Having dressed up, Clara left her new outfit in the laundry cart set by the door of the cloakroom, had a short shower and, with her hair still wet, she walked towards the patio Berenger had mentioned.
Once Clara stepped onto the lawn, she could almost feel the softness of the grass. Just as if she had been walking bare feet, She took a quick look around and, having noticed no presence near her, she took of her shoes. Although the day was rather cool, she enjoyed the touch of cold, green blades against her thin feet.
'The nature has won, huh?' – Clara heard a voice coming from right behind her back.
She turned around and saw Berenger. What surprised her was the fact that he was wearing a light grey cocktail suit and it was not like him to wear bright colours at all.
'Well, as you can see.' – replied she, smiling softy.
He approached her slowly .
'You would look beautiful in a dress. Light, bright, summer dress.' – he said quietly, playing with a cowlick of her chestnut hair. 'That's why, before we start our little tea party, I need you to come with me.'
Although Clara started getting suspicious of his intentions, she followed him to the house. They stopped in front of the carved door on the first floor. He opened it for her.
The first thing Clara noticed was a mannequin wearing a white lace dress. It was light, smooth and so delicate, modest and seductive at the same time… although she had never had enough courage to admit it, she had always dreamed about something like that. But how did he know…
'Do you like it?' – asked Berenger.
'Of course I do. It's… it's just stunning…'
'I wanted to give you something you really wanted and, searching through your mind I came across your idea of a perfect dress. And, since I have never seen you wearing one, I thought you should start. Your legs are far too beautiful to keep them hidden at all times.'
'But Santiago, I can't… that's really too much… It is beautiful but I cannot take it and you know about it.'
As he heard her words, despair appeared in his black eyes; Berenger fell to his knees in front of the girl and begged her:
'Please, take it, wear it. If you don't want to do it for yourself, do it for me. I just have to see you in it.'
'But I don't deserve…'
He stood up sunddenly.
'You deserve everything. I draw my greatest pleasure from giving you what you want, from making your wishes come true. Please, don't take it away from me.'
Clara went silent. The bond linking them to each other was growing stronger every second, but that was what made her worry. He seemed to have become obsessed about her. On the other hand, however, she could not say she was not at least a bit pleased with what he felt. She did realize that it was cruel of her to be satisfied with his suffering but that was the first time she felt important and cared for.
'All right' - replied she after a while.
Santiago took the dress off the mannequin and hang it on the edge of a screen Clara had just went behind. The girl put her dream-dress on but, as the zip was situated on the back of, it she had to ask her companion for help.
'Hey, Monsieur!' – called she from behind the screen. 'Would you zip me up, please?'
'Of course. Come here.'
Clara let him lead her in front of the large, antique mirror. While Berenger was helping her, she could admire of how perfect she looked. When the zipping was done, he straightened up and smiled.
'Beautiful. And now the shoes.' – ordered he.
Berenger told Clara to sit down in an Louis style armchair. So she did and that moment she noticed a pair of light peach Louboutin strass heels waiting patiently by the side of the armchair.
'Oh. Dear.' – mumbled she and tried to stand up in order to try them on, but Santiago held her back.
'No. Let me do this.'
„I am a fucking British Cinderella." – thought Clara but she did not say a word and let him do his job.
First, he knelt in front of the armchair, carefully lifted her right leg and slipped a silk stocking onto it, then a shoe followed. He did the same to her left leg and helped her up.
Now they were both standing in fornt of the silver tile. Berenger embraced the waist of the girl.
'My princess…' – whispered he. 'If I could have a daughter, I would like her to be like you. Your father must be the luckiest man in the whole universe… and so will be your future husband.'
'If I ever find one.'
'You will. Very soon, Dear.' – He assured her. 'But I think there's still something missing…'
He walked up to a dressing table standing right next to the window and opened a little jewellery casket. With an inviting gesture he asked her to join him.
Once she peeked inside, she was blinded by the glow of diamonds. A pair of earrings studded with genuine diamonds set in subtle frames made of white gold. Judging by the shape, the girl could tell they were at least 120 years old.
'You are amazing.' – gasped she. 'But okay, I understand the dress, shoes… but where did you get these from? Have you robbed Schoenbrunn Palace?'
'They belonged to Kitty… Her favourite piece of jewellery.'
'A… Are you sure?' – stumbled the girl.
She put them on.
He watched the girl in silence for a while, then embraced her once again and said:
'We have to go to the theatre together. I have heard Goethe's „Faust" is on this week at Comedie Française, which is quite extraordinary – they usually stage the works of French authors, so it might be an opportunity one of its kind.'
'I think it will be perfect.' – replied the girl. She felt just like Eliza Doolittle would have felt if she had really existed; dragged away from her simple world and trained to be a princess - someone she had never been, but was it really better than whom she used to be ? Did she really want to live like that – surrounded with jewels, antique furniture and other extremely expensive objects? Of course, she did want to be with him, wherever he would be, but she could not tell she was ready to make such a sacrifice. Clara was a normal girl after all and she approached the possibile change with a great dose of reluctance. Still, would he accept her the way she was or should she let her undead Pygmalion turn her into His Fair Lady?
'Good' – the firm voice of Berenger dragged her thoughts back from the abyss of doubt.' I'll book the tickets. Now, if you please, we'll have our tea.'
Clara took the arm he had offered her and they came back downstairs.