If only I could help her, but I don’t see how I can. I can’t take her pain on board, as I could with a piece of her knowledge, but even if I could do this, it probably wouldn’t do any good, as I suspect that there would then just be two people who felt it, instead of one person. The pain isn’t mine, but hers specifically, it seems.
As I tuck in, wondering whether that booze-buying was a handy pretence for Kim to make a private phone call to Lucan outside, Shigem enters the room, hands us mugs of coffee and sits on a box, sipping his own. His long black hair with its platinum-blond highlights has been restyled to hang down in front of his cheeks. “You know, I got the funniest call from Lucan,” he says, awkwardly. “Well, not so funny, because he ended it by saying, ‘Have a nice day, Shigem, it may be your last.’ But before that little gem, he said that you, Jaymi, offered money to Kim for his permission to spy into me and him.”
Woops, here we go… I shake my head, smiling.
“Well, I knew it must have been bullshit, of course,” continues Shigem, “and I told him so. But then he described a scene from a dream I had recently, about Kim and me meeting someone called the Mint Man, and I know that the only person I’ve ever told that dream to was Kim. Lucan described it precisely and he even quoted something I said in the dream; it was pretty creepy. So of course it’s made me a bit insecure about Kim, but I haven’t said anything about it to him and I don’t think I shall. I just want to forget it.”
Last night in Paradise I saw that his and my unverbalised but powerful bond has brought him to a half-knowledge, or at least an assumption, that I passively tune in to him, even though he’s never been told I have such an ability. He’ll now be assuming, then, that I must have been the source of Lucan’s knowledge about the Mint Man. This anguishes me, because my telling Lucan about something in Shigem’s imagination would of course have been a considerable and possibly dangerous betrayal of Shigem. I wish I could tell him now that the way Lucan found out about the Mint Man was through a wrong DVD that was deliberately given to him by Alaia; but I can’t, because Evelyn is sitting beside me and she has been kept ignorant of this. I feel a stab of sudden hatred for Alaia, for putting me in this position.
I have to start saying something here. Gentle but questioning, Shigem’s eyes are staring directly out at me from behind the front-most strands of his restyled hair, and this very arrangement itself gives me an idea. Our positions are such that I know Evelyn can’t see his eyes if he’s looking in my specific direction through just that narrow gap between hair, so I can risk causing a flash of surprise in his eyes, and so I do exactly that: I give him a sudden, clear wink with the eye further away from Evelyn, and then a split-second later I gesture towards her with an almost imperceptible but precise head movement, all while I’m half turned away from her. “I know,” I say, “maybe you told someone about this Mint Man one night when you were drunk, and you don’t remember doing so! It must have been relayed somehow to Lucan—you know how rumours travel—and he thought that feeding it back to you was a good way to fuck with your head. He enjoys doing that, have you noticed? He may even have overheard your actual drunken telling of it… Ever been tipsy in Downstairs?”
I remember, too late, that he doesn’t go to Downstairs. But bless him, I love him, because he’s running with this: “Once or twice, yeah,” he says, and he may as well have said OK, so Lucan’s knowledge did originate from you, but I trust you that there was a reason you can’t say right now.
In the hallway as we all hug goodbye, I whisper into Shigem’s ear, I can explain!
As his beautiful warm brown eyes smile into mine from close up, there flickers something of our magical communion on the dance-floor, before he contrives a moment later to whisper with equal quietness back into my ear, You don’t have to, Jaymi—I totally trust you.
We disengage from our embrace and look away from each other, both sharply conscious of our unspoken knowledge that this may, suddenly, be our last moment together for many years—or even perhaps forever.
I follow Evelyn out through the front door, turn to wave to both of them together, and turn away again.
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