Virginie brings me an elegant glass of sparkling wine. Champagne?
I notice her slender hands with elegant silver rings. No stones. When she leans over to hand me the drink, her cardigan slips from her shoulder and reveals two sharp and dangerous collarbones. They leave me speechless. For a moment I forget to breathe, then force my eyes to sink lower into the safe warmth of her décolleté and further down the black satin dress.
She knows I am looking, but she hesitates and for several seconds she remains absolutely still. Then she moves to a seat opposite mine and tries to catch my eyes while bringing a glass to her lips. "Santé".
I look away. Strange, I never do that. The feeling of uneasiness returns. What am I doing here?
"What do you want from me?" I ask her in a low voice.
A sigh emerges from behind the chair. Then the mother continues. "I used to be good at finding solutions for people who wanted to disappear. I went wrong once in a while but I took care of it all. But now my daughter is asking me to arrange her act and I don’t know what to do. I know she will go anyway, but she is my daughter. My own child! I cant’ think of any solution.”
She sounds sad and confused. It’s embarrassing. The chair is turning slowly towards me.
I can distinguish the contours of a very small old woman. The details of her face and body are still obscured by the darkness and the cigarette fog clinging around her magnetically. I’ m surprised to see that she is human, or at least seems to be.
Four eyes are staring at me. Two marvellous brown young and two old blind dark eyes. It feels strange, as if they are one and the same person, mother and daughter.
"We called on you to help me disappear." Virginie suddenly interrupts, impatient. "You have to help me. It is important to keep this secret hidden."
"But how?" I ask.
"You have to take her place."
"What? Take Virginie’s place? How?"
"It’s easy. We will take care that nobody notices anything. You will be her, look like her, live like her. Only you will know what has happened."
"But that’s impossible! It’s crazy!" I jump up, shouting.
"Don’t worry, you will keep your identity, everything you know and possess. You will be wealthy, without worries. But you will keep this secret." She pauses.
"In the beginning it will be difficult. You will be reminded of the situation very often. Every day. But gradually, it will fade, you will feel comfortable in your new life and take up old habbits. You have total freedom. You can change jobs, lovers, countries. It doesn’t matter. As long as you pretend to be Virginie. Gradually your life and the life Virginie left behind will merge."
"Look at you Edith. You are old. I know you will continue to live for ages. Clairvoyants live for more than 1000 years and you are only half-way. You will live on long after Virginie has died. So we provide you with a decent position in society, wealth, a beautiful body, a select circle of well educated friends, a lover. What more can you want, in exchange for a little bit of role playing from your side?"
"But how?" I ask. "How will you manage us to switch roles without anybody noticing?"
"Trust me," the mother answers. "I know how. It’s painless. I can give you Virginie’s body. She won’t be needing it anyway."
Virginie stares at me, again. I look away. Again. I’m ashamed about finding her attractive a few minutes ago.
"Why do you want to disappear? Where do you want to go?" I ask her, without much hope of getting an answer.
But she’s willing to talk. Her eyes are sparkling.
"As I told you, it’s an urge." she says. "I had it from when I was a child. Do you understand? It’s in my bones and blood. An instinct stronger than any other. It’s not a death whish. I know you think I’m going to die. You think I want to die. But it’s an illness, not a psychological condition.
I’m leaving my body. I know I can."
"Well, how then? Do you have an extra gene or something? Why should you be different ..."
I feel myself draining away. Dizziness. The room is turning. Curtains everywhere. And glittery glittery... glass beads ...and the mirror ... mirro ...