She fills them to the brim and holds one out to me.

I laugh. ‘So early in the morning?’

‘Are you kidding? This is an un-fucking-believable turnaround. You go out of here in borrowed plumes to snare a fat bastard and you come back with not just the most eligible bachelor on either side of the Atlantic, but the son of the richest family on earth. You’ve pulled off the deal of the century, girl. We have to celebrate,’ she says firmly.

‘I haven’t pulled him, Bill. He wants to have sex with me in exchange for money.’

‘So? Would you rather be having sex with the hunk or the perv?’

I say nothing.

‘Look, I know you are into that deluded saving yourself for the special guy nonsense, but honestly, love, you really are getting too old to be playing virgin. Every puss needs a good pair of boots otherwise it shrivels up and dies.’

I smile. ‘You don’t have one.’

‘Ah, but I have Mr. Rabbit. Nothing dies while he is around.’ She opens the second drawer of her bedside cabinet to expose her huge and colorful dildo.

I gasp. ‘With your mum in the next room?’

She shrugs. ‘I use it when she’s at the supermarket.’

I take the proffered glass, still shaking my head at her total lack of inhibitions. We clink glasses.

‘Here’s to…’ Billie grins wickedly. ‘Hot sex with anyone.’

We down the vodka and Billie thumps her chest. So early in the morning the alcohol has an immediate effect on me. Heat spreads quickly through my veins and makes me feel light-headed. The future seems exciting suddenly.

Billie’s mother yells, ‘Breakfast is ready,’ from downstairs.

Billie lets her head hit the pillow behind her in disgust. ‘God, she does my head in. If only she wouldn’t do that. Every f**king morning she goes on about breakfast. You’d have thought after nineteen years she’d know I don’t eat that shit.’ She twists her body and reaches out to the little cupboard under the drawers of her bedside cabinet and takes out a jar of strawberry jam and a spoon. She unscrews the lid and feeds herself a spoonful of jam.

I open my mouth.

‘Don’t say it,’ Billie warns.

‘I won’t, but really, Billie, your mum’s right. How can you eat jam for breakfast?’

‘For the one thousandth time because it’s delicious.’ She spoons another mouthful in, and commands, ‘Now, tell me every inappropriate thing that happened last night. Don’t leave a single thing out.’

I tell her everything except for the kiss, which I myself cannot quite make sense of yet and cannot bring myself to talk about. Billie’s eyes alight on the orange coat and she smiles smugly. ‘I told you the dress and coat were lucky. This is what you wanted, right?’

‘Yeah, it’s what I wanted. More than anything else in the world. You’re still OK to travel with my mum, aren’t you?’

‘Of course. I love her too, you know.’

‘Thanks, Bill.’ My voice breaks.

‘Don’t thank me. I’m going on an all expenses paid trip to America! Yee…haa…’

‘I don’t know what I’d do without you and Jack.’

‘Talking about Jack, what and when are you going to tell him?’

I sigh. ‘Everything, this weekend.’

‘He won’t be happy.’

‘I know, but he’ll understand. I’ve got no choice, Bill.’

‘I know, babe.’

‘Bill, thanks again for agreeing to accompany my mum. I really don’t know what I’d do without you.’

‘There’s a big, black car parked outside,’ Jane hollers.

Billie leap-frogs to the end of her bed and, standing on her bed with her palms resting on the windowsill, cranes her neck to look out into the street below. ‘Jesus, Lana, that’s a Bentley with a driver in a peaked cap.’

I look at the clock face. ‘That’ll be my ride. Got to go. Call you later.’

Billie sits on the windowsill, exhales and, through the smoke says, ‘Say hello to banker boy for me, won’t you?’

I run down the stairs and find Jane standing at the bottom of them. Her round, red face looks quite animated. ‘Is that car here for you?’

‘Looks like it,’ I say as I disappear into my own home. I pick up my rucksack, make sure my ID is in it, kiss mum goodbye, and run out towards the waiting Bentley.

Eight

The driver is standing outside the car by the time I get to it. He touches his cap. ‘Miss Lana Bloom?’

I nod breathlessly.

‘Good morning. Tom Edwards,’ he says, by way of introduction and opens the back door for me. I sink into the fragrant, immaculately pale interior and he shuts the door after me. Along the building I see the heads of all my neighbors poking out of their windows.

I lean back. The leather under my palm is soft and cool. Tom gets into the front and looks at me in the rearview mirror. He has soft brown eyes that crinkle in the corners. He takes a white envelope from the passenger seat and twists around to hand it to me. ‘Our first stop is the doctor. This is for him.’

‘Thanks,’ I say, taking the letter. It has my doctor’s name written in blue ink and is unsealed. The glass that separates us closes and the engine hums into life. I open the letter and read it. It is a request for my medical records.

My mobile lights up.

‘Hey,’ says Jack. His voice is bright and full of life.

‘Hey,’ I reply matching his brightness.

‘What’s wrong?’

‘Nothing. Why?’

‘Come on… I know you better than that. Spit it out, Lana.’

‘OK, but not on the phone. Are you coming down this weekend to see your mother?’

‘Yeah.’

‘Well, I’ll tell you then.’

‘No, you won’t. I’ll come by my mum’s for dinner. You can tell me then.’

‘I’ve got a date.’

There is a silence. ‘Really? That’s great. Anyone I know?’

‘You don’t know him, but you might have heard of him.’

‘Well?’

‘Blake Law Barrington.’

‘The Blake Barrington?’

‘Yeah.’

‘You’ve got a date with a Barrington? How? What are you not telling me, Lana?’ He sounds worried.

‘It’s not really a date, but I can’t tell you on the phone.’

‘You’re not doing anything stupid, are you?’ he asks apprehensively.

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