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Part Twenty Seven

A/N Sorry my internet has been down for a few days been struggling to update any thing! Hope you're all still with this story!!

She’d made it through another week! It was Friday night and Laura had managed to survive, that was how Laura was judging time. Dogs were walked, owners were happy, people were fed and most importantly the staff were paid. It didn’t mean that it had all been easy for her, it had been anything but. Tomorrow was Saturday. Not that the weekend heralded any break in proceedings, it just meant that she didn’t have to figure the dogs into her daily schedule.

Ben had emailed her a couple of days earlier, he was ecstatically happy; Alana and he were desperately in love and planning a wedding for early the following year. It had elicited a deep gulp from Laura; once her best friends were married she’d really have to move out. But part of the deal that she got with her work for Ben was that she got free rent, it meant that Ben paid her a lot less than the going rate. But if she moved out, she couldn’t survive on what he paid her; she’d have to either look for another job, or finish working for him altogether.

She’d groaned at the thought of starting out all over again, she’d been happy with her life until very recently. And now she was looking at everything changing. Realistically she’d known that she couldn’t spend the rest of her life living in someone’s spare room, at some point she’d have to be more financially independent. But that had seemed a long way off. Suddenly it was here in front of her, a real bonafide threat!

So come Friday night she intended to head to Al’s pub again, Michaela said she’d try and join her, but for Laura it didn’t matter, she needed to get out and about, it was more than important, it was vital. She needed something positive to lift her bad mood, and the pub had been fun the previous week, so she was suitably optimistic. 

As she was just opening the front door to leave, her phone rang.

                “Miss Marshall?”

Laura paused to lean against the door frame, “it is, yes.”

                “I’m Marcia Silverstone from the ‘Heroes of Britain’ Awards; you’ve been nominated for recognition in the West and Wales division.”

Shit! Laura cursed, she completely forgotten about the paperwork she’d discarded at some point in the last week. “Sorry...yes...” She was flummoxed.

                “We hadn’t received your confirmation that you were attending and whether you needed a room, plus there’s your menu choices at the dinner and if you have a companion attending with you.”

Laura shook her head, “I’m sorry, I am SO busy at the moment, I’ve been abandoned by my work colleague,” she apologised, “I really didn’t read the information properly...and then I completely forgot about it.”

                “Do you need me to email you the details again? I just need confirmation by Monday as it’s only two weeks away!”

They exchanged details and Laura’s mood changed yet again. Now it was indescribable. She didn’t feel worthy of all the fuss, she wasn’t one for being the centre of attention. As she read the information in the pub, the pages she’d so easily thrown to one side, she felt more and more nauseous.

                “Whatcha reading?” Michaela slid into a seat opposite Laura placing a glass of wine on the table.

Laura smiled, she’d missed her friend. The romance with Paul was going well so she was spending more and more time with him, Michaela had been such a reliable friend, always there for Laura that she was only now realising how much she had taken her for granted.

Laura handed her the top sheet and then laughed as her the other woman squealed, “you are going to be on TV? For saving that man? Really?” She stared at Laura in wonder, “That is SO cool! I can’t believe it!”

Neither could Laura. “I didn’t do anything special; anyone would’ve done the same!”

Michaela scoffed rather loudly, “you wouldn’t have caught me doing the same...I swim if I have to, it isn’t something I’m confident in...And he was a man twice your size, if he was in difficulty, you had just as much chance of struggling...in fact if it wasn’t for your ‘brother’...”

Laura froze, “don’t call him that!” She snapped, “he’s nothing to do with me!”

Michaela smiled knowingly, Laura’s poor tolerance of Adam was well known, but Laura wasn’t touchy about the subject for the same reasons anymore, for the first time in two weeks, her hostility and jealousy of Adam turned to shame and embarrassment. This is what she had feared, that people would judge her over this. If she told Michaela now what had happened at her parents’ home...it just didn’t bear thinking about.

                ‘Hey! What’s news? My mother finishes her chemo tomorrow; think I’ll get my life back. I thought it was men who were supposed to take being sick to the next level! My mother has reverted to a petulant and spoilt child! But hey, she’s fighting something huge so I suppose it’s allowed. Any sign of Ben returning and helping you out? Adam.’

He had the ability to contact at exactly the wrong moment. Laura was just climbing into bed after returning from the pub, and she was feeling worse than she had in ages, mainly because of Michaela’s innocuous and innocent comments.

Glancing at the screen she groaned, he needed her support, but she felt loathe to give it; what she needed was to clear her head, sort things out. She’d email him in the morning.

Saturday did however run away with her. Now that she’d decided to attend the awards ceremony, Michaela had been thrilled at the thought of accompanying her, she had to plan an outfit, so the two girls took advantage of the bad weather and the quiet cafe to head to Cardiff on a shopping trip. Eventually after much deliberating and trying on, Michaela convinced her that a floor length powder blue dress was the answer, it was elegant, yet simple, a halter neck with a sweeping cut away back, but the light folds of the skirt floated to the floor. She’d tried it on three times before they agreed that it was the perfect dress.

It was after seven when Michaela stopped her car outside the cafe, smiling Laura hugged her before making her way inside to close up the cafe, then sit back and contemplate her purchases. Half an hour later with a glass of wine and a slice of pizza, she looked up at the dress hanging from the picture rail and shook her head, what the hell was she doing buying a dress she neither needed nor could afford?

A bleep alerted her to her flashing phone and an email from Adam.

Shit! She cursed opening the message, she hadn’t replied to his message from the previous evening. That was rude and she was mortified.

Have I offended? Hope not, you’re usually good at replying, so I’ve had a garbage weekend, my mother demanding. Really wishing I was anywhere other than here. I’ve agreed to meet Stafford in New York next week. It’ll give me a break from this woman! Adam’

Rather than having a nightmare on her phone keypad, she opened her laptop and penned a reply.

                ‘Sorry, been out all day, bad weather meant the cafe was quiet so I’ve been shopping with Michaela. Meant to reply this am, but the freedom of a day away absorbed me. I remember my mother being ill a few years ago, she nearly broke me; her doting husband couldn’t possibly stop work, so I had to be the nurse - hell! Don’t envy you. No other real news here...’

She didn’t mention the awards, she was still a little embarrassed about it all. ‘But I am waiting patiently for news from Ben! Don’t know how long I can do this for! It’s bloody hard work! My father wouldn’t believe it, but I’m shattered.’

Before she’d finished her slice of pizza, a reply pinged onto her laptop, licking the cheese from her chin rather inelegantly, she opened the email.

                ‘I believe it! Think this is a bit of a cheek from Ben, landing you in the shit. When he comes back, take a break. Autumn in California is good, maybe you could visit...as a friend. Think about it. If I can do anything to help from this distance then let me know, ok?’

Laura had never been to California, but had always liked the thought, celebrities, sun, surf...her idea of a perfect holiday! But staying with Adam? That scared her.

Four days later she had an email from Ben! It was mid morning on a Wednesday morning; the sun had started to shine, so the cafe was busy. The three casual workers were all in and working flat out whilst Laura walked the dogs. She was seriously thinking of winding the dog walking down, as much as she loved it, it was so restricting. It was difficult to get someone to relieve her of this chore, and if she was ever sick or when she travelled to the award ceremony the following week for example, then there would be no one to take her walks. That wasn’t a happy thought. So she’d penned a letter to each of the owners telling them that she wanted to discuss the future with them. And it made her sad.

Then she had the email.

                ‘Laura! So sorry I’ve not been in touch these last three weeks...that sounds even worse now it’s written down. Hope all is well; think I’ve been a little presumptuous with you. Completely understand if my business is in tatters. You were so right about Alana, I bought a ring at Heathrow, got to her home, she was having dinner with her parents in their golf club. Burst in and waved the ring, tears all around! I thought I might have to fight a bit harder, and though she gave me a hard time, she agreed to be my wife. The wedding is planned for February! Six months! What the hell have I done?

Kidding. I can’t wait. Seeing Alana back here with her family...made me realise that she needs to be here, so I do need to speak to you about the cafe and the surf shop. I may have to sell. Not sure if I can work it any other way, and without being a huge burden on you. Don’t hate me, you know I love you! Ben

It was a horrendous email, and it made Laura angry. How dare he say that so impersonally? He could have phoned, could have broken it far more gently. As she read the email the thought of him, relaxed, happy, where he wanted to be...or rather where he wanted Alana to be...and how different things were for her. Despite her anger, and her fear for the future, she was pleased for Ben, and of course Alana, she was more than pleased, they both deserved it, but what did this all mean for Laura?

She couldn’t afford to buy the businesses, if she asked her father he probably would loan her the money, buy her them as a way of appeasing guilt, or making sure she was safe, but that was against everything that she had fought for all her life. She’d been offered the gilded life when she was at University, join the family business, work hard, learn the ropes, then reap the rewards. But she’d wanted more than being her father’s daughter, Laura had fought with her parents to avoid that life, but if she went to them now cap in hand begging for help, they’d deliver, but it would devalue everything she’d worked to achieve.  And if there was one thing she hated more than anything else, it was a ‘told you so’ from her father.

Pride - probably the biggest cause of her downfall.

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