Peter looked out of his bedroom window and smiled, Bondi Beach! A four month secondment at the University of Sydney was JUST what he needed. His freelance work took him in so many directions, but this was the best yet. He’d visited Australia in his youth, and had great memories of diving the Great Barrier Reef, orange picking in North Queensland, climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and the rather delightful triathlete he’d hooked up with for a few months. But to be here, with the use of an amazing house, with a sea view (if a huge tree hadn’t grown directly across the road), pool, and to be teaching students...well it was just what the doctor ordered. He wasn’t over Alexis, he’d rue his pigheadedness for a long time, but it was easier having physical distance from both her and the memory of her.
Hearing a noise he turned around to see Megan, the guest Geology lecturer at the same college and his new house mate smiling, “you still moping around Pete?”
No one else ever called him Pete, usually he hated it, but it seemed to suit her.
Laughing he shook his head, “think the jetlag fuzz has finally cleared. I hear Bondi is great on a Friday night?”
“Would you like me to show you around Bondi, before our grand Sydney Tour?”
Nodding he followed her out into the street, since he’d arrived two days earlier he’d worked out two things, Megan was expressing an interest in him, and he wasn’t immune to the athletic blonde. She was the exact opposite of tall, dark and curvaceous Alexis, and it was that fact that made this all seem good.
When she smiled it made him smile, since he’d arrived in the house a couple of days earlier she’d been a happy companion, showing him where everything was from pub, to shop, to best cycle route to the university campus. She’d also promised him a guided tour of Sydney the coming weekend. It was too many years since he’d been there as a young hopeful graduate. So he was only too glad that a pretty woman wanted to show him around. That was shallow! He knew that, but he’d been in self induced purgatory for months, maybe moving on was something he needed, and Megan seemed nice.
The bars scattered in the vicinity of the beach were full, despite it being winter, it was a pleasant twenty one degrees. He was comfortable in shorts and flip flops, though some locals seemed a little more wrapped up than that. He supposed they were used to greater heat, but to him this was a nice temperature.
Megan dragged him up to the bar and ordered them beers, though he insisted on paying, and very soon they were sat on stools chatting. That was what he liked about her, they could talk about anything, and it was comfortable. He knew she was from Adelaide, but had been working in Sydney for eighteen months. She was a geologist with a PhD in limestone profiles...or something equally profound, and she’d saved him a two hour journey on public transport by giving him a ride back and forth the campus on those first few days. She’d also pointed him in the right direction to hire a good road bike, and he was heading there first thing in the morning.
He was less forthcoming, he realised that, but Megan seemed happy talking about herself and the world in general, whilst sipping beer as determinedly as him!
Australia! He thought, the answer to all his worries!
Lex looked at the invite, the ticket and sighed, as much as Boris, her boss, would be devastated, she was going home! Just for Oscar’s christening, but she couldn’t wait. The ticket had arrived a few days earlier, Henrietta had planned to get Oscar christened in the autumn, but Daniel sister was graduating from university in the states, and had a ceremony planned for late September, a clash. So they’d changed their date and it was all a little rushed now. Fortunately this was perfect timing for Lex as she was desperate to get home for a break and to catch up with everyone.
She was aiming to stay a week, though the return flight was currently open ended. A rather extravagant gift from her brother in law who’d do anything to keep Henrietta happy, and as a doting dad wanted everyone to be present to celebrate his new son.
At that moment the doorbell rang.
She knew it would be Luiz, he had told her he was calling around. After the debacle that their Paraty weekend had become, Luiz had been reduced to knocking prior to arriving, the key privilege removed. And it was frosty between them.
After the boat trip, back at their hotel room he’d become almost unrecognisable, angry, resentful, and all of it aimed at Lex. He’d said things, accused her of all manner of atrocities, and initially she absorbed the verbal blows, not that she was a doormat and was going to take anything he threw at her, but she knew that if she started a retaliation she wouldn’t know where to stop and it could get ugly.
Despite her efforts, it did.
Luiz was such a confident outgoing man, but this was the second time that some sort of jealousy had reduced him to an insecure and nasty version that uttered nasty and painful barbs that cut her to the core. The accusations...if she hadn’t been a virgin until five months earlier then she’d have maybe understood his comments. But she had been, and she didn’t. And the resentment started to grow.
They ended up driving back to Rio very early the next morning in silence.
That was ten days ago, and though she’d seen Luiz several times, it wasn’t the same. He was apologetic, and he tried really hard, and maybe externally Lex had finally forgiven him, but inside it was different.
Luiz seemed to have settled into a similar familiarity as they’d had before the fight since they’d been back, but she now overanalysed everything he said or did. He didn’t deserve that, but then had been the one to attack her, judge her on two different occasions. She still couldn’t believe they’d bumped into Steve, in a remote part of Brazil, but as Henrietta had gone on to explain, if you check guide books, there are only so many ‘recommended hotspots’ and she’d happened to be at one of them.
Since then they saw each other less often, did less together, and she was far more reserved. But she really wanted to work on things, prior to Peter’s arrival they’d been happy. They had to work through this, that was her mantra. She’d chosen this; this was her selection, her path. She had to make it work.
Pulling open the door she smiled at Luiz, he was a handsome man, tanned skin, chocolate brown eyes, and full lips, with a sigh she offered him inside.
He gave a brief kiss then smiled, “how are things?”
She shrugged, “I’ve been invited home, my nephew’s christening. Do you want to come? You said you wanted to visit London.”
Immediately he stepped back, “I’m not ready to go there. And I have to study.”
“Not ready to go? What does that mean? It’s a virtually free trip to London.”
He shrugged, not giving an answer.
“I don’t know what’s wrong with you! I’m trying to make this right!”
Luiz laughed then, a harsh horrible sound, “and if we sort this then I won’t be the bad guy for a change! How will you cope with that? If we have an equal relationship then I won’t be chasing the doctor who’s FAR too good for me and clearly still in love with someone else, and I also won’t be making up after my ‘behaviour’ when you parade another ex boyfriend in front of me. I am constantly on the back foot Lex.”
Lex felt her jaw drop, “I don’t know what you mean! I’ve been nothing but honest with you Luiz, if you have a problem then it is exactly that, YOURS!”
“Hmm, maybe that’s it; maybe it’s all my fault.” He nodded knowingly, then reached for the front door, “if you still want to see me after your trip home then call me. OK?”
With that he left. Walking out yet again!
The following day a taxi took her to the airport a few hours later, but the sadness was still with her as she landed in Heathrow. Henrietta had promised to meet her there, she’d been SO excited, but as Alexis looked around the arrivals hall, there was no sign of her; instead she eventually spotted Daniel dashing between people looking pale and anguished.
"Hey Dan! Are you ok?" she hugged him gratefully.
He nodded, “I am, but it’s your father. He had a heart attack a couple of hours ago. I need to take you to the hospital."
Alexis didn’t know how to deal with this. She felt as though someone had pulled the ground from under her. She was hoping this was a dream, that she’d wake up on the plane about to land in Heathrow. But Daniel’s pale face, anguish evident on every inch of it told her this was real, this was happening. She’d spent the last five months avoiding her father. Now according to Daniel he was seriously unwell. She was suddenly desperate to see him, and started goading her brother in law to drive faster and faster. London was gripped in the midst of a heavy summer storm, and fortunately he had a calm head and ignored her pleas as he dodged huge pools of water that gathered in the streets. Instead he told her in almost a rehearsed manner the chronological order of events leading up to her plane landing an hour earlier.
He was heading home from work with plenty of time to look after Oscar so that Henrietta could get to the airport, when his phone had rung. It was Oliver himself, calling from work. He told Daniel rather perfunctorily that he was having chest pain, jaw pain, face pain. He’d called an ambulance and wanted Daniel to inform Henrietta as she’d know ‘how to tell Rosa’. It was at that point Daniel looked at her.
“He said at that moment he wished you were there, that you’d know what to do!”
Lex nodded, biting her lip, fighting tears that threatened to fall. He needed her and she wasn’t there. He’d been taken into the assessment unit, and Daniel had had to leave to collect Alexis, but her mother was still at the hospital, Henrietta home with Oscar. Against her wishes. She wanted to be there, but he’d insisted she needed to care for Oscar. Now he doubted that decision.
Lex placed a hand over his on the gear stick, “Dan you’re right, she can’t do anything there. I’ll call her once I know anything. You’ll go to her now?”
He’d pulled up at the hospital entrance and nodded, “yep, keep in touch?”
With a nod she dived out into the rain.