Part Twenty Six
Laura didn’t reply to the email that day. Things were hectic, but with a lot of juggling she could just manage. Things were quiet due to the rubbish weather, but it was the height of holiday season, no one went back to school or college for another few weeks, and that meant that every holiday home and apartment was full. Without the beach to amuse families, the cafes and pubs did see a different trade. By five o’clock Laura didn’t want to see another crying child for the rest of her life. When Michaela called begging her to come out for a few drinks, Laura wanted to say no, she was so tired, but she remembered the ‘all work and no play’ adage, and promised to join her.
After a day of cooking food the last thing Laura wanted was to eat, but after three glasses of wine her empty stomach was protesting and she was feeling tipsy, so she forced herself to order and then eat one of Al’s special pies complete with homemade fries. As she tucked into it listening to Michaela talking animatedly about her latest date with Paul, she couldn’t help but remember the last time she’d sat in this very bar and ate the same. At the moment all roads led back to Adam and she rued the pain in her chest that caused.
The following morning she had another email from Alana, ‘You could have warned me he was coming!’ Attached was a photo of the most beautiful diamond ring she had ever seen, simple, yet elegant. Perfect for Alana. Opening a new mail she emailed Ben and congratulated him on doing the right thing, not that it was before time!
Genuinely pleased for her friends, she opened the cafe at five thirty with more joie de vivre than she’d had the day before. The weather was slightly less gloomy, but as she walked the small dogs that afternoon she once again rued the fact that such a beautiful place in the sun could become so dismal in the rain. Sitting on a bench on the cliff top path, she watched the animals run around sniffing and playing as was the norm with canines, she pulled out her phone and finally formulated a reply to Adam.
‘Don’t shout at me in an email Mister! Glad that your mother is a little better, it must be such a worry. I won’t refer to you as family again, if you don’t want me to, but I think I’m aware that I’ve been jealous of you in the way an only child can be. I gave you such a hard time when you arrived on the scene, but it’s made my father happy, and for that I’m happy. Somewhere along the line I’ve realised you’re a nice guy, funny even. But I can’t jeopardise my father’s happiness on a selfish whim.
‘That doesn’t mean I don’t think about you!’ She immediately erased that line and instead added, ‘I’m glad we can be friends. As for stories of the EarlyBird...Alana left whilst I was in London, seemed that she finally had enough of Ben’s lack of commitment. He’s been devastated, but followed her back to Hawaii; she’s just emailed me a photo of her engagement ring...the boy done good. Weather is rubbish here, wet, stormy and depressing, which is great as I’m trying to juggle three businesses. Promise not to tell my father I‘m working fourteen hour days, or he’ll be dragging me back to London to one of his junior management positions, it suits me that he thinks I’m a bum...but then you know that! Laura.’ And she dared to add an ‘x’!
Life was boring without Ben and Alana to joke with, or Adam to wind up, and her working days were long and hard. It was the dog walking moments that kept her sane, she loved the animals, would have loads herself if she didn’t move around so much. You couldn’t have animals and freedom!
Adam had responded to her email with outrage cursing Ben for abandoning her to manage everything herself, but she’d quickly assured him that this was what they did; the three of them had an arrangement. Since then it had all gone quiet from his side.
She wondered whether that was a sign that things weren’t great with his mother, but she was too concerned to ask, and she didn’t want him to know that his emails were all she had to look forward to.
Friday afternoon the post arrived late, mainly bills, from the suppliers, utilities, nothing exciting, except for the last manila envelope that was hand written rather than the usual print, and addressed to her. Tearing it open with intrigue she pulled out a rather elaborate envelope. It was an invite to a regional ‘Local Heroes’ award night, she’d been nominated by the family of the man she’d rescued weeks earlier.
Whilst she was thrilled, it was such an honour, Laura was also a little embarrassed at the thought; she wasn’t a hero, not like a decorated war vet, or the coast guards and lifeguards who did this every day. After looking at the letter for more than an hour in between finishing serving the customers and then cashing up and locking the doors, she was still unsure what it meant. She had no one to sound things off with, Michaela was off with Paul for a romantic weekend away, Ben and Alana were in Hawaii, then there was Adam. He was the one she really wanted to tell, but he’d been quiet since Wednesday.
So instead, she stored the letter in her bedroom, then headed to the pub, hoping that she’d see someone there to chat with.
It was always lively in Al’s pub, most of the locals spent their evenings there, whereas the tourists and visitors tended to go to the louder pubs nearer the centre of town. Sat on a bar stool Laura was soon sucked into various conversations, and a particularly animated debate over whether Anthony Hopkins or Richard Burton was the better actor, both were fairly local in birth, and the debate divided the pub into those from each of the home towns.
‘Are you surfing much then? I’ve just come in from a few sets off Malibu, perfect! Thought of you as I rode a few gnarly ones! Been flat here for a few days, so glad that the surf is up again! Worried about you overworking. You heard from Ben yet?
Spoke to SM (her father) yesterday and he’s taking your mother to New York, part business part pleasure, then they’re flying back via her friend in Paris. You’re going to be really alone...Adam”
It was five am on a Monday morning, half an hour before her alarm was due to sound, she shouldn’t have seen her phone light up with the arrival of the email, she shouldn’t have read it, and she shouldn’t now be wide awake. Pulling a pillow over her head, she hoped for a little more sleep, her days were really being eaten up by work.
The weekend was busier in the cafe, generally, but there was no dog walking, but by Sunday afternoon she’d been experiencing cabin fever. So she’d gone for a late evening jog, twilight was a beautiful time and little disrupted the serenity.
She’d slept better for the fresh air, but now Monday morning had come around too quickly, accompanied by the evidence that she definitely wasn’t pregnant after the previous weekend. Not that she was ever in doubt. She usually suffered for day one, and when she knew what she had ahead, she groaned to herself. The mountain of work would not do itself!
Just before Laura was about to leave for her morning walk, leaving Sharon the casual employee enjoying a lot more work in charge, the postman came with a huge parcel addressed to her. Not expecting anything, she moved to a table at the back of the cafe and opened it. Pulling the contents out, she gasped, a hand flying to her mouth. There was her dress, torn and frayed, an instant memory of how it was ripped from her body encompassed her mind, and she had to shake herself to look back in the box, and there lay six immaculate versions of the same dress in different colours, then beneath them, at the bottom of the box was her underwear, last seen on the floor of her childhood bedroom.
Feeling heat flush her face and neck, she dropped onto a seat and fingered the soft fabric of the damaged dress. So many images and moments flooded her brain as she sat and looked at the remnants of that weekend, and the promises that a man made in the heat of the moment being fulfilled. Laura made to stuff the clothing back into the box when a note fell out.
‘As hard as it was to send some of this back to you, I am a man of my word...but next time you tempt me to damage your dress, can you make sure it’s something a little easier to replace? I only enclose six dresses, as that’s all that the designer had. So take this as an IOU for another four! A.’
His words raised a smile, she’d bought the dress from a small stall, it was handmade by a woman from St Ives in Cornwall. She couldn’t begin to imagine how he’d located her, purchased and posted them to her in a week. But he wasn’t a man to break a promise; she knew that about him now. Taking the parcel upstairs, she couldn’t wipe the smile off her face.
Later that evening she still hadn’t replied to the email, let alone thanked Adam for the gifts. And the thought of doing it filled her with dread. She’d avoided thinking about him as much as she could, but it was so hard when he was spending his time being damn near perfect. She asked for space, he’d given it, his emails were inquisitive, concerned, but not demanding, then there was him delivering on a passion induced promise. She couldn’t work out how to take it. It had only been eight days since she’d left her parents’ home in a rush, though it seemed as though her whole world had skewed in that time.
Now her parents were going away, a phone call earlier confirmed Adam’s email. And he was also right about her feeling alone, for the first time in years. She cursed him under her breath; he’d infiltrated her life and changed everything! She’d not needed anyone before, her parents she kept at arm’s length, her friends had always lived their own lives...but without him, without Adam in her life, everything else seemed wrong.
‘Thanks you so much for the dresses, you didn’t have to. And I wouldn’t have minded if you’d kept the rest as a trophy!’
It was four am and she couldn’t sleep guilt at not saying thank you, her stiff upbringing, as well as her overactive mind were contributing to her insomnia. She had less than two hours before she had to open the cafe.
‘Like you kept my t-shirt? Do you wear it at night and dream about me? And what are you doing up at four am? You should be asleep.’
Laura smiled then bit her bottom lip; he really did know how she worked. Glancing down at her body she almost laughed out loud when her eyes encountered Adam’s t-shirt, the same one she’d worn leaving his bed the previous week. She had it bad, and the distance was doing nothing to change that. Even innocent conversations seemed to become unadulterated flirting. Not intentionally, but it seemed that neither of them could help it. This whole thing was doomed. She could never set eyes on him again.
‘If I have the t-shirt it’s by accident! Now I am going to sleep. Bye Adam.’
He was late leaving work, it was after six and he was taking his mother out for dinner, but the spate of emails from Laura had, as per usual rendered him speechless, and unable to move. She was like a walking talking aphrodisiac, and he was powerless when it came to her. He, like her, had hoped that the distance would help. Adam knew that she was right, that this wasn’t the best idea, but now that he was away from her his treacherous body wasn’t agreeing, neither was his head, his memory.
The emails had been fun, but the last one had some sort of finality to it, and he suddenly felt anxious at what that meant.
Closing his desk top and his laptop, both had been fully firing all day, he packed the smaller one into his work satchel, then made for the door. Mexican, his mother had requested her favourite burritos for dinner, he then intended to drive her home and head back to the beach, for a long swim if the surf was flat. Something to expend his energy as dramatically as possible. Maybe then he’d get a good night’s sleep.