“As Goethe says: on top of the world, or in the depths of despair. Well I can’t get on top of the world without money. It’s all about money, my dear. Power and fame will follow.”
She smiled softly. Her plump lips looking more beautiful than ever.
“So you’re reading Goethe now? Since when? Anyway, tell me, how can you love someone for their money?”
“Look.” Alba leaned forward, her face serious all of a sudden. “First, I was just hanging out with Mondi, it was nothing serious and it’s in the past now. I love Nino and soon we are getting married. He hasn’t proposed yet, but I know he’s making big preparations for a huge wedding, he wants to surprise me. Secondly, my parents married ‘out of love’. My mother died washing clothes by hand, while my father spent his time drinking cheap booze at the neighbourhood bar. Relationships have nothing to do with love”
“You’re talking nonsense, of course they do!” Sara exclaimed, thinking of her own precious family. “It was different back then, you’re totally wrong. And more to the point, what is going on with The University of Intelligence? Why did that secretary lock me out?”
Alba leaned further forward and looked around her. Her voice changed to a soft whisper.
“Promise me you’re not going to write anything about this. Otherwise, I can’t protect you. If they catch you, they’ll ruin you. Take away everything you care about – even your son.”
“You’re threatening me again.”
“No, I’m warning you. Take me seriously. You’re dealing with dangerous people here.”
Sara wiped her clammy hands on her trousers and leaned in too.
“Tell me everything. I want to know everything. I won’t write about it, I promise. Sara placed the camera on the table. “Here are the pictures I took today. Delete them all, if you want.”
“The University of Intelligence is a money machine,” Alba said. “People with money pay for a piece of paper. Not all people are born smart, not everyone can get a university education and get a degree the way you did. The less fortunate have to buy their ‘brains’. Today, they can become lawyers, doctors, engineers without ever touching a book. They all have a degree from The University of Intelligence. This country is feeling the effects of a brain drain. A society with uneducated or poorly educated people with fake degrees worth nothing, which is why we’re doomed and heading for darkness.”
Alba sat back and laughed. “At least they are my only options until I get very rich or become a politician.”
“Alba, those doctors, engineers… people’s lives are in their hands.” Sara’s eyes were wide open
“That’s not my problem,” Alba smiled.
“How are you involved in this?”
“You know me. I’m always where the money is. Nino helped Mondi get the licence. It was a win-win situation for everyone involved.”
“So Nino knows that Mondi is your ex-boyfriend and he still agreed to work with him?”
Alba waved her hand in the air.
“When it comes to money, it’s easy to forget these trivial issues.”
She stood up. They said goodbye to each other but the affection they once shared was no longer there. Alba took the camera on her way out.
“Don’t forget to give me my camera back, I can’t afford a new one,” Sara shouted after her.Alba didn’t look back, just waved goodbye and kept walking toward the exit.