Three items sit atop Gulliver’s desktop, which is the colour of ripened plum. If one trails their focused eyes across the surface of the desk from left to right, the first thing they see would be a cookbook, swaddled neatly in the clear book casing that brand new books fashion. Across the top are letters in cursive; coloured gold; ‘The Taste of Revenge.’ Smaller, underneath this declaration; ‘A cookbook by Gulliver Martin.’ Stretched across the cover is Gulliver’s smiling face, hiding playfully behind a wooden spoon. Looking closer, an observer would notice atop the book lies a sticky note, baby pink, on which is written; “Absolutely brilliant. Your eternal friend, Pierro.”
If one’s eyes continued their journey across the desktop, they might next gaze upon, with a slightly startled feeling to their stomach, a framed magazine clipping from the acclaimed food critic, Jean Levigne. The heading of the piece, ‘Baked Alaska Flambé’ So Horrific I Wish It Would Have Stayed on Fire and Burnt to a Crisp Before I Could Eat It, glares fiercely from the page above a photograph of Gulliver holding his condemned dessert. All rage, torment and disgrace quietly seep through the image.
The third item in the desktop parade is an invitation from Pierro, written on shiny paper, the colour and sheen of buttered corn, urging Gulliver to attend “a soiree. 8 o'clock”.
Gulliver leans back in his chair of brown leather and takes the invitation into his arms like a newborn, a small smile playing at his drooped and wrinkled face.
Pierro greets his ally in his signature way, unafraid of affection, by taking the old man’s face in his hands and planting a kiss on his forehead. Dressed in a spotless tuxedo that makes his crooked, slender body look strangely fashionable, Pierro grins fondly and toothless as Gulliver realises, with horror, that he is underdressed for a soiree apparently far more sophisticated than he had at first surmised.
Pierro spins around on his heels and struts towards the Victorian manor that always felt too big for him, beckoning his friend to follow with a twinkling gaze that could have been either from excitement, or because Pierro, potentially, had a glass eye - Gulliver simply could not recall.
The twinkle does not disappear for a moment as Pierro leads Gulliver through the winding halls of his estate, looking back every few seconds to share his anticipation. The moment that they enter the grand ballroom though, Pierro takes a breath that seems too deep for his lungs, like he is nervously trying to swallow so much air that he could float away through the ornate skylight Gulliver adjusts his heavy framed glasses and surveys the area…
First he sees waiters in tailcoats, shuffling around on the glossy marble in shoes so diligently shined it looks like they might slip and slide out of the room on their heels. Round tables dressed in delicate white lace scatter the ballroom, appearing as flat, circular ghosts. Musicians holding violins and clarinets congregate in the corner atop a small stage, moving in a panicky mass as they chase the loose pages of sheet music that fly around the air under the open stained-glass windows. Gulliver frowns at the flower covered arch that stands stoically at the far window.
“A wedding, Pierro?” he questions, his bushy white eyebrows furrowing at the thought that he must have misread the invitation and did not bring a gift.
Pierro says nothing but lets out a gleeful laugh that seems childish for his old age, as he shrugs his shoulders.
The double doors to the kitchen open, and a woman walks through, her face and most of her body concealed by a white cake three times her size. Suddenly, Gulliver feels every atom in his body shake with an intense horror. As the gentle notes of vanilla, almond, lime, and passionflower dance under his nose, they only fill his soul with an immense taste of hatred. Only one woman could have baked such a gorgeous monstrosity. He cannot bear to turn to Pierro, the bitter realisation already cemented in his heart as he glares at the cake. More specifically, he glares at the tiny replica atop the towering stacks of fluff and icing; of bride and groom, of Pierro’s awkward frame stood next to the unmistakable figurine of Jean Levigne!
“Traitor!”, he yelps, marching towards the door and out into the courtyard as Jean comes into view from behind the wedding cake: raised eyebrows, thin black hair pulled tight and thin lips pursed in disapproval, red heels making a ferocious sound against the marble.
“You have made a tragedy out of me, Pierro.”
Gulliver sits like a gargoyle atop a stone bench in the yard, his trousered legs by his side and his pale arms covering his face in shame. Pierro watches him, standing calmly in the doorway.
“No, Gulliver, I have not.”
Pierro cautiously moves closer and sits down slowly by his side. He strokes his friend’s sparse, snowy hair with a maternal gentleness.
“I am in love, and I know you too well - you would not have come to the wedding if I did not trick you into it.”
Gulliver chokes on a sob, and Pierro sinks to the ground in front of Gulliver, looking up at him sympathetically.
Lifting his head to the air, Pierro sees the glimmer of tears trailing about Gulliver’s face, like rivers between his wrinkles and folds, as he admits,
“My cookbooks used to fly from the shelves! Her review destroyed me. I am a failed chef.”
“I have never thought you a failure.”
“It doesn’t matter what you think,” Gulliver sighs, “My new book has been published for almost a year now, and I have only sold 100 copies.”
He rests his pointed chin atop his knuckles and looks pathetically at Pierro, begging for his acceptance of what he is: a failure. But Pierro does not yield. Instead, his thin, stick-like fingers retrieve a scrap of paper from the pocket of his tuxedo: a receipt, for 100 copies of The Taste of Revenge by Gulliver Martin.
“And I loved reading every copy, my friend.”
The men share a moment of silence as Gulliver digests his shock, which morphs into an intense affection. He unfurls his limbs and stands up, extending a hand to help the frail groom.
“In love, is a wonderful thing to be my friend. Even if you have decided to marry an evil hag.”
Gulliver twists his features into a playful smile and leads Pierro back into the ballroom.