Silly Games

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Part Eighteen

The week had flown by, Ben was feeling better, and he wouldn’t need surgery, as long as he improved with physiotherapy. Alana was back to full fitness, and as it was the start of the school holidays, the cafe was inundated with casual summer workers. It left Laura free to honour all her canine clients. So the week was slightly calmer than the previous one.

Saying that the whole town was readying for the festival, the temporary campsites were full, the stages were erected, and the fast food vans in place. Everything was ready.

Ben was heavily involved in organising the event, and it had been his life’s work for the last six months. Everyone in town had a job to do, from manning car parks to her job...face painting. Fortunately she could do her part whilst watching the show, being part of the event, and she was grateful for that.

All they could pray now was that the weather would stay as it was, warm and dry.

She’d had a long heart to heart with Michaela over her recent family issues the day after her night out with Adam. And her friend had been excited, worried and angry for her in equal measures...the exact response a best friend should give. Adam had headed back to London to see her father that day, she’d not heard from him since. Originally he planned to stay for a week or two, but that had changed once her parents heard about her rescue. Him returning and reassuring them that she was ok seemed to work, and they’d been fairly content since. Earlier in the week he’d asked her to join them this coming weekend, he planned more golf and dinners with her parents, but she was genuine in her refusal this time. This was the big weekend for the town; she couldn’t leave if she wanted to!

Then there was her ‘agreement’ with Dan. Laura wasn’t feeling confident over things with him, there was something about him that made her uncertain, and he was far from enthusiastic about seeing her. But he was the first man she’d felt attracted to in ages, and when they’d finally got around to kissing, it had been pretty explosive. Yes there was something physical between them, but she just wasn’t sure that was enough.

By five pm Friday evening, the town was bouncing. The area sectioned off for the concert was some old school playing fields, near the beach, the local pubs flanked them, so it was agreed that they would become part of the arena too, after all, no locals were going to be refused entry. This year’s first attempt wasn’t about making money, they were happy with being busy, and seeing the local businesses making a profit, if it worked, then next year they’d go all out.

Laura had been collecting face paints for a while, but anticipating rather a lot of trade she’d ordered some industrial palettes, as the first day started all the fetes, fairs and parties where she’d face painted in the past seemed so inadequate as preparation. But under her large beach parasol, her two folding chairs and table for mirror and paints, she could worry no more. As soon as the gates opened, she had a queue waiting for bright butterflies, tiger stripes and Welsh dragons.

Michaela, who was virtually inseparable from Paul, the barman, was strolling around selling programs, so she kept Laura supplied with both food and drinks. As the sun dipped, the diet coke turned to beer, and the requests for face paints became more and more elaborate, skeletons, zombies, witches. At ten o’clock she officially shut up shop, wondering how the hell she was going to get more paint before tomorrow’s lunchtime start.

Wandering through the crowds, she made for the Anchor pub, there was a good view of the stage there, and she was enjoying the sounds of a local band. Perching on the wall at the edge of the beer garden, she had the best of all worlds, especially as Al provided her with a few beers. The enclosed area was full, she estimated two thousand people, but that was a wild guess. The crowd was mainly in their late teens/early twenties, but the range was from children to some of the older members of the local society, Mrs Lea from the post office was probably in her sixties, and she was swaying along to the music like the youngsters!

                “Nice butterflies!”

Laura had almost forgotten that she’d painted a cluster of varying sized blue butterflies at the edge of her eye and upper cheek. It was meant to be advertising in some form, not that she had needed any. Her hand lifted to her cheek before she even processed the voice that had spoken.

                “Adam? What are you doing here?”

He sighed, “I left some important papers here last week, I was going to pick them up in the week, but I’ve had to fly to Paris on business, and I have another meeting Monday. Need the papers by then. Your father has organised golf tomorrow, which apparently I can’t miss, so it had to be today. Fortunately Mrs Price in the hotel likes me, she found me a room on the busiest night of the year.”

She nodded, “the Predator Price smiling in your direction hey?”

He laughed, “this is what I love about small towns!!! The unadulterated gossip!”

They both drank their drinks as the band on stage finished and Dan came on stage. Adam tensed, he didn’t like the man, and the information he’d started to receive on him meant that he was not a man who Laura should be messing with, but how the hell he relayed that to her without risking their fledgling friendship, he had no idea.

She was smiling, humming along to one of his cover songs, and it infuriated him, she was besotted with a womanising loser, and there was no way of explaining that to her, he was still waiting on concrete proof, and until he got that he was dealing only with speculation. Not a great defence for shattering her dreams. If this was being a brother, he wasn’t that disappointed at being an only child anymore.

                “So is this guy your boyfriend?” He couldn’t not broach the topic.

It was a few moments until she turned to him, and his face was taught, “we have a bit of a thing...not that it’s any of your business!”

He noted the curtness in her words, but still needed to press the issue, “we’re family, of course it’s my business.”

Turning slowly she stared at him, “we’ve had a dozen civil conversations, that is as far as it goes. We are not and never well be family Adam, and you have no right to judge me or question me, you got that?”

Laughing he toyed with his beer bottle, “even if you’re on a self destruct mission?”

She stood up, “what? What are you talking about?”

He groaned, this was going all wrong, “look, I’m just a little suspicious of that wannabe, ok? I don’t want to see you get hurt!”

                “I won’t get hurt; you’d see that if you were a part of my life. But you’re not, so let it go.”

The glower that accompanied the words seemed to throw their relationship back to its frosty start. Adam sighed, “Laura, I’m not trying to control you, interfere of any of those things, I just know a rat when I see one, and all I’ll say is, you are not the only one. Ok?”

Without waiting for that to register with her, he turned and left, realising if he left now he could be back in London by the early hours.

Laura’s mood had completely changed when Dan finished his set, she’d really wanted to see the next band, they were the only ones playing that day that were anything resembling a chart act. But now, she wanted to go home, alone, lick her wounds and overanalyse all that Adam had said...or rather not said.

He was someone who researched things, he’d met her before she’d even known he existed, that was his way of preparing, researching, being ready. The fact that he might have investigated Dan, someone she was sort off involved with angered her. She wasn’t able to acknowledge that he may have been protecting her. She was nothing to do with him and asked for nothing from him.

Sighing, she gathered her things and left. If nothing else she wasn’t about to wait around for Dan to come and find her like some desperado. He had put nothing into this, so why should she make anything easy for him. At some point a passing interest in the singer had led to her being left waiting on his every whim.

The music was still loud from her seat on the veranda outside the cafe; she had a bottle of red wine and one large glass in front of her. The stage for the festival was maybe two hundred metres away, and the music, whilst slightly distorted by distance was still clearly decipherable. The lights lit the sky, and she knew that fireworks were due to follow the last band.

It was a cooler night than previous, but that was a good thing, she wanted to sleep tonight, and didn’t need to battle the heat as well as the demons in her mind.

After two glasses of wine, she was about to gather her things to head indoors to sleep when she heard voices. Crossing the patio, she peeped around the building, identifying that there were two people; she was keen to see who else had sloped off early from the party. Adam’s earlier comment about small town gossip flashed in her mind, but she brushed it away. She didn’t want to think of him, but as her eyes became accustomed to the darkness and she saw the couple walking towards her, she couldn’t help but let him enter her brain again. He’d warned her...

It was Daniel, with a woman, not anyone she recognised, but someone he seemed to know intimately. Laura saw red, she had no claims over this man, but he had led her on for the best part of the last six weeks, and now it seemed that because she wasn’t there, ready and available, he’d moved on.

Taking a deep breath, she dashed around the building knowing that she’d emerge in their path; she wanted to make things difficult for him. Ironically she stumbled over the hosepipe that Ben had left attached to the wall, and fell into the path of the loving couple. Staggering she managed to keep herself upright just as Dan extended an arm to steady her.

                “Laura!” He exclaimed. If he felt guilty, embarrassed, he hid it well. “What a great night you’ve all put on here.” As he repositioned the woman at his side, he smiled, “sorry darling, this is Laura she works here, Laura, this is Olivia...my wife!”

As she registered the words, her happy smile froze on her lips, but the last thing she needed was him realising he’d succeeded in hurting her hardened heart, so she gave a gentle nod. “I hope you’re enjoying it here, I understand Dan has booked one of the nicest hotels.”

With that answer she stared at him and saw him squirm, yes her eyes conveyed in silence, the hotel room you were planning to take me to!

Olivia spoke, her voice soft, “It’s hard having Daniel away from home so much, he does love this part of the world. It’s the first but I don’t think the last time that I’ll travel with him, it’s beautiful, the people are so friendly!”

Laura nodded, “oh yes, the people here are so honest and open,” she looked poignantly at Dan once more before dropping her eyes back to the wife, “I came for a weekend and stayed seven years!”

With her head held high, she smiled at Olivia, it changed to a look of disgust as her eyes met Dan, “well I must leave you to your evening, I’ve got an early morning start!” With that she disappeared, so glad of the cloak of darkness to make her escape more dramatic.

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