Silly Games

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Part Ten

Laura slept in, not because she was shattered, but more that she didn’t want to face her folks. She’d stormed to bed after snarling at Adam, and hadn’t opened the door since. She couldn’t contemplate all that had happened, and to be truthful she kept imagining that she’d wake up and find out it was all a dream, thought she knew that is wasn’t. Saying that she wasn’t particularly proud of her behaviour, and as she lay in bed trying to sleep she was aware that she probably appeared like the spoilt child her father had accused her of being. The last thing she wanted was to find herself ostracised from the people she wanted to protect by her own behaviour. No she had to find a new plan.

At ten am she had to leave her bedroom there really was no other option, teleport didn’t exist, and she couldn’t magic herself back to West Wales, so she had to face the music. Nothing else to do.

Maggie Marshall was pinned up against the work surface, Stafford wedged between her thighs, their lips and tongues entwined. Fortunately both were dressed and this was little more than a very romantic kiss, but Laura still felt both in the way, and a little sick when she witnessed it from the kitchen doorway. Hearing her, both parents looked up and smiled, but neither attempted to untangle themselves from the other.

                “Guys! I’m your daughter! Time and place!” She mumbled as she made for the fridge and some orange juice. When she turned around her mother was watching her, a spaced out look on her face, her father was guzzling coffee.

                “Laura, you are an adult! Get over it! See you later?” There was question in his voice and she merely shrugged. She had originally intended to stay another night, but now wasn’t so sure.

As he left, her mother smiled at her, “sorry darling, I know that’s not nice to see!”

Laura lowered her glass and sighed, “Well I love the fact that your relationship is still strong, but I’d rather hear about that than see it!”

Maggie chuckled, “so you’re staying tonight? I’m so glad. We are doing dinner, the Savoy. Your father wants to introduce Adam to some friends.”

Laura couldn’t disguise the groan that the news elicited. More pomp and pretence and more of that awful man that was supposedly her father’s son. She shuddered for a moment, and when she looked up her mother was watching her intently, “he’s a nice man Laura, you really need to start accepting that!”

Laura groaned, “he’s nothing to me Mum, I’ll be civil for Dad’s sake, but that’s as far as it goes. Now I need to get something to wear tonight, I didn’t bring anything worthy of the Savoy.” She hid the grimace at the thought of yet another expensive purchase, she was usually so thrifty but this last month had eaten into all her reserve. 

                “I’ll come with you, take you to this little boutique I frequent. You’ll love it!”

Later that afternoon her father called to say they’d been delayed at golf, nineteenth hole more like it, Laura knew her Dad too well. So it was left to the two women to make their way alone.

She’d bought a beautiful dress, another purchase that would have little use back in Wales, but it was glamorous in an understated way. It was hard to find a dress style that flattered her wide hips and small breasts, but this red strappy dress was perfect. Fortunately her mother had a pair of shoes that matched exactly, and the combination made her legs look interminably long. They were by far her best asset, and when she wore the tight elegant dress she felt confident, and that was important for another evening in the presence of the imposter.

Her father had sent a limousine to pick them up, and the two women floated into the reception of yet another beautiful hotel. As usual the staff were impeccably dressed and beyond courteous, for a moment Laura found a moment of introspection, it was almost ironic that she was so relaxed and at home in this environment when she chose to live her life in such a diversely opposite way. She didn’t miss this - the extravagance, because with it came a certain amount of bullshit, everyone here wanted nothing more than to please them, but purely because they were paying way over the odds for a night out. But it didn’t mean that she didn’t like being spoilt, that was the irony and fickleness of it all she supposed.

Taking a deep breath, she followed her mother across the reception to the pre dinner bar. There sat facing the door, observing everything was Adam, his eyes flared as he spotted her, but a slight incline of the head was the only sign of acknowledgement. To his right was her father, loving the stage of introducing his son to the World. Joining them was his greatest golf buddy Marty Blanchett his wife Sophie and his son and golf partner Stuart. He was a recent widower losing his wife to cancer, and he was now brining up his two children alone.

Laura sighed when she saw him then broke into a smile as she exchanged pleasantries and asked about the children. Then she was swamped by the elder Blanchetts, it was a long time since she’d last seen them.  By the time she was greeted formally by Adam, despite those brooding eyes never leaving her, she was fraught. Then from behind the man mountain of her ‘brother’ appeared the little weasel that was Jonathan Lander, her ‘blind date’ from a few weeks earlier. Her upbringing forced her to hide the roll her eyes were desperate to make, and Adam’s perception and obvious humour at the situation only inflamed her more.

How dare her father persist with this blatant set up? Especially when she was having to deal with the new addition to her family. This was her father really not thinking about her. With a graceful nod of the head she acknowledged the other man and shook his hand, then moved to stand beside her mother. Laura knew that next to her enigmatic mother she paled into insignificance. A place she liked to be.

But she hadn’t countered on Adam, watching her, mocking her at every turn, and he more than infuriated her.

Adam himself was struggling to keep up with the mechanics of the night; Stafford had been everything he’d hoped his father would be. It had been such a shock at thirty two to find out that his father wasn’t his father. As he’d watched Mike Purcell slip away from life prematurely at just sixty, he’d been upset, thought them man was a long way from being a caring, loving man, but then the following day his mother had confessed her huge secret. She’d had an affair, or rather a lot less than that. A one night stand with Stafford Marshall. She’d been married to Mike for four years at the time and they’d both wanted a child, but it seemed they weren’t having much luck. That had led to problems, arguments and more, that was her excuse anyway.

She hadn’t elaborated, his mother was cabin crew with American Airlines, and Stafford had been a first class passenger. After a flirtatious trip to Chicago from London they’d bumped into each other at the airport, and the evening that followed was the only thing his mother hadn’t elaborated on, thankfully. But she’d found out she was pregnant weeks later and always knew that he wasn’t her husband’s child. No further children had followed, as if that was evidence enough.

He didn’t blame Stafford for any of this, he’d not known of his existence until ten days earlier, and he had more than welcomed him into his life. He’d not questioned his identity once. Nor had he held back. Adam felt the old man had always wanted a son, he knew about their fertility issues, his investigations into the Marshall family had been of a great depth. But even so, he didn’t expect such unconditional open arms. From everyone bar Laura.

He looked up and saw her scowling, the neck-less wonder that Stafford had insisted join them attempting a conversation that she obviously had no interest in. It was only when Laura arrived that he realised the whole picture. Though why his father would deem that waste of space suitable for his only daughter amazed him, there was no single asset that this man seemed to have that would explain why he was pushing the two youngsters together.  Saying that, she was having none of it, Laura, the most irate and animated woman he’d ever met.

Adam smiled to himself, she was a firecracker all right, and exactly the worst child for Stafford Marshall to father. Suddenly her choices, her life...it all made sense. At her beach home she had independence and she was suitably free from the restraints of this life. Whilst she glowed, the centre of attention in this luxury bar, he couldn’t help but remember  the woman he’d seen dancing in the surf at the beach a few weeks ago, carefree, happy almost exotic. A million miles from the restrained almost pained woman who was fighting off the attention of a below par man.

                “Would you like to come through to the dining room?”

A liveried waiter approached and led them into the dining room. Adam battled to negotiate through the group as they moved to the next room; he wanted to sit next to Laura, even if it was just to see her expertly brush off this Landers man.

Watching Adam pull out her seat in a chivalrous gesture made her scowl, but at that moment she kind of preferred him to Jonathan. That was until Jonathan sat directly opposite her, looking as though he was sucking on a lemon.  She could feel Adam chuckle, the vibration almost palpable through the small gap between them. Laura refused to look up and meet his eyes, this was more painful than anything she’d known - sandwiched between the devil and the deep blue sea. She shook her head, wrong analogy; she’d trust the sea over either of these rats.

Fortunately Stuart sat to her right and she could immediately engage in conversation about his beautiful children. He was twelve years older than her, but as a youngster she’d babysat for the two, and he’d always been close to her family. So it was a relief to fall into a normal place for a moment.

Adam was charming the Blanchetts in the same way he charmed her mother, so she was glad to turn away from all that. And equally glad to hear that Stuart had met someone new, still early stages, but he was getting his life back together. But before they’d finished the main course he had a phone call which he ducked out to take, there was an issue with his babysitter, and so he had to leave. Her last line of defence gone!

After the awkwardness of the rest of the meal, Adam causing her to prickle, sat beside her all confident, and then the doe-eyed Jonathan sat opposite, she was glad when they all retired to the adjacent lounge. Excusing herself she made for the bathroom, descending the stairs awkwardly in her heels.

Appreciating some time to herself, she spent longer than was healthy powdering her nose, then with a heavy heart she left the sanctity of the room, and started to make for the lounge. As she rejoined the reception that led to the bar she caught her stiletto on the edge of a rug and stumbled. Mortified she saw the floor getting closer as she fell towards it, and just as she steeled herself for impact, and the mortification of this happening in the foyer of one of the most elegant hotels in the world, an arm secured around her waist and pulled her back to her feet.

                “You ok?”

Sighing with an emotion far stronger than relief, she smiled at her rescuer, her knight in shining armour, who was one of three suited men, looking at her with concern on her face.

                “Thank you! I really thought I was about to head butt the floor!” She bent to adjust her shoe, then stood back up with a smile.

Her rescuer grinned, “me too!” He had a nice smile, “You sure you’re ok?”

Laura nodded, “well I am from the fall!”

The man to his left laughed, “You’re dining at the Savoy and you’re not happy?”

Laura laughed back, it was most people’s idea of opulent luxury, and they wouldn’t be wrong. But for Laura, someone brought up with such familiarity with it all, it was too much. With Adam and his infiltration of her life, she was fraught, and Jonathan Lander brown nosing her father was the final straw, as her eyes passed between the three men she couldn’t help but add, “you don’t know my family!”

The other man smiled, “see Paul, I told you not everyone loves their parents like you!”

The original rescuer looked at his friend, “I just like my family Nathan, there’s nothing wrong with that!”

                “I like my family too, it’s just that my father has invited along a kind of blind date for me!” She was too emotionally torn to even begin to contemplate Adam too. But he was a lifelong problem now, Jonathan was a temporary one, and she was looking to get rid of him ASAP.

Paul laughed, “Ah! Painful! Anyone that your parents find suitable will no doubt be painfully boring!” He glanced at his watch, “We’re going to a party at Cable Corner? Can you join us? At least then you can pick your own date! Or not!”

Laura was contemplative for a moment, back in her school days she’d have no end to her contacts in London, but since she’d moved away, her old school friends were reduced to facebook contacts, she didn’t speak to anyone, let alone feel she could call on them to rescue her. And it was really dangerous to just wander off with complete strangers, but then the thought of escaping was immense. It was a question of what you wanted more. The Cable Corner was a new club and it was in walking distance of the hotel. Getting into a taxi with three strange men would be a ludicrous risk.

                “Can you pretend to recognise me? Pretend you’re a friend?”

Grinning Nathan patted her on the back, “that would be our pleasure!”

Laura had rejoined the group a few moments later, and very little had changed, they were still discussing life...both her father and Marty Blanchett had recently employed new PA’s, and it appeared that the two represented ‘the youth of today’,  in that they were both useless and lazy. Her father glanced at her several times and she knew he counted her in the same category. Part of that was her own fault; she’d not made him aware of what made up her life. She worked hard, it may not be in the way that he saw as useful, beneficial, but to her she loved her life. Adam was surprisingly silent and for a moment she felt a little support from him.

Jonathan on the other hand was loudly agreeing with Stafford, but Laura had the feeling that he would agree with slavery if her father suggested it. He was the worst type of sleaze.

Nodding at the waiter as he refilled her glass, she surreptitiously glanced around the room, then fought her humour and relief as she saw the three men enter the room and saunter casually to the bar. She shouldn’t be so excited at the thought of disappearing with these men; there was after all a real chance that she could turn up murdered and cut into chunks in the morning. But there was something about them that made her throw caution to the wind, they seemed like nice guys, thought she was sure that the Yorkshire Ripper was pleasant on times, rapists, murderers and paedophiles weren’t told to display their crimes on their chests, and instinct could let you down so badly.

Suddenly Paul approached them, and Laura dropped her eyes, feigning interest in her finger nails.

                “Laura? Laura Marshall?” the surprise in Paul’s voice was perfect. As she slowly raised her eyes, he broke into a smile, “it’s me! Paul Simpson...” she pretended to look a little confused, then he added, “school?” He names the exclusive school she’d gone to, and she’d even taken the liberty of giving him the name of a teacher, just to complete the deception.

                “Oh my God!” She jumped to her feet and moved around the table to hug him, her parents and their guests all looked a little bemused at this reunion. Holding him at arm’s length, she smiled at him, “who are you with? Do you want to join us?”

She almost burst out laughing at the way that seemed to agitate her father. It was only Adam that had wide eyes and a sceptical look on his face, but she was uncaring.

                “I would but I’m with a couple of others, do you remember Nathan and Mike?” He pointed at them and she followed his gaze before nodding enthusiastically. “Wow!” Waving at them she reached for her champagne, “I’ll come over and say hello!”

                “I presume that’s the ‘date’!” Nathan whispered as he hugged her as an old friend would, then hugged Mike who laughed.

                “He has not taken his eyes off you!”

Glancing over she noticed that Adam was the one who was watching, his eyes narrowed, his nose almost wrinkled with anger.  Jonathan was already back to burying his head into her father’s arse.

She sat amongst the men, “so how long is reasonable to sit here before we leave?”

Paul laughed, “think you need to give it fifteen minutes, we’ll get up to go, then you can tell them all about how your friends are meeting more of your school buddies...”

It was perfect as plan’s went, both parents wanted her to return to London, but she had no ties there, and no interest in coming back, but if they thought she was reacquainting with old friends...it was wicked and sly, but so was trying to set her up with a ridiculous ‘match’. 

When the three men drained their drinks and slid on their coats, Laura stood with them. It was almost eleven, a time when most dinners naturally ended, so she shouldn’t feel that guilty, should she?

                “Mum? Dad? The guys are going to a party with some of my old school friends, it’ll be good to reconnect, you know? I’m not in London that often, so it’ll be great to see some of them.”She ignored her father’s pursed lips and her mother’s worry lines, instead she hugged them both, then she smiled at the Blanchetts,  shook Jonathan’s hand, with a perfunctory “nice to see you again!”

Looking at Adam it was all a bit awkward, hug, shake, ignore? She opted for a hand shake, but as his long fingers wrapped around hers and his laughing eyes gripped hers, she felt sick; he was more powerful than she’d given him credit for. And for a moment she was torn between being scared and excited.

Dropping his hand she took a deep breath then turned and waltzed out into the night, trying not to laugh as Mike leaned in and offered, “Your mother is H.O.T.”

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