My phone rings. It is Marcus.
My brother gets to the point immediately. ‘Morgan just called me. Why is his loan still pending?’
‘Morgan is a crook.’
There is a shocked silence and then my brother sighs heavily. ‘What’s going on with you, Blake?’
‘Nothing. It bugs me to approve the loan. This green energy thing is such a scam.’
‘Of course it is. And so what?’
‘Why do we have to be part of everything crooked?’
‘My God, you’re beginning to sound like Quinn,’ my brother says referring to our youngest sibling. Quinn turned his back on the family fortune and ran off to Europe to be an artist.’
‘I’m beginning to think Quinn had the right idea.’
‘It’s a big account—government approved. We’re just facilitating the funds.’
‘We’re always only facilitating the funds.’
‘Father worked hard to get us on board. The other banks will kill for an opportunity like this.’
I sigh heavily. ‘Yeah, I’ll sign off on the papers in the morning.’
‘I don’t care about the loan—what I care about is what’s happening to you? You’re still in training. You can’t get soft, Blake. These are shark-infested waters you’re swimming in. They’ll eat you alive. The entire system is corrupt. You can’t fight it. If you try to, it will only break you.’
‘Just having a bad day, I guess.’
‘Have you spoken to Victoria?’
I frown. ‘No, why?’
‘Nothing. Her father was telling me you haven’t called in some weeks. It’s not a good thing to leave these things for too long.’
I do something I have never done before. I confide in my brother. ‘I think I might have found someone.’
There is a shocked pause. ‘Someone? What do you mean someone?’
‘I think I’m in love.’
‘What?’ The burst of sound is so explosive and sudden that I have to pull the phone away from my ear and hold it away.
‘Hell! Blake! Have you lost your mind?’
‘I don’t think so.’
‘Who is it?’
‘Not one of us.’
‘Set her up in an apartment and visit her every day until you are bored of her.’
I smile in the dark. ‘Done that.’
‘You’ve fallen for a gold-digger!’
‘She’s not a gold-digger.’
‘They all are.’
‘Well, she’s not.’
‘Look, Blake, don’t f**k this up. This is your future. You have to marry Victoria.’
‘I don’t have to do anything. I don’t want to end up like you. A wife you detest, three kids you never see, and cold f**ks with models and movie stars in luxurious apartments and hotel rooms.’
‘What’s wrong with that?’
It was a mistake to tell him.
‘You’re going to f**k this up, aren’t you? This is not a club, Blake. You can’t terminate your membership and walk away. There are consequences.’
‘You’re not Quinn,’ he says, his voice heavy with meaning.
‘Look, I got to go. I’ll call you soon. Bye, Marcus.’
I cut the call and stand looking at the cold, black water.
‘Spare some change, mate,’ someone says from behind.
I turn back and look at the tramp. He is probably my age. Change? I never carry ‘change’. I open my wallet. There is nothing there but fifty-pound notes. I pull one out and hold it out by the corner. The man’s eyes bulge.
‘God bless you, sir,’ he cries delightedly, and staggers away to spend the money on more booze. I look up and a star tumbles from the sky. I watch it and take it as a blessing.
I want desperately to go back to the apartment and get into bed beside her, but I won’t. That will be a bad idea. She will be asleep and I will only wake her and want to get into that beautiful body. No, I want to do this properly. I will go back to my own apartment tonight and tomorrow I will meet her and tell her I am madly, madly in love with her.
I send her a text.
Meet me for breakfast outside the café? 9am. X
I am not asleep when his text comes through. I read his message and even though the very thought of breakfast makes me feel sick, I know I will go to him. Perhaps I will have some black coffee and pretend I am on a diet or something. I wonder where he is. Why has he not come to me? Has he begun to lose interest? So quickly? Alone and deeply sad, I go to sleep and sleep badly, tossing and turning. Eventually, when I do fall into a deep sleep, dawn is in the sky.
My alarm goes off at eight a.m.
I dress hurriedly in a long shirt and navy and white trousers. There is no bump yet, but it seems like a good idea to start dressing in loose attire. Carelessly I pull an Alice hair band on. It doesn’t match my outfit, but I can’t bring myself to care. Suddenly, I am wrecked by a wave of nausea. I lean against the mirror and fight it. I shouldn’t have agreed to go, but I don’t want to make him suspicious.
Downstairs, I wave to Mr. Nair and walk out of the building. The café is only down the street. As I walk my thoughts wander. What will become of me and the little life growing inside me? I put my head down and make a decision as I step onto the road. An urgent shout jars me out of my own little world.
My head jerks up. In that split second, I see Blake running towards me. He is no longer shouting. His face is ashen. As if in slow motion I turn and see a car speeding towards me. I should run, but my feet are rooted to the spot. Even far into the future I will remember how I saw everything so clearly it was like looking through a very clean glass. How Blake, his eyes full of desperate fear reached me and with both hands pushed me back with such force that I was thrown backwards and out of harm’s way.
The car ploughs into him instead.
I lie on the ground and watch him flying in the air like a rag doll. He lands on the other side of the street. Even from my prone position I can see the stream of blood that starts running away from his head into the gray asphalt. I scramble up on my hands and knees and run to him screaming. He is lying on his front, but his head is turned in my direction.
‘Are you all right?’ he mumbles vaguely in the direction of my voice, but his eyes seem unable to focus.
‘I’m fine,’ I sob, and he closes his eyes and falls into some deep, dark place.