Are you going to save her life by leaving us this week?
She said: ‘Well, that’s concrete enough! This year, next year …’
I said: ‘It’s only his peculiar sense of humour, Lulu.’ I hesitated, another child within another unyouthful and alien body, but at this moment I was too deeply committed to my pity for her to be able to refuse the sacrifice. Huge, defenceless, I said quickly: ‘He’s like that. Last Wednesday he predicted true love running smoothly between Livia and myself.’
Piers said casually: ‘Yes, we’re getting a lot of predictions lately.’
Lulu said: ‘We’ll see if Joe manages to break his. It’s only for next week. I’ve got a year to wait for mine.’
Piers said: ‘Well, six months, anyway. What about it, Joe? Are you going to save her life by leaving us this week?’
In daylight, in vision, the bland callousness of his tone would have been modified by the fractionally lifted eyebrow, the thin lips stretching tightly into a smile. But in the dark there was no such relief; his words conveyed their meaning starkly and without humour.