Laura Ch. 08byshandal©
True love means wanting to give support to the person you love. Chris begins to help Laura find her way back.
The hot sun beat down upon his back as the bike swept down the country lane, brown and tanned his strong muscled arms guided the machine around the bends in the road, past fields of cows grazing in the summer heat, and overtaking cars full of holiday makers meandering down to the coast for their summer holidays.
Opening up the throttle he sped past the cars, taking the bends easily, pushing the bike faster and faster as he carried on his journey to the next destination, a dot on the map. Over the past six months he had moved around, not caring where he ended up, just finding somewhere to settle for a few weeks, doing the odd job and then moving on, nomadic, uncaring of the people around him, unconnected, he had roamed trying to escape his pain that still followed him like a shadow.
The smell of the sea air wafted on the light breeze, teasing his senses and drawing him closer to the small fishing village nestling in the crag of the cliffs that he had decided would be the next place to stay.
In a couple of months he was due to return to give evidence at the trial, and this small village, isolated amongst the rolling hills was the turning point before working his way back to the last place on earth he wanted to be.
His flat awaited him like the tomb it had become, suffocating him and making him feel like a condemned man. He had started to count down the days left before he had to face up to reliving in public the most private and treasured memories of his life.
He guided the bike to the harbour, parking it close to the small stone wall that edged the harbour entrance. He sat astride it, jean clad legs spread out each side of the bike as he removed the black helmet and watched as the boats gently jostled each other in the moorings, whilst gulls swooped down waiting for the odd morsel they could scavenge from the men as they unloaded their boats of their catches.
His hair curled, sweaty from the heat that the helmet had produced, and he scratched at the short beard now covering his features. Stomach starting to rumble he realised it was time to grab something to eat and he twisted around looking up at the sprawl of buildings as they crawled up the side of the cliff that protected the village from the outside world.
Noticing a small café he swung his leg over the bike, and grabbing the bag that was secured to the back containing his things he walked over to the old stone building, ignoring the small throng of families as they walked along the harbour area enjoying their day out in the quaint town quay, or queued waiting to board the boat for their trip around the coast.
Opening the chipped and battered green wooden door, he ducked as he entered, moving from bright sunlight to a shadowy area where a handful of customers sat at red gingham covered tables chatting as they ate.
A large middle aged lady with bleached blond hair stood behind the counter at the back of the room, an old fashioned wooden till sitting next to a vase with dried flowers that had seen better days.
Chris walked between the tables towards the counter, the woman eyeing him with interest, and putting down the bag on the floor next to him he smiled and looked at the menu written in chalk on the blackboard set up on the wall.
Looking over the counter at the man standing in front of her, Maidie felt a spark of interest as she appraised the strong masculine body hugged by the tight white vest and worn blue jeans, smooth skin covered his wide muscled shoulders.
Unconsciously straightening her back so her ample chest, covered in the low cut bright red top lifted up, she smiled as she looked the man in the eye and enquired flirtingly, "Hello luv, see anything you fancy?"
Chris smiled back, instantly liking this straight forward, if a little over the top woman.
"Depends what you've got." He replied grinning at her obvious delight at his answer as she threw back her head and laughed.
"Darling what ever you want."
"A fry up would fill the gap right now, and a large cup of very strong black coffee."
"Coming up, sit down and we'll bring it to you at your table." and shouting back through the door behind her to the kitchen, "Becca, full fry up, and mug of black coffee!"
Chris found a table in front of the counter and sitting with his back to the woman, settled down to watch the people walking past the bay window at the front of the café as he waited for his food. People watching helped to clear his mind of all thought, and not really noticing at first the waitress as she walked up to the family sitting at the table to the right of the window, he stared blankly ahead.
Placing their drinks down in front of them, she bent slightly over, her small perky bottom encased in tight blue jeans pointing enticing towards him.
Slowly his eyes glanced over her rear, his eyes following the line down from her bottom to her long thighs and the stirrings of interest awoke in his groin. As she straightened up his glance swept up the length of her long slim back, and fascinated he watched as her shoulder blades, revealed by the shoestring straps of her clinging light blue camisole top, moved as she picked up some plates and placed them on the tray she held. A long black pony tail swung down her back, enticing as it pointed down in a dark thick column against her pale skin and the blue material of her top.
Feeling himself go harder, he shifted in his seat, and as she started to turn round he looked up at her face wondering if she would be as beautiful from the front as she was from behind.
As she completed the turn, Chris looked at her face and felt himself freeze with shock as he saw the green almond shaped eyes, in the oval shaped face he had held in his heart and dreamt of each night for more than a year.
Totally unheeding of the man sitting stock still at the corner table, Becky walked back to the kitchen and placing the tray load of plates on the counter moved over to the cooker, and picking up a fork turned the sausages and bacon over then stirred the baked beans before moving over to the small table behind her to butter a couple of slices of bread.
Chris just sat there in shock, unsure of what he had seen. This woman was so like Laura it was uncanny, but there were subtle changes.
This woman had jet black hair, with a fringe that hung down to her eyes, not the light brown silky hair that Laura wore framing her face. She had the same almond shaped green eyes that he saw in his dreams, but now they were enhanced by black eyeliner, and heavy make up defined her high cheeks and generous lips with blusher and lipstick. Large hoop earrings hung from her ears, brushing her shoulders and emphasising her long slim neck. Somehow it looked like Laura but it was if the picture was out of focus and not quite her.
Just then the woman behind the counter appeared at his side holding a knife and fork, and placing them next to him on the table asked. "On holiday luv?"
"Uh no, just passing through."
Finding it difficult to pull his mind away from Laura's double, he looked at the woman next to him and frowned. "I'm working my way around the UK, and looking for temporary work and somewhere to crash. Do you know anywhere?"
"What type of work luv?" then with a suggestive wink, "Although with those muscles I should have thought anything physical would suit? I might have something if you're interested?"
Chris looked at her not sure if she was being suggestive or serious. His mind was still on the vision he had just seen and asked "What kind of thing?"
"A little touching up here and there, some lifting and moving, a lot of stripping and tender loving care." and she laughed at the look on his face as she stood hands on hips pleased with herself at her double entendres making the big man in front of her blush.
"Clear that dirty mind my love, I own this little gem of a business, and as you can see it is a bit run down round the edges. Place needs a bit of painting and decorating if that's your thing. I won't pay you cash but you can kip out the back in the spare room and have your food free as long as it takes you to get the place done."
"It's a deal, if you include the fry up as first payment." and putting out his hand they shook on the deal.
Just then Becky appeared plate in hand, about to place it on the table in front of Chris. Glancing up at the customer she was about to serve, shocked green eyes met cold ice blue ones, and with an involuntary gasp from her lips, the plate fell from her hands to the floor, food falling everywhere as the plate broke into pieces.
"Becky what have you done!" the owner of the café said, not noticing the two people staring at each other, her young waitress in shock and starting to take a step backwards as she shook her head in disbelief.
A strong hand shot out and grabbing her wrist, pulled her forward, and in a low gravely voice Chris said. "Well, well, well, the walking dead. Hello Laura. Long time no see."
Maidie looked up from where she was trying to gather up the bits of broken plate and looked from the man sitting there; hand around her waitress' wrist, eyes narrow, jaw clenched his mouth a narrow slit, to the young woman, a look of pure panic on her face.
"You OK Becca? Need any help? Listen mister I don't know what your problem is but we don't want any trouble here. I suggest you let go of her wrist and we'll just call it a day."
Without taking his eyes from Laura's he quietly instructed her "Tell her you're OK Laura, tell her you and I are old friends and need a little chat about old times."
"My name is Becky and I don't take shit from any man. Take your hand off my wrist or I'll make sure you never get a chance to get out of here in one piece," and with her other hand she picked up the glass ketchup bottle and held it up ready to hit him on the head.
Suddenly Chris burst out laughing at the incongruous threat, and letting go of her wrist, his foot shot out under the table kicking the chair opposite him back and nodding to it, "Sit down Laura, I think it's time for you to explain why you left me living in hell for the past eight months."
Reassuring Maidie she would be alright Becky slowly sat down opposite Chris as the worried older woman moved behind the counter keeping her eye on the two people sitting staring at each other.
After a long pause, each assessing the other, Chris drew a deep breath and leaning back with arms crossed asked "What did I do to you that made you leave me without even a word? I thought you were dead, we all did. Did you hate me that much that you couldn't say goodbye?"
"I don't owe you or anyone an explanation."
"Oh yes you do. The police will be very interested to know where you are."
"You're not going to tell them. You can't let Robert know where I am."
"Can't I?" and leaning forward hissed "He's in jail waiting trial for your murder, and I've been to hell and back because of you........ I loved you, I thought you were dead, I nearly went mad with grief, and you sit there calmly saying you don't owe me an explanation. Baby you owe me a lot more than an explanation."
"I owe you nothing. I never promised you a thing. All men think they own women, but no one owns me. No man will ever own me again."
Chris looked across the table at the defiant woman, her back ramrod straight, her eyes glinting daggers at him, and then turning round to the café owner who was trying hard to overhear the heated exchange between them said. "If your offer is still on, show me where I can dump my stuff and I'll get straight on with doing the repairs. Laura and I are going to reacquaint ourselves with each other, and it might take a little while for her to come up with a plausible story to spin me."
Getting up from the table, stepping over the food on the floor and grabbing his bag he followed Maidie out through the kitchen and the back door to a small stone storage room in the back yard.
"Listen here big man, I don't want any trouble. Becca is a good worker and it's the start of the season. Whatever is between the two of you behave yourself or you're out on your ear. I won't see her hurt. Do you understand?"
"Yeah I understand, and the name is Chris."
"Well Chris you can sleep on the cot in the store room, you'll find some tools in there, and I'll fix you a bacon sandwich and coffee. Start the repairs and leave your dealings with Becca until I close up. But remember one false move against her and you'll have me to deal with."
Stepping into the small room, Chris looked around, tins and boxes of food was stored on shelves and piled up on a table in a corner. At the other end of the room was a fold up bed with a blanket on it and not much else except a couple of cardboard boxes full of odds and ends.
Dumping his bag on the bed next to where he sank down, he stared across the room not really sure of what had just happened. She was alive. He was so mixed up. She was alive and all he wanted to do right now was put his hands around her throat and kill her. No he didn't! He was so relieved she was alive; he wanted to scoop her up and hold her to him, and then kill her.
All the long months mourning her, blaming himself, dreaming about her, missing her, and here she was, holed up in this tiny little village in the middle of nowhere telling him she didn't owe him anything.
Maidie walked back up to where Becky was kneeling, clearing up the mess on the floor of the café, "Well my love who exactly is that and what was that little scene all about?"
Without looking up she answered "That is a whole lot of problems for me Maidie, but I'm not the person he once knew, and it's going to come as a shock to him if he thinks I am."
Maidie knelt down next to the young girl, "Is he the man that had hurt you so bad when you first arrived? Do you want me to tell him to go?"
"No. But all men are the same. Bastards."
"No sweetie they're not, but that's' something you're going to have to learn."
Becky watched out the window as Chris stripped down the old paint off the door as it lay balanced across the two chairs outside the front of the café, remembering the time she had watched him as he worked in Mrs Jackson's front garden. It seemed like a lifetime ago, and maybe it was. She was now a different person, no longer the victim, the sweet little obedient wife, the easily manipulated young woman, but a strong and bitter person who had vowed to never let any man touch and hurt her again.
Since that night back in that October a high wall had built around her heart, protecting her from any hurt or memories, and as her wounds had healed, the scars that were left had not only marred her skin but also her fragile psyche.
Watching Chris as he worked under the hot sun a small soft tingle ran along the synapses in her brain, travelling down her spine to settle low down in her groin, but she tampered the feelings down, choosing to turn away back to the gloom of the café and ignore the rekindling of the sweet feelings that Chris seemed to light within her.
Maidie stood watching the young woman, worrying like a mother hen about her little chick. Back at the end of last year when she had been visiting her daughter in the main town she had found Becca sitting shivering, battered and bruised, in shock outside the railway station, and like the kind hearted woman she was, took her under her wing, fussing over her, watching as her body healed, and giving her a place to stay and work.
But Becca had never once explained her story, and she had filled in the pieces herself, guessing that there was a man involved. Was it this man? Although Becca seemed angry and shocked that he had found her, she didn't seem scared of him. In fact Maidie had sensed a hidden passion between them, something that at last she hoped would ignite in the young woman and bring her back fully to life, and bring her out of her protective cocoon she had placed around herself.
Chris worked on the door under the hot sun, removing the cracked green paint, and as he worked he thought of Laura, or Becky as she seemed to call herself now. How did she end up here after that night? Why did she run here instead of to him? All these months she had let him think she was dead, surely she had read the papers and could have got in touch with him to let him know she was alive? She knew that he loved her, would have protected her, why didn't she come to him? Had she just been using him that last month?
So many questions ran through his mind, questions that needed answering, and he intended to get them from this new version of Laura.
And she was a new version of Laura, in the short amount of time they had sat and talked in the café he sensed she had changed. Just as her appearance had slightly altered, so had the Laura he knew seemed to have altered into a harder, colder version of the woman he loved.
Later that night as Chris sat on the harbour wall staring up at the light in the window of the upper floor of the café, he tried to understand this new Laura as he turned over the conversation they had earlier after the café had closed down.
After replacing the half stripped down door, Maidie had invited him to join them for supper, and after washing up in the lean-to out the back he had come into the café and sat down at the table with the two women, unable to take his eyes from Laura opposite him.
She sat there head held high, shoulders back, an air of defiance in her demeanour as she looked across at him, eyes watching his every move.
Maidie sat there doing the talking for the three of them, asking him questions about himself that he answered politely, but never taking his eyes from Laura.
Eventually, putting down her cutlery, Maidie stood up, saying "I can take a hint when it's thrown at me." and she walked out of the room and up the stairs to the flat that she and Becky shared.
"OK Laura, want to fill me in on the past eight months? Want to tell me why you left me like you did?"
"My name is Becky."
"OK Becky," he sarcastically snapped, "Let's have it. Tell me why you didn't trust me enough to let me know you were alive."
"So typical of a man, it's all about YOU. Why didn't I let YOU know I was alive, why did I leave YOU, why didn't I trust YOU. You're so wrapped up in your own feelings and needs you have no idea of my feelings or what I wanted."
"I loved you."
"No you loved an image, not the real me. You didn't even know me, not really. You weren't much different from Robert, you made your plans in your head that involved me, but they were your plans not mine. I was just someone you wanted, and after a while you would have begun to hurt me. You men are all alike."
He felt like she had slapped him. "I loved you Laura, I would never have hurt you. I'm not like your husband, not all men hurt women and want to control them. You could have trusted me."
"I can't trust anyone. It's a lesson I learnt early on. I forgot it for a while, but I won't ever again."
"You've become bitter and hard, and that's not you."
Standing up preparing to leave she looked down at him "No Chris, this is me, the person you think I was did die that night, Laura died on that kitchen floor, and Becky was born. Go home and leave me alone."
He sat there in the small café alone with his thoughts. What ever she had been through had changed her, made her bitter, but what she said held a small ring of truth. He had fallen in love with her at first sight, not knowing her really, and as he had gotten to know her he had woven his dreams around her, making plans in his head, pushing for a relationship with her even though she never encouraged him.
Maybe now he would get to know the new Laura and understand her, for he realised that in his heart he still loved her, and wanted to help her to let go of all the bitterness and find herself once again.