After dinner, Alicja spends her daily half-hour in the hothouse, watering the orchids – just moistening some, soaking others –, trimming what has to be trimmed, raking the dirt, devotedly scenting the complex perfumes of flowers, wet earth and decay carried by the damp atmosphere, improvising monotone songs in glossolalia to cheer up the delicate blooms…

Fulfilling these tasks leaves her relaxed and a bit high. Then she usually perfects the moment with a glass of Vieux Cognac served in a large balloon, and a figurado – at day time she favors cigarillos but back at home, she allows herself more serious smoking.

Biting her cigar tight, she wriggles out of her frock with the big glass still in her hand, struggling as the silk sticks to her moist skin, then kicks the cloth across the room – she is in a really good mood today! She goes to the big jewellery box resting on a tripod in front of a psyche mirror, rummages in it and fishes out a heavy white bronze necklace ornate with a huge sard stone that she casually puts around her neck. She admires the result in the mirror, blows a cloud of smoke to the ceiling, takes a sip of liquor and searches carefully for matching bracelets – she sets for an assortment of silver bangles.

While slipping them on her forearms, she thinks of Devyani’s recent account of how she used to use her bangles as brass knuckles in street fights when a teenager, and tries to imagine the luscious young woman as a brawling riffraff: the idea is quite exciting! Alicja puts the last ring around her knuckles, raises her fist to the mirror and tries to look threatening, then chuckles and wonders when Dev will be back – she’s been on tour for a few weeks now. Her absence is getting tiresome.

Slowly she walks across the big living room, exaggeratedly swaying to feel the metal jewels slither on her skin. From Devyani, her thoughts wander to Skullface, then to the bull excavation model she had her build – this is also exciting! It will be finished within one week, and she agreed with the craftswoman that she would deliver it herself at her place the next Friday, after office hours. She will wait for her in the greenhouse, open the door with a watering can in her hand – her gardening dress impregnated with the rich tropical scent –, and invite her to see her orchid collection. Then it’s double up, she’ll have exposed herself to Skullface, who either will enter her universe, or run away.

Alicja picks up a kimono, wraps herself in it and drops into the leather sofa in front of the flat screen. She’s planned to enjoy this solitary evening indulging in one of the very few pleasures she’s almost ashamed of: she will watch TV – or precisely she will watch Johanna on TV. She’s enthralled by how powerful and uninhibited Johanna became over the last months, taking control of the mass media by doing the contrary of what is expected, with an agenda opposed to all the standards usually hammered into the passive audience, opposed to the average commercial and political propaganda vomited by TV. And like everybody else, Alicja wants to know how far all this will go!