VIP transport was arranged for her relocation from Ukraine. Her immediate members of staff had moved to London ahead of her to get everything ready. The flat, in a quiet, tree-lined street, was furnished; the fridge was stocked with her favourite delicacies, and shelves filled with large jars of vitamins and minerals. A glass and earthenware dinner set was purchased for her sole use.
The day before her flight, the PA – who is one of my clients – gave me the etiquette to follow if I were ever in the presence of Her Ladyship. I was told that mostly, however, she would keep to her quarters, upstairs, engaged in meditation, carpet hockey (played with a small and fast ball), catching up on her beauty sleep after a night of heightened activity or – most probably – busy devising numerous diplomatic techniques of negotiation aimed at obtaining the most advantageous business transactions. It was a skill, her staff assured me, at which she was second to none. She always got what she wanted.
Moreover, I was warned never to address her directly, or approach her uninvited. Should Her Ladyship wish to form an acquaintance with me, she would either come halfway down the stairs – at which point the protocol stipulated that I should walk up towards her – or she would take a seat in the centre of the room– a tacit invitation for me to approach just close enough to pay my respects.
Throughout my career as a language and communications solutions consultant, so far, I have had dealings with aristocracy, people from finance, and politicians, as well as stars from the world of entertainment. This was the first time I was nervous.
It happened a couple of days after Lady E. took up residence in London. I was working with my client, sitting with my back to the door, when my client’s facial expression changed, and she motioned to me with her eyes, that there was someone behind me. Slowly, I turned around. She was in the doorway, staring at me with an expression that suggested mild interest. An imposing figure in a black fur coat – brown tips slightly tousled – and translucent amber eyes.
I stood up and greeted her. She returned the compliment half-heartedly. A tone of lassitude and the vague suggestion of a foreign accent. She seemed content just to watch us from a distance, so I sat back down and resumed my work with my client, her PA.
A couple of minutes later, I suddenly felt something soft brush against my ankle. I looked down and met the amber stare. I remained as still as I could, whilst Lady E. examined the contents of my open handbag and rubbed the side of her face against my attaché case. “That’s very unusual,” whispered my client.
Since, sadly, I speak no Ukrainian, I addressed Lady E. in Russian, and paid a few compliments on the elegance of her coat, the luminosity of her eyes, and the grace of her demeanour. Then I proferred my hand. She gave it a thorough olfactory examiniation. I seems my scent met with her approval, because the next thing she did was to recline on my attaché case – which she had knocked on its side – expose her furry belly and, in case I were in any doubt as to her precise instructions, gave my hand a gentle tap with her paw. That was my cue to stroke her head, scratch behind her ears, and give her belly a rub. “Most unusual with a stranger, “ said my client. “She is paying you a great honour.
A great honour I was keenly aware of.
Since that day, it has become customary for Eureka (we are now on first-name terms) to make an appearance during our training sessions, and exchange a few expressions of mutual affection.
Last week, I decided the time had come to take our relationship to the next level. After scratching behind her ears, I picked her up, and placed her on my lap. “She may hiss and jump off,” warned my client.
I heard no hissing. What rumbled in my ears, as I buried my face in the glossy coat and kissed the top of her silky head, was a soft purr.
“I cannot believe it,” said my client.
And just to have a proof that neither of us was dreaming this moment, she reached out for her camera and took a picture of it.