‘You are a hero,’ I hear the Nymph mumble in the background as I light a candle. I take my mug and sit down on the sofa. It’s two o’clock on the Sunday afternoon following the 24th Peirene Salon. As I sip my tea I close my eyes and think of the conversations I had last night.
‘You are a hero.’ Peirene repeats, sitting down next to me. She has some kind of list in her hands.
‘Are you talking to me?’ I open my eyes and turn to her in surprise.
‘Yes, of course. There is no one else here, is there?!’
For a moment I am speechless. It’s not often that Peirene pays me compliments.
‘Why am I a hero?’
‘Because for the first time in five years of running the Salon you got us help with the clearing up.’
It’s true. I brought in some help and so the house returned to normal by Sunday lunch time. We both turn our heads and stare into the dancing flame on the table.
After a while Peirene says: ‘I wonder, if the twenty three other times you wanted to punish me. ’
‘Punish you?’ I raise an eyebrow in disbelief.
‘Yes. You create something everyone enjoys – the authors, the guests, your family. Each time we should be in seventh heaven, proud of ourselves. Instead we work so hard in preparing the salon and then equally hard to bring the house back to order that there is no time to breathe. That to me sounds like a punishment.’
I contemplate the Nymph’s words, while she in turn is warming to her subject. ‘But now I have an idea how you can pay me back. With all this time on your hands you can start wrapping the gift orders now. Then you can take off a day for Christmas shopping during the week.‘ With that she shows me her list. She has a slightly guilty look on her face.
‘You will be able to buy most of the things around Bond Street – and after working twenty-three Sundays I think I deserve it’.
I breathe in the sandalwood smell of the candle and smile mildly. ‘Whatever you say, Peirene.’