When they are ready, I spread a thick layer of caviar on one slice of toast and spoon a dollop of marmalade over the other. I slap them together, and popping myself on a stool, bite into my creation. It is so delicious I close my eyes to savor it. I open my mouth eagerly to take a second bite.
‘Is this another terrible combination that you Brits have conjured up?’ Blake teases from the doorway.
My eyes snap open, my mouth closes, and my eyes move over the food I have prepared. Marmalade and caviar. Slowly my gaze lifts to him. He is lounging against the doorframe nude as the day he was born.
‘What’s the matter?’ he asks.
I close my mouth and try to smile. ‘It’s my own thing,’ I say weakly. My heart is beating so loud in my ears that I feel as if he must be able to hear it. I put the sandwich down and look at him. ‘Can’t you sleep?’
‘Come back to bed and put me to sleep,’ he invites, his eyes darkening.
‘OK, I’ll finish my sandwich and come join you. Go ahead.’
I smile at him, willing him not to enter the kitchen, but go back to the bedroom and wait for me. He looks at me and as if he has heard my unspoken wishes he nods and, turning around, leaves. The air escapes my lungs in a rush. I put my elbow on the surface of the counter and lean my forehead against my hand. I actually feel sick. I open the sandwich and really look at what I have concocted. At the smeared caviar and marmalade. It is revolting.
My mother ate anchovies and marmalade when she was pregnant.
I cover my mouth.
I am pregnant.
I look at the clock above the door. It is two in the morning. I close the sandwich, my appetite totally gone. Oh God, what now? I begin to count backwards.
Yes, I am definitely two weeks late.
Blake Law Barrington
I open the door to the apartment and instantly feel that she is gone. Not gone out shopping or gone to see her mother, but gone away from me. Forever. Her presence seems to have evaporated into thin air. I push down the sensation of horror and walk down the corridor to the living room.
The curtains are drawn shut. It is dim and cool. I move to the coffee table. It is empty. In the bedroom, I glance towards my bedside table then hers. Nothing. I go into the kitchen and look at the island top, my eyes scanning the room quickly.
No, she has left no note.
I go back into the bedroom and open the cupboard. Handbags, shoes, clothes. It is all there. She has taken nothing. I key in the combination and open the safe. The velvet box is in there. I open it and the necklace lays nestled on its satin bed. I sigh with relief, put it back and close the safe.
On my way to the living room I pass the dining room, my eyes skim the long table and fall on her purse. For an odd moment, I find myself staring at it. The thoughts in my brain are foreign. I shake my head and walk away. Three steps down the corridor, I stop and go back. Like a sleepwalker I drift to her bag. I put a hand out and lift it by its strap, a metal and black leather interlaced affair.
I raise the flap and look inside.
Lip gloss, ballpoint pen, compact mirror, sparkly eye shadow and…a small maroon wallet. I fish it out, run my finger along the leather and open it. I look at what appears to be a collage of photographs cut out from different photographs and carefully, lovingly stuck together: her mother, Billie and Jack. The child-like innocence of her handiwork causes me pain.
I do not know why it should. I close the flap, return the wallet to her handbag, and walk away from the dining room. I have never done such a thing before. My shoulders feel tense with worry and confusion. What is the matter with me? I have never been curious about the contents of any other woman’s purse before.
She must have gone to visit her mother.
I ring her number and wait, but on the second ring I hear another ring coming from the living room. I follow the sound; her phone is lying on the sofa. I cut the connection and pick up her phone.
Last caller, me, last call, her mother.
I ring her mother’s landline. It rings out. I go through her address list and ring Billie. When her cocky recorded voice comes on I leave a message for her to call me back urgently. Then I ring Jack. He answers on the sixth ring just as I am about to give up.
‘Jack, do you know where Lana is?’
‘Just trying to find her. She’s gone out without her cellphone.’
‘It’s raining here. Is it raining there?’
The question throws me and there is a slight pause before I reply. ‘Yeah… It’s raining here.’
‘I wouldn’t worry, mate, she’s probably just gone out walking in the rain.’
Jack laughs. ‘She’ll come home looking like a drowned kitten. It’s something to behold.’
‘Right. Thanks, Jack.’
I go out onto the balcony. It is pouring with rain. A jagged flash of lightning splits the sky and I wait for the thunder. It comes deafeningly loud almost immediately. I frown. I don’t like the thought of her in the rain. I go to the edge of the balcony and reach a hand out to catch some rain. Strange. I lean over the edge and turn my face up to the shower. I have not felt rain on my face since I was a child.
I try to imagine what she must be feeling, thinking. The rain is cold and I am quickly drenched. I peel off my shirt and as I am balling it in my hand I hear the key in the door. It opens and we stare at each other. Both wet. Both lost.
Instantly I know she is not the same anymore. There is such hurt in her eyes. I stride toward her. She is almost blue with cold.
‘Come,’ I say quickly, and taking her to the bathroom, guide her shivering body under the shower spray.
The water that pelts my cold skin is perfectly hot. I hear him moving away and I close my eyes and savor the pleasant sensation. Almost immediately I feel life and warmth coming back into my fingers and limbs. I have walked too long. I lean my forearms against the tiles and lifting my face to the water, abandon myself to it. I hear the shower door slide and my eyes open to him.
He is nude and standing outside.
My eyes rove over him and settle in fascination on his manhood that is already half erect before I suddenly realize what I am doing, and flushing with embarrassment, turn away.
He catches me by the chin and brings my eyes to him. ‘I want you to look at me. Look at me.’
I return my eyes to his growing shaft. It is no longer at half-mast but standing proud. I lift my eyes back to his face and he steps into the shower. I move back to make space for him and watch him through the drops of water and steam. He chuckles and, finding the soap, slips it across the skin of my chest.