By Blood We Live Page 56

THEY TELL ME STORIES BUT I DON’T LIKE THEM.

WHAT STORIES, BABY?

ABOUT JESUS IS MY FRIEND. WHO IS JESUS?

You forget they’re three years old. You forget all the shapes of the world they don’t know.

HE’S LIKE PETER PAN. I’LL TELL YOU LATER.

DON’T GO! MOMMY!

Because Salvatore had opened the door and our bodies knew separation was coming again.

“Let me stay with her,” I said, with my back to him. Her tears were wet on my neck. “What possible difference can it make?”

“That’s not permitted yet,” the Cardinal said. “The environment we’re creating for you—the set, I suppose we should call it—isn’t quite ready. And in the meantime you and I both know you’ll be more biddable if we keep you separate. It’s just to ensure your cooperation in this unfortunate interim. I’m sorry, but that’s the way it is. Don’t make me behave brutally.”

Oh, I’m going to kill you, you fucking idiot, I thought. You fucking nothing.

ZOË, LISTEN TO ME. I’LL COME FOR YOU. BE BRAVE FOR JUST A LITTLE LONGER. I PROMISE I’LL COME.

DON’T GO! PLEASE!

REMEMBER HOW I TOLD YOU LORCAN HAD TO BE BRAVE WHEN WE LOST HIM FOR ALL THAT TIME? THIS IS YOUR CHANCE TO BE LIKE THAT.

All the engines of her infancy saying No … No … No …

CAN YOU TRY? JUST FOR A LITTLE WHILE?

The two guards were standing over us. The silver in the magazines was making her frown, though she didn’t know why.

ANGEL, CAN YOU?

YOU COME SOON.

It was killing her. I could feel the size and threat of the world to her without me in it. She was small and afraid. The impulse to attack Salvatore was all but overwhelming. But it was like pain. There was nothing to do but bear it.

YOU COME SOON, MOMMY.

How could she do this? How could I have given birth to something that could summon this much courage? My heart was breaking. I thought I wouldn’t be able to bear it. The inches then feet then yards and walls and closed doors that would come between us. I thought I wouldn’t be able to bear it.

YOU PROMISE YOU’LL COME SOON?

I WILL. I WILL, ANGEL, I PROMISE. GIVE ME A KISS.

Her little face was hot and soft, her lips like furled buds. She was scrunching my shirt in her fists.

One of the guards rested the muzzle of the Uzi very gently on my shoulder.

51

THAT NIGHT I had the dream about the vampire again, in a more confused form, with the beach and twilight and the extraordinary fucking all mixed together, his dark face repeatedly in close-up saying something I couldn’t understand. I felt sick with pleasure yet death was a stink wrapped around it, woven through it. The landscape was remote, otherworldly, like something in an old science fiction magazine, Weird Tales. His face kept pushing me right to the edge of waking with what it was he was saying that I couldn’t understand, until eventually I woke myself up saying it myself: I’m coming for you.

I’d sat up involuntarily on my bunk. My face was full of panic. In the dream I’d suddenly shouted it: I’m coming for you! But of course in reality it had been a mumbled whimper. Enough, nonetheless, to bring the guard to his feet. He was a tall skinhead with long wrists and large hands and big, dreamy grey eyes. Not thrilled with this duty, I could tell. Held the automatic rifle a little too tightly. I hoped he hadn’t made out what I’d said.

I’m coming for you.

Impossible to quell the mix of scepticism and excitement. Scepticism because he had, after all, said much the same before—I’ll see you again—but two years had passed without it happening, and excitement because my body was alive with the dream’s instilled conviction, a whirl of butterflies around my heart. I’m coming for you.

Jake and my mother in the afterlife casino were available, of course, smiling and shaking their heads, clinking glasses (a Mai Tai for my mother, a Macallan for Jake) in delighted incredulity and saying: Really, Lu? Dreams? Dear oh dear oh dear …

But my palms were wet (as, with characteristic contempt for my predicament, was my cunt; the dream hadn’t neglected its other business), my blood electric.

The guard was staring at me. A look of fascination that was part fear, part revulsion, part something else. An all but dead aspect of me wondered, wearily, if I’d had my hands down my pants in my sleep.

“What the fuck are you looking at?” I said to him.

He didn’t respond, but his knuckles blanched around the automatic. If the weapon had had a voice it would have said, Ow, you’re hurting me!

“I never forget a face, you know,” I said, scraping the damp hair back off my forehead. “Seriously, we’re like elephants.”

His lips moved. He was saying something to himself. A prayer, I realised, when he sat down, carefully, and took a rosary of amber beads from his pocket.

Two more days passed. Same dream, every night. Same unhinging response of conviction and self-ridicule. I was allowed a few minutes each day with Zoë, who was miserable, and who had, whether she liked it or not, begun to get slightly interested in the stories about Jesus. Especially the raising of Lazarus and the healing of the lepers and the wedding feast at Cana. I had a disgusted admiration for the nuns, who had simplified things down to a level a three-year-old could understand—albeit with the aid of large picture books they held up for Zoë to look at, from the safe side of the chalk semi-circle.

Every waking minute I thought something would reveal itself that would help. A soft guard. A clue to the way out. An opportunity to grab one of the automatics and take my chances. But the minutes passed, and the math remained the same.

Then, on the third night, Lorenzo came to see me.

The guard he relieved seemed a little confused, but after a quiet confab slouched away down the corridor.

“I don’t have much time,” Lorenzo said. Italian, yes, but very good English. He was flushed. Sweat freckled the line above his top lip. “You must listen to me. I can help you.”

I looked up at the CCTV camera on the corridor wall.

“It’s all right,” he said. “It doesn’t work. None of them do. Nothing in here works.”

“Me and my daughter,” I said. “Whatever you want, but it’s both of us. Got it?”

“I can’t guarantee it,” he said, with a touching honesty. “But I can get you out of the restraints and I can give you a gun. I can also tell you a way out that will not be heavily guarded.”

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