Red Marcy was a playful young woman who lived in the flat above the Rue St. Petit whom Professor Rimbaud called his mistress but was really a prostitute. He was unashamed to call her his mistress and I did not bring the matter up to his wife, she a concert pianist with a considerable touring schedule. It seemed clear Madame Rimbaud knew. Red Marcy was not unknown to her, the redhead in stockings who slept late and took coffee every noon two sinuous roads beyond the main campus. She was a student once. She learned how to make money from her main occupation while attending the university; diplomatically, she cut short her formal education to pursue her career, saving herself the loans she would need for tuition fees that were better spent on café afternoons and Sauvignon nights. Her laugh is very pretty and her cats are fat and spoiled pods of black fur seldom seen below the warm glass window on Rue St. Petit.
I was very drunk and angry one night. That I accosted her amused her greatly. Though, she turned me away.
She lapped a swift kiss across my cheek, patted my neck, soft fingers finding sweet nerves there. She took her hand back, and put her fingers in her mouth, and she giggled at me as if I were champagne tickling her small black nostrils. I was drunk and a young man still and did not receive her laughter with grace.
“Is it for Monsieur Rimbaud that you refuse?” I asked. I demanded to know in earnestness that demanded I remain on my feet, my own skeleton battling the instinct like an umbrella unfolding in a leather coat.
“No, petit,” she said.
I dug in my pocket for my money. She watched me struggle. “I shall pay you,” I said. “I shall pay you and you shall love me tonight.”
“But I love you now,” she said. She gently laid her hand over my thin pocket. She left it there until my fingers ceased their search.
“Yes,” I said. “Yes you will love me now.” She patted my arm and guided me to a small table. She ordered two coffees when the garçon arrived. “You know,” I said, leaning towards her with the air of conspiracy, “the m’sieur calls you his mistress.”
“He does,” said Red Marcy. One of her cats leapt from the kitchen doorway and arched against her leg. She scratched its ebon side, lustrous under the candleglow. She picked it up and piled it onto her stockings. It fell asleep almost instantly, purr like a little motorcar puttering into a garage. “It delights him.”
“But it is not true,” I said, my voice still lowered in its ragged confidence. “He says you are his mistress but you are not.”
“What am I?” she asked. The cat woke and pressed me with its two caustic emeralds.
I reddened. I stammered. I said, “You are- You are Red Marcy.”
“If the truth is not what gives us pleasure we are allowed to seek our pleasures elsewhere,” she said.
“Then I-” I started.
“It would please me for you to buy our coffees.”
“And then?” I asked.
“Then elsewhere for you,” she said. “And here for me.”
“I will pay for you,” I said.
“Kind,” she said. “But you did not say please.”
I thought for a moment. “Please?” I said.
“Tut tut,” she said. “Tut tut.” The cat’s face molded against her belly in its sleep, the mouth stretched in an insufferable grin.