The days passed. Asphodel worked and Vass went out with the people he called his friends. One day he brought them home with him. Asphodel did not like them and after they had gone, she told him so. Vass laughed at her and said that it did not matter. They would get them money and riches.
‘When, Vass?’ Asphodel asked him. ‘I see little coming in yet.’
Then one say, about a week later, he placed a bag of coins on the table.
‘I told you I’d get money, Asphodel, didn’t I?’ he said.
‘Where has this come from?’ she asked. ‘There’s as much here as I earn in two days.’
‘Ah, from selling stuff,’ he replied.
‘Where did you get it from? You didn’t steal it did you?’
‘Steal?’ Vass’s eyes widened. ‘Why would you think I stole it?’
Asphodel walked to the table and picked up the bag.
‘Because I can’t think of what you had to sell that would bring this much money,’ she told him.
She put the bag down again.
‘I need to know where you got the ‘stuff’ you sold, Vass.’
Vass turned away from her and stomped to a chair.
‘You sound like my mother, Asphodel. My friends gave it to me to sell. They took some of the money and I had the rest. Now give it a rest. We’ve money for the rent with some left over. I’m going out again.’
And with that he strode from the room, slamming the door behind him.
Asphodel worried. She worried about where the money came from and what Vass had been given to sell, and she worried about Vass himself. He seemed to be changing. He was out much of the time and when he was in he was not as loving as he had been.
Asphodel waited, and waited, and waited. She went to bed. In the early hours of the morning she heard the door open and Vass came in. He was full of energy and sat on the bed.
‘That was the most amazing evening, Asphodel,’ he told her. ‘We went all over the city and my friends took me to some places I’d never have been able to find without them there were lots of taverns hidden in back streets and I couldn’t have got back on my own.’
Vass paused to take a breath. Asphodel rubbed her eyes and sat up.
‘One tavern had a bear in a cage at the back and you’d never believe what it could do and they had a talking bird–I don’t know what kind, but it was colourful–it was swearing like a…a…oh, I don’t know. Someone who swears a lot.’
‘Vass,’ said Asphodel, ‘slow down. I can hardly make sense of what you’re saying.’
Vass laughed. It was almost a giggle. He stood up and began to jump around the room like a child.
‘Oh, I feel so great, Assy. I could do anything. I can’t sleep. Come out with me.’
‘Vass, I need to sleep. I’ve got to go to work tomorrow.’
‘Oh pish to your work. I can earn enough for us both. Look, I’ve got a bag of money here.’
He pulled a rather thin bag out of his pocket and put it on the table. He looked crestfallen for a moment, then he laughed.
‘Oh, look. I seem to have spent it all. I wonder how that happened?’
Asphodel got back into bed and turned over.
‘Asphodel, come out with me, please.’
The girl took no notice of him and so he eventually left once more, picking up the meagre money pouch as he went.
This went on for several weeks. Vass had initially been selling grimlo, a powerful drug. Then one night his friends has persuaded him to try some himself.
‘After all, you need to know what you’re selling to the punters,’ one of them said.
Soon Vass was spending more money on buying the drug for his own use than he was getting from the sales. His ‘friends’ demanded their share of the sales, but Vass did not have enough to pay them for the drugs he bought from them. He was also drinking heavily.
One day, he came to Asphodel and demanded she give him money.
‘Vass, you’ve been spending money we can’t afford on your drinking and, I suspect, drugs too. That was the ‘stuff’ you were selling, wasn’t it?’
Vass looked her in the eye.
‘What if it was? It got us money, didn’t it? We needed money too.’
‘Vass,’ she said, ‘you’ve not brought any money in for an age and you’ve spent all my earnings. I don’t have any money. We are in debt and are likely to be thrown out of this hovel because we have no money to pay the rent.’
Vass narrowed his eyes.
‘Then give me some of your precious jewellery to sell. I can get some more grimlo from my friends and sell it for more than a necklace is worth. That’ll get the rent and more.’
Asphodel reluctantly handed over one of her gold necklaces and Vass left. She left soon afterwards for her own work.
Later that day, when she arrived home, she found Vass sitting on a chair in the apartment. He looked at her as she came through the door.
‘I need some more jewellery,’ he said abruptly. No greeting nor kiss.
‘Where’s the money you promised when I gave you the last piece?’ demanded Asphodel.
Vass made no reply, but stood up and walked over to her.
‘I need some more,’ he said. ‘That wasn’t enough. I needed to pay my friends for what I’ve already had. Now I need money to get more.’
Asphodel looked him in the eye.
‘Well, you’re not getting it from me. You’ve spent all my cash and my wages and are now spending my jewellery. You aren’t going to sell any grimlo, are you? You’ll buy some more from your so-called friends and use it yourself. You’re addicted, Vass. Those people saw you coming. They trapped you nicely. Get you to start off selling the stuff and promise great riches, then they get you to try it yourself, and bam! you’re addicted and spending all your, no my, money making them rich.’
Vass’s eyes blazed.
‘Give me your jewellery.’
He reached towards the cupboard where the jewellery was kept.
Asphodel stood in front of it.
Vass raised his hand and swiped Asphodel across the face, then he punched her in the stomach and left her doubled over in agony as he reached into the cupboard and took the pouch of jewellery. As he stormed out of the room, a ring fell from the pouch and Asphodel crawled over to pick it up.