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Stay hungry, stay foolish

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“I ran into an old acquaintance of mine today,” Hannibal says, still in character. “Anthony Dimmond, he used to be my teaching assistant at Cambridge. It was a surprise to see him, given that I’d just seen him in Paris.”

Also in character, as Lydia Fell, Bedelia plays her part perfectly. First, she gets up and pecks her husband primly on the cheek; then, she takes his coat and hands him a glass of wine, leading him into the open plan kitchen. Her own glass sits on the table, waiting patiently for reprieve from the bottle.

Bedelia helps herself. It’s an excuse to look away from Hannibal, anyway. “Anthony Dimmond. You haven’t mentioned him before. He must not have been very memorable.”

Hannibal’s mouth twists, pressed against his glass, as though the wine has gone sour. “He wasn’t particularly, no. But I remember him now.”

Every once in a while, when Bedelia starts to think that she’s starting to get used to wearing a wedding ring, it gets in the way. “Let me guess, you’ve invited him to dinner.”

“I have.” Hannibal nods. “I miss cooking for guests. If I leave you a list, will you go to the butcher’s for me?”

It is Hannibal’s idea, of course, that they rent a place with a kitchen so large as to squeeze out the rest of the apartment. There is a study, with narrow bookshelves and a desk and a small attic bedroom. As a curator’s wife, it is only natural that Lydia Fell is a voracious reader. She leaves history to her husband, preferring to look ahead towards her own interests. She reads about green solutions, the future of artificial intelligence, and she’s always wanted to learn Italian properly. The closest thing to history on Lydia’s side of the shelves is Il nome della rosa by Umberto Eco.

“Do you trust me?” she asks. “Who will Anthony Dimmond be at our dinner table?”

“A man should always trust his wife,” Hannibal says, abandoning his glass of wine to squeeze her hands. He has got a way with words, bending them to his will, but his hands are not so dishonest. He can’t hide his age, for one thing.

And for another, there are other things Hannibal can’t (or won’t) lie about, so a weary, old silence befitting an old, weary marriage hangs over the kitchen until Bedelia pulls away from him.

“Yes, I’ll go to the butcher’s.”

 

Sometimes, Lydia wakes up to find her husband gone from the apartment. Sometimes, his side of the bed isn’t even slept in.

Bedelia lies awake and imagines Hannibal roaming Florence like a restless soul. Hannibal isn’t one to take unnecessary risks, although pride always goes before a fall. But pride is simple, and Hannibal prides himself on being more than that. Being simple would kill him.

Being alone would kill him too. There are bodies scattered around the city that have died by his hand. In this way, Hannibal is never alone.

His hand is cold on her shoulder. “Did I wake you, Lydia? I’m sorry, I went for a walk.”

There it is again, the strange, absurd clink of their wedding rings as Hannibal always touches her hand, and then his hand slides down carefully between her thighs. Is it as strange for him as it is for her? Loneliness leaks out of Hannibal like such an ugly thing, and she tries her best to gather all of it in her arms as they make love.

 

The next day, Bedelia goes to the butcher’s. She returns with a neatly wrapped packet of offal that the butcher refuses to let her pay for. Just offal wouldn’t make a proper meal. She smiles and assures the butcher that this wouldn’t be the case. Her husband is preparing a mouthwatering centerpiece.

Hannibal is elbow deep in guts when Anthony Dimmond rings the bell, so Bedelia-as-Lydia goes to get the door instead. She is a good wife; one who anticipates her husband's needs.

Anthony Dimmond is of average height and weight, although he could probably stand to gain a few more pounds. His brown hair flops over his eyes and when he smiles at her, Bedelia is reminded of a dog. Someone eager to please.

He appears surprised to see her, as if he's nothing like what he'd imagined. “Mrs...Fell? Roman didn’t tell me you were such a knockout. I never knew he had it in him, you know?”

“I didn’t know.” Bedelia smiles. “But I’m sure we’ll get to know each other inside and out, Anthony. It’s a pleasure to have you.”