The next day Alexis was involved in a particularly taxing immunization project, everything was done through an interpreter, which made things so much more difficult, and time consuming. She had a raging headache and was particularly tired when she got in.
She’d barely climbed out of the shower when there was a knock at the door. Wrapped in a towel, another wound around her hair, she opened it to find Luiz there smiling.
"Hey! You look tired!" He was astute if nothing else!
She nodded, "sorry, been a busy day. I’ve only just got home!"
He leaned against the door frame, "that’s ok. You look too tired to go out. I’ll go get us some take away and some wine or beers?"
Smiling she looked at him, loving his insight, she’d have forced herself out, but the effort may have made her not the best company! "Thanks Luiz, that would be wonderful!"
Lex was more refreshed when he returned, dressed in comfy denim shorts and a t-shirt with her hair partly dried. He’d brought burgers and fries from a local grill house, and they were greasy yet rich, and covered in cheese. They sat on the small veranda with the smells and sounds of Copacabana drifting up to enclose them, and to Alexis it was the best meal she’d ever tasted, and was perfect washed down with the ice cold beers.
Luiz was funny, enthusiastic, and he let her relax and listen, which was exactly what she needed.
They sat later on the sofa talking, and Luiz once again inched closer to capture her lips again. After a few moments of pleasant, passionate kissing, he pulled back.
"I really like you!"
She smiled, "thank you. I like you too, but I am mixed up at the moment."
He groaned, "Is it another man?"
Shrugging she tried to keep things light, "it’s over, but I may need time to clear my head."
He reached out and cupped her cheek thoughtfully, "So we just need to see where this heads?"
As she nodded again, she was overwhelmed by him, mouth seeking, tongue tasting, and as his hands started to climb her body, she had to physically fight the visions of Peter that wafted into her brain. Shaking her head, she tried to bury her demons, once and for all, by leaning forward, pushing him back into the cushions, devouring him as urgently as he’d kissed her. Within in moments, they were surrounded by piles of clothes, naked in each other’s arms, Luiz’s dark toned body a stark contrast to her soft pale one. He was enthusiastic, wanting to please her, with a sigh; Alexis succumbed to his touch, his pressure and finally his joining to her.
So much for taking things slowly.
Peter was thinking of giving up work. There was no way he could concentrate, let alone work. He’d spent weeks skiing and snowboarding, but now as the weather was changing, even that as an avenue was becoming exhausted, not that it helped anyway. He was sure he’d paced trenches into the floor boards in his house with his insomnia and inability to focus. Since Alexis had entered his house, she’d forever branded his home with images of her, forlorn, desperate...and SO much braver than he’d ever been. And now she’d gone. She was halfway across the globe, all because he’d forced her away. Snubbed her when she’d turned up, heart on her sleeve. He was right she was the bravest person he knew. And he was the weakest.
He collapsed onto the sofa his face in his hands, she’d picked through the remnants of their Stockholm interlude and realised that she wanted him regardless of how he’d behaved. And he didn’t deserve that adoration. What did he want? Her! That was easy, but a dozen failed relationships and a chip of guilt on his shoulder the size of Australia all made him think that she deserved better. He was tarnished, damaged, with more baggage than Heathrow airport! He was thirty one, jaded, and unable to hold down a relationship. She was twenty three, fresh, vibrant...in no parallel universe was he worthy of her.
But he couldn’t let her go, everywhere he went, everything he saw, he wanted to do and share with her. If she was settled and over him then maybe that was a good thing, maybe he could put this to bed. Though if she still wanted him? Could he get over his block?
There was only one option open to him, and that was to contact Henrietta. If the girls were still as close as they were as children, there was every chance she’d know that entire he’d done, but most importantly she’d know where her sister was. It was like a strike of lightning hitting him, he HAD to see her. He needed to clear the air and maybe then he could get back on with his life. With or without her.
He’d read in a London newspaper a few months ago that Henrietta and Daniel, a City banker, had had a son. So he sent his secretary out to a very plush Geneva boutique to spend a ridiculous amount of money on a gift. The Swiss did gifts, and more importantly gift wrapping like no one else!
Two days later once he’d managed all his commitments, he stood outside Henrietta’s Kensington town house and knocked the door. He was anxious, nervous, but he had to get over that, so as he heard the door unlock, he tried to keep a smile on his face.
"Peter?" Henrietta exclaimed seeing the gaunt man on the doorstep. He was the least likely person she’d envisaged the other side of her front door.
"The very same!" He offered meekly.
"Well at least you look as if being a complete bastard doesn’t agree with you!"
She’d never been one to pull her punches, he tried to smile at her honesty but failed, "I need to see her Henrietta, I can’t cope."
Henrietta sensed victory on behalf of her younger sister, and pity for this crushed man, "You’d better come in!"
He handed her the huge elaborate gift, and she accepted with gratitude before leading him into a lounge where a two month old baby boy was lying on the floor kicking his legs animatedly.
Cooing to the baby for a moment, she turned to Peter and offered him a seat. "I don’t think she'll want to see you. You hurt her. She hasn’t even seen Oscar because of her desire to leave all these memories behind."
He nodded, "I know. I was a bastard. But I need to speak to her, just deal with it all. She caught me out arriving on my doorstep, and I wasn’t the most tactful."
She nodded, just as the door opened and Daniel emerged from the kitchen. "Marlow! Long time no see!"
The men shook hands, and Daniel tactfully retired to the kitchen to make coffee.
"She was devastated Peter, and I don’t think she’s up to seeing you again. Unless you’ve decided what you want!"
When he didn’t answer she added, “why should I tell you where she is for you to go out and hurt her all over again? She’s moving on, she’s happy. She doesn’t need you changing that again!”
“Is she? I hope she is. But I have to tell her why I behaved like that. I have to tell her the truth."
“Do you even know the truth?”
He laughed, “you never made things easy for anyone Henrietta!” She laughed as he added, “I’m trying to work things out, my head is screwed, that doesn’t change, but I need to speak to her, offer her all that I can.”
Henrietta appreciated his honesty, it couldn’t be easy for him, and the chances were after telling her this, he may actually be honest with Alexis. She studied him for a long moment, then stood to open a drawer in a sideboard. Scribbling for a few seconds, she handed him an address in Rio.
"She’s there. She was due to be home soon, but is talking about an extension. Nothing to come back for apparently."
He sighed with relief, gratitude, “I have to go to her. Please don’t tell her I’m coming."
Henrietta thought for a while then nodded, "ok. But you hurt her Marlow and I will personally cut your balls off, you hear?"
Daniel returned with the coffee and the two men discussed mutual acquaintances, before Peter thanked them then left.
As Daniel returned from seeing Peter out, he turned to his wife and asked, "Shouldn’t you have told him that she’s met someone else?"
Henrietta vehemently shook her head, "my sister is hiding in Brazil because she’s still in love with that man and can’t bear to be here without him. So he deserves to see things EXACTLY how they are! Maybe the shock will get his head from out of his arse and he’ll actually do the right thing."
"And if she chooses Luiz? Chooses Rio?"
Henrietta let a little gasp betray her supreme confidence, then with a shake of the head she turned to her husband, "it’s meant to be, they belong together. I’ll bet my life on that!"
Peter’s next port of call should have been Oliver’s; he should have gone there and stated his intentions. After all it had been Oliver’s warnings that had driven him away all those years before, and even now it was him knowing what had happened that had scared him off. He really did need to grow the pair of balls Alexis talked about and gone straight to the Carmichaels, instead he decided to go straight to Alexis, he convinced himself that this was because he was desperate to sort this out, but in all honesty it was more about picking his battles, with Alexis at his side then he had so much more weight in explaining things to Oliver. Hell for a moment he thought he could take on the world with her at his side.
Peter flew straight to Brazil the next day. Halfway into the journey he suddenly realised his overnight bag for a few days in London was woefully inadequate for a short stop in a very hot and humid country. But he couldn’t think about that now. He’d acted in impulse, him the over thinker and taken the bull by the horns. It literally was now or never. He’d buy a new wardrobe there if he had to! But as the flight continued he became more enthusiastic than previously, by the time they landed he was beginning to believe that Alexis might actually give him the time of day.
But nothing prepared him for stepping out of the airport into virtually a hundred percent humidity that was like a physical wall. With a groan he grabbed his bag and made for the taxi rank. The car wove erratically through the suburbs, taking corners at forty miles per hour, and undercutting buses, all very terrifying, but Peter was feeling alive, for the first time in years, and with wide eyes he took in every inch of the city as it sprawled in front of him.
The Copacabana beachfront hotel was amazing, with a huge marble fronted reception that was thankfully air conditioned and almost arctic cold. With a sigh of relief and an adjustment of the clothes that were stuck to his damp body he made for the desk to check in.
Marta the receptionist was very helpful, and once he’d explained his predicament, that he really only had sweaters, jeans and boots with him, she checked him into his room, then directed him to a local boutique. Another perfectly air-conditioned place that stocked a huge range of t-shirts, shorts and flip-flops. After buying lots, and spending very little, Peter made for the hotel and the roof top pool.
After a swim he was finally starting to feel human again, acclimatised to the heat, so he went back to his room and took a nap. He knew that Alexis would be working so there was no point in doing anything until the evening. Sleep was a more than welcome thought.
After dinner, Peter dressed in knee length shorts, a dark t-shirt and flip-flops, and headed out for the short walk to the address Henrietta had given him.