After a day of staring at his desk, Max finally returned to his apartment. Arriving at the listed building was always a moment of brief relief. He would often get lost in the pomp and show of the architecture, the doorman’s little bow as Max crossed the threshold. Inside, the tiled floor, in its neo classical mosaic style, made his steps ring and the sound rose up the high walls to the delicately carved friezes. Max would look up at the stone figures as he waited for the lift, and remember his school days – running his hands over Latin inscriptions, walking through ruins of an old amphitheatre. The lift would always open just as he saw his sister running up the steps to the Parthenon ahead of him. She turned and smiled and then faded into the wood panels as he reached his floor.
The building really was beautiful, and as Max walked along the carpeted corridor in silence, his steps muffled by the clean damask pattern and the rest of the world held in suspension by the glass window, he thought of how its beauty would never be fully realised. This building, and other buildings like it, was a relic of a lifestyle in decline. In a few years there would be no one, or no one truly appreciative, to witness its hidden finery. It was beautiful because it was exclusive, but that didn’t fit the London it belonged to anymore. The city was a spiralling hub of treasures, and unless Aberfeldy House opened its doors to the future, it would collapse just like the rest, just like the ancient empire that Max loved so much.
He took his family as an example of the buildings inevitable doom. They had been the first to move in, the odd but happy family. Then slowly the gifts of London had picked them off. His father had found woman to call home. Something that usually his mother would have shrugged this off. But they were splashed across every tabloid, and soon people were not sure if Mrs Vanbrugh or the young career girl was the mistress.
It was very simply done. Mrs Vanbrugh decided to redecorate the apartment. Afterwards, when everything was rearranged, Mr Vanbrugh’s things were never unpacked. One day Max saw his father carrying a box of glassware down the corridor. That was the last time he saw him in the building.
Then Anastasia left for university. Max stood at the door as she packed her Goyard trunk and tired to reassure him
‘This will be good for us.’ She said, ‘we’ll have more stories to tell.’
He walked away without saying goodbye. Apparently she cried in the lift down to the car. Max could only say apparently, as she had never come home again.
Then Lois went to find her birth parents. When she made the announcement, the dinner table was silent. The chandelier had a single faulty bulb that coincidently died at the same time.
After that their mother was broken. She eventually walked out too with the rest of the money, leaving Max alone, in Aberfeldy House. As he turned the doorknob to his apartment, and entered another evening of lying on a makeshift futon and staring at the stucco ceiling, he thought about the beautiful façade on the outside of the building, and similarly of his own.