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Part Forty Two

And in a fairy tale that would have been enough. But in life there was still an unknown arsonist, or rather someone who'd paid an arsonist, and parents that didn't approve. Each one was a barrier to their future, and they could pretend that it didn't affect them, but it did.

The following day Laura had fun at the beach, it was her first day helping Marina with surf lessons, the surf was well and truly up, and she spent five hours on the beach and in the water, laughing and teaching a few groups of friends how to stand on a board.

When she got home she felt exhausted, but happy, it had been a great day, and she knew that she was coming home to a man who loved her. As she pulled into the driveway, she stopped the engine to hear her phone ring; he was going to be late. What time that meant she didn't know. But the thought of a bath, a movie, a slump on the sofa sounded like heaven.

There was a downstairs cloakroom and shower that was the best place to fully dislodge the sand from her body, it almost seemed an injustice to this beautiful house to traipse sand through it. After dousing herself thoroughly, she wrapped herself in towels and was trying to make some sense of the tangled mess of her hair in the small mirror when the doorbell rang.

She wasn't expecting anyone, so it unsettled her slightly. Hanging from a hook in the cloak room was a hoodie of Adam's and a pair of shorts, better than nothing.

Laura was still swiping through her hair with her fingers when she pulled back the door...to see Diane Purcell, immaculate in a twin set and pressed trousers on the doorstep.

"We need to talk!" Adam's mother offered.

Laura wanted to snap, to tell her exactly where to go, but she knew that was the wrong thing and but her tongue. "Mrs Purcell, do you want to come in?" Her voice was clipped as she tried to hide her anger, her anxiety and her fear of this encounter.

The other woman nodded and walked past her into the lounge. Laura feeling like an idiot being caught unaware in such a ridiculous position could do nothing but follow her.

"It seems I underestimated things." The older woman stopped in her tracks and spun around to face Laura. Laura skidded to a stop glad she hadn't catapulted into the back of Adam's mother. "You're still here."

Laura nodded, anger and animosity was not the way to play this, but neither was she going to be bullied, "Adam loves me Mrs Purcell, and I love him. You need to get used to us." The words were meant to warn the other woman to back off, but it was the first time she'd said that, and the realisation that it was the truth made her impulsively smile...like a Cheshire cat!

Diane refrained from laughing, but Laura could tell it was hard work to do that, her response when it came was genial, "Adam has been out of sorts the last few months, and I'm presuming that it has something to do with you?"

Laura shrugged, refusing to back down, this woman was intimidating to her, and she wasn't about to give in, "it may well be."

"Hmm." The older woman moved further into the lounge and to Laura it was a slight victory.

"I don't want us to get off on the wrong foot Mrs Purcell. Adam is very important to me...and I know that you're important to him too." Laura sighed, "I'm not interested in changing that."

The other woman sighed too, "look, Adam has had a lot of women in his life, some I meet, some I don't. I'm just suspicious of one that turns up like this lock, stock and barrel. You can't blame me for being suspicious...he's got a lot to lose."

Laura leaned against the wall and stared at the other woman, "so have I! You have a low opinion of me Mrs Purcell, quite undeservedly. It's just lucky you didn't have that opinion of my father!"

It was a low gibe, and a little childish, but she wanted to unbalance this woman, she had no right to judge her like this. When she saw the older woman flinch, she added, "my father is Stafford Marshall." That turned the flinch into shock and then outrage. Before the other woman could show disgust or start screaming profanities at her she added, "I am adopted, so there's no need to be repulsed. But I think that may give me the credentials to be an adequate match for your son. Don't you?"

With that she walked into the kitchen, leaving Adam's mother to deal with her own emotions. Laura was secretly proud of herself for that retort. The coffee machine had almost finished its brew when Laura sensed the other woman behind her. It had taken her several minutes to compose herself,

"It's not the easiest thing to think about you know." There was an element of humility in the voice, but Laura was unforgiving when she looked up at her.

"You think it's easy for us? We're both bloody scarred by the screwed up lives of our parents, then we end up meeting like this, and you can't choose who you fall in love with! We've both tried to fight this, the worst thing would be for this to drive huge rifts into our families, but on the other hand, we both feel that we belong together. My father thinks it's a disgrace, you judge me as some sort of harlot...or worse. Mrs Purcell, you seriously need to leave Adam to work this out for himself. Neither of us is appreciating the heavy hand of parenting. Tea?"

Her question threw the woman again, and she nodded mutely, Laura could see she was trying desperately to formulate a response, "I've never interfered in Adam's life before."

"So why now?" Laura poured hot water into the two mugs.

"Because he's never been this distant from me, I sense this is more than he's ever had before."

Laura appreciated her honesty, "Come on! He's thirty one! You can't control him anymore. Has he ever told you how devastated he was to know that you lied about his father for his whole life? You sat back whilst another man despised him, made him feel unloved. It's not just meeting me that is making him behave differently Mrs Purcell. I'm not the one to blame here."

Diane looked a little stunned but she nodded graciously, "none of us is perfect. There are things I'd change if I could...despite what you think, I didn't come here today to argue or criticise, I came to apologise."

It was the sign that Laura was waiting for, she didn't want to continue this animosity, but she also knew that she couldn't back down, Diane had been out of order at their first meeting, so grinning, she held out a hand, "now that I can manage! I'm Laura! Pleased to meet you!"

Sharing the smile, Diane shook her hand, "start again?"

Half an hour later they were sat opposite each other on the deck, drinking tea and watching the sea. They were a long way from best friends, but they were civil, maybe more than that.

"Is it safe to come out?"

Both women looked up as Adam peered around the side of the door from the lounge. Then they both laughed.

"Your mother is telling me all about your childhood...and of course the best place to get my hair done!"

He rolled his eyes, but Laura could see the relief in his that they weren't fighting. "More of the latter, less of the former mother, you hear that?" The two chuckled a response, then he added, "I'm going to grab a shower. Do you want to go out for dinner later?"

"I was planning to cook!" Laura announced, then turned to Diane, "I'm trying to blind him to my bad points by overwhelming his taste buds!"

As Diane laughed, Adam dropped a kiss onto Laura's forehead, "you don't have any bad points!"

The echoes of their laughter accompanied him up the stairs.

When Adam emerged half an hour later, his mother was preparing to leave.

"Aren't you staying for dinner?" He leaned across to kiss her cheek.

Diane shook her head, "neither of you need me here, I've done enough interfering. Maybe I could take you both out to dinner next week?"

Adam hesitated not really wanting to think that far ahead, but a voice echoed over his shoulder, "that would be wonderful Diane. Call me not him!"

"I'll just see her out!" Adam offered shaking his head at the conspiracy. As he opened to door for his mother to exit, he froze. A large airport taxi had pulled up outside his home, and Stafford Marshall was climbing out of it.

There was something about Adam's tone as he muttered, "well isn't this just perfect Happy Families!", that made Laura move from the kitchen towards him, and she was poised perfectly at his left shoulder when she spotted her father stood at the bottom of the stairs. Shit! Any pleasure at seeing him after a couple of weeks was outweighed by apprehension. She'd managed to enjoy the time getting to know Diane, it had been so much easier than she'd imagined, and whilst they were anything but best mates they'd got along. But throwing her father into the mix?

Laura felt Adam's hand encircle hers and he gave it a squeeze, and it was a show of solidarity that she needed. As she opened her mouth to offer an anxious "Dad?"

But he wasn't looking at her; Stafford Marshall only had eyes for the woman stood beside them.

"Stafford? Is that you?"

Her father suddenly seemed to put two and two together and his mouth dropped open at the woman stood in front of him, holding onto the doorframe to steady herself. "Diane?"

Never had Laura felt so awkward, she couldn't imagine how difficult it was for these two people to see each other after thirty two years and to acknowledge what their reckless together night had caused. Then there were the lies, Diane hid Adam, but then her father had met Laura's mother not long later. If they had their time over would they change anything? One thing she knew was that they needed a moment, that last thing they needed was the guilt of their children affecting this.

She looked around her; it was all very complicated and very awkward. Adam was floundering and the two parents were no better.

Laura smiled at him, then looked at her father, "Dad, why don't you come in? I'm sure you and Diane would like to talk?"

It was Diane that nodded, "I'd like a chance to explain..."

Laura smiled again, "well Adam did say he'd take me to the supermarket, there's no bread..." She linked her fingers through Adam's, "we'll only be twenty minutes."

As a bemused Adam followed her to his car, he was really grateful for the chance to escape. As he fired the engine she started to laugh, a little hysterical at the evening's occurrences.

Adam glanced across at her and then shook his head in amusement too, "I'm so glad you were thinking and got us out of there. That was...is that the most crazy thing in the world ever?"

"It's almost as crazy as me going to the supermarket in your dog walking clothes that were the only thing in the downstairs shower when your mother arrived. Can you tell I'm not wearing underwear?" she wiggled her eyebrows needing to lighten the mood somewhat. It worked!

He laughed, "way to distract me from a meeting with BOTH my parents!" Rolling his eyes he opened the engine and hit the highway, knowing that they both had a lot to face when they got back, but it felt so much easier thinking they were facing it together.

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