Laura Ch. 04byshandal©
The road to romance is rocky and never smooth. It is more complicated when others are involved.
This is a romantic thriller between Chris and Laura, and has many other characters weaving in and out of their love story.
There is a slow build up towards the explosion that creates havoc in their lives.
The first thing Chris noticed as Laura stepped off the bus then next morning was the bandage on her hand. He watched her walk towards him as he sat on the wall, never taking his eyes off her face. He could see she was embarrassed, she put her hand in her jacket pocket, and a blush spread across her cheeks, causing them to go a bright pink.
Standing up as she reached him and gently placing both his hands on her shoulders and looking down into her eyes he asked in a quiet voice. "Tell me the truth, how did it happen?"
Trying to walk past him, she started to turn but he held her fast by her shoulders and again said in the same quiet but intense voice "Was it him?"
"It doesn't matter, it's alright, please let it go."
"No. Tell me what happened."
"Chris please I had an accident last night whilst chopping a pineapple, it was my fault, I was clumsy. It won't happen again."
"Damn right it won't. Leave him and come and live with me, I won't hurt you, Laura. You can stay as long as you like. I promise you no strings attached, but leave him and I'll keep you safe."
She looked up and with a small shake of her head, "Chris we only met two weeks ago, I really hardly know you. Let me deal with it, I promise you I have things in hand."
"I've fallen in love with you ......"
And in the silence that followed, blue eyes staring into green, one set looking for acceptance the other looking for truth. "Give me some time, please; it's just not that simple, you don't understand."
"I understand I love you, I can help you, keep you safe. You're just a punch bag for that bastard, leave him and I promise you I'll make sure he can't hurt you again."
"Let me think on it."
"What's there to think?"
"Chris please let me think, you're pressuring me, I need to think. Give me time."
And she walked past him as his hands fell from her shoulders to his sides and he turned and watched as she walked to the house, and disappeared from his sight behind the front door.
Laura lent against the inside of the door shaking, He said he loved her, and he asked her to go to live with him! That he loved her! She was so confused, and so tempted.
Robert was getting more and more violent and abusive, the chance to escape was strong, her plans were going so slow, and here was a chance to escape now.
But what if she was jumping from the pan into the fire? What did she really know about Chris; they had met only a couple of weeks ago, and not really spent much time together. She knew he seemed kind, that he made her laugh, that although he was strong and outwardly seemed tough, he was in fact a gentle man, with laughing eyes and a ready smile. But she knew from experience that impressions can be deceiving. Look at what happened with Robert. He once had been loving and kind to her, telling her he loved her and needed her and he would make her happy, and so soon after they were married it all turned to a living nightmare.
What if it should happen again, what if she left one man for another only to find the same thing happening, and with an almost stranger? No better to go through with her plan, tell Chris nearer the time she was leaving and then see what will be then.
After all how could he love her, he didn't know her, and she knew she didn't love him.
Chris sat back down on the wall, his heart was racing, his stomach in a tight knot. He had told her he loved her, and he had promised himself not to pressure her, to be there as a friend, and what had he done but blurted it out. He had seen the shock and the confusion in her eyes, the stillness in her body telling him she was so near yet so far away from him and all he wanted from her.
Closing his eyes he sat there on the wall as people walked past, thinking of what to do next, how to protect her, and he knew he could no longer sit back and not confront the bastard that was hurting her, he knew he had to act. To do something. But what!
Robert had stayed the night at the hotel, after picking up some drunken woman at a club. She satisfied his fury, not caring what was happening due to two bottles of wine and a couple of Vodka shots he had fed her during the evening. He had paid and left the room to get to the office even before she had woken up.
Tonight he had booked the room at the other hotel for himself and that little bit from the office. He would go home and get washed up and then meet her there. Laura could go to hell if she cared, he would deal with her during the weekend. He had heard her scream of pain as he walked out the door last night, the stupid cow.
Looking down at the spreadsheet in front of him on the computer, he looked at the gross profit that showed from the deal he was working on and started working out his big fat commission and just what he was going to buy himself with it. Maybe change the car up to the next model, after all he'd had this one for nearly a year, and the newer one in the range would look really good in the company car park.
"Here she comes again" she said to her husband as she held the curtain back slightly, "and this time her hand is bandaged."
Her husband came and stood behind her peeking over her shoulder out the window at the next door neighbour as she fished in her bag for her keys to open the front door.
"I told you leave it alone, it's nothing to do with you."
"But the screaming and shouting is getting more and more, and I'm worried for her." She turned her head over her shoulder looking at her husband as he growled at her "I said leave it, come away from the window and keep your nose out of other people's business."
Tricia stood at the door, finger on the brass door bell, wondering if he was in. It was late Friday night and she hadn't seen or heard from him in days. His friends hadn't seen him at the bar nor was he answering his mobile.
Pressing the door bell again and standing back she looked up at the window above her, shouting "Chris, it's me, are you there?"
But there was no answer, no sign of life, no light in the window, and no smiling face answering the door to her.
Turning away she walked up the road cursing her luck at falling for a man who didn't return her feelings again. *
Chris lay on the couch in the dark, his long jean clad legs crossed at the ankle on one end, his head leaning against the armrest at the other. A bottle of beer balanced on his belly, his eyes staring into the darkness as his mind wandered.
He heard the bell ringing, heard Tricia calling out for him, and just as he had ignored the ringing of his mobile earlier, he ignored her shouted entreaty. He was wallowing in his own emotional pain, and he needed no complications, no company tonight. The only company he needed was his own, and the six pack sitting in his fridge.
She told her parents she was staying with friends tonight, and got a cab to the hotel, clutching her small overnight bag on her lap. Robert had told her to wait for him in the reception, and that he would be there as soon as he could. This last week had been exciting at work with Robert brushing up against her in the lift, whispering in her ear while in the staff kitchen, telling her what he was going to do to her when they were in the hotel room. Openly patting her bottom when she walked by, uncaring of who could see.
People at work couldn't help but notice that they were obviously having a relationship, and she was glad, she wanted everyone to know that someone like Robert wanted her. She might be just the lowly office junior but the senior sales executive wanted her and not them.
As she entered the hotel she settled into the armchair by the window, waiting for him to arrive. People swirled around her, friends meeting friends, guests booking into the hotel for the weekend at the reception, couples walking arm in arm towards the hotel bar.
None of them paid attention to the young girl sitting there quietly waiting in anticipation for her lover.
Robert had come in on Friday after work, running upstairs to wash and change, ignoring Laura who was in the kitchen preparing the supper for him. She had heard the door slam and jumped, then heard the heavy footsteps on the stairs, the slamming of draws and cupboards, then finally the noise of water as the shower ran as he prepared himself in the bathroom.
Standing by the fridge with the door open, she stilled herself, listening out for any movement, any demand that might be shouted from above. But none came.
By the time Robert emerged, dressed in his expensive jeans and cashmere v neck sweater, smelling of his expensive cologne, and a leather overnight case in his hand, the dinner was ready.
He stood in the doorway of the kitchen, the smell of the meal wafting out to him, as he looked at her standing there dressed as he liked in a clingy woollen dress that emphasised her frailty. Her eyes watching and waiting, her bandaged hand held at her waist, he thought for a moment that he might stay in with her, spend some time with his wife, have a little fun nearer to home. But then she could wait, there was always Sunday, and the little office junior was waiting and eager to please him.
"I'm going out; I'll be back tomorrow night. Maybe." and with that he turned and left. Laura took a deep breath, she felt only relief. Turning off the oven she sank down on the kitchen chair and savoured the fact that she had tonight and possibly tomorrow to herself.
Out and about in the town, walking amongst the busy shoppers, Laura window shopped wishing she could buy this outfit or that one. But she knew she couldn't, not until she got away from Robert. He had specific ideas on what she should wear, what she could buy. But soon she promised herself she would buy what she wanted, dress more fashionable, more casual, more her taste.
Moving down the high street, past the many shops and restaurants, then turning down a side street she came to the mail drop office, walked into the office and up to the counter where there stood a middle aged man, thin and bald, leaning on the counter reading a paper.
"Excuse me; I've come to collect any post for Rebecca Jackson. Has any arrived?" and digging into her bag for the ID and reference number for her mail box, she handed it to the man who hardly looked up at her.
"Let me check. Jackson you said." he muttered as he walked through the door to the back. Laura stood waiting, and after a couple of minutes he re-emerged holding three or four envelopes.
"Sign here." Passing over the book and pen, and then handed her the small bundle of letters. Her heart in her mouth, she looked at the post and there it was, a couple of letters from the Bank. Mumbling her thanks, walked out the door, and standing in the street, looked at the white envelopes in her hand.
Dread entered her thoughts, what if the bank didn't open the account, what if they had caught on to the fact that she wasn't really who she had said she was, how was she going to set up a new life away from Robert without a new identity. The bank account was crucial in the plan, the lottery money had to be put in there and not her account. He always checked and kept abreast of what she spent and her pay from the hospice went into the account. No she needed a fresh account away from him, away from prying eyes and a trail to follow.
Walking to the park, she found a bench, and sitting there slowly opened the first letter. It was a letter of welcome, with leaflets explaining what was available and the terms and conditions of the new account. A big smile broke out on her face, and a feeling of real relief washed over her. The second letter from the bank held the Debit Card from the bank, and the instructions on how to phone up to activate it and re set the PIN number.
The other letters were for Mrs Jackson, so she decided to catch a bus to her house, give her the post and hide the letters and the card from the bank, in the bedroom upstairs, away from Roberts's possible discovery.
Arriving at the house she was greeted by the other home help Sarah, they spoke about how Mrs J had been lately, and what the nurse that came twice a day to administer the drugs had said, and then she went into the sitting room to find the old lady laying down asleep on the couch, a blue and white check rug over her, her head peeping out resting on the cushions.
Looking down at the person in her life that she had come to feel so close to, as much to her as if she was her own real family, she sank to the floor and the tears flowed softly. For the inevitable loss of someone she cared so much about, for the loss of her dreams of love and family, for the future loss of her identity and self.
For she knew looking at the sleeping woman in front of her, that to save herself, her self respect, her dignity, possibly her life, she would move on, again, just as she had done so many times in her childhood. Starting again alone, strangers around her, disconnected from others, whilst surrounded by them.
The reality of the bank account in a new name had brought the actuality of the inevitable home to her at that moment in time. That and the wonderful gift of the lottery money from the person lying asleep before her, the gift of being reborn.
Robert returned home early evening, his mood light and playful with her, almost teasing. He picked up her wrist, looking at the bandage and lifting the hand to his mouth kissed it saying, "A kiss will make it all better, you really should be more careful babe."
Then taking her other hand and leading her to the couch. "I'm exhausted, let's just sit back and chill tonight, see what's on the box." He picked up the remote control and flicked through the channels until he found what he wanted.
Laura sat next to him, trying to blank her mind, ignoring the tight ball of fear that seemed to live continually in her stomach when she was near her husband. Trying to stay as quiet and still as possible in case she set him off again she looked down at her hand, the bandage standing white against her black trousers, she heard the sound of the people talking on the television programme, but what they were saying didn't seem to penetrate the fog in her mind.
Monday morning as she stepped down from the bus she saw him, sitting there waiting, his battered brown leather jacket on the wall next to him, his long legs planted firmly on the ground splayed apart, a determined look on his cleanly shaven face.
She walked up to him sitting there, his arms folded across his chest, her eyes slightly above his as she stood in front of him. There was no smile on his face, just a steady look, his eyes clear, his normally smiling mouth now set in a straight line.
"I need to know where I stand, I know you are married, I accept that, and that I have no real right, but I need to know how you feel. Are you staying with him because you love him, or from fear?"
"I don't love him anymore."
"Do I have a chance....?"
"I need to have time to sort out my life."
"I can give you time, all the time you need, I just need to know if I have a chance."
Looking down at her feet she whispered "I have to sort out my life. I've been so tired for so long, I need to have time." and looking up at him, "Do you understand?"
"No not really, but I'll wait and give you time, but don't ask me not to be there for you, to try and help. I'm a man who has always dealt with whatever needs to be done, and I can't just stand by and see you hurt by him. It's tearing me up inside. Let me protect you, we can find a way if you want."
She placed her hand on his shoulder, moving between his splayed out legs.
"You're a good man Chris, I can't promise anything, I feel hollow inside, empty, and all my energy is gone. I promise you I will sort it out and I treasure your friendship."
He whispered "I want to be more than a friend." And with that his hands went around her waist pulling her close into him and lifting his face up towards hers, kissed her so sweetly. "I will never hurt you, I promise."
"How can I be sure?"
She stepped back from him, his hands leaving her waist and falling to rest on his thighs. She stood for a moment looking down at the man sitting in front of her on the wall, "Just be there for me, and I promise you I'll sort it out."
"I'm willing to take the risk, are you?"
And she walked away from him, leaving him sitting there watching her back as she went towards the house .
Across the road Tricia stood watching the exchange, a building anger inside her. She had come early to his house to see if she could catch him before he left for work, and there he was with her, that bitch. What did he see in her? As far as she could see she was just ordinary, nothing special, light brown hair hanging down just past skinny shoulders. Skinny and small, no curves like she herself had, and she dressed like a nun, drab and dull. What could he see in her?
And then she saw the kiss and the anger turned to rage, she felt used, he had lied. He had told her there was nothing between them, that he loved a married woman but it was one sided. But she could see that they were having an affair. The bastard! She felt she had been strung along, yet again. She thought he was different, but he was the same as all the others.
Stalking off down the road the angry woman reflected on how she could get her own back, how she could teach them not to mess with her, how she could get her revenge.
Entering the house Laura could tell things were not right, Sarah the night home help was there, a worried look on her face.
"We took Mrs Jackson to the hospital early this morning, she was asking for you, she has deteriorated quite a bit yesterday, and the nurse came in upping her morphine, I'm so sorry I know how fond you are of her, but she is drifting in and out at the moment and needs full hospital care now."
A cold chill ran up Laura's spine, and she held out her shaking hand for the piece of paper Sarah was giving her with the information on where Mrs Jackson had been taken.
"I'll go there straight away, can you let the team leader know that I am going over there, and tell her I'll be into the office later on."
Sarah called after Laura as she ran out the door "Of course, and say hi to Mrs J from me. See you later."
Against the white of the hospital bed she looked even frailer, her arm lay by her side, a drip fed into in the vein, her cheeks more hollow and pronounced, and her eyes open but with a faded slightly unfocused appearance. Laura sat next to her holding her other hand, and stroking her hair back from her forehead, she smiled down at her charge, "I'm here, and you're not alone."
A thin quiet voice replied "Thank you, I think it will be sooner than later now."
"Don't be silly, they are going to stabilise you, and then we will get you over to the Hospice." "No darling, I can feel my strength leaving me. I want you to go and get that money, make sure your set up and ready," the hand she was holding gave a slight squeeze "and when I pass over I want you to go and enjoy the rest of your life. Just remember me that is all I ask. Someone who will remember me."
"Of course I'll remember you."
"Remember and carry my name for me." Another squeeze from her hand. " I'm not scared to die, only to die alone."
The two woman held hands, one lying still, the other sitting and waiting, both willing the other to find the strength needed for the next stages of their lives.
The next couple of days Laura sat at the hospital beside the one person she really felt was like family, and who cared for her. Lying in the bed, with the care of the hospital, and Laura beside her, she seemed to rally slightly. The sounds and the smell of the hospital swirled around them, but cocooned in their own bubble Laura sat with the old lady, talking about the past, giving the her comfort, holding her hand and offering the warmth of human connection and affection.