He raises her in the air. Time stops. The notes hold, shimmer, she is returned to the ground; they glide along, moving as if they are one body, two people making graceful, magical circles. Blake twirls Lana and while she is spinning he catches her and kisses her. I stare at the sight. It is not possible to describe the beauty of that moment, that dance. Then the dance is over, and as if released, the crowd comes alive and spontaneously breaks into applause.
I tear my eyes away from the couple and look for Jack. I find him and my heart stops in my chest. Irish is standing frozen across the dance floor, his face a mask of terrible longing. His eyes are trained on the kissing couple. He is still madly, deeply, head over heels in love with Lana. The unfairness of it hits me like a blow in the gut. I actually experience pain at the core of my body.
Three spotlights hit the stage and—oh my God—it is Rhianna standing in the bright lights, a star in a tight sequined costume clapping and smiling. The crowd gasps and goes wild with pleasure and surprise.
‘Yeah, it’s me,’ she says and laughs.
She holds her hand out in the direction of Lana and Blake. ‘I dropped in to congratulate the new couple. Give a hand, everybody, to Mr. and Mrs. Blake Law Barrington.’
Everybody claps and cheers. I turn to look at Lana’s face and she has her hand over her mouth, but not with horror—delight. She had not known. Blake has his arm around her waist and is looking at her indulgently. At that moment Lana is no longer the humiliated bride at her own wedding. Just by the simple act of raising his hand the billionaire banker has turned everything around. She is once again wearing the coveted shoes that every woman wants to be in.
‘Thank you,’ Rihanna shouts into the mic. ‘Shall we get this party on the road?’
‘Yeah,’ the guests reply.
‘I don’t think I heard that.’
‘Yeah,’ comes the louder, more definite reply back.
She makes the horned symbol to the crowd, six dancers surround her and begin gyrating as she starts her next number, Don’t Stop The Music.
I look away from the stage and see Billie go up to Lana and Blake, and as if they have rehearsed this beforehand, Blake lets go of Lana and Billie links the fingers of her right hand through Lana’s, and gently kissing her cheek leads her away from the marquee. From where I am standing their unshakable bond tweaks at my ancient envy. I damp it down. I guess they will be going back to the house so Lana can change. Perhaps she will change into that beautiful white dress with the jeweled cut-outs.
I turn my attention to Blake. To the stony expression on his face as he watches his wife leave with her friend. Someone comes up to him, says something and he inclines his head to listen, his eyes still on Lana. The poor guy is still talking to him when he strides away in the direction that Victoria has been dragged to, his mobile held to his ear. Beneath the tightly controlled man, an implacably angry, raging beast. This is not a man to cross.
I wish I could follow him and see what happens to Victoria. Will he slap her, the sound reverberating? I am electrified by the thought of that slap. It will be the slap that I wish I had delivered.
On stage Rihanna and her dancers are strutting their stuff. I scan the room. It is now full of dancing people. An elderly lady in a soft gray suit is dabbing her eyes and reaching for her box of earplugs.
I know I should have just left it. Let it go, but I couldn’t. I go up to Jack. I wanted him to see and acknowledge the new me. Maybe if he saw the new me he might change his mind, slowly fall in love with me. I edge along the sides of the room until I am standing beside him.
He looks down at me, and for a split second I see a slash of annoyance, then recognition and genuine surprise. ‘Julie?’
‘Mmmm…’ I gaze innocently at him from under my lashes, the way Lady Diana used to. I hope I come off as vulnerable and flirtatious as she used to.
‘You look different.’
‘Different better or worse?’
‘Definitely different better.’
A fierce flash of pride and pleasure go through me at his words. My heart starts beating really fast. I am determined to have this man. ‘I’ve got to talk to you. Come with me,’ I say, and, grasping his arm, lead him into the corridor and down it. I open the first door to my right, look in—it is empty. I pull him in with me.
I turn to close the door and my heart is in my throat. The room is in semi-darkness with the drapes pulled halfway across the tall windows and two lit corner lamps. I am glad for it. My cheeks are burning up. In the dim of the soaring ceiling amongst the grand furniture, I try frantically to remember exactly what I had planned to say, and f**k me, nothing comes into my head.
My mind is blank.
I feel dread crawl up my spine as I turn to face him. He is looking at me curiously. I swallow hard. The blood is pounding so hard in my ears I hear it like a roar. All I can think of is how much I love him. I have loved this man for so long. I love everything about him. I love the bewilderingly silent pauses he lapses into. There will always be a part of him that can never be known, not by his mother, not by Lana and not by me. But I even love that he will never wholly be known.
I love the way he holds his jaw in that aggressive slant. I love the way everybody respects him. Or the way his hair is slicked back without any parting. And his tormented blue eyes. In my dreams they are hot and passionate. I laugh when he laughs. I love, love, love everything about this man. He has to love me back. In the end he must fall in love with me.
If only he would take me in his arms. If only there was no need for words. I squeeze my eyes shut. Where, oh where are the words that I have so carefully planned?
‘Are you all right, Jules?’
Jack’s voice cuts into my confused thoughts. I don’t like to swear, but f**k, f**k, f**k, FUCK! My eyes snap open. His face is puzzled but interested.
‘Yeah, I’m fine,’ I gulp.
‘What did you want to talk to me about?’
I open my mouth and close it again. Thousands of unfinished sentences pass through my empty head, each one as incoherent as the one that had gone before.
‘What is it?’ he repeats, this more urgently. He reaches out a hand and takes mine in it.
At the touch of his hand I begin to tremble violently. Oh my God, Oh my God, it is going to happen like it happens in my dreams. He is going to take me in his arms.
‘Jules?’ He takes a step closer, and it seems to me that his whole radiantly clean heart is concerned. Even in this dim light I know he can see how tense my body has become. I am a nervous mess.