The street stood empty and still. The windows of the houses were dark and shuttered. The doors appeared to be locked. Dave had left Marietta and she had been pacing outside in a daze, trying to walk off her pain. In a moment of distraction she had spotted the largest rat she had ever seen in her entire life. Out of curiosity, she decided to follow it, and this abandoned neighborhood was where it had led her.

One of the doors was red, she noticed, as she walked along. The rat scampered into the building through a hole in the wall. Marietta followed through the big red door which peculiarly was not locked.

If the outside of the building was derelict and decrepit, the inside was the most sumptuous room outside the great halls of Versailles. The floor was wall-to-wall with a plush, velvet carpet, the walls and furniture were gilt with gold, and extravagantly embroidered tapestries lined the walls.

“Welcome,” a voice greeted her. Marietta spun around. No one was there. A painting of an elderly gentleman hung on the wall, but the voice was not coming from him.

“What brings you here?” the voice boomed again.

“Um, I followed the rat?” Marietta responded nervously, not knowing which way to turn to address the speaker.

“The rat, eh? That’s what they all say. Tell me honestly, what brings you here?”

“You mean why was I following that rat? Well, my boyfriend dumped me, I was taking a walk, and the rat caught my eye, that’s all.” Marietta felt a little embarrassed all of the sudden.

“So why did he dump you, if that’s acceptable for me to ask?”

“He told me we had just grown apart, but I suspect there might have been another woman. I have no proof though,” Marietta explained.

“Go on,” the voice prodded her.

“He’s an investment banker who always worked long hours, but lately those hours have been getting longer and longer, he’s been ‘too tired’ to have sex with me, and once a woman left a very vague message on our answering machine wanting to speak with him, which in itself is fine, but considering everything else, well, you know. Then of course he broke it off with me.”

“Did he always have scummy tendencies?” the voice inquired.

“Sort of, he was constantly telling me what I should and shouldn’t wear, what topics to discuss at parties to appear witty, and so on. Nothing outside of the ordinary though.”

“But don’t you think that if he truly loved you, he should have appreciated your natural sense of style and enjoyed your original sense of humor? You love a person for who they already are, not for what you want them to be.”

Marietta sighed. That was a good point.

“I just admired him for being so successful, I wanted to be successful myself, and I figured I could do it through him. Not to mention, it made me feel great that someone on his level could find me worthy of him. Me, poor little Marietta, now a beautiful sidekick to an enterprising young man,” she justified her lingering feelings for him.

“Don’t focus on the end of your relationship, focus only on you, improving your life, and thus improving your self esteem. You’re an easy target for men like him. Always needing a woman to push around to feel like a big man.”

Marietta was a slightly taken aback by the bitterness she thought she heard in the voice, but she let it go. She turned her wrist to look at her watch.

“Wow, we’ve spent nearly half an hour discussing this, I’d better get going,” she said.

“I know there’s no easy way to change your life, but I hope you at least give what I had to say some consideration,” the voice replied.

“Before I go, can I ask you why this house is so fancy on the inside, but so old and gross on the outside?” Marietta asked.

“It was an inheritance and then the neighborhood went bad,” the voice answered shortly.

“I see. Well, I have to get going now, bye, thanks for the insight!” And Marietta stepped back onto that lonely street and made her way back to reality.

“Do you think they ever truly learn?” the voice asked the rat. An older woman came down from behind the portrait of the elderly gentleman, holding a voice distorter and an amplifier device. The rat shook its tail.

“Certainly I never did, that’s how I ended up in my parent’s old home shacking up with the family rat. Damn that Thomas cheating me out of my alimony. Well, at least I can teach other women how to not end up like me. I think my dramatic presentation really makes the message hit home.”

The rat squeaked in agreement, and scuttled back out through the hole in the wall in search of another lost woman.

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