Petro thumbed the Talk button, ending the telephone call. No luck again. He settled himself a little more comfortably in the bed - he felt something small and hard press into one of his shoulders. Thinking it was perhaps a bread or biscuit crumb he reached around, feeling for it with his fingers. Before he flicked it away onto the carpet in the corner of the room he noticed that it was a small russet gem. He put it on the bedside table.
Ruby came back into the room, dressed only in a light gown of silk or polyester - Petro wasn't good on fabrics, particularly the shiny ones. He picked up the gem off the bedside table, holding it up for Ruby to see. "I think you lost something." he remarked.
Ruby held out her hand and Petro dropped the stone in it; there was a slight edge to her vibrancy that made Petro uncomfortable. "Garnet," she said, "Not much more than two carats, if that. Might make someone a nice earring." She flicked it at the waste bin in the corner by the door, but missed. "Bugger it, I'll clean it up when I vacuum next." she finished, as vibrant as ever.
Petro was struck by how casually she had discarded the stone. He said so: "You're pretty casual about losing your jewellery."
"Plenty more where that came from," Ruby replied - Petro wasn't sure, but there seemed to be an edge of sarcasm to her vibrant tone.
Ruby took off her robe, revealing her jewel studded back, then slipped under the doona beside him. With her head resting on the hand of a crooked arm, she said "Well, I suppose I have to tell you about it sometime."
No you don't thought Petro, as he realised that he had, however inadvertently, invited Ruby to tell him her back story. We could just go on as we are for a couple of weeks and then break up. But of course there was no going back - he could either listen to Ruby's tale or be sent packing to spend an uncomfortable evening with a bag of frozen vegetables pressed to his testicles. And have it noised about that he was a selfish, insensitive bastard for the next few weeks into the bargain. Petro wasn't up for that so he shifted his pillow and sat up a little.
"I was born a princess, in case you haven't figured it out," Ruby went on, "You've studied magic, right?" Pedro nodded, "OK, so you know how these things work."
"There isn't a royal family anywhere that doesn't have at least one pissed off stepmother or spinster aunt kicking around the palace and if it's not that then you've got the usual gaggle of well-meaning fairy godmothers and the wicked one. Makes royal christenings - especially of girls, pretty bloody fraught occasions, as you know."
"One thing I've never figured out," Petro remarked, "Why don't they hold the christenings in secret?"
"Because of the bloody tabloids of course!" Ruby snapped - vibrantly, "There's always some bloody overpaid chambermaid who's prepared to leak news of an upcoming christening, and once that happens you get the paparazzi and the editorials about how the King and Queen have forgotten their duty to their subjects, blah, blah, blah. Believe me, it's been tried and it never works out."
"So you got enchanted by your evil stepmother at your christening then?" asked Petro, fascinated despite himself.
"No, I got the idiot good fairy-godmothers and smart-arsed wicked fairy-godmother package." Ruby lay back and stared at the ceiling. Abruptly she lay back, staring at the ceiling. Petro turned so that he sould see her face in profile - were her eyes a little brighter than usual?
"So, as usual, the christening was a disaster. One of the idiot good fairy-godmothers decided that her blessing on me was that I'd always present a cheerful face to the world, the second said something about how I'd be prized above rubies and then the third FG - the bitchy one - came in to screw up the whole thing. Are you sure you want to hear the rest of it?"
"Why not?" answered Petro. Bugger he thought now she thinks I'm really interested.
And the real bugger of it was that he was interested in hearing the rest of Ruby's story.
More back story: Episode 8. Episode 7 and links to previous episodes.