Silly Games

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Part Eleven

Laura sat overlooking the beach from a craggy outcrop that was probably her favourite place in the area. The breeze was always fresh, no matter how hot it was, and she could see for miles, both either side along the coast, but also out to sea. She hung her head and inhaled the fresh sea air wanting the last few weeks never to have happened.

Since the name Adam Purcell was mentioned, her life had been flipped over and she was losing control every day. Each time she struck out, she seemed to be thwarted by the bastard. She laughed, at the irony. She’d loved seeing the look on his face as she’d left the dinner on Saturday night. He loved winding her up, she could see that, and by disappearing from the group, she had spoiled his fun. Jonathan had been uncaring; he was there to brown nose her father, that was the important thing to him.

Nathan, Paul and Mike had been fun, they were in London from the Midlands for Nathan’s stag, he was getting married in a few weeks. They’d had dinner at the Savoy as a treat, none of their idiot mates wanted to spend the time or money on something luxurious, so they were all at a pub, and they had arranged a rendezvous at the club.

Once they had hit Cable Corner, they were swamped by a dozen or so men, Laura had never been threatened or intimidated by groups of raucous men, and that night had been no exception. But a woman at a stag party wasn’t the done thing, and in the ridiculous ankle breaking heels, and her dress she was also drastically overdressed for the fairly casual club.

She’d ordered a glass of wine at the bar and observed the evening for a little while, but she was an obvious target and there were far too many men hitting on her. So she’d left before midnight.

It had been a really warm summer so far, so when she stepped out of the hot dark club she was amazed to see the streets glistening from rain. Dashing to the shelter of a bus stop she was trying to find her phone to call a cab as the weather seemed to have meant that the usual plethora of taxis that often flooded the streets had all but disappeared. Fortunately it wasn’t cold, but it was unpleasant to be soaked in such inappropriate clothing.

Laura had called a couple of numbers, but she wasn’t familiar with things like phone numbers in London, and she had no luck in finding a taxi. She felt like crying, this day was going from bad to worse to disastrous. Then she saw a taxi on the horizon, as she raised a hand to call it, she realised the light was off, meaning that the cab was taken. Slumping back against the bus stop she had felt a tear escape her eye, as she swiped it away the taxi slowed, and the back window lowered.

As she had looked up Laura saw a face leaning across the back seat and looking out at her.

                “Get in. I’ll drop you home!”

She gasped as she recognised Adam, instead of his usually cocky confidence, he seemed angry.

                “I’d rather get soaked than go anywhere willingly with you!” She shouted back. How had he found her?

He rolled his eyes, “don’t be ridiculous!”

Placing a hand on her hip she had turned to face him, stepping out of the cover of the bus shelter, “let me remind you that you are a stranger, and since the age of two I’ve been encouraged not to take sweets, talk to and definitely get into a taxi with strange men! So excuse me if I wait for a free cab!”

He laughed, but the humour hadn’t stretched to his eyes, “I’m not a stranger!”

It had been her turn to laugh, “that is EXACTLY what you are! I don’t know who you are or what you want with my family! But I will find out, if it kills me!”

With that she spotted a taxi coming in the opposite direction, so Laura broke into a run, which was more like a trot, and almost threw herself in front of the oncoming vehicle. As she climbed inside and the car started to move, her window passed that of Adam and she was rewarded by his scowl as he glared at her.

She’d won the evening two nil, that was a given, but she’d ruined her mother’s special shoes along the way!

The next morning she’d been up and ready to head back by train before her mother had found her. She’d informed Laura that her father was less than happy at her disappearing as she had. Laura had made out that she’d had a great time and loved her night in London, hoping that it would counteract some of their anger.

She’d been back for a couple of days, and still didn’t know what she could do next, her father had sent her a few frosty emails, but each one was loaded with references to his son, her mother never contacted her, so that didn’t change. But she had an unease about her, insecurity, and a fear that something in her life was about to change beyond recognition.

Looking down at the beach she could see Ben teaching a gang of kids how to body board, they were too young to use full surf boards, but they could body surf on the small boards brilliantly if the waves were right. He was great with kids, and they loved him, even from this distance she could see them all joking and laughing.

Standing back to her feet, she climbed down from the rocks, then strolled back along the sand, watching the various people that were on the sand too. School was out in a few weeks, but before then it was common that after lessons groups of kids and families would descend on the beach to burn off some energy and cool off. Today was no exception.

As she crossed the beach heading for the cafe she recognised many people and waved or stopped to chat, by the time she reached Earlybird Cafe she was desperate for an ice cream...Alana obliged in serving her one.

                “I’m going to cook us all dinner!” Laura announced, lashing her tongue around the ice cream with a moan of pleasure, “unless you’re out?”

Alana laughed from her place behind the cafe counter, “us? We went out three weeks ago! Why would Ben spoil me twice in a month?”

Laura grinned knowing that despite laughing there was a lot of truth in Alana’s words. “I got a great chicken recipe from Mrs Boswell. I’m desperate to try it out!”

Mrs Boswell was the owner of one of her afternoon small dogs, since she’d broken her ankle the octogenarian couldn’t walk her beloved Peppermint, so Laura had stepped in to help out. Mrs Boswell was a retired chef from a catering company, and Laura was always hounding her for tips.

                “Something smells good!” Ben strode barefoot and bare-chested in to the kitchen. “What’s the occasion?”

Laura turned and smiled, “I’ve been a bit grouchy of late, maybe I’m just being nice?”

He scoffed, “a woman acting without an ulterior motive? I don’t believe it! Have I got time for a shower? Those kids have been throwing sand at me all evening! You do NOT want to know where it’s got!”

Laura covered her ears, “don’t want to know! Dinner will be fifteen minutes!”

He raised his thumbs and grinned before disappearing.

The rooms above the cafe and shop were not the grandest, but the large lounge had huge windows that looked out over the sea, and it was the perfect place for the small square dining table. Laura had laid it and was just opening some wine when Alana emerged from downstairs.

                “Cafe finally closed! And something smells wonderful!”

Laura handed her a glass of wine, “well if you like you should really thank Mrs Boswell! I’m just following instructions!”

Alana took the glass and slid into one of the chairs, just as Ben emerged now in a t-shirt and shorts.

                “So why have you been so down?” Alana asked as she tucked into the chicken and rice.  “Is this a not seeing Dan thing?”

Ben laughed, “not likely. You’ve been home, so I presume that this is a brother thing!”

Alana’s eyes snapped from Laura to Ben, and Laura laughed, “Ben didn’t tell you about this?”

Shaking her head Alana grinned, “he’s a man, they don’t appreciate the beauty that is gossip. You have a brother?”

Laura shook her head, “my father has a son, it’s a big difference, you know I’m adopted?” When Alana nodded, Laura continued, “so he really is nothing to do with me, but anyway, this man has arrived and is up to something, I swear. My mother is battering her eyelashes at him; my father thinks the sun shines out of his arse...”

                “And you resent him and are probably feeling more than a bit vulnerable.”

Laura nodded, typical a woman understood immediately. “Everyone thinks he’s awesome, I just see him as a conman and a bully. But I’m alone in that.”

Alana chewed contemplatively as she watched Laura, “just be careful that you’re not just being jealous and petty I suppose. I mean has he done anything else to make you suspicious?” Laura relayed her thoughts but was completely aware that she sounded petty and childish, just as Alana had feared, “am I being stupid?”

Shaking her head vehemently, Alana was quick to defend her, “no hoaloha, you are not at all. I think this is very scary and you are right to be reluctant to accept this man. It sounds as though other than your father having a brief affair with his mother you know nothing about him. I think you are very right to hold back with your emotions.” They all knew that Laura rarely let people into her life anyway, she didn’t have that many friends, few people got close to her.

                “Hardly likely! He may be my father’s son, but we only have a social link, there’s no blood, no emotion and no love involved. Soon he’ll go back to the US, my father will call him regularly, but he won’t be at our Christmas dinner, or in my phone book. That is as far as it goes.” She nibbled at her chicken, then changed the subject, “how are things looking for the festival weekend?”

Ben was suddenly back in the room now that family and emotion were a closed topic. But helping plan the up and coming festival was a subject he just loved talking about. They had almost secured the music line up, then there was a kid’s body boarding tournament, a life guard display, and of course an amateur surf competition. Ben and a few of the other organisers were taking the success of the weekend very seriously.

It was a busy week and Laura was glad of that to take her mind of things. By Friday evening she was exhausted, so she turned in early, contrary to her earlier comments, Ben had taken Alana to see a band in a town about an hour away, they were potentials for the festival so Ben was more than enthusiastic.  She wasn’t expecting them back until late, there was little on the TV, but there was good surf predicted for high tide in the early hours. So she headed to bed.

At exactly two am her eyes snapped open, something had woken her and she had no idea what. Then she heard it again, a sharp trill, the call of a rare Brazilian parrot apparently, the ring tone that Ben had bought for her phone for her birthday, annoying and funny in equal doses.

Jumping up she glanced around for her jeans and found the phone tucked into her pocket.

                “Hello?”  No one called at two am, unless it was an emergency or an ex drunk calling. As she’d had no recent exes, she knew this wasn’t likely to be good news.

                “Oh Laura! Thank God you answered!” It was Alana, and her voice did little to settle the anxiety in Laura that the call had created. Until that moment Laura hadn’t considered the fact that they might not be tucked up in their bed.

                “Alana? Where are you? Are you ok?”

The other woman took a deep breath and Laura could tell she was struggling to talk, “I’m ok, it was awful...a drunk driver...”

Laura’s nerves were instantly on edge, “is Ben ok too?”

Alana sighed, “he’s injured, but not too bad, they’re going to let us home soon...Can you pick us up?”

The relief at knowing her friends were battered and bruised but generally alive and well was immense. Alana managed to tell her that they’d been hit off the road by a drunk driver coming home from the show, she’d sustained a cut to her eye, and some bruises, but Ben had broken two fingers and dislocated his shoulder. They’d both been patched up, and they were observing Ben for another half an hour, but they’d be able to go home after that.

Within moments Laura was out of bed, dressed and on her way to the hospital. Ben had a huge black eye, and it looked really painful, his hand was strapped and his shoulder in a sling, Alana looked a little better, though she had stitches at her temple.

As they got in to Laura’s van, Ben turned to her, “other than the festival it’s the busiest weekend of the year...we can’t...”

She held up her hand to silence him, “Ben, you are not setting foot outside the apartment today. I will do all the lessons, there’s only two that overlap, but I can alter one. And Michaela will run the cafe, I’ll call her in the morning, you know she likes to help. That will be sorted, so don’t even think of disagreeing, ok?”

As he made to do just that Alana reached out and laid a hand on his good shoulder, “Ben, you can’t do anything about that. OK?” She met Laura’s eyes in the rear view mirror and smiled, “thanks so much, you truly are a life saver.”

Laura’s plans to surf before breakfast were now on the backburner, but she did open the cafe at 5.30 so that as usual those gathered to attack the sea could both dump their valuables, and then warm up with hot chocolate, soup or toast.

It was painful not to be out there herself joining in, but then she thought of how lucky it was that Ben and Alana weren’t more injured. This was a small sacrifice to make. And it was busy, fifty or more people of all age and sizes flocked to the building, and as the surf continued to be perfect for them, a lot longer than was normal, the patrons repeatedly returned to the sea for another ‘go’, most were poor surfers, rarely doing more than body boarding on a crest, but some were experienced and rode fair distances on their feet.

As always, when there was a morning like this, there was a lot of interest in lessons, and whilst she didn’t want to turn trade away, until both Alana and Ben were back in action, she would struggle to meet an increase in commitments. So she had to be sensible, and think about turning down some people to be able to meet all her obligations.

When it got to an acceptable time, Laura called Michaela and begged for her help, and she was more than happy to help, she was saving for a big holiday so the money would be helpful, and it was work she enjoyed.

By nine am, when Ben emerged looking as though he was in dreadful pain, everything was under control. Michaela was filling the glass counter with cakes, the coffee was made, and Laura was sorting through the diary and organising the lessons.

                “I feel useless!” Ben bemoaned as he watched them all do his work.

Laura smiled, “when you’re feeling a little less battered then you can man the place between rush hours, organise the diary, take calls, it won’t be that bad, you’ll see!”

Ben knew she was right, large parts of the day he’d manage one handed, the fact that he couldn’t surf was more than annoying, he couldn’t really process those implications. And the other thing she was right about was that he did feel like he’d just done five rounds with Mike Tyson, there wasn’t an inch of him that didn’t hurt and it was making thinking too difficult.

                “Ben?” Laura rushed over, “you’ve turned green! I think you need to sit down, Michaela, could you grab him a glass of water?”  With that she physically helped him to a seat, then got to the counter as Michaela produced the cold drink. Laura gave her an appreciative smile, then turned back to her friend and employer. “I think you need to be in bed still.”

                “I agree!” Alana, looking equally as off colour called across the cafe.

Ben groaned as he was bundled away, gibbering about the stag party booked for a surf lesson later.

                “It’s all in hand,” Laura assured him, “I can handle it.”

And she could, with her eyes closed!

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