Silly Games

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Part Seventeen

When Laura opened her eyes, she could hear voices. It was dark, the TV was off, but there was a light shining in from the kitchen. Stretching, she savoured the sensation for a moment, before dragging herself to her feet.

In the kitchen, Alana and Ben were sitting with Adam, a bottle of wine on the table, and three full glasses. Hearing a sound it was Adam whose eyes found her first.

                “Hey sleepy! How ya feeling?”

He was dressed in some of Ben’s clothing and it all looked a bit ridiculous, Ben wasn’t as tall or as broad as Adam, so nothing really fitted. “I’m good.” She smiled at the three, “though I’m missing the party?”

Alana jumped up and hugged her, “you ARE the party! We called the hospital and John, the man you rescued, he’s doing well, his family wanted you to know how indebted they are to you...we’ve ordered a Chinese, and were hoping you’d wake in time. But you looked so comfortable that we didn’t really want to disturb you.”

She yawned, then stretched again, “I don’t know why I feel so bloody tired.”

Adam was sat back in his chair studying her, “the effort of pulling a grown man from the bottom of the sea is more than heavy work and under such pressure, I’m not surprised you’re exhausted!”

She nodded in acceptance, “do I get wine?”

The three laughed as another glass was found.

Two hours later, half a dozen empty cartons sat between them, along with a few more empty wine bottles. Laura was leaning against Alana, smiling happily, this had been a great end to a strange day, and the fact that Adam was part of it, and they weren’t fighting was both a surprise, and a welcome relief.  If nothing else she realised that fighting was pointless, today’s events were indictment to that.

                “I should be going!” He offered standing finally, “I’ll bring these back once they’re laundered.” he gestured to the clothes he wore.

Ben brushed that off, “don’t worry about that!”

                “Well I’ll be back for lessons in the morning,” he glanced up at Laura, hoping she wasn’t going to resist that.

Instead she smiled, “I’ll take the early lessons, you won’t be needed until eleven.”

Smiling he stood, “I’ll be here for nine regardless!”

Sunday was a glorious morning. The early morning sun shone down on the receding tide and burned off any mist. Laura climbed to the veranda of the cafe and tossed her board onto the floor. She’d wondered whether the previous day had ruined her confidence in the sea, so she’d been determined to head out for some early surf, just to check. Thankfully it hadn’t!

As she turned her salty face up to be warmed by the sun, a voice called across the patio.

                “I didn’t think you’d be stupid enough to surf today! You should’ve rested!”

Opening one eye she saw Adam lounging against the railings, then closed it again. “If this is how today starts, I suggest you turn around and leave!”

When he chuckled her eyes snapped opened and she glared at him, he was smiling and she realised he was joking, giving him a suspicious look she closed her eyes again, turning back to the sun, “either sit down or go away...this is my meditation time!”

Laughing she heard the cafe door open and realised he’d gone inside.

Ten minutes later he placed a mug of coffee in front of her, by now she’d stopped worshipping the sun, and was sat looking out to sea.

                “Nervous this morning?”

She smiled, still watching the angry waves break against the beach, “I always knew the sea was strong...you just forget sometimes.”

He nodded, “and it has a habit of reminding you every now and again!!”

They drank their coffee in a companionable silence before Laura turned to him, “you came in case I bottled it, didn’t you? You were worried I’d freak out getting back in the water.”

A smile slowly spread across his face, “I could lie, but I’m enjoying our civil conversations! I thought you may need someone, me, on the beach just keeping an eye on things. And I also know you’ll hate me saying that!”

He braced himself for a barrage of abuse, but instead she smiled, “thanks. That was really thoughtful!” Then she eyebrows waggled dangerously, “but completely unnecessary!”

Adam had felt annoyance at Laura since the moment he’d first met her, but there had always been enough affection and curiosity maybe to keep him interested in getting to know her better. As she walked into the cafe with their mugs, he realised that those emotions had been replaced with respect, she was brave, fearless, and he was starting to appreciate the reasons for her living here, like this. She was almost celestial in this environment, natural, happy, striking. And he was feeling humble for trying to change things, for questioning her.

When Laura emerged from the building, she’d tidied her hair and changed out of her wetsuit to shorts and a t-shirt.

                “I told you I’d do the early shift. You’ve blown your chance for a lie-in!”

Adam shrugged, “I’m not one for sleeping much anyway.” She didn’t need to know just how little he’d slept the previous night, for SO many reasons.

She dropped the diary between them on the table, “I’ll take the ones circled in blue, you can do red?”

He looked at the page, as predicted she was doing more than him. “Well review at lunchtime, you may find yesterday will catch up with you.”

Her answer was a dramatic huff, and he chuckled as he started to help her prepare for the day.

By lunchtime Laura hated to admit that Adam was right, she felt exhausted, but her pride was as usual her downfall. As she was on the veranda of the cafe preparing for her one pm lesson she was approached by a couple.

                “Are you Laura Marshall?”

She nodded.

The female smiled, “I’m Brenda Davidson, I’m a reporter for the Daily Post, I was wondering whether you’d answer a few questions, tell us about what happened yesterday, saving John Reilly’s life.”

Laura started to shake her head, there was no way she wanted to make a fuss out of this, but as she opened her mouth to decline a voice spoke from behind her.

                “Of course she would! She’s a hero you know!”

Laura turned around to see Adam grinning, she was about to argue, protest, but he leaned close and whispered, “think of the impact on the business. Everyone will want surf lessons with a life saver! This is a great business decision. And I can do your next lesson - maybe then you’ll start looking a little less tired then.”

As she made to challenge him, he raised an eyebrow in challenge, he could see how tired she was, he wasn’t stupid. Turning back to the couple she smiled, “just a few questions then.”

An hour later they left, and Laura’s ego had been well and truly massaged, the reporter and photographer were so complimentary, so in awe of this amazing braveness that they described. It made Laura embarrassed, she’d only done what came natural, it was instinct, she didn’t feel comfortable with that level of adoration. And later that afternoon it seemed to get worse when a woman arrived bearing a huge bouquet of flowers.

Laura was storing things in the shop ready for the next day when she looked up at a voice.

                “I’m so glad I found you, I don’t know how to thank you, these flowers are so inadequate...but I don’t know how else to begin to express my gratitude.”

The woman looked exhausted her face pale, and it took a moment for Laura to register what was going on.

                “It was your husband?” The woman nodded, tears appearing in her eyes. Laura rushed over to her, “how is he? Is he ok?”

The woman smiled and despite the tears it lit up her face, “John. He’s getting there. He’s still in hospital, but hopefully he’ll be home tomorrow. If you hadn’t been there...”

Laura smiled, “it was nothing, we’ve all got in to trouble out at sea.”

                “Don’t play it down, you were amazing. He was trying to get a football, one of the boys let it drift off...almost died for a ten pound football!”

Laura could see the confusion, the fear, the pain in the woman's face, she’d been to hell and back watching someone she loved suffer, almost lost them, “well maybe you should all look at some lifeguard lessons, then you’d feel more confident. Don’t blame the sea for this; it’d be a pity to not go in it again. It was just a terrible accident, it could have happened to anyone.”

The other woman wasn’t in a position to really think further than getting her husband home safe, but as she departed Laura hoped she’d start to feel better, it was time to appreciate what she had, not worry about what could have been.

                “So can I take you out to dinner tonight?”

Laura was in the cafe closing up when the door opened. It had been a strange day, and now Ben and Alana were away for the night, he had an appointment the following morning with a shoulder specialist in a hospital two hours away, so they had left at six to spend the night there. Leaving Laura to wind everything up. Glancing up she saw Adam leaning against the door frame smiling, he’d been an invaluable help that day, she’d never be able to thank him enough, but the thought of dinner with anyone was beyond her at the moment, she just wanted to sleep. And dinner with Adam? She hated him didn’t she???

                “Before you refuse, you need to eat, I need to eat. You’re alone here, you’ve had a real hard weekend...all the more reason why we should go to the local pub, have a couple of drinks and something to eat. On me.” He could see the conflict in her eyes, so he added, “I hear the local here does a mean steak pie!”

The thought of Al’s special pie was enough to make her mouth water.

                “I’m going home to change; I’ll pick you up in thirty minutes.”

With that he left leaving her no opportunity to change her mind.

               

                “Where’s the hero?”

She was just about to lock the door when Michaela burst in, for fifteen minutes Laura explained in dramatic detail the rescue as she remembered it, though it was all becoming fuzzy as the details seemed to blur into one another. Her friend wanted a night out to celebrate, but she had to explain she had plans, Laura had only glossed over the subject of her family the last few weeks, and Michaela had no clue about her father’s son, now, in the ten minutes she had left, was not the time to explain...but if Michaela was here when he arrived, or if she bumped into her friend later that evening, she’d have a lot of explaining to do.

She smiled at her friend, “look I’m going to say a few words, I’m sorry that it’s this rushed, but, well...the other week I found out that my father has a son, and even though I hate him, I’ve agreed to meet him for dinner tonight. Can me meet tomorrow and I’ll fill you in on the gossip properly?”

Her friend looked stunned, so she added, “I know not telling you makes me a shit friend, but I’m struggling to come to terms with it...”

Michaela shook her head, “you’ve got a brother?”

Laura snapped defensively, “NO! My father has a son, that’s different!”

Ten minutes later, her hair was still wet, so she parted it along the centre of her skull and braided it into two thick plaits, she’d pulled on a knitted sweater, her favourite, over a short denim skirt and her ankle high cowboy boots, she knew that she dressed a little non conventional, but if he expected different, then he really didn’t know her. She was almost disappointed when she opened the door to him later to find him in combat shorts, a t-shirt and flip flops...she’d honestly thought he’d be a little more conservative. Maybe he did know her far better than she thought.

                “You ready?”

She nodded, “just about. Seems yesterday’s news isn’t quite today’s history yet!”

He laughed, “saving a man’s life is kind of a big deal! You’ll be news for a little while yet. Wait until the newspaper article comes out tomorrow, it’ll be the hot topic all over again!”

Grunting, she followed him out into the street.

There was nothing else to order in the nearest pub the Three Horseshoes but the steak pie, Al the landlord had been a chef on a London hotel before retiring out west, he’d brought with him many good recipes, but since putting the pie on the menu, he’d barely sold anything else.

When they sat at a table near the back of the pub with a beer each, Adam lounged opposite her and smiled.

                “So what did you want to talk about? You’ve been talking about talking since you came into my life!” Laura almost grimaced at the fact that she still needed animosity to hide behind.

Adam smiled, “and you still resent me for that?”

She shrugged, “I don’t know what you want from me, from my father. I figure you’re too old to be searching for a male role model, the Daddy you never had...”

                “So you think what that I’m after his money?” He paused for a moment, “are you thinking that I’m going to somehow steal your inheritance?”

Laura laughed sarcastically, “that says more about you than it does about me. Do I look like I’m waiting for a huge inheritance cheque? I LOVE my parents, and I don’t want to see them hurt. I can’t imagine how much this must be stressing them out. I have no interest in what happens to my father’s money now...and I refuse to imagine a time when they’re not here.”

Adam sipped his beer thinking her words through for a moment, “I have no agenda Laura. A few months ago I find out that my ‘Dad’ isn’t and never was my father.” He gazed out the window for a moment; the sun was starting to set on the horizon, “Bill Purcell wasn’t the nicest man. Your father...our father, seems like a nice guy. Things could have been a lot different...I bet you had a great childhood. I’m just keen to know as much as I can about a man I should have known better, sooner.”

                “You really only just found out?” Laura had built up all sorts of scenarios in her head, all of them involving Adam and an ulterior motive. Now as he spoke he seemed to have a genuine look on his face.

                “My father, the man who brought me up died about ten weeks ago, cancer. Precipitated by the smoking, drinking, hard living. Until that moment, for thirty one almost thirty two years, I had no idea that he wasn’t my biological father. I don’t think I loved him the last ten years or more, as I say, he wasn’t a nice man. But it seemed that his resentment to me was because of all that. He knew that I wasn’t his son, and it seemed he couldn’t deal with that.”

He paused as Al himself laid two plates piled high with the infamous pies, sauté potatoes and vegetables, all lathered in thick homemade gravy. The two made small talk with the gushing man who wanted the inside gossip on the hot topic that was the rescue the previous day.

Once he’d left, Adam took a mouthful of the pie and moaned with pleasure, “this is better than good!”

Laura agreed with her non verbal communication, but once they’d started to demolish the food, she encouraged him to continue his story.

Adam lay down his cutlery, and leaned back in his chair, “my mother had been married to my father...to Bill, when she slept with your father, my father...Wow this is so confusing, I’m using first names...so basically, after a one night stand, my mother returned home. No one was any the wiser when I came along nine months later, apparently, that was until my mother didn’t get pregnant again. After tests, well it turned out that Bill shot blanks, and always had. So he knew that I was some other guy’s kid.

                “He had my mother where he needed her then, she couldn’t leave him, he had the money, the insurance, she’d given up work to have me. So they stayed in a sham marriage, and he hated me more and more as every day passed. He made my mother promise never to tell me the truth, probably not to dent his pride, he was your typical alpha man, women and children listened to every word he said, or else.”

He didn’t mention violence, but Laura got the inference to it, and felt awful, a small brown eyed little boy scared of his father came into her head and it saddened her. “My father loved me too much, how ironic that my mother couldn’t have children either, after that one night neither of them could have more children with their partner.”

He nodded, “as soon as I got Stafford’s name I ran a few checks, and your name came up...I’d never had a sibling, always wanted one...and I have to admit I was a bit jealous, wondering if you had a better life than I had.”

                “I can’t imagine how that might feel.”

                “Oh yeah! It’s been great building a life away from that bastard, only to find everything I knew was wrong. It has kind of knocked me off balance. When I saw you were adopted, then I thought the same thing that you did, the irony. That was why I came here, when you saw me. I wasn’t spying on you, I just wanted to see you...I hoped it’d give me a hint of the kind of man my father was.”

                “And did it?”

He smiled, “I saw a confident, happy woman, someone happy walking dogs and kicking around in the surf...” He remembered that time on the beach in vivid technicolour. “You made me guess that Stafford was a good man, and that helped.”

They both took a contemplative drink of their beer, then Adam ordered them another each.

“I’ve never had a family to talk about, I mean I resented my mother for putting up with Bill, she was good to me, but she never broke away, even when I was financially solvent, when I could look after her. I wasn’t expecting happy families with your father, but I was hoping for a better gene selection than I thought I had. I wanted to know where I came from, find my identity, largely because I had no roots whilst Bill was my father. Stafford and I have more in common that I ever thought possible, I like him a lot, and with the history I’ve got of fathers, that’s a good thing!”

Laura had a lot of food for thought, she’d had so many prejudiced ideas about this man, but as he sat exposing his most raw thoughts, he was almost as vulnerable as the small boy she’d envisaged earlier. This could be a ploy, him playing her, but she couldn’t see any gains for him, she wasn’t lying when she said she had no interest in her father’s wealth. She valued his love above everything, and she couldn’t imagine her father stopping loving her now, after twenty eight years. Saying that she wasn’t opening her life to him, she was still a little suspicious of him, and if he wanted any friendship with her, he’d have to earn it.

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