‘Maybe, but I don’t like it, though.’
There is a lull in the conversation and I try to liven it up. ‘Since we are openly discussing my sex life…are you g*y?’
‘Are you g*y?’
Jack laughs. ‘That’ll be a surprise to my girlfriend.’
I gasp. ‘You have a girlfriend?’
‘About a week ago. I was always so focused on getting out of the estate I didn’t allow myself to get distracted, but my goal is in sight now, and she’s a great girl.’
‘And just when were you going to tell me, Jack Irish?’
‘Well, how could I with you springing your big news on me?’
‘Tell me more about her.’
Before he can answer, my phone rings. It is Blake. ‘Hi,’ I say, looking at Jack.
‘Are you at the apartment?’
‘Can you get there in thirty minutes?’
‘I guess so.’
‘See you in thirty minutes.’
‘That was him?’ Jack asks.
I nod. ‘I’ve got to go. I’ll take a rain check on lunch with you, but I’m buying and we’re going somewhere nice.’
‘With his money?’
I don’t say anything. Of course it’s his money. My credit cards were maxed out before him.
‘Thanks, but no thanks. I understand why you’re doing what you’re doing, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to help spend his money. As far as I’m concerned it’s blood money—your blood. I’m not going to drink from it.’
I look at him helplessly. ‘It’s not that bad. Don’t let it come between us, please,’ I beg.
He reaches forward and grasps my hands in his. ‘Nothing will come between us. I’ll always be here for you and will be long after he is gone. No matter what happens, I want you to know I’m always here, a phone call away. You can always come to me.’
Tears spring into my eyes. ‘What’s the name of that girlfriend of yours?’ I sniff.
He smiles. ‘You must tell her.’
‘You’ll see at Jerry’s birthday party. I’m bringing her.’
I bite my lip. ‘If I am allowed to be there, I would love to meet her.’
His eyes narrow dangerously. ‘Are you some kind of sexual slave to him, Lana?’
I feel hot color run up my neck. ‘No, but it’s the arrangement—I have to be there whenever he wants me.’
Jack draws a sharp breath. ‘That is just sick,’ he fumes.
I cover my burning cheeks with my palms. ‘Please, Jack, leave it.’
‘You’re such a f**king innocent. Does your mother know about this pact of abuse you have signed up for?’
‘Of course she doesn’t, but it’s not abuse, Jack. It’s not exactly a hardship to sleep with the man that Hello! magazine has called the most eligible bachelor in the world.’
‘So what does your mother think?’
I close my eyes. ‘She thinks I’ve got myself a rich boyfriend.’
I run a finger through the condensation on my glass. ‘You know I don’t believe in God. All my life I’ve thought it’s a cruel God up there, if there is one at all, but you do, and your God is kind and forgiving. Will you pray to your god to save my mother?’
‘I pray every day for your mum, Lana.’
Tears spill down my cheeks.
Sadly, he reaches out a hand and wipes them. ‘Don’t cry, little one. Maybe this treatment will work. Maybe she will get better.’
I smile through my tears. ‘I don’t know what I’d do without you, Jack. Sometimes when I am really sad I think of you studying in your dorm, and it makes me feel happy. “Dr Jack Irish, your next patient has arrived.”’
Jack smiles, but it is a sad smile.
‘I did what I had to do.’
He rests his forehead on his hand; his eyes are unexpectedly gentle. ‘All right, Lana. We’ll play it your way. Be safe and remember I’m here for you. Always. If ever it gets…strange or dangerous, call me immediately. I swear if he ever hurts you, I don’t care if I end up in prison, I’m going to punch his lights out.’
I nod. ‘I’ll be all right. It’s just sex,’ I say and he winces.
‘Please don’t say that again, Lana. It hurts my ears.’
‘I’ve not suddenly become Fat Mary, you know.’
‘Perish the thought,’ Jack says, the ghost of a smile flickering into his face.
‘I have to go now.’
He stands. ‘I’ll pop by and see your mum later.’
‘Thanks Jack. She’ll like that. She likes you. Do you know she thought you and I would get together?’
He makes a face. ‘Oh dear.’
I laugh. ‘I know. Goodbye, Jack.’
I move forward, kiss him on his cheek and walk towards the entrance. As I cross it my phone flashes with an incoming text.
I look at the screen again. Wear nothing. And feel a stirring of excitement deep in my core.
In the bathroom mirror my eyes seem almost smoky. I undress quickly and pull on the bathrobe hanging behind the door. I still haven’t got used to my hairless body. It seems too girlish, somehow, but I think I know why he wants it so. Everything in his life is neat and tidy. Not a pubic hair out of place.
When I hear him in the corridor I freeze.
I take the bathrobe off, slip into the bedroom and stand inside the door. He is already there dressed in dark gray trousers and white shirt. His tie is loosened and his shirtsleeves have been haphazardly folded up his muscular arms. His watch glints against his tan. He comes to me and leads me to the big black armchair by the large mirror. I see myself in the mirror. Nude.
Fully clothed he stands behind me.
‘Porcelain skin and f**k me now, blue eyes. How beautiful you are,’ he says, watching me through the mirror. His eyes are heavy-lidded and cloudy with desire.
He hooks his handmade leather shoe underneath my right foot and gently lifts it. The leather is cool and smooth and the laces rub erotically against the soft sole of my foot. His shoe deposits my foot on the padded seat of the big black chair.
The position has exposed my sex in the most indecent way. I don’t recognize the woman in the mirror. She looks wanton and shameless. Now I know the real reason why I am bald. There is nothing to hide behind.