Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Write on Wednesdays Revisited - Is this love?

Finally, a new instalment for my Write on Wednesdays ('WoW') Revisited. Gosh, it's a long one this time.

Kate and Cassie's story continues on from here.

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Part 12
Is this love?

Kate instinctively pushed her right foot in to the floor of the car as Cassie took a sharp left turn in her Honda Civic. ‘Slow down, Cass! There’s plenty of time to get to the airport, you know.’

Cassie turned and smiled at her. ‘Relax. I’ve been driving longer than you, remember?’

‘By four months!’ Kate scoffed. Cassie laughed. 

‘You have no sense of adventure, Miss Kate. No sense of adventure at all.’

Cassie braked sharply as the car in front of theirs came to a sudden halt. Kate sighed. ‘Well, I’m no longer nervous about the flight. If I can survive your driving, I can survive anything.’ 

Cassie rolled her eyes at Kate as they sat in the heavy Sydney traffic. ‘I can’t believe you’re going to London. Will you have time to catch up with Renee? And Trish? Oh, and what about Dicky?’

Kate frowned, shaking her head at her friend. ‘Don’t call him that, Cass. You know Richard despised you calling him that.’  

Cassie ignored her friend. ‘Oh my God - I forgot to tell you! He’s moved back to London from Ireland now. And he’s single again - he’ll happily take you out on the town. You know, for old times’ sake?’ She gave Kate an exaggerated wink.

Kate was well aware that Cassie was not-so-subtly referring to her short liaison with the English real estate agent during the month she had spent with Cassie in London over fifteen years before. 

After Cassie had introduced her work colleague to Kate in a London nightclub, just days after Kate’s arrival, there had been an instant mutual attraction between them. Less than two hours later, Richard was gently kissing Kate goodbye and promising to call her the next day. After that, they became almost inseparable until Kate’s eventual return to Sydney. 

‘Can’t you stay a little longer?’ he’d asked the night before her flight home as she packed her suitcase in Cassie’s crowded flat. 

‘I can’t. I’m back to uni next week.’

‘Just a few more days?’ he pleaded, giving her a smile that always managed to increase her heart rate tenfold. Saying no to Richard had proved close to impossible for Kate; he had a hold over her she’d never experienced before.

Kate hastily threw the last of her things in to her suitcase, including a cheesy London t-shirt he’d purchased for her at Camden Markets the week before. ‘So you won’t forget me,’ he’d explained at the time, handing it to her with a cheeky smile on his face. She ran her hand over the carefully folded t-shirt and smiled at the memory. She walked over to Richard and kissed him; her lips lingered on his. ‘I’d really like to stay longer,’ she whispered, trying not to be drawn to the soft, dark chest hair visible underneath his unbuttoned shirt; she knew exactly how it would feel to run her fingers through it - she'd done so many times over the last few weeks - and although the thought of doing so stirred a desire within her, she resisted the temptation to touch him. Cassie was due home from work any minute now. ‘I have to get back to uni. It's my final year, and a really important one. I’m sorry.’

As Richard left the flat that night, his hand lingered on the door handle for a moment, and he exhaled slowly. He turned to her, with what looked to Kate like sadness in his eyes, then leaned in to kiss her softly. ‘It’s ok,’ she said reassuringly as they hesitantly pulled apart, placing her hand affectionately on his cheek. ‘I’ll see you tomorrow, okay?’ They had planned for Richard to drive Kate to the airport. He nodded without saying anything and left, turning only once on the footpath to wave goodbye. As she leant her head against the closed door following his departure, she felt an emptiness and wondered if she had, in fact, fallen in love with him? Was that even possible after spending such little time together? Surely not. Besides, they had spent hardly any time at all talking about how they felt - in fact, they avoided it - and Richard hadn't been particularly forthcoming with a lot of information about himself, his family and his life to date. Kate had never even seen Richard’s flat; they spent most of their time out or at Cassie’s. In truth, she realised, she barely knew him.

Also, Kate had the feeling he was, as Cassie would have put it, ‘a bit of a player’. He’d never given her any particular impression that he wanted to be with anyone else during their time together, however they were continually bumping in to people he knew when they were out; especially women. They all flirted with Richard, and although he played it down to Kate - putting it down to his job (‘Real estate is all about making connections’) - Kate had the feeling that as soon as she left London, it would probably be only a matter of time before he found someone else to keep him company at night, even if he was as fond of her as she suspected he was.

On the day of Kate’s departure, Richard called her at the eleventh hour to say he couldn’t take her to the airport after all. He apologised. ‘I have to go right now,’ he whispered, ‘my boss is breathing down my neck, but I’ll explain it all in a letter, okay?’ They had agreed to keep in touch after Kate’s return to Sydney. ‘I promise there’s a good reason why I can’t be there with you.’ 

Kate was disappointed, and found it difficult to hide it from Richard. ‘I’m sorry, Kate, I really am,’ he said, before she reluctantly bid him goodbye. After hanging up, she burst in to tears. 

Thirty minutes later, sitting in a taxi cab on her way to the airport, she wondered what Richard’s reason could be for not collecting her. She strongly suspected there was something more than work commitments at play. In a way though, she wasn’t surprised he hadn’t shown. He didn’t seem like the kind of person that regularly drove girls to the airport. Besides, when she thought about it, his behaviour leaving Cassie’s apartment the night before seemed more of a ‘goodbye’ than a ‘see you tomorrow’.

Soon after her return to Sydney, a letter arrived from Richard explaining that he thought the final goodbye would be too difficult for both of them, and that he didn't want to complicate things or upset her. Partly, Kate was touched by his words, but underneath she couldn’t help but wonder if, in fact, a better offer had come up? Or if he was afraid she’d demand more from him? A further commitment? A promise to return to London? Maybe, all along, he had only been with her because he knew it would be a short-term thing. Still, she reasoned, it had seemed difficult for him to say goodbye the night before she left England. She felt certain she hadn’t imagined his sadness.   

Within six months of her return to Sydney, Kate found out her original hunch about Richard was right. His letters had started coming less frequently by then, and after pressing Cassie for information about him during one of their weekly Sunday phone calls, Cassie hesitantly admitted to Kate that Richard had been seeing someone ‘for quite a while’. A girl named Emma, from what Kate could recall. Or perhaps she’d never actually known the girl’s name at all and just referred to her as that. (It was possible the years she spent pouring over Jane Austen novels in high school had influenced her more than she realised.) In any case, Kate had imagined a pale-faced, fair-headed English rose - almost the polar opposite to her.

In his letters and during the few phone calls they’d made to each other, Richard hadn’t mentioned Emma (or whatever her name was), or any other women that may have been on the scene at the time. Kate called Richard the next day and in-between the usual questions like, ‘So, what have you been up to?’ and ‘How’s the weather over there?’ she casually asked if he was seeing anyone, and although he talked around the question at first, he eventually admitted he was. 

Richard was a lot of things: guarded with his feelings, hesitant to open up, flirtatious, aloof at times and not always thoughtful or generous (the London t-shirt was one of the few things he’d ever bought her - they had usually split their meals or took turns paying for them), but one thing she couldn’t fault him on was his honesty. Holding back the tears and ignoring the distinct feelings of jealousy rushing through her, she wished him well. ‘I’m happy for you,’ she said, and was surprised to find that regardless of how she felt, she actually meant it. 

They continued to write to each other for a couple of months after that, until their letters gradually ceased altogether.  

After finding out about 'Emma', Kate couldn’t ignore the hurt she felt that Richard had moved on so quickly. To distance herself from the pain she threw herself in to her study. Almost two years later, she was lazing around one Sunday afternoon - her first ‘day off’ since starting her first job out of uni six months before (it was the first weekend she hadn’t brought any work home with her) - and was listening to the radio when a song came on that reminded her of the night she’d first met Richard. It shocked her slightly to realise that she’d rarely thought about him, if at all, in well over a year. Although she thought constantly about him for the rest of the day, and dreamt that night they were walking through Hyde Park together, holding hands, by the time she headed to work the next day he was albeit forgotten again.

Granted, Richard had been a lot of fun to be with at the time, and he’d made her feel important during their time together in London. Even now, her heart still beat a little faster at the memory of him and the long, cold rainy afternoons they spent in bed together while Cassie was at work, but she had more than moved on and had no desire to revisit those old feelings. 

Besides, no one could compare to Nick. Once Nick came along, Richard - as well as all the romances she’d experienced in-between (the few she’d had, anyway) - had albeit been completely forgotten. 

Kate sighed. ‘Firstly, I’m not going to have any time to socialise in London - I’m there for work - and secondly … no interest. That ship sailed a really long time ago, Cass.’

Cassie shrugged. ‘It was just a thought. I mean, you could use a little fun in your life, Little Miss Serious.’ 

‘I’m not that serious! I mean, about work, yes, I am. But I’m fun! I don’t need a guy in my life to have fun.’

‘She who protesteth too much …’

Kate slapped her best friend good-naturedly on the arm. ‘Watch it. By the way, you didn’t tell me you were still in contact with Richard.’

‘I’m not. Renee is though, and the last time she emailed me she told me about his divorce and return to London.’

‘Divorce? He was married?’

‘God, I can’t believe I haven’t told you any of this stuff yet! To some Irish girl he fell head over heels for last year. They were married for, like, a hot minute. After the wedding he was supposed to sell the business, tie up loose ends then move to her hometown - some Godforsaken, tiny town in Ireland.’ Cassie laughed. ‘God, can you imagine Dicky living in a small town?’

Kate shook her head, shooting Cassie a warning look. ‘No, I can’t imagine it. At least, not the Richard I knew. It was more than fifteen years ago, you know!’

‘Well, he never really changed, apparently. His clients got older, richer and the parties he schmoozed them all at were a bit more posh. Renee reckons he still loves a good party.’ 

‘Hmmm. So what happened to the marriage?’

‘Curious, huh?’ Cassie teased. Kate rolled her eyes in response. ‘Well, Renee said that after the wedding he kept putting off the move to Ireland. He was still flying back and forth from London a lot and the amount of time he spent in Ireland became less and less and, well, the wife wanted him with her to help run the family’s pub and, Renee reckons, start a family, and Richard just couldn’t bring himself to do it.’

‘Didn’t they sort all that stuff out before they got married?’

‘It was really quick. They met when she was on holiday in London; they spent a few weekends here and there together over about a six month period, then they got married. Very whirlwind. Richard probably hoped it would just work out and he might be able to convince her to move to London but she wasn’t interested. Renee said she’s a real Daddy’s girl and wouldn’t dream of leaving her family. One of those born, bred and die in the same small town kind of people, you know?’

‘Well, big cities like London aren’t for everyone. How exactly is it that you hadn’t mentioned all this before now?’

‘Hmmm … brain malfunction? I was so excited to tell you everything when I read the gossip in Renee’s email, and was about to call you, but then Dan arrived at the apartment and, well, I kind of forgot about it.’

‘Ah, Dan. He seems to be the main source of your distraction these days,’ Kate teased. Cassie blushed. ‘Speaking of Dan, how come you’re not out with him tonight? Didn’t he fly back from Melbourne last night?’ 

Cassie sniffed in disapproval.

Kate let out a laugh. ‘What’s that about?’

Cassie pouted. ‘I’m just … a little hurt.’

‘For goodness sake, what has he done? I thought things were progressing very nicely?’

‘They were. But, well, I suddenly realised this morning that he didn’t ask me to pick him up from the airport last night. I could have picked him up. I could have gotten a bus back to the apartment after work, collected the car and still had enough time to drive to the airport.’

Kate couldn’t speak. Instead, her mouth hung open in shock.

‘What? What did I say?’ Cassie asked, looking confused.

Kate shook her head and laughed. ‘You. Cassie. Miss I-Don’t-Run-After-Guys Cassie. You wanted to drive to the airport, in Friday night traffic, to collect a guy?!’ 

Cassie went silent for a moment. ‘Sweet Jesus. I’ve turned in to one of those women.’

Both she and Kate burst in to laughter. They laughed until tears ran down both their cheeks.  

‘Cassie,’ Kate said, taking a breath, ‘You do realise what this means, don’t you?’ 

‘That I’m crazy? That I’m too involved? Oh my God, this is a disaster!’

‘No, it’s not. And you’re not crazy. You’re just … in love.’

‘I-I’m not in love,’ Cassie reasoned. ‘I’m just, I don’t know, going through a very helpful stage or something.’

‘Cassie,’ Kate said softly, ‘You’re either falling in love with Dan, or you’re already in love with him. The Cassie I know doesn’t go out of her way for you unless she loves you. Full stop.’

Cassie now had tears in her eyes. ‘I don’t know if I can do this,’ she said softly. ‘After … last time.’

Kate knew who Cassie was referring to. 

‘Dan isn’t Paul. Not all men run, Cassie. Not all men will let you down.’

Cassie sighed. ‘I know. I just … I just can’t go through that again, you know?’

‘I know.’ Kate placed her hand softly on her friend’s arm. ‘But you can’t spend your life worrying about what might happen. Or what might not happen.’

Both women fell silent. The traffic on the Eastern Distributor had been slow, but now the car was heading swiftly along Southern Cross Drive towards Sydney International Airport. Kate glanced at her watch. There was still plenty of time.

‘Is that why you offered to drive me to the airport? You’re a secretary so you know how this works - the bank would have paid for a taxi. Are you avoiding catching up with Dan tonight? I mean, it’s Saturday night, Cass. You love going out on Saturday nights. They’re almost sacred to you.’

Cassie smiled. ‘I dunno. Maybe.’

‘Well, we’re almost at the airport. After you drop me, go home and call Dan, okay? It’s still early enough.’ 

Cassie shrugged.

‘Do it. Don’t push him away, Cass. He sounds like the perfect guy for you. They don’t come around that often.’ 

Cassie pulled the car up beside the Qantas departure terminal doors and placed the car in to park. She twisted in her seat to face Kate. ‘I’m going to miss you.’

Kate smiled. ‘I’m away for less than a week.’

Cassie returned the smile. ‘I know. I’ll still miss you.’ The two women hugged. ‘And if you happen to bump in to that ex-fiance of mine in London, kick him in the shins for me, will you?’

‘I will,’ Kate promised. She climbed out of the car, removed her bag from the boot and waved to Cassie as her car pulled away from the verge. Call him she mouthed to her friend. Cassie laughed, blew Kate a kiss, then drove away, waving her hand madly out the driver’s window as she did. 

Once Kate had checked in and made her way through customs she headed to the bar for a drink before the flight. The last couple of days had been incredibly busy and stressful; she was looking forward to tuning out on the flight with a movie, and finishing off her current read. After, that is, she’d re-read all the documents tucked firmly in to her carry-on luggage.

Kate’s gin and tonic was placed in front of her. It looked inviting in the frosted glass with a slice of lime floating in it. London, here I come, she said to herself before taking a long sip of her drink. The next week, she knew, was going to be a whirlwind. The calm before the storm, she thought before turning her thoughts to Cassie and Dan. 

Even when Cassie was engaged to Paul all those years ago, she would never have offered to collect him from the airport - and she had really loved Paul. No question. Kate was happy for her friend. Cassie deserved to be happy, but like she had the other day after their breakfast before work, a feeling of uneasiness crept over her again. 

Her relationship with Cassie, she reasoned, was about to change. It had to. She just hoped it wouldn’t change for the worse like it had when she’d dated Nick. 

Nick. She was sick and tired of thinking about Nick. Sick of analysing why he’d said what he’d said,  and done what he’d done. It was all in the past and all she had to do was do exactly what she’d done with Richard: put him out of her mind and move on. The idea seemed simple in theory, but she knew the reality of finally putting Nick firmly in the past was something else entirely. Although he had been officially out of her life for close on two years now, their relationship still took up almost every resting thought in her head, not to mention the huge space it still took up in her heart. 

Kate sighed. It was all so very exhausting. 

The announcement of her flight being ready to board snapped her out of her thoughts. It was time to go. Work mode. Picking up her drink, she drained the glass. As she walked towards the gate, she could feel the alcohol working on relaxing her muscles and her mind. She smiled. London was less than twenty-four hours away now, and she was going to make the most of it.

Within fifteen minutes, she was seated in her spacious business class seat, an orange juice in hand. Five minutes after that, she'd already decided on her first meal after checking the menu and had started scanning the pages of The Sydney Morning Herald. A wave of tiredness suddenly washed over her. Maybe she would be asleep before the meal was served.  

The flight attendant collected her glass and the plane started to taxi towards the runway. As the plane lifted in to the sky, she looked out the window to view the twinkling lights of Sydney below. It reminded her of a similar view of the city lights the night she’d left London in ’92, and her thoughts surprisingly turned to Richard again. 

At the time of her departure from Heathrow, she had pictured Richard standing somewhere below, watching her plane move further and further away from London, and from him. She wondered if that had actually happened. Did he regret not seeing her that one last time? She’d never felt game to ask him. Afraid, she suspected, of what his honest answer might be. If, that is, he’d chosen to answer the question at all. You never knew with Richard. 

‘Champagne?’ The friendly voice of the flight attendant snapped her back to the present. 

‘Yes, please,’ she replied. As she sipped the cool beverage, the liquid fizzing in her mouth, she decided to set aside all thoughts of the past. Life was good, and this trip - work and all - would be good for her; a chance to get out of Sydney for a week and take a break from her usual daily grind, and thoughts. 

Richard’s face suddenly flashed in front of her. ‘Bottoms up, then,’ she could hear him say, smiling broadly. 

Damn it, she thought and sighed. What the hell is wrong with me?  

*     *     *     *     *

Until next time.


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Thanks for stopping by and for sharing your thoughts. J xox