Part Twenty Five
It was over an hour until the next train rolled into Paddington that would take Laura to Wales, and every moment that she waited made her more and more anxious. She’d seen the look in Adam’s eyes, he wasn’t happy at her she knew that. But if she got home she had the safety and familiarity of her environment to protect her.
The long train arrived and rolled to a stop causing Laura to start skipping across the platform to one of the more distant carriages. The train terminated from its journey and an efficient station worker informed her that she had to wait until the train was cleaned. She knew she must look shady, constantly looking over her shoulder but she was desperate to escape.
Once she was given the ok by the guard, she dived on the train, hiding behind a newspaper.
The Berkshire countryside was whizzing past her window when her phone rang. It was her mother’s mobile number.
Laura flinched at the harsh male voice that greeted her.
“Don’t think about hanging up, or I will definitely drive down and be waiting when you get off the train. I’m sure I can beat the train.” She gulped but remained silent. She’d hurt Adam, Laura knew that, but it didn’t make it any easier to deal with him. “I know you think you’re clever running away Laura, but you’re not. We need to talk!”
“Adam!” It was a plea more than a protest, and it was met with a groan travelling between their phones.
“I don’t want to make things difficult for you, but we can’t pretend the last twenty four hours haven’t happened.” He paused, “we didn’t use anything Laura! I have never not used something in the past; I don’t know what came over me.”
Laura closed her eyes and slumped back into the seat, hating that this conversation was happening on a busy train, “it’s ok. I’m ok...and we’re both...clean!” She hissed. More than anything she hated that this was the first time she’d even thought about the lack of condoms, she’d never been so reckless before, but it had been so explosive with Adam, she’d barely been able to think beyond his hands, and his lips. Blushing at the thought she almost missed his response.
“You’re on the Pill? Thank God. And I am clean; I had a medical for my health insurance a few weeks. I can show you the papers...”
Laura chuckled, she too was relieved that she was on the Pill, but she had been for years, “it’s all right Adam, and I don’t need proof. I believe you.”
He sighed, grateful that their conversation was at least amicable, they’d had such a good time together prior to what happened later, he didn’t want to lose that either. “I can’t just let this go though, you seem happy to just run off.”
She sighed, “we both need a little space, come on Adam, what the hell would my father say? We’re linked forever through him; we can’t risk everything for him just on a whim.”
“It’s more than a whim,” he breathed, “it was special.”
“It was sex!” She hissed. The man opposite her across the table had his nose in his book but had failed to turn a page since the phone call had started. Eyeballing him, daring him to look at her, she turned her concentration back to Adam. “Don’t make a drama out of this.”
He laughed, a scornful sound, “don’t treat me like some sort of idiot! I’m not your cheap singer who wants a quick screw every few weeks when it suits him!”
Taking a deep breath she tried to control her temper, “no you are not. At least he was realistic! You live in a dream world! For an intelligent and successful man you seem to have a few loose screws! Now I really have to go.”
With that she hung up the phone. Then switched it off.
Walking into the cafe Laura immediately realised something was wrong. Firstly there was no sign of Ben, or Alana, one of the weekend workers was cashing up the tills, winding everything down.
“Where’s Ben?” she asked dumping her rucksack.
The young girl half smiled, “upstairs, he was supposed to come down at five...”
Laura glanced at the clock, it was half past six. “I’ll take over, you get off. I’ll make sure you’re paid until seven. OK?”
The girl smiled, “thanks Laura!” She got her coat and disappeared pretty rapidly.
It took Laura half an hour to finish locking up the cafe, and once the doors were bolted, she made for the stairs.
Standing at the doorway to the lounge, Laura froze. The home was never excessively tidy; the three of them were hoarders, a bad combination. But the sight that met her was far worse than that. The rack of magazines that sat beside the TV was tipped and its contents strewn across the floor, then there was the drawers of the chest pulled out all over the floor, storage boxes, everything. She could barely see the floor, and there stood in the middle of the room was Ben, and he’d never looked so dumbfounded.
“Ben?” she asked tentatively. “Have we been burgled?”
Picking her way through the debris, she made for him, but stopped dead in her tracks when he turned to face her. His eyes were wild, his face distraught and suddenly she realised that something catastrophic had happened.
“She’s gone! Fucked off and left me!” As he said the words he crumpled to his knees.
Laura paused for a moment, then realised that she’d missed the crescendo of the relationship between Ben and Alana.
“What do you mean?” She squatted down beside his shaking body.
He looked up, “Alana...I came home yesterday and she’d left this!” Reaching in his back pocket, he handed her some paper.
Unfolding it, Laura speed read the words, ‘I wish I meant as much to you as the cafe or this town, but I don’t. I can’t give up any more for nothing! You know I love you, but that’s not enough. Be safe, Alana x’
Then lifted her eyes to meet his, “Ben...she’s not been happy for a while.”
“You knew?” he spun around to glare at her. “You never said?”
The look on his face was a confusion of pain and betrayal, he made to storm away from her, but she reached out to stop him, this was another thing she wasn’t handling particularly well, and now yet another person viewed her with contempt. “She hadn’t said anything really, she’d just hinted that she was feeling a bit neglected.”
“And you said NOTHING?”
Laura’s heart bled for him, but this wasn’t her fault, and she wouldn’t take the blame. “Ben, she’s approaching thirty, and gave up her family, her friends and her life as she knew it to come here...”
“What does that mean?”
Groaning she took his hand, “I think she wanted a sign that you cared more about her than the festival or the cafe...”
It was difficult to make him see sense, but she didn’t want to put words into his mouth, “what does that mean? I love her, isn’t that enough?”
Laura sighed, “when was the last time you told her?”
He rubbed a hand over his eyes and groaned, “I don’t have to tell her every five minutes Laura, that’s not practical!”
Laughing Laura patted his shoulder, “if you think that she was right to leave.”
Half an hour later she’d showered, unpacked her bag and done everything to avoid thinking about the last twenty four hours. As memories of Adam finally started to permeate her defences, there was a knock at the door.
Pulling it open, relief at the distraction evident, she saw a devastated Ben stood there, “I’ve been trying to find my passport...I have to go after her. How can I get her back?”
Giving him a hug she couldn’t help the surge of affection that washed over her, “actions speak louder than words. You need to show her how you feel!”
Mid morning the following day, Laura was trying to manage everything. Ben had gone, so either her dog walking or the cafe had to be wound down, fortunately, the weather took a turn for the worst. The location of the cafe, above the beach, exposed and open to the hard rain meant that she had a slight reprieve. The three casual cafe workers were glad of the extra hours, but Laura also had to juggle the finances, and that meant that she had to decide whether to pay staff or close at certain times.
After two days of barely resting, she had closed everything up and decided to have an early night. As she lowered herself into a deep bubble bath, her phone bleeped and alerted her to an email. It was from Alana.
‘Hi Laura, So sorry to leave without saying goodbye. Ben spent all weekend planning some fishing trip with the new town committee, my mother called to say my sister wasn’t well...Ben wasn’t there to support me. I shouldn’t have just run off, but I was so upset. I’ve been back in Hawaii for a few days, and it’s like I’ve never been away. Come visit? Alana.’
Laura felt a sense of foreboding at that message, if Alana was settled back there it wouldn’t matter what Ben did or said he’d never win her over. She looked at the clock, he’d flown from Heathrow the previous evening, and after a change in LAX, he had wasn’t due into Honolulu for another couple of hours...then there was the transfer from Oahu to Hawaii, the island where Alana’s parents ran an executive golf resort. He’d have been travelling for more than thirty hours when he got there. He’d need a few days to recover. Poor Ben...and poor Alana!
Not replying to the email, as she wasn’t keen to lie to her friend. She tossed the phone onto the phone, only for it to bleep again.
She ignored the phone and the email. She didn’t want to be reminded of Adam and what he meant to her. But as she made some hot chocolate later, struggling to cope with the sudden surge of cold that was blasting the coast, the email came to her mind again.
‘Laura. I know you don’t want to speak to me, I only hope you read this! I’ve had to return home, my mother has not responded well to the chemotherapy. She needs help. She’s been asking for it for the last few weeks. But I’ve been otherwise engaged! It doesn’t mean I don’t want to see you again, try and talk sense into you! You know I want more, that I think there’s too much good between us to give up on you, but I’m not going to force you to see that. I’ve come to accept you as a friend, a good friend, and I don’t want to lose that either.
Hope you can still tolerate me in your life, Adam.’
She stared at the screen for a long while unable to fathom the tone and words of his message. Every time she thought she had him thought she understood him, he wrong footed her. Could she become an email buddy with the man who’d ignited passion in her like no one else? She sighed then composed a reply.
‘Hey Adam, sorry to hear your mother is more ill than you expected. That must be a real worry. Your life has been rather hectic this last few months, a little time settled with her will probably be what you both need. Of course we are friends, we’re family after all. Speak soon, Laura.’
As she pressed send she knew she’d incense him, she’d played down their relationship, and talked about them being family. As she curled up under the duvet she wondered whether part of her was goading him deliberately.
Early morning surfing was off the menu the following day, despite the perfect waves that the change in weather had created. The cafe was filled with lots of familiar faces all there for one reason...the sea. She made jug after jug of coffee, and more bacon sandwiches than she could count. By ten o’clock the rain had started again, and Sharon, one of their holiday helpers had arrived. So Laura left to walk the big dogs.
Half an hour later dressed in full waterproofs, she was running along the beach with the animals, yapping at her heels, and despite the wind and rain pounding her face she felt calm, relaxed and at home. Dropping to sit on a rock she watched the animals as they took in turn to mark their territory, then drink from the bowl she’d carried in her backpack and filled with water from a bottle.
As she was returning the last of the dogs to their home her phone bleeped, glancing down she saw an email...from Adam. Back in her van she stared at the phone for ages not really wanting to open it, but her curiosity got the better of her.
‘Laura, don’t give me that “family” bullshit. We are not and never will be family in THAT way, so don’t cop out. I am willing to manage how I feel about you, but not if you keep throwing shit like that at me. Don’t deny what happened. That said, my mother is getting better, she’s back from the ICU, they think she was allergic to some component of the chemo drugs...so back to the drawing board for her.
It all means I can’t visit the UK again for a while, and that is something I regret. Tell me how EARLYDOORS cafe is, maybe the stories can feed my hunger for a quiet Welsh beach... Adam’
She sighed, she loved that she’d angered him, but then hearing about his mother made her sad. She’d told him there was no future for them, that didn’t mean she didn’t long to have another moment in his arms, or another of those hypnotic kisses, and in that moment sat bedraggled and wet, she wanted both of those things.
Taking a deep breath she started the engine and drove back to the cafe.