Afterwards, I helped wash out the mugs we had used and while I was there I cleaned his dusty desk.
“You’re a kind lass,” he said to me unexpectedly.
I smiled at him.
“You remind me of my daughter. She looked nothing like you, of course, but she had a heart of gold. Like you.”
I went up to him and lightly kissed his weathered cheek.
“Are you really leaving in a month?”
“There is less than a month left, John.” I could hear the sadness in my own voice.
“Oh,” he said, and scratched his head in confusion.
“I should be going. See you tomorrow.”
It was already starting to get dark as I trudged back in the snow. My heart felt heavy and when I went back to the house I couldn’t concentrate on my gardening book. I kept listening out for Luca to arrive. He did not. I had a solitary dinner in the big dining room. I carried my sweet dessert wine into the living room with the big log fire and waited for him.
But he did not come back. Knowing now there were guards prowling and always watching, I was forced to return to my room to sleep, but I couldn’t sleep. I waited for him throughout the night and only fell asleep sometime after two in the morning.
I woke with a jerk at dawn and hurried to the kitchen to pick up John’s cakes. As usual Madam was ready with the boxes and I took them and walked in the snow to the greenhouse. John was waiting for me and we worked together. I never let myself think of Luca. Where he was or where he had spent the night. I couldn’t let myself think of him wrapped around another woman’s body. The thought burned me like acid.
After lunch I went to see my father. He was asleep when I went through the door, but Laura seemed excited and flustered as she showed me the first-class plane tickets, and told me my father and her were going to be flown to a special hospital in Switzerland so that my father could have mineral and vitamins given to him intravenously to build back his immunity, and have a course of blood transfusions from young people. Apparently, it was a new way of regenerating a sick or old body that was all the rage with the rich and famous.
With tears in her eyes she hugged me tightly.
“One day,” she sniffed. “One day, you will be rewarded for being such a good daughter to your father. I love my daughter and I would die for her, but I can see that you are the daughter every parent dreams of.”
Then she wiped her eyes and took me to see Dad. I thought he looked slightly better than the last time I had seen him but I couldn’t tell for sure.
He gripped my hand tightly. “You’ve done so much for me.”
I shook my head. “I’ve done what any daughter would.”
“Don’t Skye,” he whispered fiercely. “You’ve sacrificed for me. I know you have. You’re one in a billion, Skye. One in a billion. And I love you, Skye. I love you.”
Tears filled my eyes. At that moment, I knew it had all been worth it. All the times I had let Salvatore into my body. All the times I had taken him in my mouth. It was all worth it. Even knowing everything I knew now I would do it all again… without a second thought.
“I love you too, Daddy.”
Laura said she had something to do and went out of the room then, but I think she just wanted to give us some privacy. When they first got together she used to be jealous of the relationship Dad and I had, but after a while she put it aside and learned to love us both. She knew I was no threat to her.
I put my hand into my coat and pulled out the chocolate truffle the Chef had made and served me with last night. It was so delicious I had wrapped it in tissue paper and saved it for Dad. I unwrapped it and placed it into his mouth.
“I know sugar is no good for you, but just a little bit won’t hurt.”
He rolled it around his tongue, and his eyes widened. Poor thing. His food was deliberately bland and without spices or sugar. It was a long time since he had eaten anything truly delicious. I watched him slowly suck at the chocolate, his eyes misting over with love. I laid my cheek in his lap and cried then. For him. For me. For the way life was always so unjust. Everything I wanted was always taken away from me.
He stroked my hair gently. “Don’t cry, my little angel. Everything will be alright.”
“When you come back, I’m taking you and Laura out to a nice restaurant.”