‘See you tomorrow, mum.’
I walk down the enameled corridor and go into the main bedroom. It is very large with a huge bed. The décor is deep blue and silver. I kick off my shoes and walk barefoot on the luxurious carpet towards the bathroom. The bathroom is a green marble and gold fittings affair. There is a Jacuzzi bath and a large shower cubicle. By the washbasin, lush toiletries still in their packages, have been laid out for my use. I unwrap a pale green oval of soap and wash my hands.
Afterwards, I open cabinets and find them all empty. I go back into the bedroom and walk through to the walnut dressing rooms. The built-in wardrobes are all as bare as the bathroom cabinets.
So he does not live here.
This is a place purely for sex.
I walk out of the bedroom and head for the kitchen. It has been done up in sunny yellow with glossy black granite worktops and surfaces. There is an island in the middle and stools around it. When I was young I dreamed of such a kitchen. I perch on one of the tall stools, swivel around a few times, and hop off. I venture to a cupboard and open it. It is full of stuff—expensive stuff that is never found in my poor mother’s cupboards. Tins of biscuits from Fortnum and Masons, Jellies from Harrods, French chocolates with fancy names. I take a few down and admire the exquisite packaging.
Then I shut the cupboard and turn towards the fridge. More exotic stuff: truffles, hand-made blue cheeses, gooseberries, cuts of dried meats, wild smoked salmon, a dressed lobster, caviar… The vegetable drawer is packed with organic produce. Even the eggs have blue shells. There are two bottles of champagne lying on their sides. I take one out and look at the label. Dom Perignon.
‘Hmnnn…’ I say into the silence.
Carefully, I peel back the foil and the wire that holds down the cork. Holding the bottle between my thighs I twist the cork as I have seen the waiter do, but it takes many tries, and when it finally pops out, I have shaken the bottle so much, it sprays everywhere.
I clean up with some paper napkins, and finding a glass in one of the cabinets pour myself a drink. Carrying the glass I go back into the living room, slide back the doors, and step outside. I stand there for a long while looking at the wonderful view of the park and surrounding area, but I can feel no joy in my heart. My thoughts are with my mother. Eventually I close my eyes and pray that all will be well.
I raise my glass to the sky. ‘Oh, Mum,’ I whisper, ‘be well again.’ Then I bring the glass to my lips and drink to my mother’s health.
There is not enough time to try the Jacuzzi bathtub, so I have a shower. The showerhead is wonderfully powerful unlike the weak one I am used to. The shower invigorates me and I go through my shopping bags with some measure of excitement. The bruises from the night before mean that I am only able to wear the Versace silk shirt. I pull on the tight leather trousers that end at my ankles and slip on the strappy stilettos.
Then I do my eyes the way Aisha taught me to and paint my lips soft pink. I am so nervous my hands tremble slightly. Dressed, I go back into the living room and pour myself another glass of champagne.
At eight thirty sharp the bell rings.
Tom comes in with a large, flat cardboard box, which he carefully places on the side table. ‘I was asked to drop this off for Mr. Barrington. You look beautiful, Miss Bloom,’ he compliments awkwardly.
‘Thank you, but will you call me Lana, Tom?’ The champagne has made me feel light-headed and I smile at him mistily.
‘Of course, Lana,’ he says smiling.
The reception desk is no longer manned by Mr. Nair. A small, white man with beady, suspicious eyes is introduced as Mr. Burrows. He smiles politely, but distantly. This was a man who did not want to get involved with any of the occupants of the building.
After that Tom drives me to a private club in Sloane Square called Madame Yula.
Blake cuts a dashing if remote figure at the bar. He is wearing an oyster gray lounge suit and a black shirt, and is even more disturbingly attractive than I remember. He stands when he sees me and I stop, frozen by his eyes. Neither of us moves. It is as if we are again in a world of our own. Just his smoldering eyes and my strong desire for more from him—what exactly I do not quite know. Then he breaks the spell by moving towards me.
‘You look edible,’ he purrs, his eyes lingering on the curve of my hips.
I blush and touch my bangs.
‘I like the hair, too,’ he murmurs.
‘Thanks.’ My voice sounds nervous and shaky.
He reaches a hand out to touch me and instinctively I pull away. I had not meant to, but my body has its own reactions to him.
He drops his hand and eyes me coldly. ‘Look,’ he says. ‘We can make it a totally sex thing or we can dress it up a little and it will look pretty in the corner. It’s up to you. It’s all the same to me.’
Pretty in the corner. Strange turn of phrase. I study him from beneath my eyelashes. ‘Dress it up a little,’ I say.
‘Good. Can I get you something to drink? A glass of champagne? You’re partial to it, if I remember correctly,’ he says, and leads me to the bar.
I look around the bar. It is decorated in dark wood and deep red curtains. It actually looks like an old-fashioned French brothel. ‘I’ve already had two glasses.’
His eyebrows rise. ‘You found the alcohol.’
‘It found me. I opened the fridge and there it was begging me to drink it.’
His eyes twinkle. ‘Yes, alcohol has a habit of doing that.’
‘I’m hungry, though.’
‘Let’s get some food into you then.’
We are shown into a private booth. The sommelier arrives and I listen to Blake order a bottle of wine that I have never heard of, and realize that the poor and the middle classes have been conned into believing that Chablis, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Pouilly Fume, and Sancerre are superior wines for the discerning, but the truly rich are imbibing a totally different class of drink.
He picks up the menu and my eyes are drawn to his wrists. They are so utterly masculine they make my stomach tighten.
‘How was your day?’ he asks.
‘I don’t want to sound ungrateful, because I really am very grateful, but why did you buy me so much stuff?’
He leans back in his chair. ‘Did you have a doll when you were young?’
‘Did you make little clothes for her?’
‘Did it give you pleasure?’
‘I don’t know. It was my doll and I wanted it to look good.’