I slip in and shut the door. I look around the room. The bed is made. On the bedside table lies what appears to be some sort of journal. Immediately, I go to it. I open it and recognize Lana’s flowing hand and flick through the pages quickly. I open it to a page at random. At the top there is a quotation. I begin to read it:
We build our temples for tomorrow,
strong as we know how,
And we stand on top of the mountain
free within ourselves.
When I came back from the church, Blake was awake. He must have heard the car in the driveway. He was standing in the living room waiting for me. There were bluish shadows under his eyes and my heart went out to him. He smiled faintly, as if he did not know how to react to me. I went up to him and laid my cheek on his chest. He had had a shower and he smelt clean and fresh. He nuzzled my hair.
‘I woke up and found you gone,’ he said.
‘Did you think I’d run away?’
‘You can never run away from me, Lana. I would journey into the underworld to find you. You are mine.’
‘I went to church.’
‘Yes, Brian said. I thought you didn’t believe in God.’
‘For short there is tall, for sad there is happy. For dark there must be light. I wanted to align myself with the God of goodness. I wanted to ask his help.’
‘Oh, Lana. You and all the believers of this world. You pray and you pray and all your billions of unanswered prayers are like wailing cries somewhere. Your God doesn’t exist.’ His voice is so sad.
‘How do you know?’
‘Because if he did the world wouldn’t be the way it is. And even if he does exist he is definitely not the lord of this world.’
I looked up into his face. Already the weight of being the head of the Barrington dynasty is changing the shape of his face.
‘Why do you say that?’
‘Look around you, Lana. The entire planet, land, air and sea, has been poisoned by sheer greed, your food is toxic, you are governed by sociopaths who wage war after war with impunity while promising peace, and humanity itself is poised on the brink of extinction. Who do you think is in charge? Your God of love and light, or mine?’
My eyes suddenly fly off the page. Footsteps. I freeze. Coming this way. Shit. I snap shut the book and look around me. Nearer. I dare not slip under the bed for fear of ruining my dress. I run to the wardrobe. Dresses. Lana’s. I step into it and pull the door behind me, but even before I can click it shut, the door to the room opens and Lana and Blake enter. I close the door very, very slowly until there is but an inch left open. I say a little prayer that they will have no reason to open the cupboard. I find I can watch them through the little slit.
‘Well, what’s the surprise then?’ asks Lana. There is a happy note in her voice. The happiness is surreal after what I read in her journal. There, she had been confused and unhappy, very unhappy.
‘I’ve got a dress for you.’
‘A dress?’ she repeats. She seems surprised.
‘What type of dress?’
‘It’s in the wardrobe, I’ll get it,’ he says and starts walking toward me.
Shit, shit, shit. I squeeze shut my eyes. I’ll tell them I came in here by mistake. I was looking for the toilet.
And then he goes to the door of the other wardrobe. I take a deep breath. My heart is thudding like crazy. Thank God I chose this cupboard and not the other. I see him go towards Lana. The dress is in a green plastic covering. He holds it in front of her.
‘Go on, take a look.’
‘OK.’ She unzips it and gasps at its content. Her eyes fly up to his face. One hand covers her mouth. ‘There was only one in the shop, where did you get it from?’ she asks.
He doesn’t answer immediately. Instead he carefully takes the dress out of its covering. The dress is white with a Mandarin collar, three jewel-encrusted leaf-shaped cut-outs in the chest and slits up the side.
‘Where did you get it from?’ Lana repeats.
‘I dug the other one out of the bin and told Laura I wanted an exact copy made. Exact material, exact color, exact thread, exactly the same stones, and if there was a missed stitch in the original, I wanted that copied too. They had to go to Paris to find the material.’
Lana laughs, surprised, but at the same time pleased. ‘God! How much did it cost?’
‘You don’t want to know.’
‘I can’t believe you went to all that trouble.’
‘You wrote in your journal that you loved it. And I was sorry the moment I tore it. You looked so beautiful that night.’
‘Oh, darling. How I love you,’ she says, her voice breaking. She starts fanning her face with her hands. ‘You’re going to make me spoil my make-up.’
Blake puts the dress on the bed and reaches out for her. She fits perfectly against his body.
‘I’ve got a surprise for you too, but you can only have it tonight,’ she says.
‘Oh yeah? What is it?’
‘It’s a surprise.’
‘You know I don’t like surprises. They make me anxious.’
‘This is a good surprise.’
‘Do you want to see me suffer on my wedding day?’
‘All right,’ she relents. ‘I’ll give you one clue. If you don’t get it you’ll just have to suffer.’
‘Go on then.’
‘Throat,’ he says smugly.
She hits his chest and he laughs. ‘Oh, you spoilsport. I hope you’re happy now that you’ve ruined your wedding night surprise.’
‘Where did you learn to do that?’
‘Billie and I went to special classes in London.’ She looks meaningfully at him.
‘Billie wanted to learn how to deep throat?’
‘Yeah, she said she’d always wanted to swallow a sword.’
Blake laughs and I am struck by how suddenly young and full of life he appears. ‘That girl is incorrigible. What happened to her muscled guy?’
‘Don’t know. He said he’d call after a month, but he never did. Turned out it was just a one-night stand.’
‘Shame. She liked him, didn’t she?’
‘Yeah,’ Lana says thoughtfully, ‘she did.’
‘She’ll find someone else. Anyway, I’ve got a wedding night surprise for you too.’
‘Well, what is it?’
‘I’m not telling and spoiling the surprise.’
‘What? You made me spoil mine.’