Silly Games

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Part Twelve

The only problem with doing the job of three and running your own dog-walking business was that you needed time to eat and sleep, and at the moment that was the one thing Laura was struggling with. Not that she’d tell Ben and Alana. They were both looking much better after a couple of days relaxing, and whilst Alana would be able to help out soon, there was no way that Ben was either surfing or working in the cafe for a while.

Between her scheduled walks Monday lunchtime, she headed back to the cafe to see Alana helping out the casual workers for the lunch rush.

                “Hey Laura, you ok?”

Laura smiled, “you’re looking so much better! I’m just nipping in to arrange the lessons for the week. It’s really busy tomorrow yet quiet Wednesday.”

                “I can help out tomorrow.”

Shaking her head Laura refused, “you are not doing anything physical until your hospital appointment, you had concussion. It might not have been as visible as a broken hand or dislocated shoulder, but it’s possibly worse! So no way Jose! Not until the doctor says you’re fit!”

                “How are you going to manage once the season kicks into full swing? We can’t turn lessons down, but then you’ve got the dogs.”

Laura walked behind the counter and filled a mug with fresh filter coffee, “I’ve just got to juggle things, it’ll be fine, you’ll see!”

Later that evening Alana had retired to bed, the first day back in the cafe had exhausted her, so Laura was cashing up. They’d had a good day and there was more than a decent amount in the till. Smiling to herself she was almost finished when there was a tinkling sound that indicated that someone had come into the cafe.

                “Sorry we’re closed!” She shouted her eyes not leaving the page of calculations. When there was no response, she looked up to see her father leaning against the door frame. Laura felt her jaw drop open, she couldn’t remember the last time her father had even left London for anything other than business, yet here he was in her home town, no scratch that - in her home!

There were so many times she’d invited him there, so many things she wanted her parents to see, and it took her rapid disappearance from his home on the weekend to force this to happen. She couldn’t help the way her mind made a connection to Adam again, but since he’d arrived people were behaving way out of character, and that was what angered and scared her in equal volumes.

                “Dad...what are you doing here?”

She put down her pen and closed the till, then walked towards him to give him a hug. Stafford Marshall held her tightly in his arms, and Laura could feel his nose dig into her hair. When they finally stepped apart, he smiled, “can’t I visit my little girl?”

She laughed, “of course you can, you just never do!” Laura moved to lock the door to the cafe, then turned back, “coffee?”

He nodded, “great, can I take you out to dinner then?”

Laura had been dreaming about her bed for most of the day, exhaustion felt only a few feet away, but she couldn’t’ deny her father after this grand a gesture, “of course. Have you booked anywhere?”

He laughed and named an amazing restaurant, Laura grinned, “have you got a restaurant finder PA? Or is there an app for that?”

It was his turn to smile as he accepted a mug of coffee from her.  He stayed in the cafe as she rushed upstairs to change quickly. She didn’t have much time and would have appreciated a shower and time to wash her hair. Instead she changed from her beachwear into her trusted little black dress, and the diamond heels that her mother had gifted her the previous weekend.

When she got back to the cafe, her father was on the phone, and it wasn’t a happy conversation. He was grimacing when he hung up, but denying anything was wrong, he led her out to his car.

The restaurant he’d booked was amazing, it was an hour away, and most nights a free table was unheard of. But tonight they arrived and were shown to a prime location, her father did have clout. The menu was fantastic, and she took a while to choose her food. Scallops, her favourite and venison, no dessert, she was too tired to fill herself to bursting.

Once the waiter had brought water and wine and filled their glasses, her father leaned towards her. “I suppose you’re wondering why I’m here?”

Laura knew exactly why, she hadn’t gone along with his plans ever in her life, but she knew her behaviour over the arrival of Adam annoyed him. “I can guess.” She offered without admitting anything.

He steepled his fingers and studied her for a moment, “I think maybe I need to apologise.” She managed to hide her surprise as she looked at him; she couldn’t ever remember him saying sorry in her whole life. “Adam’s arrival has been a shock to me, but I’ve instantly connected with him, we have slipped into a close friendship almost immediately. But I shouldn’t expect you to be as comfortable so quickly.”

The fact that she could never imagine being close to him was not something her father was ready to hear. “I’m maybe a bit more sceptical than you?”

He laughed, “you really do think he’s the devil incarnate, hey?”

She contemplated that for a moment, “not necessarily. I just think that you have a link to him, I don’t. Realistically will I even see him again?” Laura hoped that her father would smile and agree, but when his face dropped in shock she felt a little sick.

                “Laura, he’s my son, yes it’s early days, and yes he lives across the Atlantic, but I wholly expect him to be a part of my life...of our family.”

She nodded, hating that she could feel tears peppering her eyes, “well I can’t promise that I’m going to slot into the Happy Family Dad, you can’t make me like him, and at this moment in time I’m suspicious of him and his motives.”

Her father paused as food was laid in front of them, then leaned forward again, “I can’t make anyone like anyone else, all I can ask is that you tolerate him. For my sake.”

It wasn’t a demand, it was a request, but she still felt threatened by that. He had no idea how she felt, that everything he said in defence of his son sounded like a snub to her. She’d had enough time to really think this through, and she disliked the man, she knew that, but he also threatened something she’d always taken for granted, her family, her home. She was defending and protecting herself, that was the explanation for her possibly obtuse behaviour. And it saddened her that her father wasn’t aware of that.

He drove her home, so much still unsettled between them, as he stopped near the cafe he turned to her, “Will you come home next weekend? Adam has gone back to the States to settle some business, but he’s coming back on Friday, I don’t know how long for. I want you to get along.”

Laura wanted to say no, in all reality it was looking doubtful with Ben out of action, but the following weeks were even busier, if she didn’t go and try to make good this weekend, then she wouldn’t this summer.

                “I’m really busy Dad; I’ve been up to you so many times these last few weeks. It’s such a hectic time in work, and my colleague is injured so I’m doubling my shifts...”

Whilst he didn’t look down his nose at that, she could almost sense the indignation that a mere cafe came above family commitment, but she was prepared for that. “Dad, I know you hate what I do, and I’m sure if you could change my lifestyle you would, but you can’t! This is MY life, and there is no way that you can dictate to me. I’m twenty eight!”

He shook his head, “all I want is the best for you Laura, it’s all I’ve ever wanted.”

She laughed, “all you want is someone to follow in your footsteps, to appreciate the empire you’ve created. That person has never been me!”

Stafford’s eyes widened as he looked at her with incredulity, “and you think that Adam is? Is that what all this is about?”

She shrugged, “I know you’ve got a son who shares your interests...”

With that she climbed out of the car and headed inside. Laura knew it was a long moment before he drove off, she was half expecting him to come after her, but he started the engine and left, and all she could hope was that she’d given him food for thought.

There was no way that she was going to London, but rather than coming clean early in the week, she didn’t tell her father until Thursday that she wasn’t coming home. And she did it via email. Coward! But there was no reply begging her to, or disowning her. And with all the mental turmoil she’d forgotten that she also had as close to a date as she had ever got with Daniel Martin that weekend.

She was awake at four am on Friday morning, but then the excitement of being at one with the ocean always dragged her from her pit. This morning Ben and Alana were being the double act in the cafe, hoping that between them they could manage to run things, for Laura it was her first surf other than lessons in over a week, and her body ached for it.

She’d spent a long time waxing her board the previous evening; she’d even washed her wetsuit as she’d not really used it for any of her lessons. And as she jogged down the beach, the long board under her arm, Laura felt that sense of freedom engulf her again. Hitting the sea, she dived under the first decent wave she encountered then started to swim, once she’d gotten deep enough to pass the breakers, she climbed onto her board and paddled out further.

There was one other surfer out in the sea, and he or she was a long way off. So she relaxed and waited patiently for the right wave. The third one that she attacked was perfect and she managed to leap into standing and travel on the crest for a few metres before it collapsed into a damp squib. Unperturbed, she turned around and began the paddle back out.

Surfing required a combination of extreme patience as well as the strength and balance necessary to actually ride the board, and Laura was extremely tested that moment, for every dozen uneventful, disappointing waves there was one brilliant set, and it was her task to pick the perfect one. Normally the cold sent her out of the water once she reached freezing point, but today even the weather was mild.

One more wave, she told herself, the tide would turn soon, any potential rides would end, but she was so reluctant to leave the water. There were now more than fifty surfers all waiting for that perfect moment, that critical time when they could really be at one with nature.

Now! She thought as she slumped onto her front and paddled frantically. As she felt the wave swell beneath her, she prepared to leap to her feet, body as taught as a bowstring, and there it was...that exact sign. Launching herself to her feet in a split second, she immediately adopted a wide stance on the board and ducked into the wave as it carried her. Ahead of her she spotted one other surfer who’d taken the same wave, and they were almost parallel as they coursed towards the sand.

When the wave had lost its intent, she leaned forward and tumbled into the surf with a giggle. The perfect way to end a session, but as she surfaced, her board tugging at her ankle, she spotted the surfer next to her still carving expertly into the dying wave. He was amazing.  

Dragging herself on to the sand, Laura squatted to detach the velcro strap that secured her to her board, and it was then that she saw the feet of the other surfer come in her direction over the sand. As she looked up at the taught, toned body covered in a well fitting wetsuit, her eyes lifted and her heart almost stopped as she met the two shadowed brown eyes of Adam.

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