Part Twenty Two
After three shots of tequila of all things, Adam managed to direct Laura to a nearby chip shop. He knew that chips would fill her up and stave off the alcohol. It seemed she was on a mission and he was a mere passenger to that.
With the fried potatoes wrapped in newspaper, they made for a nearby bench, then sat and ate them. It was a warm evening, and it wasn’t unpleasant to sit and watch the world go by. As he sat he wondered when the last time he’d sat and eaten cheap fast food and wasted time doing nothing. He was experiencing a whole lot of firsts with this woman.
“Do you think it’s a conspiracy?” Her words pulled him out of his daydream.
Pausing mid mouthful he turned to her a questioning look, “what?”
She chewed vigorously, before answering, “well you got a flood, in your apartment, then my parents. Flood in their basement? Coincidence?”
“I’d not thought about that!” He watched as her eyes twinkled, and she pulled out her mobile phone.
“Mrs Edmunds?” She spoke with a smile as someone answered her call. “It’s Laura!”
She listened to the gushing response from the woman, at the same time she mouthed “the housekeeper” at him. The woman was enthusiastic and excited at hearing from Laura. So she listened in silence for a moment.
“No, I was calling to surprise my mother...” Laura laughed, “she’s not there? I thought as she wasn’t in London...” She stared at Adam her eyes wide, “Oh, they’re NOT expected with you?...Everything’s ok?...Great!” She winked dramatically at Adam then added, “no, don’t tell them I called if they turn up. I’ll surprise them another time. OK? Speak soon!”
She hung up and deposited the remnants of her meal into the bin nearby, then turning she grinned at Adam, “Mrs Edmunds who lives with her husband on site hasn’t spoken to my parents since Wednesday, everything’s fine, and definitely no flood! Seems like a little subterfuge a foot!”
Adam laughed, “you think they were as aware of the awkwardness as we were?”
Laura shuddered, “I can’t think about my parents sloping off like teenagers for sex Adam, don’t make me!”
Laughing he threw the remainder of his food away too, “come on, didn’t someone mention a party?”
Two hours later, Adam was sat on a barstool laughing hysterically at Laura. She was on the small stage in the corner of the pub, a microphone in her hand, the whole building absorbed in her hilarious rendition of ‘You can go your own way’, by Fleetwood Mac on the karaoke. After much excitement at the thought of a nearby pub holding a karaoke night, Laura had dragged him into the building, and after a few nerve calming pints, she took the stage.
Belting out the vocals, what she lacked in musicality, she made up for in enthusiasm, the whole pub was enthralled with her, singing along at her shouts of ‘come on everyone!’ And no one was more captivated than Adam, for all his laughter, he was starting to appreciate Laura in a way he never had. He’d always seen her as a strong, fiery and very independent woman, but today he was seeing her in a completely new light. She was funny, a little reckless, and very addictive.
As the song came to the end with a crescendo, the pub erupted and she turned to bow to her audience before skipping over to Adam and grabbing her pint. Gulping almost half of it, she sighed, then smiled at him.
“You are the queen of performance!”
Laura laughed, “I got addicted to karaoke when I was in Oz years ago, don’t see it very often these days. This is such a treat! Your turn! What you going to sing?”
Adam appreciated the liveliness in her eyes, but he had no intention of singing, “nothing, I assure you! I have a singing voice that is worse than my handwriting!” With a grin, he reached into his back pocket and brought out a business card, on the back was scrawled something illegible.
She took the card and studied it, but couldn’t decipher anything. Handing it back to him she laughed, “bullshit! You are the sort of man who’s good at everything. Pick a song, or I’ll pick one for you!” With a menacing waggle of the eyebrows she left for the bathroom.
When she returned he was still resistant, he wasn’t the sort to get up and sing. For Adam surfing and golf was as much relaxation as he had in life, he had so many obligations and duties that he didn’t have much time for anything else. He’d started his first business whilst he was still in University, and it had kept growing and demanding like a family, taking up all his spare time. The last few months since he’d found his father had been the most slack of the last ten years. He was being called back on so many different levels, but so far he’d managed to resist. Tonight represented everything he’d avoided for years, frivolity with time and effort.
Laura slipped onto the seat next to him and looked up expectantly.
She smiled, “have you picked?”
Rolling his eyes he laughed, “Laura, I’m not singing. No way!” And he had no intention. Then he saw her expression change, as she jumped to her feet he felt a little nervous.
Laughing she skipped away from him, “oh yes you are!”
Ten minutes later the DJ called him up to sing. Adam shook his head, but Laura soon wound up their corner of the room to cheer and encourage him up to sing. The attention was so great that he couldn’t argue, and he’d look more of an idiot for not joining it.
Leaning in he placed his lips on her ear, “you will pay for this Laura Marshall...just you wait!” Then to cheers and wolf whistles, he marched across the room.
On the stage the lights blinded him from most of the pub, but he managed to find Laura and glare at her, he couldn’t wait to exact some sort of revenge later. The DJ handed him a microphone before announcing, “this is Adam, bringing the excitement down a notch...”
Adam felt sick, as he looked at the monitor in front of him he groaned, he was going to kill her!
The plink plonk of the piano started a song that made him cringe, ‘Tell Laura I Love Her’? He really would murder her.
Laura started to smirk as the music started, and Adam’s evil glare only made that harder to control. She’d almost burst with excitement when she saw the Ricky Valance song on the song sheet. When she was a girl her father had serenaded her with it whenever he wanted to embarrass her, now it was time to turn the tables. It was a hard song to sing, high pitched, with very little musical support, she rubbed her hands waiting for him to blush and screw it up. Revenge indeed for all the upheaval he’d caused in her life...That was until he started to sing and she realised he had lied, he had a really good voice.
"Tell Laura I love her...tell Laura I need her...tell Laura not to cry, my love for her will never die...” he pinned her to the stool with his gaze, and he was using the song to embarrass her. And it was working of sorts. Suddenly her mouth was dry, her heart was pounding. The unease and awkwardness was all hers. the melody was haunting and his interpretation of it did more than get under her skin. She was almost quivering with the emotions he was stirring.
When Adam finished the whole place was silent for a moment, then applause and whistles as enthusiastically as they had been for Laura erupted around the room. Swallowing the slight unease that the lyrics and the way he’d sung them had elicited in her, Laura smiled as he stalked towards her.
“Funny hey?” he asked as he sat next to her with a sullen face. “Your idea of fun?”
Laura shrugged, “pretty funny, though you have a voice far superior to your hand writing. So I just look like a megalomaniac now!”
“There are at least a dozen men in here who would have said it to you honestly and without the need for music, but no, it was all about shaming me!” Smiling he added, “it worked!” Then he leaned forward and placed his lips once again on her ear to breathe, “as I say, you’ll pay for that.” Whilst it was said in jest, she also knew the she’d pushed their relationship to a different place. And she didn’t know exactly what that meant.
By the time they’d finished the next drink Adam was speaking to her again and they were talking US versus UK sports with a gang of guys at the bar. Laura loved that Adam was sociable, he knew lots about everything and could discuss the intricacies of cricket and ‘soccer’ as easily as he could ice hockey and basketball. The debate was intense but good natured and she chipped in on both sides as the men discussed the pros and cons.
“You’re supposed to defend me!” he whispered as he joined her at the bar as she waited for refills.
Laura laughed, “Adam Purcell! You do not need anyone to defend you! And I thought after the singing, you promising revenge...well I might need support from others, just in case, you know?”
He laid a hand on her arm, “I wouldn’t hurt you Laura.” There was a sincerity in his voice that she knew was genuine, but then he broke into a grin, “...much!”
An hour later the DJ had finished the second stint of karaoke and announced the candidates for the ‘cash prize’. Laura’s ears pricked up and nudged Adam with her elbow. “Hear that?”
Adam laughed, “you are dreaming! Come on, let’s get going. I could do with some fresh air.”
Groaning theatrically, she gathered her things and was about to stand when she heard, the same man announce.
“We have four candidates, Sarah Martin with Billie Jean, Paul and Mike with Love Shack, then Laura Marshall with Go Your Own Way, and finally Adam Purcell with Tell Laura I love her. I have voting slips here, and at the bar. Twenty minutes and the winner of one hundred pounds will be announced!”
Laura grabbed Adam’s arm, but he was already groaning, she’d not miss out on that amount of money. As he paused, she looked up and grinned.
“Running away rather than get your arse kicked by moi?”
Again he groaned, “Laura...is there anything you’re NOT competitive over?”
She shook her head, “It’s ONE HUNDRED POUNDS! And yes, I’d love to beat your backside in any competition you could mention!”
Raising an eyebrow, he leaned in close again, “I can think of so many events where I would kick you into next week...and I’d LOVE every moment!” He stepped back, “and that starts TONIGHT!”
Yep, she’d found and unleashed his competitive streak, and as her eyes widened she smiled, “game on!”
“Winner buys dinner?” it was his compromising offer.
She turned to stare at him, “dinner? You win £100 and you’re offering me another bag of chips?”
As the DJ cleared his throat to announce the winners in reverse order, Adam glanced at her and murmured, “I was meaning tomorrow night, at Jonty’s your father tells me it’s the best place to dine!”
Laura barely heard as the results were announced, she was too busy processing that Adam wanted to take her to the most romantic, expensive AND exclusive restaurant in the whole of town.
“Step up here Laura!”
The words barely penetrated her conscious level. The sharp elbow to the ribs did though.
“What the...” she turned to berate Adam, but he was grinning.
“You’d better start thinking of how you’re going to treat me with your winnings!” His face was lit with enthusiasm and pride as he pushed her towards the stage. Suddenly she realised that everyone in the bar was looking at her expectantly.
“I won? I wasn’t listening...”
Adam merely kept grinning as he watched her zigzag through people to the stage.
“THIS is what you do with a hundred quid? Really?”
Adam didn’t have a problem with heights, but standing in a glass pod moving at 1 kilometre an hour into the London night seemed the least celebratory event that he could imagine. But when he turned to look at Laura her face was a picture of excitement and happiness. She was staring out at the cityscape enthralled.
The London Eye didn’t open every night, and rarely this late, but today was one of the lucky times for Laura. Saying that, to ensure a pod to themselves he’d had to double the amount she’d won, and more. But he couldn’t bare spending half an hour with the party of Malaysian tourists, or three stag and hen parties that had queued with them. So they were in the pod alone, and Laura was still gazing out of the window.
Coming to stand beside her he tried to see what she did, but failed. He liked London, but it wasn’t his home, he didn’t have a reaction anywhere like hers.
“Isn’t it wonderful?” she breathed, and when he didn’t answer she looked up at him. “Not your thing?”
He shrugged, “as cityscapes go, it’s cool.”
She turned her eyes back to the window, “but look, you can follow the River Thames knowing that it goes to the sea, that this city is closer to freedom than it looks, then you’re up near Big Ben, almost flying, reminds me of watching Mary Poppins when I was a kid.”
So that was it. “This wheel makes you realise that there’s life outside the city?”
She nodded, it had been her lifesaver when it was constructed. Even as a child she loved London, but hated the oppression of the city, and as life went on her family seemed to spend more time there than anywhere. After a particularly hard day at sixth form she’d come here, jump in a pod and dream that she was anywhere but. She’d left the city a few years later, but she still associated the Eye as her crutch, she needed it to remind her that life went on outside of the trauma of her family or home.
Adam’s arm had dropped to rest around her shoulder, and with a sigh he pulled her close to him and kissed the top of her head. “Every time I think I got you, you say or do something to surprise me.”
He thought she’d resist, brush him off, so when she relaxed against him their proximity and isolation seemed like the worst combination he could have imagined. Or the best.
Enthusiastically she pointed out everything on the horizon, and after a few moments, he became embroiled in her memories and stories, soon he forgot that they were in the London Eye, and that he wasn’t that bothered about the place. Through her eyes he was seeing things anew, reliving her childhood hopes and dreams, and it was enlightening.