“What is it about stars?” he asks Saint Justa. “Why do you and your sister have those inscriptions about stars? What does it mean?” he says, and soon he realises that he is a man trying to have a conversation with a wall. A wall that very obstinately and definitely is refusing to engage in any (further) dialogue. He shuffles the two metres back to Saint Rufina and manages, “Perhaps you could—” before allowing himself a smile and giving up on any further exchange. “I must be fucking mad,” he whispers to himself. Even so, he removes his sunglasses and tucks them loosely into the pocket of his shirt, clasps his hands together as if in prayer and mouths, “Thank you,” to Rufina and Justa in turn.
He arrives back at the hotel, a melted popsicle of a man, to find Blue sitting out by the pool. His short walk has been undertaken on autopilot; he has no knowledge of the streets he has just walked and if asked to describe the route he has taken since gazing up at Saints Rufina and Justa he would struggle. Blue is wearing a one piece turquoise swimming costume and a wide-brimmed straw hat. Her golden skin glistens as if mirror-glazed. She sees him approach and peers at him over the top of over-large Prada sunglasses.
“Hello, you,” she says. “Where did you get to?”
“Just a walk,” he says. “I thought you were going back to bed. After breakfast.”
“Why would I do that?”
“You did yesterday.”
“Yesterday I was tired, darling. Today I am not. Anyway, surely it’s too hot to be wandering about. Especially in those clothes. I mean, jeans, I ask you.”
“Yes, well. You know how I feel—”
“About men in shorts, yes, yes. It’s just because you’ve never had a decent pair, at least not since the eighties. I bet you dressed like George Michael in the eighties. Sports shorts. Maybe a lemon-coloured jacket with the sleeves rolled up.” She giggles, girlishly, adds, “Budgie smugglers.”
“I might have worn an espadrille,” he says, trying to join in the self-deprecating joke and feeling a slight unease. “And anyway, how did you know that I had a yellow jacket?”
“You’re the type,” she says.
Her name isn’t really Blue. Her name is Daisy. Or at least, her first given name is Daisy. Her full name is Lady Daisy Constance Genevieve Bonham Carter. She is known in some circles, including the lower reaches of the tabloid press, as Lady Daisy; to her friends within the arts community she is Daisy Carter, which, she feels, affords her a certain degree of East London street credibility which in itself opens doors that would, perhaps, remain closed to Lady Daisy, a name which in turn opens doors that would ordinarily remain firmly shut to Daisy Carter. The best of both worlds. Poly-nominal, Blue says, I am poly-nominal. It was on their second date that she revealed to Jay, over espresso martinis and following an encounter with the finest cheeseboard he had ever laid eyes on, that she was distantly, although undeniably, related to the Royal family. “In a ‘the King’s second cousin is my aunt’ kind of a way,” she had said. “Goodness,” Jay had replied. “Blue blooded.”
Up until that moment, he had known her as Daisy Carter and it was now that she chose (now that she felt she could trust this eager as a spaniel, older, still-seemingly-aspirational man, with his emotional sensibilities and his evident adaptability) to reveal to him the full extent of her given name. “That’s lovely,” he had said. “If something of a mouthful. I shall call you Blue.” And she had allowed her cool hand to rest on his across the table, and she had smiled at him in a way that appeared both shy and bold and she had said, “I’ll be your Blue.”