For a long moment after Mother, Father and India had set off to the awards banquet Bianca stood by the just closed door poised like a cat, eyes closed, listening. After half a minute Mike said her name and she gave him the finger. "Shut the f up," she mouthed silently.
Footfalls sounded in the corridor. Somebody was coming. Bass mumbling was interrupted by Mother's voice: "...Oh nevermind, it's right here in my purse."
Bianca looked at Mike and raised one eyebrow. Mike nodded mutely.
They froze again, listening to their family walk away from the suite a second time. At the edge of strained hearing Mike imagined he could detect the chime of the arriving elevator and the rumble of its doors. Bianca's eyes were closed again, fingers splayed out in space as if they were psychic antennae. Her brow creased briefly when a lone person passed through the corridor outside their room, but Mike knew the stride didn't belong to anyone he knew.
Bianca's eyes snapped open. She crossed the room briskly and tried to open the hermetically sealed window. "F it," she said, and then rummaged through her knapsack and extracted a neat faggot of cigarettes rolled inside the cardboard cover of a school notebook. She lit one with a hotel match and glared at Mike expectantly.
"What?" asked Mike, sitting on the bed, his homework on his lap.
"I'm just waiting for you to start up with what you're going to say about this, so you can get it out of your system or whatever." Bianca blew smoke out of her mouth and inhaled it into her nose in twin silvery streams. She kicked out her hip in that challenging way she used when lying about her chores.
"I'm not going to say anything," said Mike.
"Sure," scoffed Bianca.
"I'll even leave you alone."
"You're going to do your homework in the bathroom?"
"No, I'll leave the room. I'll just go."
"Why would I want you to go? I'm supposed to be in charge of you."
"We both know you want me to go. But you have to do something for me in return."
"Here it comes."
"If Mom and Dad call up to the room and ask you where I am, you just say 'he's right here,' okay?"
"He's right here?"
"He's right here. That's all you have to say. Can you promise? If you promise, I'll leave you alone all night. I just don't want to get in trouble for it. Okay?"
Bianca narrowed her eyes slyly and dragged on her cigarette. "What's in it for me?"
"You get what you want."
"So what's in it for you?"
Mike flushed. "Nothing."
"You're a liar."
"I'm sneaking into the business centre to use the computers."
"Shut up, Mike."
"I'm sneaking into the karaoke bar."
They stared at one another's brown eyes for a moment, pupil to pupil. Mike knew how to see the love between the flecks of resentment in Bianca's gaze, and it comforted him. Finally Bianca blinked and began to nod. "It's a deal. Now get the f out of here."
Mike snapped closed his textbook. "I'm already gone."