They don’t hear it, but I do. The boy is awake in the other room. He is opening his door and making his way towards the kitchen. I make a small sound in my throat and Lana swivels her head in my direction.
‘Oh my God, Julie. I’m sorry. I didn’t invite you here to witness my family drama.’
But I am no longer looking at her. I am looking at Blake, how his eyes have frozen over as soon as they left Lana and found me in his kitchen. He flips out his phone from his pocket.
‘Tom will give you a lift home,’ he says and starts dialing. The speed at which Tom answers is impressive. ‘Tom, can you pick Julie up from the lobby.’
The child, his face still sleepy, appears in the doorway.
Again I see a transformation in Blake’s face. All the lines, all burdens in his shoulders leave. ‘Lookie who’s here,’ he says, and, bending at the knee, opens his arms. The boy toddles over to him, little arms outstretched like a miniature Frankenstein. His small arms encircle his father’s neck and his father kisses him and lifts him high into the air making him squeal with delight.
Lana turns towards me.
‘I’ll call you tomorrow and we’ll arrange that makeover trip,’ she says. I take my gift from the kitchen counter and we go out towards the front door. I feel strangely reluctant to leave. I want to stay and absorb the deep intimacy and happiness I have witnessed. I don’t want to go back to my shitty home and my non-responsive, miserable family, all trapped in their layers of lard.
‘Thank you for my present.’ I smile, clutching the box.
Lana smiles back. She opens the front door and walks me to the lift. She presses the button to call it and it arrives very quickly. The door swooshes open.
‘Call you tomorrow,’ she says again, and the doors close on her.
The next time I see Lana is a week later, on a Thursday. She sends Tom to pick me up to bring me to her apartment. I sit inside the clean, softly scented interior of the Bentley wearing my best jeans, a top patterned with pink daisies teamed with a hot pink jacket and sandals with pink bows.
‘I love your top,’ she says as soon as she opens the door.
‘Thank you,’ I reply, but I am thrown into confusion. Does that mean she doesn’t like the rest of my outfit? Lana is in a white sheath dress and a pair of deep red wedge shoes. White contrasts beautifully with her hair. She looks cool and understated.
There is a middle-aged woman in the apartment. Lana introduces her as Gerry, the nanny. She smiles pleasantly, and goes back into Sorab’s room. She is taking the boy out to the park.
‘Hello,’ I greet the child.
He looks at me solemnly. There is a great deal of reserve about this child. He is eerily adult-like. Lana is right, he is exactly like his father. The nanny leaves with the boy and Lana takes me into the kitchen.
‘I baked a carrot cake yesterday. Want a piece?’
‘That would be lovely,’ I say, and climb onto the stool I had used the last time I was here. She already has a teapot ready. She puts a cup and saucer in front of me and pours some tea in. Then she pushes a sugar bowl and a jug of milk towards me.
‘I like mine black,’ I say with a smile, and bring the cup to my lip.
I watch her cut a slice of carrot cake and put it on a plate. It looks moist—crumbs fall onto the china. I look at the walnuts embedded in it and consider telling her that I have a nut allergy, and then I realize I want to try her cake. Perhaps it will be lousy. She comes around the island and places the cake in front of me. I break a tiny bit off and pass it into my mouth. It is freaking delicious. Sweet and oily. The way everything should be. Is there nothing that this woman will not do well?
‘Well?’ she asks, popping herself on the stool next to mine, a huge slice of cake on her plate. ‘Do you like it?’
‘Delicious,’ I say, truthfully. She smiles at me warmly and I smile back.
I break off another small piece.
‘You remind me,’ she says, ‘of those French actresses in the black and white movies that my mother used to watch. They used to break off minute pieces from their bread rolls or baguettes or whatever they were eating and slip them daintily into their mouths too.’
‘Really? You used to watch black and white movies?’ How boring. I break another piece.
‘Sometimes. They were classy.’
We sit quietly for a minute, both sipping our tea.
‘What do you do all day?’ I ask.
‘Well, Billie and I were planning to set up a baby clothes business.’
I nod. Ah, that would explain the colorful drawings I found in Billie’s place.
‘But,’ she carries on, ‘I realized that it would be a total waste of my time. The reason people take up jobs that they hate or start a business is to earn money. I have more money than I could possibly spend. I am in the process of starting a children’s charity. I’ll start in Britain but eventually it will be a worldwide organization. I’m calling it CHILD. I have to be careful, though. I don’t want it to be like the other charities where so little actually gets to the intended recipients.’
She’s right there. I just read that Lady Gaga’s charity took in over two million and paid out one grant for five thousand dollars while hundreds of thousands were squandered on expenses.
She turns slightly away from me to look at the clock on the wall and I break a large piece of cake off and, with my hand under the counter, squeeze it into a ball in the palm of my left hand.
‘Can I use your bathroom?’
‘Of course. There is something wrong with the toilet in the cloakroom. Just use the one in my bedroom. Do you still remember where it is or do you need me to show you?’
‘No, no, I remember.’
‘OK,’ she says, and forks another piece of cake into her mouth.
I go into her bathroom and flush the cake down the toilet, wash my hands quickly, and go back into her bedroom. Her laptop is open, but the screen has gone dark. I go to it and tap the mouse pad. The screen opens to an odd sight. It is a website about sex magick and secret cults! What the…? Huh?
I read the first paragraph of something titled The Emerald Tablets.
“Far in the past men there were who delved into darkness, and using
dark magick called up beings from the great deep below us. Forth came
they into this cycle, formless were they, existing unseen by the children
of earthmen. Only through blood could they become, only through
man could they live in the world.”
Dark magick? Beings from the great deep below us? Formless ones? Blood rituals! What the hell is Lana doing on a crazy site like this? There is a notebook open by the laptop. I recognize Lana’s handwriting. I scan through it.