames and lots of glittering crystal. Thick carpets cover the parquetted floors, the astracan wool moving under my footsteps as if it is alive and ready to engulf the whole room. Three strategically positioned chandeliers illuminate the bloodcoloured half moon shapes of antique seats. The walls are covered with paintings darkenend by smoke and dust.
"Sit down, please" says the voice from the darkest end of the room. "I'm sure you would like to know why you are here." I can see smoke curling up form behind a velvet chair,its back turned towards me.
Virginie moves to what seems to be bar. An exquisite art nouveau counter ornamented with big lillies finely shaped in wood and colored glass. Behind it rows of strangely shaped bottles and decanters.
"What was all the hocus pocus up there in the hallway?" I ask, a little bit vexed. "And you seem to know all about me? Well then, what do you want? A handreading, fortunetelling, hashish, an oriental massage?" I'm starting to lose my temper.
"Please let me explain," she answers calmly. "These precautions are absolutely necessary. I need a favour. Listen to the story.
My daughter has got a few health problems. She has probably told you.
Virginie is successful in life. She has a good job and earns lots of money. She's a consultant in the city centre. Her opinion is well valued everywhere. She lives in a nice house, wears stylish clothes, has good taste. And she tells me she has a really nice relationship going on too. No children though." She pauses. "I think it must be a married man, because I've never been introduced to this lover of her. She might as well make it all up." The chair moves a bit with agitation, but still doesn't turn around.
"Mother please!" Virginie looks up from behind the counter where she is fixing a drink.
"Allright, allright," the chair mutters, releasing cicles of aromatic smoke and continues: "What I want to say that she's a successful businesswoman. She takes cabs instead of the metro, needs to decline invites for parties, has seen more of the world than Marco Polo. She's supposed to be happy, to feel accomplished. But she has problems. Poor Virginie suffers from an extremely rare hereditary disease. It's been in the family for ages, maybe centuries."