‘She’s home safe.’
But she appears not to hear, and seems to be trapped in some nightmare of her own. ‘Don’t die, Mummy. You promised to come to my wedding.’
I watch her with a frown.
‘You said you would.’ She begins to cry. ‘Mum, it’s cold. I’m so cold.’
I curse. The lift door opens and I carry her into the apartment and deposit her on the bed.
She grasps my arm and looks into my eyes, frowns, and does not seem to recognize me. ‘Where’s my mother?’ She shivers.
I cover her. ‘Shhh…’
‘I’ll tell you now. You won’t break me, Barrington,’ she slurs and turns on her side. ‘I’ll tell Jack what you did. He’ll sort you out. Jaaaaccccckk,’ she wails.
It makes the hair on my neck stand to see her this way, but it is only when she starts talking gobbledygook in earnest that I get worried. I go into the kitchen and phone my doctor.
After a few minutes I end the call and stare at the granite top. I am simmering with anger—with her, for being so careless, so naïve, and with those pigs that thought they could drug a girl and rape her. My hands clench. I close my eyes and breathe deeply. They didn’t get her. They didn’t get her. My hands unclench. I take another full breath. It is not her fault. She is as innocent as a child. Grimly, I go to sit by the bedside and listen to her ramblings. In all of them, I am the enemy. The one who wants to use her for sex.
I clasp my hands tightly and remain silent.
The porter brings the doctor up. Dr. Faulks is very quick with his analysis. There is nothing much to do. Wait it out. Fluids are the key. Tomorrow will be bad. She will have memory lapses, most likely won’t remember a thing.
‘Oh, plastic sheets might be a good idea. Sometime incontinence can occur.’
After the doctor is gone, I undress her.
She sighs elaborately. ‘Oh! It’s you again.’ She seems confused, sad.
I pull the duvet over her and she pushes it away. ‘I’m hot. Really hot. I thought you wanted to f**k me, anyway.’ She grabs my hand and kisses it. ‘Thank you. Thank you for what you did for my mother.’ Then she moans and falls into a stupor. She sleeps for half an hour and wakes up retching. I bring a large salad bowl that I find in the kitchen, but it is only dry heaving.
I lay a cold towel on her forehead. Her fingers come up to push it away. She pulls my face towards her. Her breath smells strange and stale, but I don’t care, I kiss her back.
Suddenly she turns away and begins to cry.
For hours I sit beside her as she goes from comatose to babbling idiot to crazed sex fiend, all the time wondering when it will be over. Finally, when the sky is beginning to lighten, purely from exhaustion she falls into a restless sleep.
I text Laura to reschedule my morning appointments and get into bed beside her. I put my arm around her narrow waist and close my eyes with relief that her suffering is over for the night, and hope that she won’t remember this long and terrible night. My nose hovers over the crook of her neck and finds the faint but familiar scent of her perfume.
I register in my tense body a sense of victory that they did not get her, and then, a strong sense of possession. I tighten my hold on her.
She belongs to me until I say otherwise.
While we are having dinner on the balcony I say, ‘We’ve been invited to a party tomorrow. Do you want to go?’
Blake looks at me strangely. ‘It’s my birthday tomorrow.’
‘Oh,’ I exclaim, surprised. ‘You never said anything.’
‘No, it’s not something I am looking forward to.’
‘You will be thirty.’
‘Do you want to come to the party then?’
‘I can’t. My family is flying over to be with me. They’ve arranged something for me in a hotel. It will be insufferably boring, I’m sure, but I am obliged to attend.’
“Of course, of course.’ I try my best not to show how his news has affected me. Was he never going to tell me? ‘I’ll just go to the party with Billie, then.’
Only this morning I tasted the name Lana Barrington on my tongue. The whisper is my secret. It felt right. Or as Billie would say, very f**king right. So I said it louder.
‘Lana Barrington.’ Daring the fates.
Mrs. Lana Barrington. Your husband has been delayed. Would you like to wait for him at the bar?
The fantasy was so perfect I wanted to cry. What a fool I have been. How on earth did I manage to fall in love with such a cold and heartless man, a banker for God’s sake?
‘Let Tom drive you there and back,’ he is saying.
‘It’s OK. I’ll just take a taxi.’
“I’ll feel better if Tom drives you, waits for you and brings you back.’
‘Will she be there?’
‘Yes,’ he says very quietly.
‘Well, that’s that then. I hope you have fun.’ My voice sounds high and too merry.
‘I won’t,’ he says, but that doesn’t soothe me one bit.
That was yesterday. Today I am in Billie’s bedroom wearing a pair of white shorts, a cut off, sleeveless, white T-shirt that leaves my midriff bare and white trainers.
‘Wow, you look seriously hot,’ Billie comments.
‘You don’t think it’s too slutty?’
‘Are you kidding? It’s white. You look like a wet dream. Besides, it’s Jerry’s party. It’s always full of working girls.’
Billie is wearing combat boots, a fur trimmed, green beret, and a clinging black cat-suit.
‘Well, you look very Miley Cyrus,’ I say.
‘Thanks. I was going for rock chick, but obviously I’m not ever going to say no to Miley,’ Billie replies with a grin. ‘Now get in front of the mirror.’
I sit on the edge of the bed and Billie picks up a curling iron and takes up position behind me. With meticulous care she begins to put corkscrew curls in my hair. She is concentrating so hard she does not speak, so I let my mind wander to Blake. I wonder about his world. So entirely different from mine. At a hotel, he said, careful not to mention the name of the hotel, as if he feared there was a possibility that I might turn up and embarrass him.
In a little while Leticia comes to join us. She is wearing a plain gray T-shirt, ripped jeans and a surly expression. Her hair is gelled to spikes around her head. She is a big, butch girl.
‘How’s it going, Let?’ I greet.