Admiring my body in the dressing room mirror I wailed that it would soon be bloated out with another child growing inside of me. Since the night me and Max had sex I had felt a little better about myself, he actually wanted to be with me, he liked the way I looked. He didn’t want to rape me and defile my body, he wanted to be with me. I was throwing up less and less lately, preparing myself for another pregnancy, I was also happier with my weight, I couldn’t really get much skinnier.
“Olivia?! What on earth are you doing in there?” I heard the shrill, clipped tones of Elizabeth from outside the dressing room and groaned. She was so infuriating, insisting on coming with me on my first major shopping trip, probably to make sure I didn’t buy anything too brash which would taint the ultra-conservative Elphinstone name. Tucking the $400 Calvin Klien t-shirt into the white Halston skirt and finishing it off with a $2500 Chanel jacket I went outside to see what she thought.
“Perfect darling. It seems I’ve still, as so many people say, ‘got it’.” She pursed her lips in a grotesque smile, clearly pleased with her modern terminology.
“It’s very conservative Elizabeth, isn’t it a little old for me?” I asked, tugging on the jacket and smoothing down the skirt.
“No, no, no. Now I know you’re young but you must understand this is the perfect outfit for a woman of the class which you now are. You cannot be seen in hot pants and an electric blue vest top, or something of that sort. Quelle horror!” I stared at her for a long while, trying to figure out if she was genuinely being kind or if she was just making sure I didn’t embarrass the family, probably the latter.
I felt older than my years through many of the outfits I chose over the next 3 hours. I flew through the stores buying everything from tights to sunglasses, from jackets to shoes, with a trip to Bulgari to finish it off, picking out several exquisite diamond pieces. The joy of credit cards eh? Elizabeth had looked disapproving as I bought so much, but surely she knew the price of looking good, she may not look like it now, but one day she must have spent money on decent clothes, and judging by the rocks on her ears she certainly still knew how to spend.
Max and I had fallen into an uneasy routine, still finding our feet, not 100% sure of the way the other worked yet, which was fine by me. We lived our lives pretty much separately. I spent the day at the spa, in the limousine taking in the sights, or out shopping. Max spent the morning in the home office, the afternoon in the work office (Elphinstone Diamond spanned much farther than I originally thought) and the two of us would meet up for dinner or a party in the evenings.
“You okay?” I asked as I padded into the bathroom one day, as we both got ready to go to a party at the cliffside mansion of one of his close friends.
“Are you okay.” He said. What? Seeing the confused expression on my face he elaborated, “It’s are you okay. Not ‘you okay’. I don’t mean to criticize….” He continued rambling but I’d stopped listening to him, hurrying over to the small radio I cranked the dial up. ’23 year old Riley Sampson was found dead in suspicious circumstances yesterday at his uncles home in Miami, the family are asking to be left alone during this sad time.”
“Max! That’s him, he’s the one!” I shouted across the room.
“I know. If you ask me he deserves it. Good riddance.” He continued brushing his teeth as if nothing had happened. Riley was dead! What had happened to him, could it have been…? No!
“Max? Did you… did you do this?” I asked slowly, wrapping my arms around myself.
“Olivia! Don’t be stupid, I would never do such a thing and for you to even think that is… well frankly it is both ridiculous and offensive!” He glared at me, willing me to argue back.
“Okay, I’m sorry.” I said, extending a hand of apology.
“Come. We shouldn’t keep the driver waiting.” He hurried me along out into the passageway and into the waiting car. I vowed then and there to stop thinking of Riley. It was over now.
* * *
The year of my pregnancy was a whirlwind introduction to the European social scene. Max and I jetted from Saint-Sébastien to Paris, from Rome to Berlin, London to Vienna, Amsterdam to Prague. The private jet that I managed to persuade Max to buy was a godsend, I couldn’t have bared all those trips mixing with the commoners in first class, they let in anyone these days. Max’s friends were an eclectic bunch of socialites, celebrities, businessmen, artists and club hoppers, and they fascinated me. I loved being part of their scene, being photographed for major European magazines and being on the front page of the tabloids, having artists asking to photograph me for galleries or paint me for an upcoming show. For 6 months I was introduced to everyone that mattered. I kept off the drink for the sake of the child, as well as trying to stop my bulimia. I slipped up once, after a roast dinner at a traditional pub in London where we were dining with a new business associate, but otherwise I was doing well. The pregnancy slowed me down a little, in the last few months I went back to the house in Saint-Sébastien alone, Max had flown back home for business, but France had basically became our permanent residence. I couldn’t go back home, not yet. (N.B – There are no pictures of the pregnancy apart from this one due to my games strange choice of attire for her during pregnancy – naked from the waist down and a vest top with bright red heels.)
Another difficult birth produced Sebastian Belgravia, (who definitely inherited the family cheekbones – have you ever seen a child with such a defined face?!) named after his birthplace. The heir to the Elpinstone fortune, and a sure means of me getting as much money as I want if we ever divorce.
* * *
“Marie, keep up.” I barked at the au pair carrying Sebastian as I entered the house. “I definitely need a spa break, flying so much is taking it’s toll on me.” I remarked to her as we walked into main living area.
“Just set Sebastian down here if you will, and then go and check on Electra. I told Renee to have her in her crib by the time we got here, but you know what part time nannies are like, they don’t care about the children as long as they get their pay check. I trust you much more.” Marie now worked for me full time, with her own quarters in the house, and I couldn’t have done without her. Quite a cushy job I would say, jet setting around Europe with me. I sometimes even took her out to restraunts and such if I wanted people to meet the children. As she put him down I noticed how he grabbed for her, as if begging her not to leave. He’d never done that to me.
“Come to Mommy!” I scooped him into my arms and swung him round the room, at first he screamed in fright, Marie wasn’t allowed to do such things in case she dropped the children, so he wasn’t used to it, but he soon the screams became screams of joy. I loved both of my children, but I had to keep up a particular schedule now that I was a fixture on the European social scene, and I didn’t have as much time with them as I would have liked.
“Do you want to do some reading? We haven’t done that for a while.” I said as I set him down on the rug and pulled a childrens book from the shelf before joining him.
“Wead. Mama wead!” He shouted, slamming his little hands on the floor.
“Okay, okay, I’ll read and you can tell me about the pictures, okay? Come here, sit closer to me.” I smiled down at my little son, reaching my arm across his shoulders so he could see the book.
“..and the whale swam faster and faster, looking for his friend.” I watched him smile as I read him the story, which was about whales looking for friendship, as well as doubling up as a maths book, helping with counting. “How many whales can you see on this page Sebastian?” He looked at the page, clearly confused.
“How many whales?” I asked, pointing to one of the pictures.
“No! Next!” He yelled, trying to turn the page and giggling.
“Mrs. Elphinstone?” I heard from behind me as I giggled along with Sebastian.
“Yes?” I asked, turning around to face the two women who were framed in the doorway, cameras and notepads at the ready.
“We’re here for the photoshoot. So nice to see you here with your son, such a candid moment.” She smiled down at us, she would probably write about how she found me reading with my son, still making time for my children even with such a busy schedule, which would increase public opinion of me. The photographer behind her snapped a few pictures before I stood up, might as well put a face to the story.
“It’s so kind of you to travel all the way to the house for me.” I said graciously as I stood up and a team of makeup artists and hairstylists made me camera ready. A quick fluff piece followed, questions about my fashion, children, and my charity. I evaded all questions about my childhood and the family wealth, which Elizabeth had told me I was to under no means discuss.
“Thank you for the interview. Can you just turn your head, we want to get a few shots of you. We’re putting you on the cover you’ll be pleased to know. Oh that’s perfect!” She clapped her hands in delight as I turned my head and stared at the camera, showing off my profile.
“Well that’s a wrap. Thanks for your time. Magazine should be out next month.” She slipped me a card as she left, telling me how much she hoped for another interview someday. I probably wouldn’t give another one, there were many more magazines to be conquered. As the day began to wind down, the sun not yet casting its orange glow across the world I settled down to enjoy a book I had just recently purchased when Max came barging into the house.
“Olivia!” He exclaimed, clearly surprised to see me. “What are you doing here, I thought you were in Geneva until Tuesday?”
“I had a photoshoot.” I mumbled, barely looking up from the book. He didn’t approve of all the publicity I was doing, he preferred to keep a low profile, only being known to the elite of Europe, not the commoners who devoured the magazines his friends owned. I knew he was glaring at me, he did every time I did publicity.
“Olivia.” His voice was so commanding I put the book down. “You know I don’t approve of all your publicity, and neither does mother.” I didn’t give a rats ass what his mother thought of me, I had secured my place in the family by having Sebastian, there was nothing she could do now. “And frankly you’re spending too much money. The bank showed me a bill for three hundred thousand euros a few weeks back. How did you spend all that in one weekend?”
“Oh Max just leave it, it’s only money.” Why he was so angry I didn’t know, it was only three hundred thousand.
“I know how you can make it up to me.” He whispered as he came over to the sofa and attempted to put his arm around me.
“Max!” I shouted, shrugging his arm off of my shoulders.
“Why Olivia?! We are man and wife, and sex is part of it!”
“You know why!” I shouted, giving him my sad eyes. I would have been quite happy to go to bed with him in reality, but that wasn’t part of the plan. “Just stop.”
“Okay, okay.” He replied, throwing his arm up in defeat.
“Can’t you understand that I can’t do it?”
“Olivia, we haven’t had sex since the night we conceived Sebastian. You have to break down those walls of defense again. Or,” He added, raising his voice, “I’ll find it somewhere else.”
I knew he had meant to hurt me with those words, but what he didn’t know is the exact thing that I wanted was for him to find someone else.
* * *
“Olive Belgravia?” The raspy voice asked as I picked up my cell a few weeks later.
“This is she.”
“I have some information, will you come in?” The voice was impassive, showing no emotion, giving nothing away. Ten minutes later I raced from the house in my car, speeding much to fast to the shabby offices downtown. Entering his office gave me the feeling of being in an old movie, the smell of smoke was overpowering, the dark blinds filtered out the light, making the never ending dust which floated around glint in the strips of sunlight that managed to get inside the room. Books and folders were crammed on every available surface, and a side table groaned with half empty bottles of various spirits.
The investigator stood up and moved to the window, strips of sunlight falling on his lackluster skin as he lit up his forty fifth cigarette of the day. “Take a look at that.” He took a drag on his cigarette and nodded to a pile of tightly bound dossiers.
“It seems your suspicions were right.” He said blankly, taking another drag. “You might wanna have a listen to the tape too. More evidence.” He looked out of the window again, turning his back on me. As I opened the dossier a sly smile spread across my face. These files contained everything I needed to finally be free, to finally be independent. And I intended to use them for just that purpose.