Alexis hated that she was living back at home; she had no option now but to wait patiently for her father to come home from Stockholm. Her anger at him hadn’t dissipated, if anything if was now merging with her anger at Peter and her father was slowly becoming enemy number one. She knew it wasn’t rational, and that everything wasn’t his fault, but she also knew if he hadn’t pulled her back from her trip, then she’d be overseas completely oblivious to Peter Marlow, and quite likely still a virgin. Whenever she thought like that her mind flashed to that turbulent night with him.
It was full of sensual and beautiful moments, then tinged with his rejection, his anger, him not wanting her. He’d promised her nothing, if anything he’d been perfectly honest that what was between them was transient. She was the one who’d rose tinted everything. She knew that. But it wasn’t the ultimate end to their fling that upset her; it was his childish behaviour, his reluctance to acknowledge her, deal with things. It was childish, and he was the preaching about being the adult in the situation. Oh the irony!
As usual, her mother was distracted. Rosa Carmichael was a beautiful woman, from her Mediterranean colouring to her indulgent curves. She was a homemaker, taking pride in creating a home that was welcoming, there was always the smell of something cooking, and she was as adept with pies and casseroles as she was with paella or fish. But her mother was also an idealist, she believed in the sanctity of marriage, she also was the last person that Alexis felt able to confide in at this time. Thankfully she had Henrietta.
Her Dad finally waltzed into the kitchen as she was making a sandwich; her mother was at church meeting and had as usual left the fridge well stocked.
"Lex!" he acknowledged her, heading for the fridge and a cold beer. "Can’t believe you didn’t hang around to see me! Bob said you held up the side! Nice one! I owe you."
When she turned on him, he was drinking gratefully from the bottle, his head tipped back, and she could see he looked tired. But she couldn’t process that, instead fury dropped like a red cloud over her vision, "see you? I should be in Acapulco, relaxing after a trek along the coast. Tomorrow I should be heading to the Yucatan peninsula, to visit Mayan relics. Instead I’m in my parents’ home, alone, as my father forced my hand over this holiday, pleading desperation, no one could save you but me! Then you turn up anyway!"
He shrugged, uncaring, "things change, I dealt with a crisis."
His disinterest only fired her anger even more; he had no care that he’d orchestrated her personal torment. "You could’ve told me, phoned me and told me that my ‘assignment’ was over. Instead you waltz in like that!"
"God Alexis, this is just life, get on with it! You stepped in; I was able to relieve you. Hell you had four days in Sweden for free!"
“Free? Do you have any idea how much the Mexico trio cost me? EVERYTHING I’d saved! That’s gone!”
Oliver laughed, “come on! You have to get over it! I’ll buy you another holiday; just let me know where you want to go!”
He made to leave the room, but she rushed to grab his arm, "get over it? How can I? Well this is the final straw. I thought that if you showed some remorse, apologised, then I might forgive you..." He guffawed loudly as a response, so she continued. "So that’s it, I’ve had it with you. I should’ve done this when you ruined my eighteenth birthday by cancelling my party so we could go to a conference in Paris, on what was it now? Economic trends in sport?"
He shrugged, her anger, disappointment, barely registering, "I’ll be in my office if you need me!" He was dismissing her like a child. The man who had insisted that she was the only one who could replace him at that conference was now dismissing her as a child. Just like Peter had. What was it with men and their contradictions?
She could explode, scream and shout, but that would just be playing into his hands. The truth was life was passing her by, and she’d made so many sacrifices for her family. Today it all changed, she wasn’t Oliver Carmichael’s daughter any more, from now she was Doctor Alexis Carmichael and she was about to get the life and the future SHE wanted. Today she started to get out on her own, independence. No reliance on her parents, and therefore no obligation to fit in with their plans.
An hour of telephone calls and she had lined up several interviews, she wasn’t sure she wanted to stay in London, she’d thought about voluntary work, some time out. But the first thing in her quest for independence that she needed was money, an income. Next was somewhere to live. She’d not live here with her family again. Her mother would be devastated, she hated rattling around in the house without Hen, now she was abandoning ship too.
She finally had a plan, a purpose; the only dark cloud on her horizon was the still unanswered question of Peter. He was unfinished business, if nothing else she wanted to tell him how she felt about his behaviour, THEN she could move on.
Alexis moved most of her things that evening, promising Henrietta that it was a very short term measure. Her sister had married well, Daniel was a lovely man, he worshipped her sister once he realised she was what he wanted, he worked hard in the City and they had a huge house in a more than respectable postcode in London. So, for Alexis, she could hide out in the attic bedroom without disturbing their family life. Not that Daniel saw her as an interference; he was the most easy going and generous man she’d ever met.
Leaving had been a very dramatic event, her mother had cried, her father had seemed stunned, but also sceptical. He seemed to think she’d be home soon, when she needed something. That made her even more determined to get away. The following day, after much deliberating, she’d returned to the house, the afternoon when her father was at his office, her mother shopping, despite having a key, it suddenly felt wrong to be sneaking around the house in their absence. Shaking off the feeling of subterfuge, she made for his office. In the drawer of his desk she found an address book, rifling through it she finally found two Geneva addresses listed next to Marlowe, P.
Back at Henrietta’s she searched them on the Internet, one was in the City, lakeside as he described, the other was in a nearby ski resort, he’d mentioned his love of skiing, so she stored both in her diary. Still not sure what she was going to do about it, about him.
For a few days she prepared for her interviews, searched for somewhere to live and contacted old college friends. She was desperately searching for something, anything to inspire her, give her some direction.
“Who are you kidding?” Henrietta was watching daytime TV when Alexis came in looking for something of vital importance for the fourth time that morning. “You can’t settle on anything. You’re changing everything! Why won’t you admit that you need to speak to Peter?”
Alexis shook her head, “I don’t need to speak to him, I NEED to get a job, I NEED to find a home, I NEED to get out from your house...and I feel like I’m treading water! Seeing him will NOT help here Hen!”
Henrietta looked at her fraught sister with sympathy; she could see how everything was tearing her apart, “Lex...You NEED to know what happened, what went wrong. You can’t live without sorting that out, once and for all! He doesn’t deserve you, but you need to dot the i’s and cross the t’s, don’t you see that?”
When Alexis finally stopped her fruitless search for something that she didn’t really need, and met her sister’s eyes she felt as though the bottom had fallen out of her world. She fought tears, everything was going wrong, and she didn’t need to break down. But as Hen came towards her, placed her arms around her, she couldn’t stop. And it was her own stupidity that was to blame, once she’d relied on him to help her out, and he’d let her down, this was the second time, and it was her fault for letting him back into her life.
Again she was whizzed back to being fifteen, or rather almost sixteen! She’d been a geek at school, she was used to scorn and to be honest it had run off her shoulders like water off a duck’s back. But when the school organised an end of year ball on the night her sixteenth birthday she knew that it was more than just the usual teasing that she was getting. EVERYONE was taking someone, all the cool people in her school were coupled up, and it honestly didn’t bother her until people realised it was her birthday on the day of the ball. Then the teasing started, she was too plain, too tall, too thin, too boring, too geeky...you name it, and she was too ‘it’ to have a date. Alexis wouldn’t have minded, as there was no one in school who she’d want with her in a million years.
But nothing was ever that simple, one day she’d been at the library in town and had bumped into Peter. Someone from school had seen her there, and looking back now she realised whoever it was had been jealous, after all Peter was handsome and older...but it became a stream of gossip through the school that she was ‘dating’ an older man. She was goaded and teased; until it got to the point that if Peter didn’t attend to ball with her on her birthday that she’d never live it down.
It had taken her a long time to pluck up the courage to beg him to come with her, they were close, but Alexis didn’t have the confidence to ask him to be her date, even though that was her idea of heaven. Instead, she told him how awkward things were, and whether it was his masculine desire t be a hero, a knight in shining armour, or merely at attempt to humour her, he agreed to accompany her.
But on the night, dressed to kill in a beautiful dress, heels, she’d even had her hair and makeup done, he didn’t arrive. She forgot the excuse these days, but it hadn’t been anything serious, anything substantial, and it broke her heart, to be let down by him, but also to be left to the lions in such a horrible and heartless fashion. And she’d never forgotten.
Henrietta murmured soothingly as her younger sister finally let go, unaware of the level of sorrow her Alexis was truly suffering. But then she was always the conscientious one, always did the right thing, always carried the weight of the world on her shoulders, why would Henrietta grasp the depth of her sadness. After all it was rare to see her like this, but Henrietta did know that she HAD to deal with all that had happened to her, it was the only way to allow her to move on.
“You going to go see him?” She handed her sister a cup of tea once the flow of tears had been stemmed and Alexis was looking human again.
Alexis sighed, “what good will it do?”
“You can find out whether there’s anything worth fighting over? It’s better than not knowing, surely? If he says no, he doesn’t want anything else, then you can move on je ne regrette rien?”
Despite her initial reluctance, Henrietta helped Alexis organize a flight, and gave her money for a hotel and essentials. Alexis had had all her allowances stopped when she decided to take a year out, and despite her father making her forfeit her holiday he’d not helped her out financially. She was skint. Lex thanked her sister profusely, promising to pay her back. Henrietta just crossed her fingers that Peter Marlow would man up to the situation. Because that was what this situation needed, what she needed...a man!
She landed on Thursday afternoon; it was a week since she’d last seen Peter, six nights she’d slept alone since that night with him. By the time she’d got into Geneva and checked into her hotel she had to dig out more warm layers to counteract the snow, and her watch showed it was almost eight pm.
She didn’t have time for dinner, though she was hungry, realising she hadn’t eaten since breakfast. Lex knew she had to get there, find him now. The reception at her hotel called a cab, and it wound through the city to the address she gave. Most of the city seemed to consist of modern apartment blocks, huge and dominating in size, but when they passed houses they were huge, set along long driveways and rather glamorous looking. After a few minutes she realised they were heading out of town, and that the darkness to her left was actually the impressive Lake Geneva.
As she was absorbing her environment, the car pulled to a stop outside an open gate through which she could see a house, not huge, but it was set in grounds away from the road, and had verandas, balconies, it wasn’t an unassuming house at all. But it wasn’t the house that had her heart in her mouth. It was the man inside.
Stood on the pavement, she looked up at the house that matched the address she had, and suddenly this all seemed ridiculous. He might not even be there! She tried to assure herself, but it wasn’t helping, with shaky legs she made her way across the driveway to the steps that led to the front door.