Part Thirty Two
The atmosphere in the apartment remained decidedly hostile, but Laura was too busy trying to find some semblance of a life to worry about it or work out why her father had a permanent scowl. When her father wasn’t around her mother was fine, friendly, normal. As she became more aware of the news, markets crashing, financial woes everywhere, she presumed that was getting to her father, that he was worried about the future and his businesses. Just as she was worried about her own future and her own finances.
On the fifth day of searching, Laura made a break through. She finally found some work. Fifteen hours a week selling fish in a pet shop was hardly setting the world alight, but it was a job, a start, the first step in getting herself back into the world of work, and independence. She didn’t know how long she could tolerate living in the dream world of her parents. Her mother’s flakiness, her father’s recent moods. But fish? She knew nothing about fish, either fresh or saltwater - she hadn’t until that moment even processed there were two types. But she was determined to learn. At least if she was in a job it was easier to find another one. The money was almost nonexistent, but it did mean she could protect what little savings she had, and offer some pittance of rent to her parents.
The weekend dragged by, her parents were out for most of it, golf, beauty appointments, and then dinner at the Ritz. She avoided the house Sunday morning, her parents’ love zone, but London’s parks were a pleasure to jog through. For a while she contemplated rekindling her dog walking service as she spotted dozens of young people walking animals that would probably not have the same privilege during daylight the following day. But that would mean staying in London indefinitely, and she wasn’t sure she could do that. She was feeling swamped by the city already.
And Monday, and her new job rocked around all too quickly. And it was awful!
The manager of the shop, Sharon, was a woman in her early twenties, much younger than Laura, and she obviously hadn’t been involved in the recruitment process. For some ridiculous reason, Sharon was jealous of her, or maybe threatened. After all she being older and a little more clued in than the other teenage workers, was more than apparent. By lunchtime on her first day Laura knew that she’d struggle to last the two days she was due to work that week. But she would. She was determined that she would get her independence back as soon as possible. And that meant an income, a life, and a shit job.
Every evening she disappeared, unable to spend the night sat in under the scrutiny of her parents, though they said nothing, she felt that they viewed her with scorn. Runs along the Thames, in pouring rain, solo trips to the cinema, it was no real fun, and she wished with all her heart that she’d kept in contact with old school friends. Anyone to help her escape! But other than her friends back in Wales, and Ben and Alana in Hawaii, she had no one. She’d not heard from Adam since he’d walked out of the hotel room after that amazing night...and morning together. Though she couldn’t blame him, she’d pushed him away, she’d imagined that he’d come back, call or even email. But she’d heard nothing. And she was too proud to make the first move.
The week passed, and she had the weekend to look forward to again. At least then her parents were busy, dining out, parties. The list was never ending. It gave Laura the opportunity to veg in front of rom-coms, eating Chinese takeaway direct from the carton, and drinking beer or wine...this was as good as life got!
Sunday morning, as usual her parents were late surfacing. Laura was up early, also as usual. So she wandered down to Camden, stopping in a quirky cafe for breakfast, browsed the market stalls and shops. It was a pleasant interlude. But she had to go back to the home. It was quiet as she opened the door, but then it wasn’t unusual for her parents to still be in bed at two o’clock. So she made a mug of instant coffee and logged on to her laptop, job hunting again.
She’d been there an hour or more before she heard a noise behind her. Looking up she saw her father, in just a pair of pyjama bottoms moving into the kitchen.
“Hey Dad! How was the ball?” the previous night they’d been at a huge charity ball. An annual event for Cancer Research.
His response was a grunt, nothing more. Laura looked at him questioningly. “Hung over?” Hopeful that his grumpiness was reversible. They’d barely had a conversation since she’d been back.
She nodded, hating it when he was so angry, but realising she was powerless to change that. She wanted to make conversation, hoping that he warmed up a bit, “did they make a lot? The Charity?” She sighed, “it must be a little bit close to home, what with Adam’s mother having cancer.”
Whatever response she expected, it wasn’t a scowl and an expletive. Suddenly Laura felt a little sick, there was more rumbling here than just her father being in a bad mood. After all he was a determined man, but a fair man, not known for irrational moods.
“What’s wrong? Why are you so angry?”
Stafford Marshall leaned against the kitchen island that separated them and scowled again, “angry? Why would I be angry? I let that bastard walk into my life without any resistance, without any questions. All the time he was just out for what he could get!”
Laura felt sick, her heart was pounding and it was almost deafening, “are you saying he’s not your son?” That was something she’d never considered and she couldn’t work out how that made her feel.
Her father’s responding laugh was almost evil, reaching to the side table he threw papers in front of her, “oh he’s my son alright!” He spat the words out.
Laura trying to hide the shake of apprehension washing over her reached for the paperwork, letters from ‘Genetic and DNA testing Limited’ that indeed confirmed that there was 99.8% probability that Adam was his son. Nothing was making sense, surely this was what her father wanted, and was a sign that he WASN’T taking advantage of him.
“I don’t get it!” She looked up at her father, “surely this should make you happy? You’ve slaughtered the fatted calf on more than one occasion for him.”
Again his laugh was pure evil, “I’m over the moon!”
With that he made for the bedroom, a drink in his hand, “Dad! What’s wrong?”
She was suddenly feeling sorry for Adam, what had he done to earn this scorn? She’d been harsh when he first arrived, jealous. She could admit that now, but she had grown to accept that she could share her father.
Stafford was at best an imposing man, and stood as he was in the doorway he towered over her physically, “what’s wrong?” His look almost scared her, “I invited him into my life and he abused that hospitality. That’s what!”
“Adam? Really?” She was incredulous; the one thing she could say about Adam was that he was self sufficient; he’d not look to abuse any hospitality. “He may not have been my favourite person, but I find that hard to believe!”
Her father’s expression was unfathomable, and it took him a moment to salvage a reply, “do you? I don’t know which bit I believe less! Him not being your favourite, or not believing what I say?”
Laura felt the room start to spin; she had no clue where this conversation was going...at least she had an idea where she hoped it wasn’t going. His attitude for the ten days she’d been back home had been dreadful, now she realised that she was part of that bad mood. What did he know? And how?
Taking a deep breath, she stood up, squaring up to him, “what are you saying father?”
He stared at her for an age, then his response was a hiss, “I trusted him, I believed in him, then he came here and took advantage.”
It was the same response and it angered her, “for God’s sake father, you aren’t one to beat around the bush. What are you talking about?”
They remained nose to nose, the tension was palpable, neither was willing to back down, but it was the quiet voice from behind that caused them both to spin around.
“He came to New York and asked your father if he could date you.”
Laura staggered feeling the ground under her feet move. She thought he’d gone, left her with no goodbye, but he hadn’t, he’d gone to her father! Gone to the lion’s den and took that risk. Her heart was racing, she could feel the heat flush her face and neck. This changed everything. The faux-hatred for Adam for truly abandoning her all but vanished. She fought to control the smile that wanted to burst on her face, despite him listening to her when she’d pushed him away, denied him, a large part of her thought, hoped, that he’d not take her no for an answer. Now she knew why he’d not come back. It wasn’t that he didn’t like her, that she wasn’t worth it; and he hadn’t changed his mind.
But her euphoria at that was short lived, looking at her father she suddenly saw the venom in his eyes and her humour, her pleasure all but disappeared. He hated Adam because of that? She couldn’t believe that, and his derogatory look made her realise that she was in the same camp, he despised her too. “You hate him because of that? Really?”
Her father scowled, a familiar expression over the last ten minutes, “I don’t have to answer to you!”
It was a childish retort and she almost laughed at his immaturity, flicking her eyes from her petulant father to her embarrassed mother, she shook her head. “That poor man! He grows up with a bastard of a father who hates him, then eventually found out he wasn’t his father, YOU were. After welcoming him into your life you make him trust you, believe in you when he really had no real cause to. Then you reject him equally as hatefully. Adam’s a nice guy! True we’ve got close, and true we have talked about dating, we get on well...but that is no reason to disown him, he is your son! And as much as I am your daughter, he is nothing to me, you are our only link. It’s not wrong!” Her father made to reply but she held up a hand to silence him, “there is NOTHING you can say here that will explain your behaviour! He may be a man, a grown man, but there’s a little rejected sad boy inside who was overjoyed to find a father who loved him. How could you be so cruel?”
Storming past both parents she entered her bedroom, she had to get out of there everything was closing in and she felt claustrophobic. Lifting her rucksack she threw her belongings that were scattered around the room into it, trying not to remember the last time she’d been in this room with Adam. Laura only wished she’d realised this weeks ago. He’d told her at the awards that he liked her, that he wanted to risk on a future for them and she’d pushed him away, told him no. He’d taken that risk anyway, lost his father and walked away from her too. As she thought about her father she felt sick. She couldn’t believe that a man she’d always thought was fair, sensible and a perfect role model was behaving so despicably. Then she thought of Adam.
She’d chosen her father when there was a decision to make. But knowing how her father had reacted she doubted that she’d made the right choice.
Nowhere to go. What a nightmare! But Laura had to leave, as she told her mother who begged her to stay. She needed time to calm, and she wanted to speak to Adam, this was unfair and she was hardly some protected princess who was too good for any man. She’d stopped anything further happening with Adam out of respect for her father, but she had thought he’d be hurt maybe, but not angry, resentful and nasty. That both shocked and angered her. How could he treat his own flesh and blood like that? Push him away so heartlessly. She’d had strong feelings over this, always had, she figured it came from being adopted. Her parents had accepted her without question all her life, yet they couldn’t extend that to Adam. That didn’t make sense.
Checking into a cheap motel, she stared at her bag for a while wondering what to do. Then she remembered her tickets, free tickets. She’d aimed to use them to travel to Hawaii, but this was more important. She had to see Adam, tell her that not everyone had given up on him. She could phone, but quite honestly she had nothing to stay in London for, hell she had nothing to stay in Britain for. She needed to check the small print as she had no idea how she used the voucher but she knew now that there was nothing else for it. LAX bound!