'Make up your mind. Let me live or let me love you.'
Make Up Your Mind by Florence and the Machine
The swinging hand holders on the tram shook menacingly like mini gallows as Lara was pushed back and forth between a sweating man in a suit and a teenager who reeked of some cheap antiperspirant. Feeling like a pendulum caught between the question of which was worse ’stale sweat or sickly sweet perfume, she tried to find a spot on the ceiling to avoid the always awkward eye contact with a stranger.
Zoning out she thought of the past few weeks with Peter. Since she hadn’t seen Sam that things had been much better between them, she was able to focus more on her marriage. She had been flabbergasted them. She had laughed it off and it had worked. He must have been in agony.What had triggered this ? It must have been Marrakeh. She knew she had been weird but she thought he would put it down to holiday blues. When he suggested they all have dinner she was relieved. Half of her wanted to admit to him what she had been feeling but it all seemed pointless especially now that she knew they wouldn’t be seeing Sam for a while. She was moving on.
‘ I just feel I need to work a bit later for the next while and I won’t have to time to see anyone not even Sam’.This had been her explanation when he asked about her lack of contact with their once friend.
‘ Same here’ Was all he said and she caught the glimmer of sadness in his eyes.
She still worried though that he would find out about their conversation in Marrakesh. That Sam would ring Peter and tell him about his feelings. A model’s laughing face on a station advert, reinforced the fact that these worries were laughable when nothing had or would ever happen. It was time she admitted to herself that her mind was merely bored and she was latching onto this fantasy to hide the fact that her life was so so dull. Maybe she should just accept the fact that she needed to daydream to keep her sane. How else did other people in monogamous relationships keep themselves excited and thrilled ? Surely there had to be an easier way than creating problems that only really existed in her mind. She was one hundred percent in love with Peter. She couldn’t for a second picture herself without him. She thought about all the times different people had told her about breakups and how casual sometimes they had seem about it in retrospect. She had been somewhat in awe of them and their ability to apparently move on so quickly. These weren’t even five minute relationships but serious long term ones, just like she and Peter. Only they had reached a stage where they no longer loved each other whatever that meant.
‘We were just fighting all the time.’ Was one line that irked her. She and Peter argued constantly about little things but she knew this would be the case with anyone. All relationships became mired in trivial matters. She was an only child but assumed that if she lived with a sibling they would fight constantly but it wouldn’t be because they loved each other less. She didn’t buy this argument. She wouldn’t.
‘ I loved him but wasn’t IN love with him’. What the fuck did that mean anyway ? It was just another one of those lines that was spewed out on TV and had become meaningless.
‘ You mean you weren’t attracted to him anymore?'
‘ Yeah I suppose’. Ok so sex was important and maybe she couldn’t fathom not being attracted to Peter anymore but still would she break up with him just because she didn’t want to have sex with him. There was so much more to them as a couple. Did couples just break up too quickly ? She had gone off sex when she was on her meds. She still could see that Peter was gorgeous, but that feeling didn’t quite reach her ‘On’ button. What if she had decided that this meant she wasn’t ‘In’ love with him anymore. She would have missed out on years of love and happiness that came after. Relationships were a gamble of staying put and seeing what happens or leaving and facing the void. All she knew was that right now, even though she had felt what she did for Sam, it was completely separate thing to how she felt about Peter. She felt herself get lightheaded with possibility as a completely new concept opened up to her in that split second, not an original one maybe but one that was making her legs shake. Was it possible that you could fall in love with more than one person? Could she really say she was in love with Sam ? Love had become a much more weighted word, over the course of her relationship with Peter. It meant so much more than the rush of lust she felt when she saw Sam and much more than that giddy feeling he gave her when he laughed at her jokes. It made her blush to think of the first time she had told Peter. It had meant nothing in comparison to how to she felt for him now. Sticking by each other through the good times and the bad , may sound obvious but when it came to it, was so much harder in practice. To be honest she felt that the hard times had been more on Peter’s side than on hers. Even though she of course had suffered through the dark patches, at least she had been used to them. It must have been such a shock for even keeled Peter to deal with her highs and lows.
But (and this was what she needed to figure out) did having feelings for Sam though mean there was something wrong in her relationship? Why was that always how people were made feel? One love might be ideal and more stable as far as society was concerned but was it realistic? Was it even ideal anymore? She looked around her and wondered if she shouted out’ Who here has cheated or ever been cheated on’, how many hands would be raised. She had seen so many people break up and knew more than anyone the price that could be paid for cheating. Her father’s sad eyes loomed in and she shook her head.
‘Snap out of it Lara snap out of it’ Rationalizing the unethical just like a serial killer was not her proudest moment. She allowed herself to stare beyond the sweaty man to the other carriage when she noticed the attractive woman getting on, faux fur white vest and red jeans with heels. It was hard not to look at her ,as she practically bounded on the carriage, grabbing one of the standing bars with her red manicured fingers while shouting out the door
‘ Hurry it’s going to go, forget the ticket we can pay the fine if we have to.’ Lara could see people rolling their eyes and blushed . Of course it was Jane. Who else would shout that loudly not caring who could hear her? She was about to walk down the carriage to meet her when she stopped , dead. Sam jumped on just as the doors were closing with a look of triumph on his face .
‘ Got them’ He grinned ’Waving the tickets in front of Jane’s face as if they were winning lotto stubs.
The horrible feeling of saliva enveloping her mouth caught her unaware as she stood transfixed. Sam reached for the bar that Jane was holding and with the other hand put it around her waist.
‘Oh God no.’ Her mind was racing as it ran over the last few weeks and simultaneously tried to take in what was going on in front of her eyes.
When had she last been talking to Jane ? Had she been keeping this from her ? She racked her memory for their last conversation but drew a blank. How did she not pick up that there was chemistry between them when Peter brought him home ? They had been friendly, true but she hadn’t felt any sparks between them !
‘Maybe that’s because you were too busy focusing on sparks between you and him dumb dumb’ Her inner voice was taunting her. She cringed as she remembered how much analyzing had gone on afterwards and how all along she should have see what might be coming. Was he trying to get back at her? For what though ? All she had done was admit she liked him and they had both agreed not to take it further. Was he really so callous as not to care about how she would feel when she found out.She wanted to get off at the next stop, she needed air. She could see people around her were staring at her as she must have looked like she had seen a ghost. She closed her mouth and narrowed her stare and was turning towards the door when.
‘ Lara is that you ? It is ! Sam it’s Lara!’
She had to turn around, she couldn’t have pretended not to hear her pounding voice. For Pete’s sake the whole tram was taking in the scene. Jane was coming towards her and she could hear the click click of her stiletto heels, beating in her brain. She breathed in deeply and turned around , a smiling face painted on.
‘ Jane hey.’ She then had to pretend as he sauntered up somewhat sheepishly behind her ‘ Oh and Sam’ she gulped ‘ what are you guys doing here?’
Jane was all coy, something unusual for her then she grinned openly.
‘ We’re on our first date actually.’ She giggled ‘ We just had lunch, it’s going really well and I’m not just saying that caus you’re here.’ She turned towards her date. Sam smiled uncomfortably and Jane of course noticed.She looked puzzled for a second then it was as if a light went on in her pretty head.
‘ Sorry I meant to tell you, I tried calling you yesterday but you didn’t pick up.’ This was true and Lara was now kicking herself hard. She hadn’t been in the mood for a chat as she and Peter had a silly row about tidying up. God even that made her feel so mundane. She was so far removed from the world of dating and hadn’t really missed it at all, until now.
‘ You don’t have to keep me posted on your love life Jane.’ This sounded bristly so she added ‘ I’m glad you guys are on a date.' Yikes that sounded pointless. Like she really had a say at all in their lives. ‘Stop looking upset you moron, stop, stop’. Her face was neutral again.
‘ No it’s just that we felt that we should tell, seeing as you introduced us and all.’
Sam intervened ‘ We just don’t want you to think we kept this from you or anything.'
God, they were using ‘we’ already and had clearly talked about telling her. Was she the stupid fool in all of this ? She could hear the conversation
‘ Poor Lara I better tell her gently, I mean it’s clear she has feelings for you, she was all over you that day.'
‘ Yeah, I mean I know we admitted to liking each other but she’s married after all, I have to move on.'
She felt herself grow hot and then cold as her body broke out in a sweat. She was sure she looked like a wreck. She hadn’t applied any makeup since that morning and she was hot and sticky from the tram and the muggy weather. Jane of course radiated the ‘fresh from a shower look’ and Sam well he just looked lovely as he always did.
‘ Sorry this must be kind of weird for you.’ Jane giggled.
Sam’s blue eyes oozed concern and she couldn’t help but think
‘ Well fuck you, you misleading shit.' God she had been debating the meaning of love over this arsehole. Drawing in a deep calming breath she smiled.
‘ Guys don’t be silly, sorry really you just caught me off guard.’ She laughed ‘ Bad day in the office, part of earning a living I suppose’. She knew that would irk them both, rich bastards. God she hadn’t felt this kind of anger in a while. Actually who was she kidding ? She had felt it when her Dad had confessed to her. She was just destined to be constantly hurt and angry by those she thought she knew. Jane wasn’t the one she was angry with , a little irritated but she knew her friend wasn’t a mind reader and couldn’t have known the turmoil that had been going on in her mind the last few months. Maybe if they were closer this might have been avoided. She knew for certain that she was mad at Sam, furious in fact. There was girl code and guy code about not dating a friend’s past lover but there should definitely be a code for this type of thing.
‘ I can’t believe you’re on a date though , why are you on a tram?’ She tried to sound casual. Jane never took the tram and she was amazed that even Sam was able to persuade her to travel on one, especially at rush hour.
‘ We’re going to the art gallery at the end of the line.’ Jane’s excitement flurried out of her
‘Sam told me about this incredible collection of sculptures they have on show at the moment and he said that it was more fun to arrive by tram than by taxi.’
Sam who still looked uneasy and wouldn’t look her straight in the eyes, focused instead all of his attention on Jane.
‘ Yeah it’s all about the fluidity of human love and the..’ He coughed nervously ‘ the ease at which it can be transferred from one person to the next.’
Jane oblivious to any discomfort continued ‘Apparently all the sculptures are joined up in one long line by different parts of the body , representing all the different types of love that exist’ She giggled again ‘Not bad for a first date eh ?… saucy!’ Her cackle made Lara cringe.
‘ Not bad at all’ The lightness she was trying to emit was beginning to ebb away. Peter and she had gone bowling on their first proper date. She knew that this was ten years later but couldn’t help but feel envy at this blossoming ‘relationship’. It was bringing it all back to her in a strange way. The excitement she had felt when Peter had picked her up from her house and promised her dad he would have her back by ten. Poor Peter he had no idea that her dad didn’t mind if she stayed out all night , he was just relieved that she was leaving her bedroom for a change. Maybe this what was bothering her so so much about the whole ‘Sam’ thing. It was the fact that she would never again have a first date, never feel the nauseating butterflies that accompanied a first kiss , never well just so many things that the beginning of a relationship could bring and that she had only experienced once.She was nearing her stop much to her relief .
‘ Well enjoy the show and you can tell me all about it Jane’ She said this pointedly so that Sam would know that she had known Jane first and that she would get the real if somewhat embellished version of the events.
‘ I’ll see you maybe for a run soon?’
Yeah sure dickhead. Sam was really pushing his luck with her.
‘ Yeah I’ll let you know.’ She was just about to step off when Jane squealed,
‘ Oh Lara I nearly forgot to tell you, I’ve landed a presenting show on TV,. I’ll buzz you tomorrow !’
With that , she was left standing on the platform, Jane’s perfume lingering in her nose and Sam’ sorry stare burning her skin.On her way home she wondered how it had all unfolded. Had they exchanged numbers at her house or had Jane looked him up ? Or worse (and probably more likely) given Jane’s recent marriage breakdown, was the possibility that Sam had looked for Jane. Wouldn’t he have asked her though? She remembered their last run together.
‘ Poor Jane.’ She had said passively when he mentioned her after meeting in their hallway ‘ It will take her a bit of time to heal I imagine.'
Oh shit how patronizing she had sounded when all along she was the one to be pitied.The wally with her head in the clouds.
‘ She seems like a nice girl, I’m sure she will find someone else and move on.’ That’s what he had said. She was beginning to really hate the guy.Maybe he was a big fake after all. Just a big gigantic flirt who had every girl he met swooning and agonizing and considering the ridiculous. She shook the thoughts out of her head and picked up her phone to call Peter.