As The Twig Is Bent

by the Duchess of the Antipodes





The Eberbachs breakfasted early, after due attention to their respective forms of morning exercise (Klaus remained a devotee of the fifteen-mile run; Gunilla sometimes joined him for a leg or two of his preferred course, but never neglected her gymnastics), and as a rule went then to roust their Glorias out of bed. They frequently ended up dragged back to bed themselves, not wholly against their will.

But, perhaps one day in a fortnight (all right, a month — they had their priorities), Gaby and Dorian's eyelashes fluttered open at "Some godawful hour!" and they shared the closest thing they'd ever had to a marital bed — for an impromptu morning slumber party, with lots of silk pyjamas and maribou mules.

Dorian's first thought, when a ballistic missile landed on the end of his bed and promptly wriggled under the covers, was that his indomitable husband had run even faster than usual in his haste to return to him... but it was Gaby's voice that hailed him as a newspaper was rustled in his face. She was indecently perky, considering it was practically dawn on a wintry morning.

"Look at this!" she enthused.

He cracked open one eye, partially shielding it with a sleepy hand (for she'd pulled the curtains open on her way to the bed), and tried to focus on the headline she was indicating with a French-manicured nail. Speech was as yet too ambitious an undertaking. But when he took it in he managed a genuinely interested, "Really, darling? How?"

"Mothers can influence sons' sexuality in the womb," she read again, marvelling. "I don't know how yet — I haven't read that far — I came straight to show you; isn't it a perfectly delicious prospect?"

The Earl fumbled for a cigarette and his Countess solicitously lit it for him, something she'd never consider doing for any other man. She wriggled round, getting comfortable in as much of his warm spot as she could commandeer without taking their marital relations to a new level. Her eyes raced across the page. Then she wilted. "Oh, bother."

"What's wrong?" said Dorian, knowing by now what it took to draw even such a mild exclamation from the even-tempered Parisienne.

"It just says that the more sons she's already had, the more likely the mother's body is to— well, to produce the hormone thingies that program a male foetus to be homosexual. How dull. I was hoping it would be something we could do."

"Well, intervention won't be necessary anyway in our case: the little ones will have the benefit of nurture as well as nature," her husband-by-law consoled her. His senses were beginning to be woken by the nicotine; a filthy habit, really, smoking in bed, but when one wasn't given the leisure to wake up at one's own pace—

"Maybe," said Gaby. She sighed. "Look: I've got newsprint all over my hands, all for nothing..."

"Did you bring the Arts section?"

"Yes, it must be here somewhere."

"Hmm, do we have tickets to that?"

"Not yet; here, I'll tear it out..."

"Thank you, darling," said Dorian, putting it safely under the tube of hand-cream on his night table, where it wouldn't get lost. It was a tricky manoeuvre when one was concerned to expose as little skin as possible to the chill air — Klaus preferred to sleep in a cool room, an idiosyncrasy Dorian put up with because the man also had such delightful ideas about how to keep warm.

The door burst open, and six feet and some odd inches of newly-exercised German strode in.

And stopped still at the unusual sight of Lord Gloria tucked up in bed with Lady Gloria. His eyes focused on Gaby— "Young woman," he said sternly, "what are you doing in bed with—" He paused.

She widened her brown eyes ingenuously. "My husband?" she chirped.

The Earl and Countess lost it.

The Major's habit of charging had of late been tempered with an instinct to retreat, in domestic situations anyway. He stalked out to find Gunilla. Hmph. At least he wasn't the only one who didn't find their situation a delightful jest...



Author's Note: It's a real newspaper article, I promise — even if I can't remember what date it appeared or what the exact headline was. It was in the New Zealand Sunday Star-Times, if that's any help.

Eroica