He waited just outside the door, chain-smoking cigarettes in the dark, the night she came home in the first of the white dresses. The speech he'd been reviewing – where have you been, you shouldn't run off without me – fell to the ground with his cigarette. "What the bloody hell is this then? White? Lace? The innocent look doesn't suit, Dru."

Her hand trembled and he wrapped his dark coat around her. "Sorry, pet. I was worried is all. I didn't know where you'd gotten to." He held her until the tremblings stopped and tried to pretend he hadn't felt them.

"It's not innocence," she told him. "White is temporary: as quick as a lightning flash, or like the moon in the sky, waxing and then waning away, or even like the sun's feeble light overwhelmed by the dark that stretches out forever."

He hugged her more tightly to him. "You're not temporary, love. You're eternal, you are."

She patted at his cheek. "Not me, silly. It speaks in symbols. I had to show it that I am vast and dark and unstoppable, and that it is nothing more than a mere flash of light."

"I'm afraid I don't understand, love."

Her hand stared trembling again. "The disease," she said. "I had to show it that I'm stronger, or it'd never leave me alive."