Meeting at Night

"Darling, what are you still doing down here? The guests will be arriving in an hour and I-"

Mr Rillow sighed, leaning further back against the grassy bank leading up to the sandy stone walls of his manor house, if there was one thing he hated more than his wife, it was his wife's dinner parties.

"I need you to soak those exotic little green things that Mr Nachtbarn brought us last week in brine. Somebody has to flambé the cucumbers and I've got about thirty six napkins to iron into swans and if you think you're going to laze about writing in that ridiculous journal all evening you've got another thing coming!"

Twenty-five years old and you'd have thought he'd have learnt to play the system well enough to find a wife who didn't think a gherkin was the height of sophistication. The marriage had been a political one, "a perfect match" his late father had said as he stuffed the dowry dollars in his fat leather wallet. Now the house where they had held a cold wedding reception was too vast and echoed with that unfriendly tone of skeletons in closets. There were no children to speak of, ("how odd" the neighbours had said) just him, her, occasionally a black cat who answered to the name Jasper and sadly, tonight, one hundred guests from the Berlin Bank, his 'esteemed colleagues' bound to sycophantic, ingratiating bursts of laughter every time he made the slightest amusing comment.

"Seven years I've been married to you and all you ever do is write or work at the bank. You never have time for me! Well?! Are you going to come and help or not?"

Mr Rillow snapped his journal shut and stalked past his wife back up to the house, running a hand distractedly through his perfectly coiffed blonde hair.

"Where do you think you're going?!"

"Actually, I've been meaning to tell you that"

"What?"

"I'm thinking of taking a trip"

"A trip? You must be mad if you think you're leaving Berlin this week! Why, the Hochgestochen's Bridge party is this Sunday!

"Much as it pains me to miss the highlight of everyone's social calendar-"

"And I was planning on re-covering the cushions! I needed you to come and help me to buy ribbon, what are you trying to do to me?!"

"I'm going home."

"And for how long?"

"A week, maybe two-"

Mrs Rillow did not say another word, turning on her heal she marched round to the front of the house, lips pursed in tight disapproval.

"You're in for one of her hissy fits now Mr R" a gap toothed servant was standing by his side.

"It hardly matters" he replied coldly

"What'ya going back home for any way?" the servant continued, "you 'aven't left Berlin since you got married, I fought everything wiv ya parents deaths was taken care of?"

"It's on, business."

"Really sir? I'm no expert but I didn't fink much in the way of banking went on outside of the city-"

"Then you will think no more of it."

"Right sir, sorry sir" the servant began to start back towards the cellar, a sack of coal over one shoulder

"A piece of land has recently come to my attention, I will need to take some time to travel to survey it and see if it holds any great value. It just so happens to be on the border of my old home town."

"Right you are sir,"

The servant paused, casting a glance at the eyes of his master, they had always seemed so dull and cold before, now there was a faint sparkle, as if he had just remembered the punch line to some particularly amusing anecdote, but the mouth didn't smile, it never did. Mr Rillow had begun to walk back down the grassy bank to his spot under a withered tree,

The servant called after him "What piece of land is it sir?"

Mr Rillow turned; his hand clutched the journal a little tighter,

"A vineyard."