Awkward! No other word to describe it thought Sophie as she buried herself in her work. The final piece for her project with a submission date looming. And her inspiration was gone, all gone. All that occupied her mind were the events of the weekend and how disastrously it had ended.
Scrunching up yet another piece of her expensive cellulose hand pressed watercolour paper in anger, paper that she favoured over all other paper, but was several pounds a sheet she balked at the waste scattered across her floor, then started over, trying desperately to control her warring emotions.
She’d woken early after the midnight encounter in that plush hotel room, or rather she hadn’t slept at all but got up at 6am, was dressed and packed by seven she found it was too early for breakfast. Bill had woken and reciprocated her actions, so they’d checked out and he’d driven them home in silence.
Vincenza had been in the kitchen making breakfast when they’d burst in through the front door...breakfast for two!
“Oh Vin!” Sophie exclaimed, so glad to have something else to focus on. “Did we have a visitor last night?” It was hard to believe that they’d only been away for one night, the cocoon that her and Bill had been wrapped up in meant that it felt like weeks since they’d been just house mates in the real world. And now it seemed their absence had helped the fledgling relationship between Vincenza and Edward to develop further.
Vincenza was blushing and stuttering, obviously she presumed it’d take longer for them to get home than it had, and was creating a situation she’d been keen to avoid. “How did it go?”
“Nice change of subject Vin!” Bill answered quite naturally, “but a good question. Mr Miles Langley was putty in Sophie’s hands...” Sophie couldn’t help note the scathing quality to his resume. “And she dazzled everyone beyond believe!”
“And you didn’t burp or pick your teeth in public?” Vin asked with a raised eyebrow.
Bill laughed, “believe it or not she pulled off the lady card without dropping her cover once!” He stole a piece of toast from the breakfast tray. “I’m getting changed then heading out with the cycling club, ok? Quick jaunt to the coast.”
And that had been the last she’d seen of him.
It was now early evening and the fact that her any inspiration or creativity had deserted her, this was a bad situation only getting worse. She wanted more than anything to relax...Bill was her usual companion when she felt like this, sharing a bottle of wine and philosophising their way around life. But she still hadn’t come to terms with that kiss, and it sat in the room like a white elephant. Bill was apparently happy to acknowledge it; he’d got back on with life as though nothing had happened. So maybe she should.
Frustration caused yet more paper to hit the deck, and this time she gave a scream, she was skint as it was, the way things were going her disasters would cost more than the commission would pay.
Within moments Vincenza burst into the room.“You ok?”
Sophie turned to her and smiled sadly, “sorry just frustrated. Got this deadline.”
Vin nodded, “maybe you should just give up for today, maybe the trip down memory lane has been enough this weekend, you know you can’t work with an active occupied mind.”
Her friend was so astute, she really couldn’t create new work when she had problems, they had all found that out to their peril over the years. Swirling her fine hair watercolour brushes in the variety of water jars until they were perfectly clean, she placed them to dry, hanging near the window in the loving way she handled all her equipment, then followed her friend out of the room.
“Wish you’d treat yourself as carefully as you do your art supplies!”
Ignoring the barb, she followed her friend downstairs. Immediately she threw herself into making dinner, hoping that Bill’s favourite roast beef would rekindle their friendship in a way that they hadn’t managed to earlier.
Sophie put her heart and soul into that meal, perfect roast potatoes, huge crispy Yorkshire puddings and his favourite vegetables - carrots, swede and sprouts. Proud of her achievement she was laying the table when the door opened and Bill, plus his road bike dragged in to the hall.
“Hey!” Vin called out, “Sophie’s in cooking mode, beef and ALL the trimmings!”
Bill looked a little awkward, “I’ve arranged to go out...the team are having a few beers.”
Sophie knew he’d arranged this because it was too awkward to spend time with her, so she smiled, “never mind, there’ll just be more for me and Vin! Have fun...and if you can’t be good, be careful!” Her voice was light, but her heart heavy. How would she manage if Bill avoided her like this? His friendship was so important to her.
With that sad thought she turned back to the gravy she was stirring.
As it was Edward came over once he heard about the promise of great food, and they sat up until late talking at the kitchen table. But when they finally turned in at after midnight, Bill still wasn’t home.
She hadn’t slept again. Not deeply, she tossed and turned. Her dreams filled with images of Miles that merged into Bill’s face, stolen touches where she didn’t know who it was reaching for her. Waking in a hot sweat of confusion, wrapped up in her duvet, disorientated and dehydrated, she made her way down to the kitchen needing a drink. When she headed back upstairs, there was still no sign of Bill, his door was open and his bed empty, and Sophie felt like crying, she missed her friend and feared that if they didn’t talk about that kiss soon, it would be unsalvageable.
Sophie was making coffee when Edward came into the kitchen, he’d stayed again after their dinner together, and he sat opposite Sophie at the table, their conversation easy. She liked him a lot, he was a great choice for her friend, and she smiled as she saw him out of the front door, he was heading home to change for work.
She waved and was about to close the door when she spotted Bill climbing out of a taxi, still wearing last night’s clothes. Sophie felt pain in her chest, he was carrying on as if nothing had happened, more nights with faceless ladies, and no trauma at the fact that their friendship was falling apart. His eyes caught hers, and there was a hint of guilt, but that was all. So she left the door and made her way back to the kitchen.
Sipping her coffee, she felt pain in her chest again, then worse when it was Vincenza who appeared at the kitchen door and not Bill.
“I see the wanderer has returned!” She reached for a mug and filled it from the machine. “The women of London are really lucky to have someone as keen as him!”
Sophie pasted on a smile when she had no enthusiasm, “oh yes!”
She disappeared into her bedroom after that, determined to both clear her head, and complete her work that day. If necessary she’d go somewhere else, rent a studio, go to the park, because as she thought about Bill, changing for work in the room directly below her she wondered if she’d ever feel comfortable in this house again.
A jog in the park was exactly what she needed; Primrose Hill elevated her so that she could see the skyline of the city around her. It was a lovely view and she felt glad that she lived where she did as she crisscrossed the park at a reasonable pace. The house was empty when she returned, and she didn’t feel like working, so she showered, changed into comfortable clothes, jeans and her new hooded sweater with her comfiest trainers, a treat for her feet after the heels of the weekend, and hit the streets.
As usual she found herself at Margo’s shop, a case of new style acrylic paints sat near the counter of the Aladdin’s Cave style shop. Sophie was greedy for any type of new material, though acrylic paints were outside her favourite scope. But the colours did seem more vibrant than other types she’d seen.
Squeezing the tester for Prussian blue onto some blotting paper she gasped, it was vivid and vibrant. And the exact colour of Bill’s eyes, a voice deep inside her took her by surprise. Shaking her head she grabbed a red tube instead and merged the two on the paper, deleting any reference to her friend.
“So tell me about the wedding!”
Snapping her head up, Sophie smiled at the older woman who appeared almost ethereal behind the counter. Placing the paint stained paper into a bin; she moved to the counter and rested her elbows on it, her head resting in her upturned palms. She was probably more open with this woman than any other friend, so trying to smile; she shook herself and lowered her bottom onto the stool that always sat near the counter. “Well the dress looked amazing, and I looked a million dollars according to Bill.”
Margo nodded, “and that man...Miles?”
Sophie gave a rueful smile, “kind of tried to pursue me...”
“So successful all around?” Margo had a way of pushing her to reveal far more than she was comfortable with.
“Something happened between Bill and me...we kissed accidently really, and it’s been funny since.”
Margo gave a knowing look, “that’s the problem with male friends. Can you even have one?” Margo was very traditional in her ideas, but also very fair, Sophie respected this view on life.
“I thought we could. We’ve been friends for years, I trust him with my life. But we barely spoke on the way home, he avoided me all day yesterday...and he went out and didn’t come home last night.”
Margo raised her eyebrows, disproving of such casual attitudes to sex, “so what do you want to say to him? And what is the problem here?”
“I want us to clear the air, acknowledge it, deal with it and get on with life. I miss him.”
Again she nodded in that knowing fashion, “so do you want to make more of this kiss? If you do then you have to shake yourself and do it now...” seeing Sophie’s confused face she offered a smile. “If you don’t want more than his friendship, then you need to lose the jealousy over who he was with last night?”
Sophie was stunned into silence; it was just like Margo to make her rethink everything! She really didn’t know the answers here though. What she did know that was that Bill was equally as off balance. He was struggling to deal with it too. If she tried to pin him down, make him talk, she had to quantify her feelings, her intentions beforehand.
This was the burning question, was she gutted at the strain on her so solid friendship, or had she started to think of Bill as more than that?
As Margo made her a cup of tea, in her painstakingly exact fashion, she leaned back against the counter and sighed. Their kiss had surprised her, but she couldn’t say whether that was because it excited her, or shocked her. And she didn’t know if the turmoil was at the sudden disharmony in her life, or at a sudden swing in her emotional attachment to Bill.