When Zero steps out of the car to put in petrol, he is dressed as and has the attitude of a biker. The car is a silver Mercedes with smoked glass windows. The leather driving gloves protect his delicate hands. He gazes off at the clouds forming over to the west where they are about to drive.
Vena sits on the back seat wearing furs and sunglasses. She doesn't want to see anybody at the moment and wants no-one to see her either.
Zero returns from the kiosk with food and drink for them both. Sometimes it is nice to be normal, he thinks.
They are going to visit the artist. It will be a long drive and Zero fears that Vena will get bored. She finds doing the same thing for any length of time intolerable - unless it is torturing him, which she seems never to tire of.
Julia's flat was open plan with bare floorboards that she had not bothered to cover since she moved in. They would get paint and clay on them in any case and each room bore testimony to one, other or many of her creations in the form of colourful splashes and smears along the wood. She was heaving a new delivery of clay from one room to another when her phone rang.
"Darnit!" she gave the plastic sack a kick and stepped over it into the hall. "Hello?"
"Am I speaking to Miss Wassim?" said a man's voice at the other end, light but formal.
"Speaking." She said, reaching for cigarettes left on table beneath the phone. "Uh-huh? Uh-huh?" she lit up as she listened to him, "Yeah, that's fine. When are you coming? I'll have to get the room ready." caught sight of herself in the hall mirror, she'd have to shower too, "Oh, it's just for the consultation today?" Damn, she could do with the money; that was a pain.
"Of course we would be willing to make a deposit," said the man, as if reading her mind.
Better than a kick in the teeth, she supposed. Vena DeMille and Adrian Zero - they sounded like names someone had made up. She pondered this after she put the phone down and congratulated herself on having asked for the deposit in cash.
What did she know about them? They'd written in reply to an ad she'd put in the paper offering her services as an artist. The letter had arrived on luxurious personal headed stationery with Ms DeMille's name but signed by him. They were a rich couple and very much in love, she imagined. They wanted her to make a clay statue, probably of Ms DeMille though that hadn't been stated.
It was terribly romantic and at the same time terribly tiresome. She sought distraction from her work, not confirmation that others had found their true love and she, after all her seeking, all her failed attempts at relationships, had not.
Julia watched from behind the lace curtains in her front bedroom their car draw up. A Merc. Flashy. Good, that meant they were as loaded as they sounded. Adrian Zero stepped out first. He was wearing a leather jacket and trousers, mirror shades. He came round and opened the back seat door for Vena DeMille.
A very slim leg wearing a long silver high heeled boot and then another kicked into the air and onto the pavement. Fox fur cape with an ornate clasp, glossy and abundant auburn hair, expensive looking sunglasses. Julia took it all in until Vena DeMille seemed to sense they were being watched and darted her gaze up at the window causing Julia to drop the edge of the curtain abruptly. She backed against the wall and watched the curtain sway until it was still.
Julia made a conscious effort not to rush to answer. She opened the door and faced them, her customers, well, her potential customers. "Good afternoon" beamed Adrian, "Adrian Zero" he offered his hand and she shook it, "and this is Miss DeMille". Julia offered her hand to Vena DeMille, who ignored the gesture and pushed past them both into the hall, a smile playing lightly on her lips.
"Uh, would you like to come up to the study?" offered Julia, glancing back and forth from the congenial Adrian to the apparently less than congenial Miss DeMille.
"Yes, yes, excellent idea." Adrian enthused, and he guided Miss DeMille to follow Julia upstairs.
A few minutes later, her guests having declined offers of refreshment, Julia was still feeling uneasy. Had Miss DeMille not decided to laugh a few times at Adrian's weak jokes, then she would have thought her to be deaf-mute. Adrian did all the talking and all Miss DeMille would do was to sit and stare into the distance (although who could tell where she was staring? Since she kept on her sunglasses). She did not even take off her cape, although it was a warm day.
They were a physically attractive couple. Adrian was stunning in a boyish and charming way. Miss DeVille resembled the type of mannequin displayed in shop windows modeling clothes, utterly beautiful and perfect yet entirely cold.
They were each irritating in their own way. Miss DeMille unresponsive and rude; Adrian over-friendly to the point of seeming false. She sat, thinking that she would be very much relieved when they were gone. But there was business to sort out before that.
"You to commission a statue of Miss DeMille. I am afraid that a full-size statue will be rather pricey." she warned.
"Money is absolutely no object, Miss Wassim," grinned Adrian, "We'd just like to know how soon you would be able to begin."
"Ah!" said Miss DeMille, so abruptly that Julia jumped. Adrian was not at all thrown, however.
"Oh, I forget. And Miss DeMille would like to sit for you in the comfort of our home rather than us travelling here. Would that be too much inconvenience?" he asked, politely.
Julia was fairly curious to see what elegance the pair lived in. She also considered that if she were to be visiting their house rather than the other way around, then she could find an excuse to leave should they become tedious. This and a guarantee from Adrian that he would personally chauffeur her to and fro as necessary was enough to secure her agreement.