'What's the matter?' he asks, crouching beside me.
'Nothing,' I lie. 'I think I'm too excited to sleep.'
He sighs and persists, 'What's wrong, Lana?'
‘What did you say to the usher at the theater?’
He sits back on his heels. ‘What usher?’
‘You know, when I went to the toilet.’
‘Ah… I was asking if there was an ice cream bar nearby. Why?’
I look down, unable to meet his eyes, unable to help the sadness that creeps into my voice. ‘I just wondered if you…if you found her attractive.’
I look up at him.
He takes my cold fingers in his large warm hands. 'Shall I tell you a secret?’
I nod. That will be a first.
‘From the first moment I saw you I wanted you. Not in the compartmentalized way I wanted the others, the length of leg, the jut of a butt, or the strain of material caused by a well-shaped chest. When I saw you I had to have all of you as mine. I would have paid any price that night to buy you.’
'Oh, Blake,' I sigh. I want him to say he loves me, even if it is just a little, but I won’t push anymore, I might hear something I don’t want to. It is always cleverer to quit while still ahead.
'Shall I show you just how much I want you?' he asks quietly.
I nod and he stands up. I stretch my arms out to him as if I am a child, and he picks me up and carries me to the kingly bed. I sigh deeply with pleasure under him. For a time there is only the soft rustle of white linen and the occasional gasp. Then a fierce, rapid rhythm. Until a shudder like a silver explosion shivers through me, and I am back among glittering stars. Here I can hide from Cronus. I hold onto the exciting firmness of his bu**ocks as he finds his release and spills his seed inside my body.
Dreamily I snuggle deeper into his body and am soon as deeply asleep as everybody else in that stinking, sinking city.
After a trip to the glass blower’s we return the way we came. By private plane: without queues, passport control or waiting for baggage. Blake does not get into the car with us. He has a business appointment that he must keep. He tries to convince me to let the nanny go back to the apartment with me, but I refuse. She is put into a taxi.
I hold Sorab in my lap and stare out of the window. I cannot help feeling a little depressed. While I was away I had temporarily put away the things that Victoria’s mother had said, but now they have all come crowding back. Their whispers are loud in the quiet apartment. I feel very alone and frightened.
When Jack calls I immediately invite him to come around.
‘You’ve just come back from holiday. You must have a thousand things to do. I won’t disturb you. I’ll come tomorrow,’ he says.
‘No, not at all. Do please come today, now if you can. I’d love to see you again.’
‘Is everything all right, Lana?’
I laugh. ‘Of course. I just want to see my son’s godfather again. Is there anything wrong in that?’
He laughs. The sound is familiar. ‘No, but you will tell me if there is, won’t you?’
‘Yes, yes, yes. Now how long will it take you to get here?’
‘Half an hour.’
‘See you then.’ I terminate the call and feel relief.
‘Mr. Jack Irish at reception for you, Miss Lana,’ Mr. Nair calls thirty minutes later.
‘Brilliant. Send him up,’ I say, and opening the front door go out to wait by the lift. The lift opens and there is Jack. He doesn’t look comfortable. I can see he is overawed by his surroundings.
‘My, my, Jack,’ I say, ‘is that a new shirt? I don’t think I’ve ever seen you in red.’
He flushes. ‘Alison picked it out,’ he mumbles, and steps out of the lift.
‘Hey, it looks good. Really. Actually, very dashing.’
‘And you’re playing fast and loose with your compliments today.’
‘I am,’ I agree, and go into his arms. It is so familiar. So good. I love Jack. I truly do. He is like that first ray of sunshine after a particularly heavy downpour. A delicious uncomplicated invitation to go out and play. I step away. ‘Come and see the place.’
I push open the door and turn around. ‘Wow,’ Jack says. ‘This place must have cost something.’
‘Yeah, wait till you see the view.’ I pull him by the hand towards the balcony.
‘Startling, isn’t it?’
‘Vistas like this must surely induce attacks of megalomania,’ he says softly. We stand in silence for a minute, and then he turns to me. ‘Where’s the brat then?’
I laugh. It is so easy with Jack. ‘Want some real coffee?’
‘What kind of question is that?’
‘Come on then.’
I put on some music and we sit on the sofa with our cappuccinos.
‘Just off the top of your head, what do you know about Cronus?’
‘That’s a strange question.’
I take a sip of the hot liquid. ‘Just heard it the other day and realized I didn’t know anything about it.‘
‘My Greek mythology is very shaky, but I believe he is the god who ate his own children. It is also another name for Saturn, or Father Time.’
‘The god who ate his own children?’
‘Yeah, it was to stop a prophecy that his own child would overthrow him. Something like that, anyway.’
I nod unhappily. Don’t like the sound of any of it. After Jack leaves I intend to do my own research.
‘Are you happy, Lana?’
‘No,’ I say before I can stop myself.
His coffee cup freezes on its way to his lips.
I cover my mouth with the tips of my fingers. I can’t tell him about Cronus so I start making it up. ‘No, wait. That came out wrong. I’m not actively unhappy.’ I clasp my hands under my chin. ‘But you know how I feel about him. It’s a kind of torture to be so in love with someone who doesn’t love you back. I’m the dead wasp floating in his glass of champagne. I ruin his perfect life. His perfect plans.’ And yet this too is true. Blake is not happy. There is something that is tearing his insides, but he won’t tell me what it is.
Jack puts his coffee cup on the low table. ‘You poor duck,’ he says with such compassion, I am suddenly filled with morbid self-pity. I blink back the tears. Jack puts his hand out.
‘Don’t touch her.’
The violence in the words startles me. I swing my head around and find Blake standing at the door of the living room. We had not heard him enter. The thick carpets, the music.