I awoke not remembering having fallen asleep. Indeed, my last memory was of Cousin Andrew announcing his imminent engagement to Ypres. The Vasa mind, a fine piece of efficient technology, soon put two and two together. This time two plus two was not four, much to the consternation, no doubt, of the Greek chap who invented arithmetic.
In my state of semi-consciousness, several truths became apparent. The first was that I was horizontal, where I had once been vertical. I should like to record that verticality suits me best. It is always an advantage to draw the eye upwards. The second truth was that I was lying on a hard surface. It soon became apparent that the surface was the floor of Cousin Andrew’s flat. My truths having become, in that uniquely American fashion, self-evident, I realised that I had fainted. Safe and content in my realisation, I decided to open my eyes.
My eyes at first delivered a soft gaze on the outside world. Shapes and colours were a bit muddled. Soon, all came into sharp, cold focus. I distinguished a familiar figure.
Before me stood the grand round eyes of Neptune’s heir. Empty of emotion, yet offering benign compassion, their watery embrace met my gaze. I was looking at none other than Mildred Ypres. As I considered her figure before me, a man’s voice echoed in the background.
“I am afraid I do not have any brandy, only a snifter of Calvados.”
I ventured to use my fragile recovering voice.
“Is the brandy for me, Ypres?”
“I suggested Mr. Vasa go fetch some to revive you. You fainted.”
“How kind, Ypres. You heard I fainted, and came to me straight away, despite our little spat.”
“Your cousin, Mr. Vasa, summoned me,” she dropped like an emotionless crab.
“Speaking of Cousin Andrew, do you think you could get him to fetch me some champagne? Brandy is all well and nice to revive one after one has fainted, but a little Pommery or Veuve Clicquot does much to lift the spirit once one has regained consciousness. By the way, Ypres, why did you not move me to the sofa by the window? Granted, it is no eighteenth century fainting couch, but it would have been better than the floor.”
“I made the same suggestion,” exclaimed Cousin Andrew as he shimmied his way back from the bar with two glasses of Calvados, “but Ypres here said it would be more prudent to leave you stationary on the ground where you had fallen. So there you were on the ground with your dress over your head for the better part of an hour.”
“My dress over my head?”
“Yes, you fell rather spectacularly when you fainted! It’s lucky you’re not one of those free-spirited types who go commando.”
“Of course I’m not!”
“I know, you’re not! Otherwise you would be living here in Williamsburg, and not above 14th Street in Manhattan. I was just saying as much when the Amazon delivery man came in to deliver a package and asked what had happened.”
“A strange man saw me with my dress over my head, collapsed on the floor!”
“I would not call Enrico a strange man. He’s very personable. He only does deliveries on the side. He is an unemployed actor at the mo.”
At this point, Ypres made one of her signature coughs.
“I should like to tell you, Vasa, that as soon as I arrived, I suggested Mr. Vasa rearrange your garment, for modesty’s sake.”
“And that seemed to have done the trick,” my dear cousin chimed in, “for as soon as you weren’t exposing yourself anymore, you came straight to!”
He sipped his drink as would a satisfied prelate, before passing the second glass of Calvados to Ypres.
I gave them both a stare.
“Now how about my champagne?” I asked tactfully. They both looked at me. Ypres giving me the hard stare she would give a confused seal, Andrew the glare reversed for buildings designed by Renzo Piano.
“We need to address the elephant in the room first,” declared Andrew.
“Which elephant?” I looked around the room. “Surely, you are not referring to Ypres’s size? Ypres is strong and fit, and I will not have you insult her with your mean-spirited barbs, even if, at the moment, my relationship with her is a bit strained.”
“Vanessa, I am very serious. I want you to apologise to Ypres.”
“Apologise to Ypres!”
“Yes, apologise to Ypres so things can go back to how they were, and Ypres can get us out of this mess once and for all!”
“I see, now that she is your fiancée, you have taken her side! Men! It is to be expected!”
“This is not a question of sides, Cousin! It is a question of getting us out of this mess by avoiding engagements to people we don’t want to be stuck with, and more importantly, for my health and yours, to get you back to London as soon as possible!”
I was going to interject, but Cousin Andrew was on a roll, adopting the stance of the Shakespearean patrician from one of the plays the bard based in Rome.
“Vanessa, you are no mastermind. As family, it is my duty to tell you! No amount of your half-thought-out plans will get you out of this mess. You will try, and try, and you will fail. That is why you have Ypres! That is why we all want you to have Ypres by your side, because together you form a formidable team that can tackle any adventure! But the brain behind every story, the mind behind every activity, and the power behind every endeavour, needs to be Ypres! Only she can get you out of the messes you gravitate towards for validation! Only she, with her calm resolve and superior powers of observation and analysis, can get us out of this mess and make everything go back to normal! It is only by listening to Ypres that we have a chance for all to be well once more! So I implore you, my dear, dear Cousin, to swallow your pride and apologise! And once you have apologised, follow her lead and do everything to implement her plan, whatever it may be, to free us from this series of catastrophes!”
Cousin Andrew was breathing heavily. Ypres sat erect and motionless. She took it all in without blinking. You can’t rattle Ypres. I, on the contrary, was shocked at such an eruption of emotion from Cousin Andrew.
“So I must apologise?”
I rose off the floor towards Ypres. I grabbed her glass of Calvados, and drank it in one shot. Striking the appropriate pose, I delivered one of the hardest lines of my life, and one which is seldom heard in America. I would have preferred an outfit change, slipping into something more spectacular, but such was the uniqueness of the moment that I did not give it a second thought.
“I’m sorry, Ypres.”
“I accept your apology, Vasa.”
She extended a hand, and I, like a sovereign pardoning a vassal, held it. With a firm grip, we shook hands. After a period of silence, I quietly resumed my speech.
“About this little situation we find ourselves in with the engagements, financial tribulations, and all that jazz…”
“You would not happen to have a plan, would you?”
Ypres’s lips parted a full five centimetres. She smiled for the first time since we had left London.
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