Now We Live In Versailles

In the morning that followed the events of March 15, Lauren wondered about the man who made them happen. No crime was committed and no-one was physically hurt however his inexplicable actions set off a chain reaction of deceit and betrayal that could never be undone. “He was always such a sweet boy” said his mother, her hands trembling as she reached for her cup of Chamomile tea, spilling a little in the saucer. No, he wasn’t, thought Lauren. He was always trying to ruin an occasion or spoil someone’s moment, his mother just chose to look the other way.

He was the only boy at school who lived in a mansion, a real one with tennis courts, an Olympic size swimming pool, a ballroom and butlers who tended to every need. He arrived at school drop-off in a Limousine and carried his books and possessions in a leather monogrammed brief case. On their first day at school Lauren told him she liked his jacket, a navy-blue pea coat his father bought him from his favourite store in London. He told her she was pretty and they sat on a bench and shared a pain au chocolat from his lunch box. Lauren loved to visit him at the mansion, running through hallways that seemed to go on forever, his shoes leaving black scuff marks on the parquetry floors, and her stealing peonies from ceramic vases filled with freshly cut flowers from the garden. In the late afternoon as his Mother took what Lauren would later realise was her post-Valium nap they would play dress-up, him in his father’s favourite horse riding outfit and her in one of his mother’s ball gowns. He would be her King and she would be his Queen and they would dance their own peculiar made-up waltz and pretend they were living in Versailles. But sometimes he would get bored and say something mean to make Lauren cry, and she would spend the rest of the day hiding in the same dining room she was sitting in this morning, waiting for someone to rescue her, clutching her stolen peonies tightly in her hands.

Lauren noticed his sister staring at her from across the table, a knowing look that suggested she knew what Lauren was thinking. Her look turned into a sarcastic smirk and then an angry scowl. Like Lauren his sister was often on the receiving end of her brother’s cruel pranks and insensitive remarks until one day, the day after her eighteenth birthday, she left for college to a campus as far away from her brother as possible. Lauren felt sick to her stomach as she too had looked the other way whenever he had mocked and taunted his sister. The scowl was warranted. Lauren mouthed the words “I’m sorry”, his sister replied with a silent “fuck off”. Touché, thought Lauren.

The twins were sitting next to Lauren to her right, their constant whispers a welcome distraction. They looked as though they had floated off the pages of Italian Vogue with their matching pageboy haircuts, oversized glasses, turtleneck sweaters and their treasured vintage Gucci handbags, bequeathed to them by an aunt who may or may not have worked for the Gucci family in the 70’s. Lauren had heard this story a dozen times however you could never tell what was fact or fiction when it came to the twins. In a previous life, Lauren had been jealous of them, their beauty, their charm, and their sense of adventure, however this morning, post March 15 (destined to become a hashtag on social media amongst his followers), she felt an unexpected kinship with them. Envy had turned into empathy and sympathy had replaced spite. Lauren first met the twins at a gallery opening he had taken her to. They had that eerie twin gift of speaking in unison and finishing each other’s sentences, and resembled a young Mia Farrow in Rosemary’s Baby in their floral shift dresses and pixie haircuts. They were friends with the DJ who gave them tiny tabs of very strong acid, and whose playlist for the evening was a mix of 60’s movie soundtracks and early 80’s electronica. At midnight, as the gallery closed its doors and everyone piled out onto the street he called his driver and invited Lauren the twins and their DJ friend back to the mansion. He said his parents wouldn’t mind as they were on a cruise to Acapulco and weren’t due back for weeks. They danced to Prince’s 1999, watched David Bowie in The Man Who Fell to Earth and drank Veuve Clicquot straight out of the bottle. He slept with the twins and she slept with the DJ and the next afternoon, as they sat outside on the sunny terrace, drinking black coffee and sharing a pain au chocolat in uncomfortable silence, Lauren knew that their friendship would never be the same again.

“Why the solemn faces” said his uncle as he entered the dining room and sat down next to Lauren. He called the butler over and ordered a bloody Mary “spicy, and hold the celery please”. The butler winced and rolled his eyes. “The butlers are always so handsome at the Mansion” said his uncle as he winked and smiled cheekily at Lauren. She had always liked his Uncle, he had the necessary talent in his family for making the best out of a bad situation. Whenever his nephew would ruin an occasion he would lift it, and if his nephew chose to spoil someone’s moment he would celebrate it, and whenever Lauren found herself hiding in the same dining room she was sitting in this morning he would rescue her.

So, what do we do now?” asked the twins in unison. “We find him and we take our revenge” yelled his sister. “No, we find him, we bring him home and we forgive him” said his mother. She started to cry. His uncle handed his mother a handkerchief and ordered another bloody Mary. His sister leaned back in her chair and crossed her arms. The twins looked at each other and shrugged their shoulders. “And there it is” said Lauren, out loud this time, “life goes on, we move on and now we live in Versailles”.

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