Finally, I understand why the choice to stay will be mine.
It is only in the early morning hours that his hands stop clinging, relax, and fall away in exhausted sleep, but sleep never comes for me. I lie on my side, his warm body curled around me and I think of Victoria’s mother. That shrill look in her eyes that had so frightened me. She was right. It was already too late for me by the time she came to see me.
When the first light filters through the gap in the curtains I watch him sleep, his face relaxed and vulnerable, and I shiver not with desire, but with the memory of my desire for this man, for this body. It seems another lifetime ago. I think of what he has done for Sorab and I, and I am filled with sorrow at the thought of the secrets and sins that he carries in his soul. I understand that he is as trapped as I was when I slipped into a sluttish orange dress and went to sell my body to the highest bidder.
Billie, Jack, and probably even you…you thought it was too much to sacrifice for such a small percentage of success, didn’t you? But I didn’t. I would have done anything for my mother. Would I kill for her? If someone climbed into her bedroom and threatened her survival, yes, in a heart beat. Blake and I are worlds apart and yet we are cut from the same cloth.
I get dressed quietly and put my son into his carrycot. He smiles at me. I look into his clear blue eyes and feel like sobbing. How lucky he is. He is pure. He has done nothing wrong, yet.
I go downstairs.
Brian is sitting at the kitchen table watching TV. It is running the news of Blake’s father’s plane crash. When he sees me at the doorway, he switches off the telly and stands up. In his eyes something has changed. A new respect. It is in recognition of my association with the new head of the Barrington empire.
‘Good morning, Ma’am.’
Ma’am? Even that’s new. ‘Good morning, Brian. Is there a church nearby?’
‘Sure, but it won’t be open yet. Bit early.’
‘Can we try it, anyway?’
‘Of course. Would you like to go now?’
‘I’ll let Steve know.’
Outside Tom is carefully polishing the Bentley.
‘Good morning, Miss. Bloom,’ he calls.
Brian drives me to the church, and as luck would have it, a man is locking the great doors. I run up to him, carrycot in hand.
‘Oh please, please. Can I go in and say a quick prayer?’
He looks at me, glances at the child. Behind his gold-rimmed glasses his eyes are kind, innocent, unaware that I have been touched by sin. Would he believe me if I told about the secret world of the children of El? What they do for power and domination? Even to me, in the cold light of day, it all seems like a fantastical nightmare or a particularly bad film script.
He smiles kindly, and opens the door.
‘Thank you. Thank you very much.’
‘I’ll be outside. Go with God, my child.’
Inside it is very quiet. First, I consecrate myself with holy water, then I walk down the old church. Light is filtering in through the stained glass, a magnificent aspect in the still gloom of grey stone. It streams onto a massive icon of the dying Christ as he hangs sorrowing above the altar. Above the smell of flowers and ferns.
I stand in silent awe in the middle of the house of God. A lost sheep returning to its fold. Alone, I go to the side of the hall where there is a statue of Mary carrying baby Jesus in her arms. I open a wooden box and take out four candles. They cost a pound each, but I have no money with me. I will come back tomorrow and put the four pounds into their donation box. I light the candles and put them into their metal holders. One for Jack, one for Sorab and one for Blake and one for all the little children.
The flames cast their warm light into the shadows.
I remember my grandmother saying, Gods are not beings like people. It is only humans who have given them arms and legs and faces. They are metaphors for all the things human consciousness can aspire to. If there is a darkness called El, then there must be another metaphor to describe the consciousness of light and goodness. I will pray to that god, in every temple, mosque, synagogue and church that I find.
I fall to my knees, cross myself and pray.
‘Dear God, take care of Jack while he is in war-torn Africa and bring him back to this kind land as soon as possible.’
I stand and put the carrycot with Sorab in it in front of the altar and return my knees to the cold stone floor.
‘I give you my son to keep safe for always and…in return, I promise to do for the little children all that is in my power…until my last breath. I am not a cog in the machine. I am not a bloodline. I can make a difference. Nothing is set in stone. Not even the agenda.’
Then I bow my head and pray for Blake’s tormented soul. With the unyielding, cold stone against my knees, I tell God, ‘Dear God, this is my sincere and most fervent prayer, if Blake must burn in hell for eternity, then I must burn with him. For we are two souls that must never again be parted.’