Silly Games

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Part Twenty

There was a moment of immense relief, that she’d disturbed no one more sinister, despite the voice reminding her that burglars didn’t put themselves to bed, neither did dangerous predators, then the anger hit her.

                “What the fuck are you doing in my bed?”

He stopped laughing and stared at her, “I arrived back this morning, my company apartment is flooded, I was jetlagged, your mother insisted I stay. Apparently your room is nicer than the guest room! What are you doing here? I thought you’d seen enough of London to last a life time!”

She had no retort suitable that didn’t implicate how he’d made her think differently, and how her prime motive had been to find a way of contacting him. Her pride wouldn’t allow that. “This is my home...” was all she could manage.

Grinning knowingly, he crossed to the fridge, and reached inside for a carton of orange juice. He had complete self confidence, despite standing in front of her in just his underwear, she was far more aware of her nakedness, and was glad of the breakfast bar that hid her.

Once he’d drunk some of the fluid, he turned to her, “THIS is your home? You’ve spent the last couple of months assuring me and your parents that your home is in Wales, best of both worlds, hey Laura?”

She couldn’t remember him ever using her name, and the sound of it on his lips was having a weird effect on her. The snappy comments, the witty replies, her defence against all things bad, seemed to fail her; instead she was left staring at her finger nails like a naughty child.

Adam laughed again, “silence? Really?”

Her head snapped up and he was rewarded by the fire that he loved flashing in her eyes, “I am standing in my parents’ kitchen in my underwear!” She hissed, “I found a strange man in my bed! I am entitled to be angry, and that today has made me silent!”

The last comment sounded ridiculous even to her own ears, and the smirk that swept across his face only made her see more red!

Storming past him, uncaring about her bare legs and midriff, she stomped back into her bedroom.

Flicking on the light, she saw the mussed up duvet, Adam’s print heavy on the sheets of her bed, his bag and his laptop sat on the dressing table, and her clothes were draped across the chair just inside the door. Snatching at her jeans, she pulled them on, then turned, feeling his presence behind her.

                “I’ll go check in a hotel!” She announced, then enjoyed the expression of confusion on his face.

                “Don’t be stupid!” He put out an arm to restrain her, “why is it always anger with you? Relax, there’s a spare room here, your mother was stressed that the housekeeper hadn’t changed the bedding in there, this room was cleaner...I don’t mind dirty bedding...” he sighed, “I’d sleep on a bed of nails at the moment.”

It was only then that she really looked at him and saw just how tired he was.

                “How’s your mother?”

He sighed, “she was diagnosed with breast cancer a few months ago. She had surgery a month back...her chemotherapy started a few days ago. She needed me there...” He shook his head, “but then you’re not here for small talk. You didn’t tell your parents you were coming?”

Laura instantly balked when the attention came back to her, “I needed a break...”

He lowered himself to the bed and looked up at her, “you? Need a break? What’s gone wrong now?

                “Like I’m going to confide in you!” As she made to storm out of the door his voice stopped her.

                “Laura! Don’t go!” She glanced back at him and he seemed broken, he was tipped forward looking at the floor, when his eyes lifted again he looked sad. “If anyone goes it will be me.”

Something resembling pain tugged at her chest, it was horrible to see him look so exhausted, and she knew one thing, there was no way she was letting him move to a hotel. “I’ll take the spare room, you stay here.”

He nodded but could barely keep his eyes open. Laura was again feeling like a spoilt child. As she slid into the cold bed in the spare room, her mind was overactive. Yet again she wasn’t looking at herself with pride. She’d never really looked at the big picture, and didn’t think she was selfish, but Adam kept saying things, making her see that she was. Her parents were desperate to see her more often, her only family, and she almost took pleasure in snubbing them, she was defensive over her home in Wales, not caring if that upset her parents. Then there was Adam himself, she seemed to do wrong by him every time she saw him. She was there in London to find him, to apologise, instead she’d been angry, defensive.

As she tossed and turned she thought about the man lying in her childhood bed, she didn’t hate him, her suspicions and resentment had been washed away, so why was she still so angry? Because he brings out the worst in you! She answered her own question. He had a place in her family that she still wasn’t comfortable with, but if she kept behaving as she was, she would be the one ending up as the outsider, she could see that now. She had to stop this now.

She heard her parents come home, they were talking quietly as they made for bed, she was tempted to get up and speak to them, but then decided against it, she wasn’t feeling sociable, and that was exactly what she was hoping to change.  But three hours later, sleep had still eluded her, Laura knew that when she her sleep was this disrupted, there was nothing going to help her. So she finally got up and headed to the kitchen. Hot milk with a glug of whisky was just what she needed, that and maybe reading a few chapters of her book.

The pan of milk was heating on the stove, and she was sat cross legged on the work surface reading when she heard a door open, the last thing she’d wanted was to wake her parents. With a groan she looked up.

Adam had spent the last few hours in some sort of no man’s land. He was neither awake nor asleep. He’d gone past exhaustion sometime in the week, and his body protested every step as he made for the kitchen. The thought of something to eat, and drink had dragged him out of the bed, rather more slowly than the screams of Laura a little earlier. As he smiled, thinking about that damned woman, he found a light on in the kitchen, and the woman in question sat on the counter staring at him.

                “Can’t sleep?” His voice was croaky through lack of sleep.

She nodded, “want some hot milk?”

He spotted the bottle of whisky beside her and smiled, “laced with something special?”

She laughed, “you look like death!”

                “Thanks, I think I left my body behind in California!”

She jumped down from the counter, “only your brain made it here, hey?” She didn’t wait for a response. “You look like you need calories! Chocolate cake?”  There was very little else in the fridge, but the cake was homemade, a bonus. Cutting him a wedge and loading it on to a plate, she placed it on the breakfast bar, then nudged him towards a stool.

Taking a fork he picked at the cake, which was delicious, as she added more milk to the pan on the stove.

                “Where in California do you live?” lounging against the counter she watched him eat.

After chewing appreciatively he glanced at her, “I was brought up in a place called Ventura, it’s on the coast, just up from LA, but my home is in Malibu, I live on the beach.”

Her eyes widened and she chuckled, “I presume you don’t mean a tent on the sand!”

He laughed, “no, I’ve got a house, but the beach is my back yard!”

To Laura it sounded perfect, and she knew that California in the winter was probably more temperate than Wales at the height of summer. “Just like the movies!”

Adam nodded, “we moved there from the Mid West when I was five, my Dad was a doctor, plastic surgeon...I hated it there for a while, but I love it there now, and I miss it, it’s the busiest but also the calmest place, full of crazies, it’s fake, but it’s beautiful. You know?”

It was such an endearing description, and to Laura it almost reflected her love of her home, away from all that London had to offer, it was, is, a contradiction, a real paradox. But that’s what made it special to her, and ironically similarly to him.

                “I do. Exactly.”

They were both silent and contemplative for a moment, “So you’ve always surfed?” Laura broke the silence.

Nodding Adam tucked into the cake again, “started when I was a kid, as I said to you before, I taught lessons in the holidays to supplement my college fund. I catch a few waves before work if I can; it’s the greatest start to the day!”

Sighing she could only feel envy that he had such a great place to live, as much as she loved Wales, it was a long way from being the sun kissed Pacific coast, and he was right there was no greater way to start your day.

“What do you do?” She’d heard all this talk of business, and deals he was making with her father, but she knew so little about him that she had no idea what those deals entailed...not that she knew much about her father’s work.

                “I run an export firm, mainly out of LAX, but I have expanded over the years, got forty three depots across the country and fifteen international offices! I started the company after I graduated from Berkley, lucky break, bought up a dying business. Managed to turn it around in eight months. It just keeps growing...at the moment.” he chewed again, “I’m diversifying now, hence me looking at some manufacturing opportunities this side of the Atlantic.”

Laura felt her eyes widen once again, “really? That sounds...” What did it sound? Amazing? Astounding? She had no idea that he was a mogul, just like his father. A pang of pain hit her deep in the chest, they were so different, and he was so similar to her father, he was everything Stafford Marshall wanted in a child. This was her initial fear coming back to haunt her, it was okay to distance yourself from your family, but a completely different thing to lose favour to someone more suited, someone who is a blood tie.

Adam could see the confusion on her face, and he was confused himself, “it sounds boring Laura, and that’s what it is! I’d give it all up to walk dogs and work in your cafe. I really enjoyed my weekend there!”

Taking the milk from the stove she filled the two mugs then handed him one, “you wouldn’t, you’d hate it. You’re like my dad, driven, determined...you’d manage about two days. I bet you get bored on holidays like him too!”

Thinking for a moment he suddenly burst one laughing, “you’re right! I had three weeks in Mexico last year, came home after ten days!” He didn’t add that part of that was because he argued with his then girlfriend on day two. There were something’s you didn’t tell your step sister! Then he spotted the sadness in her eyes.

                “What is it Laura?”

She shrugged nonchalantly; turning away, studying her finger nails intently, but Adam spotted the look in her face.

                “Laura?”

There was something about his voice that she couldn’t ignore; lifting her eyes she tried a smile, “just thinking ‘like father like son’!”

Adam sighed, “it’s not like that, you are his daughter.”

Her laugh was self deprecating, “he’s wanted me to be more like him, but it was never going to happen!”

For Adam he was suddenly seeing the real issues through this small chink in Laura’s armour, “He loves you...for you. All he ever talks about is how wonderful you are. He’s proud of you, and nothing will change that!” he hoped she could sense the sincerity in his voice.

Laura had shuttered off that moment, hating that he’d seen her vulnerable side, she shook herself, “I know! He’s so proud of his dog walking surfer! Come on Adam, you are his dream come true! You feeling any more relaxed? You’ve got a bit more colour!”

The subject change was rapid, and he knew better than to revisit it, she’d said enough, so he stored the information then smiled, “this drink was exactly what was needed.”

                “Great isn’t it? Milk punch my gran called it! My mother’s mother is from Kildare in Ireland, she had the most amazing recipes, she first gave me this to help me sleep when I was about seven...my Dad went mad!”

Almost spluttering on his drink he laughed out loud, “I’m not surprised! That’s hilarious! I can’t imagine your father...I can only think he was furious!”

She nodded, “he was, but it was nothing as bad as when she taught me a Republican militant song at bedtime!”

                “No!” His eyes were wide and his mouth hung open.

                “Oh yes!” She laughed, “she was no active IRA member or anything...or so she said, she just assured him it was a song her mother had taught her.”

Adam was stunned, “I’d have loved to have met her!”

                “She was fun! Mad, in a crazy way...she’d have fitted in at your home!”

The silence was comfortable, they’d buried a lot of hatchets, but Laura had to apologise, it was imperative.

                “I’m sorry about last week.” She offered, and when he lifted an eyebrow in question she added, “I came here to find out how to get hold of you. You were right about Dan, I didn’t see it!”

                “Did he hurt you?” He leaned towards her his face contorted with anger.

Shaking her head vehemently she denied it straight away, “no. Of course not. But his wife came with him to the festival. He had the gall to introduce me to her.”

                “Ah.”

Laura remembered how embarrassed she’d been, and how angry. “The bastard. Why marry if you’re going to try and shag anything that moves?”

Adam was glad that his investigators got that right, but he wasn’t happy he’d left that bastard to upset Laura. He was the lowest scum, and he deserved to know that people were on to him. Adam sighed, saying that Laura didn’t look that upset, and he couldn’t take on everyone’s battles, he’d learned that a long time ago. He craved control in every situation, but he was learning as he got older that things didn’t always work out the way he wanted.

And he had the feeling whenever it came to Laura, he was always going to be way out of his depth...and he had no idea how that made him feel.

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