‘I don’t think like that…’
Luc watched Star sidling backwards out of the room with a kind of blind look in her eyes and wondered why he didn’t feel better. He wondered why he suddenly felt like the sort of male who was brutal to small children and animals. He wondered why, when it was natural for him to be extremely tough on those who surrounded him, being tough on Star had demanded the spur of eighteen months of pent-up rage finally breaking its boundaries. But sanity had reasserted its natural sway, he told himself in grim consolation, wincing as Star bashed one slight shoulder on the corner of the bookshelves before finally disappearing from view.
He was amazed that she hadn’t shouted back at him. Strange how dissatisfying an experience that had proved. But then alcohol was a depressant; he had lost his temper and he loathed being out of control. Possibly he had been a little too tough on her. But revenge? Trust Star to come up with that angle! He was above that sort of nonsense.
Upstairs, Star collapsed down on the bedroom sofa without even taking off her clothes. Her life seemed to stretch before her like a desert of grey desolation. Luc just about hated her and had no reason whatsoever to think well of her. Yet she did find herself questioning why Luc had held onto his anger for so long. Flattened by exhaustion, however, she slept for four hours, and woke up feeling unrefreshed.
Luc’s bed was empty, untouched from the night before. It was seven. She headed straight into the bathroom, peeling off clothing as she went. After a frantically quick wash, she donned the black sand-washed silk hooded summer dress which her mother had given her for her birthday. It felt suitably funereal.
With the twins’ birth certificates clutched in one nerveless hand, she went straight downstairs. Her steps getting slower and slower, she entered the imposing dining room. Luc was seated in aristocratic isolation at the far end of the polished table. He lowered his newspaper, revealing hooded eyes and a grim cast to his dark good-looks. Immaculate in a silver-grey suit worn with a silk shirt and a burgundy silk tie, he looked formidable, but he still stopped her susceptible heart clean dead in its tracks.
‘I didn’t expect to see you up this early,’ he admitted with complete cool.
‘I…I needed to speak to you before you left for the bank.’ Star sucked in a deep, deep breath and forced herself to walk down the length of the table towards him.
Luc folded his newspaper and rose with lithe grace. ‘I’m afraid you left it too late. I’m about to leave.’
‘Luc…these are the twins’ birth certificates,’ she practically whispered, pale as milk.
‘Of what possible interest could they be to me?’ Luc didn’t pause even to spare the documents a glance as he strode down the other side of the table in the direction of the door.
Star turned again, her rigid backbone tightening another painful notch. ‘The twins were born more than six months ago, Luc. They’re twelve months old…they just don’t look it because they were premature—’
Luc swung back with a frown of complete exasperation. ‘Why are you unloading all this stuff on me?’
‘Venus and Mars are twelve months old, you see,’ Star continued in a fast fading voice. ‘That night…you know, when I “slunk”, as you put it, you-know-where…well, that night had consequences. I’m really sorry.’
LUC studied Star, absently noting that she was wearing a nightie that resembled some sort of mourning apparel and that she lacked her usual glow.
His brain had shrieked to a sudden halt on her second reference to the age of her children. Twelve months…twelve months old? What were they? Miniature babies? What was she trying to tell him? Premature? Born too early, he rephrased for his own benefit. Was there something wrong with the twins? Were they ill? A momentary image of those helpless little creatures under threat gripping him, Luc paled as if a spooky hand had trailed down his spine.
‘They’re your kids,’ Star framed unevenly. ‘I should have put you right the minute I realised you thought otherwise. But I was shocked, and annoyed that you could think that they were some other man’s. Since you didn’t seem that bothered by the idea, I didn’t contradict you.’