Looking out to sea, Laura could see a few loan figures astride boards in the moonlight. She’d had a few drinks, she was tired, everything told her to go to bed, but a larger urge pushed her to find her wetsuit and shrug it on. With her board under her arm it was only a short jog to the water.
Despite being battered by a few waves, having to fight her way up from the depths on two particular occasions, she couldn’t clear her mind of the traumas of the days. As much as the cheating bastard Dan SHOULD have been the first and foremost thought, but it wasn’t. She hated to admit, but the thought of Adam having a told you so moment, or of having to apologise for her rudeness towards him was more of a concern than anything else.
She’d been suspicious of Dan, something hadn’t rung true, but she’d not suspected that he was married. She felt stupid, but more for not seeing things as they were than through disappointment at losing the chance of being with him. Fortunately she hadn’t slept with him, thought she’d been prepared to. Shuddering, she climbed back on her board and paddled back out into the inky black water.
Laura’s mind constantly came back to him. She’d been rude, but then he’d interfered, he had no claim on her life, what she did was none of his business, she was right about that. Since he’d come into her family he’d been chipping away at her defences, she had always been a private person, her life here in Wales was a long way from her London existence, and she was more than happy to keep the two completely different. Even as a child she’d loved the time when she’d been able to escape to her parent’s country house, City life was against everything she loved, but the country, the coast, they both offered her the freedom that she craved. But her parents were City dwellers; her mother came alive in the hustle and bustle of London. And that was a huge reason why their paths rarely crossed. And why Wales had so easily become her home. She had two distinctly different lives...until Adam blurred the boundaries. And for that she resented him.
She rode another wave, paddling as fast as she could before jumping to her feet, but she mistimed it again and hit the wall of water with a thud that almost winded her. If she wasn’t careful this session would kill her. Laura rarely resigned, but she realised now that she had to give up, go home. At least try to sleep.
The wind coming across the sand chilled her wet legs, and she made for the cafe at a jog. There was a light on in the apartment which meant that either Ben or Alana, or both of them, were home. As much as she wanted to avoid conversations about the evening, she was glad that they were there. She didn’t want to be alone, not in her vulnerable state.
On the veranda, she was dusting the sand off both her board and herself when she heard a voice behind her.
“Laura...I’m glad you’re still awake.”
Her heart sank at the sound of Dan speaking, and she turned around to see him stood looking rather sheepish. “Well I’m going to bed; I have no desire to speak to you, ever again.”
“I can explain!”
She laughed out loud, “no. No no no no. You are married, END of story. I don’t mess with that. Go back to your wife.”
He made to protest, but she shook her head, “go away!”
Laura had no interest in hearing any half arsed attempt at an excuse. The man was married, that was a thick black line Laura would never cross, she felt sick over the kisses they’d shared. She could have got engrossed in a long conversation about him, her, them...but as soon as she’d seen him with his wife she realised that the only emotion she felt was anger for being led on. She had no interest in him; he was only ever an interlude. She had to deal with Adam at some time; after all, he was right, their paths would cross a lot, but Dan? He was someone she never had to deal with again.
Without further comment, she slipped inside the building, locking the door behind her.
The following day, Saturday was busier than the first. The day started with a lifeguard competition, the under ten’s from four neighbouring villages competing for a trophy, and bragging rights. Then there was a surf competition. Though the surf was too flat to make it really competitive.
Then at five, the second day of music started.
For Laura the day was exhausting, she was the guest judge in the lifeguarding, and had meant to surf in the competition, but she pulled out, instead helping Alana in the cafe on what was undoubtedly their busiest day in history.
But it did mean that she had the chance to enjoy the evening. Her and Alana wandered around people watching, dancing, and sampling some great food. Eventually they made for one of the pubs and sat outside with a beer.
“So what happened with Dan?” Alana had been wondering all day if she’d met up with the man, Laura knew that, but she was nothing if not full of tact. “Did you see him last night...after the show?”
Laura sighed, “I did see him, and his wife!”
Alana’s mouth dropped open, “really? The dirty bastard! I cannot believe that!”
Nodding Laura sipped her beer, “caught me by surprise, but not as much as his solo return an hour later did!”
“He took her back to the hotel then came looking for you?” Alana shook her head incredulously, “men! They are a law unto themselves aren’t they?”
Laura cringed at the negativity in Alana’s comment, she knew her friend was desperate for some commitment from Ben, and this was another moment where she seemed to be hinting at her disappointment in that.
Laura laughed, “I know! Can you believe it?” She cringed knowing she was avoiding the true issue, but she was too nervous to open that can of worms tonight.
Alana’s anxiety however was palpable, and she couldn’t be a real friend without asking her what was wrong.
Alana shrugged, “I guess I thought that he was changing, that he was starting to value me, but now I‘m not so sure...I think I’m pretty dispensable, he proves that time and time again. I mean he’s
electric over this festival, but he’s never shown that with me!”
Laura loved Ben like a brother, but she could appreciate Alana’s concerns exactly. She and Ben were similar, it was why they got on so well, they both lived for the day, both came from successful families, rich families, and both loved the freedom of their independence. Alana on the other hand had given up so much to follow Ben, and he’d done little to reward her. Alana wanted a ring, and unless Ben acted soon, he was going to lose her. Laura realised that she needed to broach this topic with her friend...in a tactical way!
He joined them later, he’d been parading around the place with a walkie-talkie for most of the weekend, and as he approached both women turned on him with humour.
“Here he comes, Mr Important!” Alana joked.
Laura giggled, “no way! He looks more like Bob the builder!”
Both girls laughed, because it was true in his luminous high-vis jacket and boots, with the walkie-talkie at his ear he looked like the cartoon character, all he needed was a hardhat!
He swatted at them both, “for god’s sake, you two together are hell!” As the two women smiled he accepted a beer from Alana. “So Laura, I missed catching Adam last night, I need to pay him for his time last week. Do you have a number for him?”
Laura wanted to laugh; she didn’t know anything about Adam, literally. She didn’t know his surname, where he lived, or what he did, and she definitely didn’t have his phone number. She was surprised how embarrassed she felt at that, after all the man had saved her life. He kept telling her he was family, but she couldn’t agree with that, still prior to their argument the previous evening they’d managed to form a truce, she’d enjoyed their night in the pub. But it was his insistence in interfering in her life that had reopened that rift.
Smiling apologetically she shook her head, “not on me sorry... Who’s on stage next Mr Boss Man?” Her rapid change of subject was absorbed easily by her friends, and soon they were debating the success and failure points of the event. Ben was so pleased he was beaming as he spoke, this had been a big risk for him, and he’d thrown everything into the weekend. He’d been convinced that this would put the town on the map, lead to more visitors and more revenue for local businesses. And so far it seemed that that was the case. Once he started talking it was hard to quash his enthusiasm. All mention of Adam was long gone.
But for Laura as she tossed and turned that night, she couldn’t forget things so easily. She’d done wrong by him, he’d spoken the truth, there was more to Dan than met the eye, she didn’t know whether Adam knew Dan was married, or whether he knew about other women, the one thing she knew, almost instinctively, was that Adam would not have broached the topic if he wasn’t sure. How he actually knew...that was nothing she wanted to think about.
Sleep eluded her all night, so she was less than refreshed the following day. Ben and Alana had spent the day together, and Laura hoped that was a turning point for them, though she knew how thick skinned Ben was, he rarely saw what was in front of him. So she spent the day as close to relaxing as it got for her, a thirty mile cycle along the coastal path, then dinner at Michaela’s house, Adam was never far from her thoughts.
Laura knew she’d been brought up with good manners, and if she’d spoken out of turn then she needed to apologise. But she came back to the same problem as Saturday night, she had no idea where he was and how to contact him.
By lunchtime Tuesday, Laura could barely concentrate for the nausea that threatened to overtake her. Guilt and anxiety at not doing the right thing weighed hugely on her conscience, she knew she had to act. So she called her mother, between dog walks.
“Oh my gosh Laura! It’s so good to hear from you. We’ve not heard anything since your dramatic rescue! I’m so glad you called!”
From one guilt trip to another Laura fell over her words as she tried to make her mother appreciate how exciting things had been for her over the last few weeks. Adam had rushed back to London after the weekend he’d helped out in the surf school to appease her parents about the lifesaving. When he explained everything to them, they’d phoned gushing with fear and pride in equal measures! But otherwise she didn’t speak to them that often, and as she explained all that had happened since, whilst her mother may not be too taken with the news of the recent festival, she did listen patiently.
“So what’s news with you and Dad? Anything planned for the weekend?”
Her mother laughed that soft chuckle that people found so endearing, “nothing really, your father has golf, there may be a party at the Charterhouse on Friday, but your father isn’t that keen. He’s a bit depressed that Adam left.”
This was the information that Laura had called for, she wanted to know where he was, “left? Why?”
“He had to fly back to California unexpectedly as his mother is ill. He had business with your father yesterday, but he’s flown back again this morning. Poor guy looks shattered.”
The fact that he was running around between London and her in Wales whilst he had so many commitments made her feel even worse. “Is his mother really ill? I mean is it serious?”
Her mother sighed, “I don’t know really, I haven’t really had chance to speak to him. He spent a lot of time here when we first found out about him, but he’s been too busy for weeks now. Your father is a bit sad, you can tell. He hadn’t really got to know him as well as he’d like. So he feels all a bit awkward now. I mean it’s hard phoning someone when you don’t know them to make small talk, you know?”
Laura laughed, welcome to my world, was her silent response before she added, “maybe we could all catch up, it’s been a long time...?”
“Oh Laura!” Her mother cooed, “there’s no need for that! Your father said you were very busy...”
Laura rolled her eyes, she dreamed of the time that her mother would fully understand her and her life, instead she had this fragile woman who really was protected from cafes, dog walking and life outside of London society and had no idea what her daughter’s world entailed.
Later as she analysed that phone call, Laura realised how far she’d really drifted from her parents. They knew nothing about her life, and they rarely spoke, coupled with the way she was avoiding talking to Ben, well she was feeling as though she was disappointing everyone in her life, and it wasn’t a nice place.
For three days she minded her own business, walking the dogs, surfing and sleeping. It was a quiet week with very few lessons booked, though she did spend time renting out equipment most mornings. Ben was starting to improve, having spent the weekend out of his sling, he was feeling more confident, which eased the pressure on both Laura and Alana. Rather than relief, this only gave Laura more time to spend thinking.
By Friday she was beside herself, so she told Ben and Alana she was going to London for the weekend, at least there she could do right by her parents, assuage some of the guilt. But for the whole journey she equally cursed and thanked Adam silently for making her question everything. What was it about that man that made her question and doubt herself?
She planned to surprise her parents, she hadn’t told them she was coming, she figured if they were busy she’d just stay at theirs and wait, it was no big deal. If anything the thought of time alone with nothing to do but amuse herself. She’d even brought her book, that was optimism. But despite it all, for the first time in as long as she could remember, she felt anxiety at heading home.
Four hours later she stood on the street in the dark looking up at the Georgian building and wondering where her parents were. Fortunately she had a key this time, so she left herself in to the building. The apartment was in darkness, but at least she’s got in. And most importantly the fridge was well stocked. With a doorstep sandwich of ham and mustard and a bottle of ice cold beer, she sat in front of the TV and watched a late night movie. She’d sent a text to her Dad, a kind of ‘surprise’ note, and told him she’d see him in the morning. But she hadn’t had any reply. Jotting a note and leaving it on the hallway table where she knew they’d see it, she headed to bed.
Her room was at the back of the apartment, and when she opened the door she found the curtains drawn and the pitch blackness she craved for sleep. With a groan she kicked off her shoes and jeans, sliding the bra from under her vest top and sank onto the familiar mattress, a sense of calmness overwhelming her.
It was then she heard breathing, behind her, as she sat up in shock then tried to slide out of the bed, an arm landed on her thighs and pinned her to the bed. Terrified she had no control over the shrill scream that left her lips, and scrabbling out of bed, rather than putting on a light and confronting whoever was there, she ran out of the room.
In the kitchen, the breakfast bar separating her from the lounge, the hallway and whoever this intruder was, she rued her rashness, between panicked gasps for air. She was dressed in a pair of knickers, and a vest that barely covered them, her phone, her bag were all in the room she’d just deserted, and if anyone emerged from the bedroom they’d be between her and any exit. As she heard the bedroom door swing open, she reached for a carving knife, brandishing it in what she hoped was an effective way. But all strength and courage had left her, her hand started to shake, her knees were already quaking, she wasn’t very good at this. So in a complete act of genius, she closed her eyes!
The last thing she expected was to hear a laugh, a deep throaty chuckle. Snapping open her eyes, Laura saw Adam, lounging in the doorway in just a pair of boxer shorts. And he was laughing at her.