BEFORE falling asleep, Vince had asked Nancy if she had seen the film Misery. The remark stung. ‘No,’ she had replied to his sleeping face. ‘But did anyone tell you, Mr. Jonas that you snore?’ she had then gone down to wheel his chair behind the bins to get wet in the rain.
Vince had not moved when she served breakfast the next morning. Cannes would not have found him in a more wholesome state – no narcotic, no alcohol to taint his bloodstream, only the surrender of a heavy head to a soft pillow. She liked seeing him like this. She quietly lowered his tray onto the dresser and went downstairs. Once in the kitchen, she went over Vince’s drinks trolley with disinfectant. She did not hear the approach until soft cockney broke the silence. ‘How’s Mr. Jonas doing?’
Nancy paused in spraying again. ‘Okay,’ she replied.
Henry’s garden boots shifted to her right. ‘Good.’ The smell of engine oil wafted over her. ‘Y’ know, I…I don’t like the stuff that goes on here…I don’t like the yes-people that buzz around Mr. Jonas like flies round shit. But you got him outta bed. You’ve got him biting. That’s gotta be good.’ Henry coughed and his voice took a lower cadence. ‘What I’m tryin’ to say, Nora, is I’m gonna do my best to take care of stuff here. I’ve worked for Mr. Jonas for years. Nobody will be bugging you.’ No shift in boot this time. ‘You can continue giving Mr. Jonas his treatment. You needn’t worry about a thing.’
The muscles in her shoulders stiffened. Nancy gave the trolley another spray and drew the cloth over the lower shelf. Henry’s shadow retreated.
Ladened with fresh dressings and antiseptics, the trolley rattled back to a spot overlooking the fragmented face of Big Ben. The child within itched to connect a few pieces, but resisted until Vince jointed her. Nancy went back up to the utility room to gather fresh towels. Vince’s room remained silent on passing. She approached the window. Would she spot Henry’s rake, his strimmer, a spade? No but this did not guarantee Henry wouldn’t cross paths with her again. She hoped he would busy himself in a plot of Vince’s grounds to make the prospect unlikely.
Nancy backed from the window in time to see a shadow next to her Punto. Her breaths condensed upon the window, where the front grille of a red BMW convertible emerged. A buzzer sounded somewhere downstairs. Nancy dropped the towels and darted to the head of the landing just as Amy entered the foyer.
Angry Spice draped her leopard-spotted coat over the Newell post and as though by magic Henry appeared from beneath the stairs. He glanced Nancy’s way in a complicit signal. Amy unwound her silk scarf to join her leopard-spotted coat as though the mistress of these premises. The Tudor walls amplified her nasal exhalations to convey that the job of Mr. Jonas’ PA a busy vocation. Her hair now in a doughnut bun glinted violet, like her lipstick, which stretched into a formal smile on spotting Henry. ‘Good morning, Henry,’ she breezed.
Henry cupped the elbow patches of his jumper in an attempt to appear casual. ‘Good morning, Amy. I…I didn’t expect you today.’
‘Traffic was bloody murder. Put the kettle on will you?’
Henry lingered, torn between Amy’s request and the present situation. Amy didn’t notice. She opened her handbag and reapplied lipstick through a small mirror on a flap. She glanced up and her eyes latched onto Nancy’s form at the top of the stairs. In mid-application, Amy’s face froze. The lipstick continued to complete a slow lap of her lower lip before the cylinder fell into her bag. Amy engaged the clasp with a rap. ‘What the hell is she doing here?’
Henry continued to pet the elbow patches of his jumper. ‘This is Mr. Jonas’ nurse.’
Amy’s heavy-lidded eyes did not move from Nancy’s ‘I think we both know that’s questionable, Henry don’t we?’ And then her eyelids lowered to a Cleopatra lour. ‘I thought Mr. Jonas was supposed to be in Cannes today.’
Nancy’s returned a smile she didn’t feel ‘I decided he should not go. He is sleeping and should not be disturbed.’
Amy’s lips pulled tight. ‘Don’t give me that. He never sleeps past six.’ She gathered her bag and boarded the first riser. Nancy rested her palm upon the upper balustrade. Amy read the signal and took a pause. ‘You’d better move it, Nursey.’ To her left, Henry’s eyes continued to flirt with Nancy’s, his moist lips twirling. Wild orchid body spray prickled the air preceding Amy’s ascent. After a deliberate trek, Amy rounded the corner. Nancy realised she could do nothing. Amy’s gait conveyed the belief PA outranked nurse. Amy apparently outranked everybody here except Mr. Jonas. Still, Nancy didn’t step aside as Amy’s eyes, like her form, brushed past, seeing this nurse unworthy of words or a glance. Only Vince’s door now existed in Amy’s eyes. Angular knuckles rapped upon wood. Amy and her polka dot dress slunk into Vince’s room. Nancy watched her go. Below, Henry’s presence weighed heavily. Nancy kept her eyes lowered; her twirling thumbs the only movement in the room. Nancy was not finished here unless Vine himself authorized the phone call.