‘You wouldn’t understand.’
‘Do you know that you’re one strange girl?’
I look down at my bare feet and wriggle my toes. ‘Have you never wanted to look in a woman’s handbag?’
He rubs his chin. ‘Can’t say the contents of a woman’s handbag have ever held any interest for me. I was always more interested in the contents of their clothes.’
With a sigh, I get up to return to my side.
‘Like now,’ he says softly.
I look down on him, a half smile on my face, before I pull the T-shirt over my head and discard it on the floor.
His eyes begin to glitter, and instantly my body responds and yearns for him. The tug of anticipation is strong, but I don’t go to him. I stand very still as the juices accumulate between my thighs.
‘Come here,’ he says finally, his voice at once husky and slumberous, and it is a relief to have that man’s strong hands grasp me by my upper arms and press me into the mattress.
I wake up early, and press the remote button for the curtains. They sweep open, revealing a beautiful day. The sun is already shining brightly. I dress quickly in a pair of old jeans and a T-shirt and head for the coffee machine. After several tries I walk to the phone and call the desk downstairs.
Mr. Nair answers and immediately tells me he will be around to show me how to use it. Less than five minutes later he is at my door. He even shows me how to froth the milk for my cappuccino. He explains that he used to work in a coffee bar in his younger days.
‘Do you want one?’ I offer.
Mr. Nair’s eyes shine. ‘Are you sure, Miss Bloom? We only have instant downstairs and I’d love a real coffee.’
‘Of course I’m sure,’ I say and take down another saucer and cup.
‘Ah,’ Mr. Nair says delicately. ‘I am a Brahmin and I am not allowed to drink from other people’s cups. I have my own mug. I will bring it up.’
And he does. He brings his own I Am The Boss mug, and I open a tin of biscuits and offer it to him. He takes two. I raise a that’s-it eyebrow, and he grins and helps himself to two more.
‘Any time you want a real coffee, call me, and if I am in, feel free to come up,’ I say.
‘Thank you. Thank you, Miss Bloom, you are very kind indeed.’
After coffee I go to my mother’s house. We have a busy day ahead. We pick up her wig from Selfridges and spend some time shopping for things she will need. My mother chooses a burgundy trouser-suit that looks very good on her, two pretty pastel dresses, and some new underwear. Afterwards, I watch while two women give her a pedicure and manicure. They paint her nails coral. My mother smiles at them shyly when they tell her she has beautiful hands.
Afterwards, we take a quick trip to the doctor’s surgery. We spend the rest of the afternoon at the flat. By five the flat is clean and my mother is ready. She stands before me in the living room in her burgundy trouser-suit and her new wig. She looks wonderful.
I cry. So does my mother.
Billie shoos us both out of the flat. I watch my mother and Billie get into a mini cab and head for Heathrow. Then I go back to our empty home, fall on my mother’s bed and cry my heart out. It is nearly six when I wash my face and leave for the apartment.
I am surprised to see that Blake is already in. He comes out of the dining room when he hears me.
‘Has she gone?’
I nod, feeling very distant from him.
‘That’s good. I thought you might not feel like going out tonight so perhaps we can have a Chinese takeaway?’
‘Not for me.’
‘Don’t you want any food?’
I shake my head.
‘Would you like to lie down and rest for a bit?’
‘Yes. That’s a good idea.’
‘OK, sleep for a bit. It’ll do you good.’
I nod and he retreats into the dining room. As I pass him in the corridor, I notice his briefcase is open and there are papers spread out on the long dining table, and he appears to be concentrating hard on them.
I lie down on the bed and fall asleep almost immediately. My sleep is restless and full of dreams. A noise wakes me in the middle of the night. I realize instantly that I am alone in bed. I listen again. It is coming from the kitchen. The little bedside clock says it is two a.m. My mother and Billie will still be in the air. I get out of bed, and pad towards the sounds.
I stand at the doorway dazzled by the light, pushing hair away from my eyes. Blake is toasting two slices of bread and does not see me. My mind takes a picture of him—gorgeously shirtless and wearing only his low-slung jeans—to be kept for later, when he is no longer around. When he spots me, he leans a hip against the work counter, and looks at me, his arms crossed, his eyes unreadable.
‘Did I wake you?’
‘No. What are you making?’
‘I was working and I got hungry. Want some toast?’
I shake my head, but come into the room and sit on a stool. I put my elbows on the island surface amongst the butter dish, knives, plates and open jars of foie gras and caviar. There is also a half-drunk glass of orange juice. I slide my body along the cold granite surface and pull it over to me. As I sip at it I watch him work.
He produces a spoon from a drawer. It is the smallest spoon I have seen. He scoops a tiny amount of caviar and holds it out to me.
I crinkle my nose. ‘Fish eggs?’
He shakes his head in disgust. ‘Philistine,’ he chides.
I open my mouth and he inserts the spoon. Little salty balls explode intriguingly in my mouth.
I smile. ‘Tastes better than it looks. A bit like you,’ I tease.
He throws back his head and laughs.
‘You work very hard, don’t you?’
‘All rich people do.’
I watch him spread pâtè on a slice of toast. Watch his even, strong teeth bite cleanly into it.
‘You should eat something,’ he says.
I stand up and make myself a jam sandwich. While I am eating it, I think Rosa was right. Jam sandwiches should be made with white bread. They simply don’t taste the same with healthy bread.
‘What do you feel like doing now?’ he asks.
‘Don’t you feel like sleeping?’
‘Shall we play a game?’
A smile curves that straight mouth. ‘What kind of game?’
‘Let’s see who climaxes first.’
His eyes flash. ‘What are the rules?’