‘Please,’ she says.
I open the door wider and stand back.
She enters and looks around the room curiously, but refrains from commenting. I precede her into the living room and turn around to face her.
‘You are prettier in real life.’
I don’t know if I should acknowledge the compliment. In the end I don’t. It is not sincere.
‘May I sit?’
I nod and she perches at the end of a sofa. Her movements are all dainty. She transfers the small pink purse from her hand to her lap and crosses her slim ankles.
Then she looks at me and smiles again. ‘Will you sit too?’
I flush and sit. This is not the woman’s territory and yet it seems she has somehow taken charge.
‘I know you are shocked to see me here and even more shocked to see that I neither hate nor feel angry with you. You see, our ways are different. You’ll probably never understand so I won’t try to explain too much. Suffice to say that I don’t think it is ideal, especially from the women’s point of view, but I am willing to concede that men must sow their wild oats before they settle down, so I allow it.’
My lips part.
‘I know what you are hoping for.’
I make a strangled sound in my throat. ‘Really?’
‘You are hoping for exactly the same thing that every woman who has signed one of these sordid agreements and who then falls in love dreams of. You want Blake to fall in love with you and marry you.’
I cannot help it, wild color rushes up my throat.
Her eyes flash. ‘But he never will. Men like him have been taught since they were knee high how to take, how to have their cake and eat it in every situation.’
She stops to make a little face.
‘Marrying you or staying with you will not be that. This agreement with you, until he gets bored, and then, marrying me, will be the option most desirable to our men. And that is what Blake will do too.’ She looks at me innocently. ‘Has he in any way suggested more than this arrangement? Perhaps given you hope for a different future with him?’
Woodenly, I shake my head.
She smiles with great satisfaction. ‘I thought so. You see, the most important thing for us is to secure the right bloodlines for our children and ensure our wealth is not dissipated away into careless hands. Blake knows where his loyalties lie. Consequently, I fear nothing from you. If anything, I feel sorry for you and want to be fair to you. I can see that you are in love with him, and in the end, you will be left with nothing more than a broken heart.’
I had been staring at the carpet but at her words my head snaps up. ‘What do you want?’ I blurt out.
‘Well, I guess I might as well come to the point. Nobody knows I’m here and Mummy would scream blue murder if she knew I was.’
‘So why are you here?’
‘I know your contract will expire in six weeks.’
‘How do you know that?’
‘I have my ways. It is not important to our discussion today. Strange as it may seem, I am now your only friend.’
I cannot imagine a scenario where this condescending, utterly self-obsessed woman could be my friend. Let alone my only friend.
‘What is important to you must be that you are adequately compensated at the end of your time here.’ She pauses meaningfully. ‘Of course, there is a possibility that Blake will extend or renew the contract for another three months. Then again there is the distinct possibility he will not. I am here to offer you a hundred thousand pounds for you to leave…not at the end of the contract, but today. Since there is no punitive action allowed in your contract if you end it earlier than its term you are within your rights to do so.’
I look at her with shock. I glanced through the contract so fast I did not even register that clause. Yet this woman has perused the contract carefully and is here to bargain with me.
‘I will increase the amount to two hundred thousand pounds if you will leave the country. No note. No goodbyes. No explanations. Just gone.’
No note. No goodbyes. No explanations. Just gone.
Wow! I look at the young woman who sits so brazenly before me and feel a bubble of hysterical laughter forming in my throat. Unsteadily, I stand up and walk to the glass wall. Far below there are small children playing with a dog in the park. With my back to the woman, I close my eyes and try to think, but my mind is blank with horror.
‘Did you think that the billionaire’s son would marry the poor girl from the council estate?’
I flush. ‘Of course not.’
Except for that once when I tasted my name joined with his, I have not really thought that. Always from the start it has been made clear to me that it is a purely temporary arrangement based solely on sex. He has only ever wanted me for one thing and he has been brutally honest about it. There have been no protestations of love or flowery words. Just an animal craving for my skin.
As if the woman opposite me has heard my thoughts she remarks quietly, ‘Cravings go away.’
‘Please leave,’ I say, without turning around. I am glad to hear that my voice is firm and strong. I hear the woman stand.
‘You will regret this one day,’ she says. There is no malice in her voice. She is simply stating a fact. Unemotionally. ‘If you change your mind, my card is on the table. Please don’t mention my visit to anyone.’
After I hear the door close I stand before a beautiful gilded mirror and look at myself. How changed I am. My eyes are full of pain. There are bruises under my eyes where there were none. My hand moves to my belly. Soon I will be showing. I think of the woman. At the heartless determination hidden within the beautiful exterior. Between them, they will kill the life growing inside me. I love Blake with all my heart, but for him I am only a wild oat.
I must stop being selfish and think only of the little one inside me now. Secure his or her future. I press my hand to my mouth and stop the cry that threatens to escape. Tears are streaming down my face. I wipe them with the backs of my hands and run out of the door. Victoria is waiting by the lift. She turns to look at me and for that one pure moment, I understand how murderers feel. I want to steal this woman’s heartbeat, take her life and the man that fate has so arbitrarily assigned to her.
‘I’ll take…’ my voice breaks. I force myself to spit out the words,…’the money.’
She smiles. It is not the smile of a victor. It is not malicious. It is not unkind. Neither is it pitying nor condescending. It is simply the lucky smile of a woman who has never been refused anything her heart desires.