We were up on the roof of her building that night. I say it was her building, but – like me – Mouse didn’t own anything.
‘Who do you think owns all this?’ Mouse said to me as we looked out over the roofs of the city. Smoke rose from the chimneys even though it was a warm summer night. There was light behind most of the windows. It was past dark, but not late enough for the city to sleep. That is, if a city ever really sleeps.
I shrugged. Mouse had a habit of asking me these strange questions on matters I’d never thought about before. ‘I dunno… the Emperor?’
From the way Mouse laughed, I thought that must be the wrong answer.
‘The emperor rules us, but he doesn’t own much beyond the palace and his riches.’
The palace and his riches…? I thought that was plenty. ‘The priests?’
Mouse did not laugh this time. I’d noticed she never laughed when people mentioned the priests, even though she had as much contempt for them as the rest of us who lived out on the streets. ‘No, the priests they take a vow of poverty.’
‘Yes, why else do you think they are so wealthy?’
I nodded. No-one wears more expensive clothes than the priests, or eats off gold plates and drinks the finest wines from the clearest crystal glasses as the priests.
‘Who then,’ I said. ‘The merchants?’
‘Ah, now.’ Mouse settled down on the rooftop and pulled off her shirt. The moonlight reflected off her pale skin as she opened her arms for me. ‘The merchants own so much, true. But they are not the richest people in the city.’
‘Who is the richest, then?’ I said, kissing her neck.
‘We are,’ she said.
I stopped kissing and looked into her eyes. ‘Do you mean we are the richest because we have each other?’
She laughed and kissed my lips. ‘No.’
‘What then? We have nothing.’ I gestured around the roof of the building. ‘We don’t even have anywhere to live.’
‘True,’ Mouse said as her hand unfastened my trousers.
I gasped at her grip as she pulled me towards her as she rolled on her back.
She sighed as I entered her.
‘Are we the richest because we have this?’ I emphasised my point with a thrust that made her catch her breath.
‘No,’ she said.
I gave up. ‘What then?’
‘We are the richest because we are the best thieves in the city.’
‘So, it all belongs to us already,’ she laughed. ‘We just haven’t got around to collecting it all yet.’ She wrapped her arms and legs around me and pulled me as close as lovers can ever get.