“Yes, yes, I get the picture.” David was already on his feet. “Where was she when you saw her? At the school?”
Elizabeth Cameron nodded glumly. “I’m not sure I’d go rushing straight over there, though. She was very, very angry. Speaking as a woman now, not as your attorney…you might want to give her a chance to cool down first.”
“Sound advice, I’m sure,” said David, pulling on his coat. “Unfortunately I’m completely incapable of taking it. You see, Ms. Cameron, the trouble is, I love this woman. And if she doesn’t marry me, I’m going to have to jump out a window. You’ll see yourself out?”
SARAH JANE’S COLLEAGUES HAD NEVER SEEN her so angry. In fact, they’d never seen her angry at all.
Sinéad, the teaching assistant, said, “It’s probably just a misunderstanding.”
Rachel, the headmistress, said, “Take the day if you need to, Sarah. Go and sort it out.”
But Sarah Jane didn’t want to “take the day.” She wanted to take an ice pick to David Ishag’s skull. Yes, theirs had been a whirlwind romance. And yes, in many ways they were still getting to know each other. But if David thought, dreamed, that she was going to begin their marriage by signing some horrible, legal insurance policy, clearly he didn’t know her at all.
The school where Sarah Jane taught was a one-room building, really little more than a long shed, in the heart of the Dharavi slums. Over a million people lived in this fetid network of alleys and makeshift shelters, spread over half a square mile between Mahim in Mumbai’s east and Sion in the west. Two-thirds of that number were children, less than five percent of whom received any formal education at all. The two hundred kids who crammed into Sarah Jane’s school building every day were the chosen few, delighted to be there, eager to learn and, in many cases, remarkably bright. Despite the lack of facilities and the hundred-degree-plus heat in which they worked, Sarah Jane and her colleagues considered theirs to be a dream job.
Meeting David hadn’t changed that. His daily life might have been about as far removed from hers as it could possibly be. But that was one of the things Sarah Jane loved about India. It was a place of extremes, a place where a love affair like theirs might actually work. Of course, it was probably easier for her to take the sanguine view, from the bottom looking up, than it was for David, with the world at his feet. He might be dark-skinned, and have Raj as a middle name, but when it came to living and working among the poor and dispossessed, Sarah Jane was already far more Indian than he was. David had visited Sarah’s school only once. The fear on his face on that occasion as they walked through Dharavi had amused Sarah Jane hugely.
This was his second visit. Walking into the packed schoolroom, he looked even more terrified than he’d looked the first time, but for quite a different reason.
“Can we talk?”
Two hundred chattering kids fell silent in unison. Ms. Hughes’s beau was from another planet, rich and handsome and wearing a suit that none of their parents could have afforded if they’d worked a lifetime.
“Please, Sarah. It’s important. I don’t know what Elizabeth said to you but—”
“Don’t blame your lawyer!” Sarah Jane shot back. “You sent her.”
“I did, yes. But if you’d just let me explain.”
“Fine.” Scared of losing her as he was, David Ishag was no pushover. Pulling a hard wooden chair out from one of the desks at the back of the room, he sat down and folded his arms. “I’ll wait.”
It was a long wait. An hour. Two. Three. The heat was unbearable. David took off his jacket and tie and, eventually, his shoes. He longed to peel off his sweat-sodden business shirt as well, but felt a full impromptu striptease might not help his cause with Sarah Jane at this point. She was having enough trouble holding her class’s attention as it was. If there was one thing young Indians loved, from the mansions to the slums, it was a good soap opera. This afternoon, the CEO of Ishag Electronics was providing it, waiting like a naughty schoolboy to explain himself to teacher.
Finally, class was dismissed. Sinéad and Rachel made themselves scarce. The lovebirds were alone.
“Why did you come here, David? What do you want?”
Anger still flashed in Sarah Jane’s eyes. David chose his words carefully.
“You. I want you.”
“On your terms.” Sarah Jane gathered up her books and started stuffing them furiously into her briefcase.
David put a hand on her arm. “I’m not going to let you go over some stupid miscommunication. I want you, Sarah Jane. On any terms.”
For a moment a look of real sadness crossed her face. “You don’t even know me.”
David recoiled, stung. “How can you say that?”
Because it’s true. Because I barely know myself sometimes. It’s like I’m playing a role, the leading role in my life, but somehow I only received a copy of half the script.
“If you really knew me, you’d know I don’t give a fig about your stupid money.”
“I do know that,” David protested.
“Then why do you need a prenup? You might as well have written me a letter saying ‘I don’t trust you.’”
David tore at his hair in frustration. “I’m worth the better part of a billion dollars, Sarah Jane, okay? Whether you like it or not, that sort of money brings complications. Trustees, shareholders, tax implications. I can’t simply run off and get married without considering my responsibilities.”
“Well, you won’t need to worry about them now, will you? Because we won’t be getting married!”
Not since his college girlfriend, Anastasia, had David had to deal with such an unreasonably stubborn female. Ironically, Anastasia was the only other girl he’d ever been in love with. But when she got pregnant with his child, she had not only refused to marry him, but refused to have anything more to do with him at all, insisting he was “too immature” to be a father. After running back to her parents in Moscow to give birth to a baby girl, she severed all contact. By the time David recovered sufficiently to fly out to Russia and insist on seeing his daughter, Anastasia had gone. No letter, no forwarding address, no nothing.
He was not about to let history repeat itself.
“For God’s sake, Sarah Jane.” Pulling her to him, he refused to let go. “I thought that was what you meant when you told me to ‘sort out the legals.’ It never crossed my mind it would upset you like this.”
“You thought I meant a prenup?”
“The documents Elizabeth brought you today were nothing out of the ordinary. Not for a man in my position. But if I made a mistake, I’m sorry. I do trust you, totally. And I need you to be my wife.”
He kissed her. Despite herself, Sarah Jane melted into him. He was such a good man. So decent. So attractive. So strong. He reminded her of someone, someone she needed to forget. It was all so confusing, so hard to tell right from wrong.
David whispered in her ear. “Please say you’ll marry me.”
“No prenup?” Sarah Jane whispered back.
MATT DALEY SAT ON THE HARBOR wall in Positano, Italy, pulling hunks of bread from a freshly baked loaf and eating them slowly. The bread was delicious, flavored with rosemary and sea salt, soft and satisfying beneath the hard, seeded crust. Matt could have happily wolfed down the lot, but knew he had to make it last.
He’d been in Italy for ten days and his money was running out at an alarming rate. What Raquel had left him after the divorce barely amounted to a deposit on a Hershey bar. What little he had left didn’t go far in a country that charged you two euros just to use a public bathroom and where gasoline seemed to cost roughly the same as liquid platinum. Restaurants were a total no-go. For the last two days Matt had survived on salami sandwiches and water from drinking fountains, but at this point meat of any kind was becoming a luxury—hence the bread-only lunch. He’d already traded in his modest room in a local guesthouse for a hostel, which was half the price but looked and felt like prison, complete with communal showers, bunk beds and a strict midnight curfew. And after all that, he was no nearer finding Lisa’s mystery lover than he had been when he arrived.
On the plus side, the nightmares had at least stopped. If Matt had woken up screaming Lisa’s name at two A.M., the way he had been doing at Claire’s place, he’d have been kicked out of the hostel for sure. It’s because I’m doing something. I’m not sitting on my ass crying, I’m out there, trying to find this bastard, trying to save her. Not that Matt didn’t think about Lisa constantly. But he’d learned to compartmentalize the worst of his terrors. Every hour spent torturing himself about what might have happened to her, or what might be happening to her right now, was an hour wasted. If I fall to pieces, she’ll have no one.