Vince nodded. A small nod. A mere slit of eyeball was visible beneath an indifferent lid. Nancy couldn’t tell whether Vince hung onto the suited man’s every word or was not really listening. Vince’s forehair clung to his brow in small fronds and his skin possessed a pomegranate tinge.
He had nodded. He had understood.
‘What the hell do you think you’re doin’?’ Angry Spice gusted into Nancy’s ear.
Nancy didn’t turn. She clutched her bag. ‘Mr. Jonas?’ Her voice did not sound her own.
‘I asked you a question, Cheap Shoes!’
The besuited man, silver-haired and clipped beard did a take. His hawkish eyes did a disdainful meander from Nancy’s head to her toes. The physio, lost in his task, proceeded to lift Vince’s right leg again for a repetition. Vince remained in an apparent fug. But in a gruff whisper, his words gathered. ‘Amy, I told you no one from the press is to disturb me.’
‘I…I’m sorry, Mr. Jonas.’ Amy Spice betrayed a quaver within her customary self-assurance. ‘I can promise you this will never happen again.’
The pressure in Nancy’s chest exploded. Her eyes steadied upon Vince’s dressing on his throat and gravity kept shifting from one foot to the other.
Amy cut Nancy’s reverie. ‘You just got yourself a P45, Missy,’ she spitfired. ‘Time to meet your fate in the form of Mr. Blakemore downstairs. He’s dyin’ to meet you.’
‘Not now, Amy,’ Vince grunted.
Momentary silence before Amy piped up, ‘But Mr. Jonas…’
‘My solicitor has enough on his schedule at this time.’
The besuited man, Vince’s accountant, Nancy presumed, drew his eyes away, seeing nothing more of interest here. The physio continued to manipulate Vince’s right leg in a wholly proper manner.
Amy’s superior tone regrouped. ‘It’s time to sling your ‘ook, but if I ever see your cheap shoes here again, I will call the police myself and have you up for trespassing.’
Throughout Amy’s threat, Vince continued to stare ahead, eye slitted with indifference. And then feeling Nancy’s scrutiny, he rotated his torso and looked at her. His expression did not change yet his gaze had transmuted to a skulking appraisal. His red-rimmed eyes were haunted, his pupils huge.
How deep is your love?
Nancy shuddered. This time he took her in. He would know her from this point on. But Nancy stood on a knife edge of wanting him to recognize her and not wanting him to recognize her at all. His trip to the unknown had imposed a vigilance upon him. He had been to hell and now he appraised her from haunted eyes, violet-rimmed and hooded.
Vince restored his former posture, unceremonious to rest his shoulders upon the cushions. ‘Check the schedule, Amy. Cancel the two-o’clock meeting. No more visitors today.’
Amy’s tone was crisp. ‘Sure thing, Mr. Jonas.’
Nancy’s speech centre short-circuited; her windpipe became a tube of elastic bands pulling inwards, tighter, tighter.
Amy took her by the elbow but Nancy’s leg muscles had numbed over with apathy. Her right ankle keeled over.
The doorframe, floor and Amy’s clasp offered no support. Nothing here could stop a brickload of desolation from tumbling upon her. She could imagine nothing more repugnant than uttering the words, ‘do you not remember me?’
Nancy clenched her teeth and allowed Amy to usher her past the wheelchair and back down the stairs. Nancy cared little that Amy thought Nancy was a stalker or a crazed fan. Let Amy see Nancy’s hair tumble, let Amy hear the soft hitching at the back of Nancy’s throat.
Once Nancy’s heels had landed upon the marble tiles below, Nancy managed to raise her had. The elastic bands encircling her throat constricted her words. ‘I can take it from here,’ she uttered. And Nancy pulled her elbow away.
Amy’s black eyes remained unimpressed but she walked in front and grabbed hold of the handle before opening the door.
Nancy let herself out.