After sobbing into her pillow back at her apartment for the remainder of the afternoon, Laura mechanically dressed for work and walked along to the restaurant to start her shift.
“What happened Laura?” Pedro asked when he saw her. It was clear she was not her usual self. She looked pale and drawn and her eyes were red from crying.
“I don’t want to talk about it Pedro,” she replied, knowing that if she did, she would be unable to stop the tears from returning.
“Laura, Laura,” Pedro’s soothing voice caused Laura to look up at her friend and see the compassion in his eyes. Her need for a friend now overrode any obligation she felt to be strong and get on with her work. She allowed herself to be led to a table, sat down and waited while Pedro made her a strong coffee.
“Now Laura, tell me what has happened.” Pedro said handing her a steaming cup of sweet coffee and a plate with a small cream filled pastry on the centre.
Laura took a tentative sip of the coffee, savouring the bitter-sweet taste on her tongue, and then followed it with a bite of the pastry, before looking up at Pedro and opening up her heart.
“I thought you were right when you said that Sean Fenton and I had some kind of connection. We had lunch together.”
“And..” encouraged Pedro.
“And he makes me feel more alive that I have ever felt. I feel like I’ve always known him and I never want to be without him.” Laura was shocked by speaking those frank words aloud. She was aware of her intense feelings for Sean, but to translate those feelings into words made them all the more real, and the fact that she could not be with Sean all the more devastating.
“But that’s a good thing Laura. You deserve somebody like that to make you happy.”
“That’s just it Pedro, he doesn’t feel the same way about me.” Laura’s eyes and voice dropped. “He’s leaving in a couple of days to go back to his work. His work is the most important thing in his life. I can’t compete with that.” Laura spoke with resignation. She and Sean Fenton were in different worlds. He, a rich businessmen, who jetted off around the world, building his empire; and she a small town waitress. There would be no Cinderella style happy ending for her. The sooner she accepted that and moved on, the better, she thought.
“Laura, don’t give up so easily, “said Pedro.
“I’m not Pedro. There is nothing more I can do! If Sean felt I was more important than his work then maybe there would be a chance. But I can’t change how he feels.”
“Then maybe it’s not him who needs to change, my dear. Take a good look at yourself Laura, what is it you want from life?” Pedro asked. It was the same question that Sean had asked on the beach earlier. A question she didn’t think she was ready to answer.. What did she want? After four years of deliberately not asking herself that very question, Laura found it practically impossible to even begin to imagine an answer.
“I don’t know what I want,” Laura admitted.
“Then that is where you need to start. If you don’t know that yourself, then you can’t expect to share it with anyone else.”
“Did you know what you wanted from life before you met Conchita?” Laura asked.
Pedro smiled at her as his mind took him back to his youth. “Yes I did. I lived in a small town near the centre of Spain, and I had never seen the sea. I don’t know where I got the idea from, but I wanted to be a fisherman.”
Laura smiled back at him. “Well clearly, you fulfilled your dream, you fish every day! That is amazing Pedro. Did Conchita want the same thing?”
“Not at first, no” he answered. “She thought I was crazy. She told me I knew nothing about boats, the sea or fishing.” He chuckled, “and she was right! But I wasn’t going to let minor problems like that stop me!”
Laura laughed out loud at Pedro’s audacity. “So how did you change her mind?”
“I didn’t change it, she did. She had a large close knit family in our small town, and had always imagined staying there forever, as her family had done for generations. Until we met, she had never really considered the possibility of anything else. “
Laura listened intently, Pedro had spoken often of his late wife and the wonderful times they had shared together, but she had never heard the story of the early days of their romance.
“When we were courting, I used to take her out for picnics, it was all I could afford,” he added ruefully. “We would sit for hours just talking. The food never lasted long as there was never very much of it, but she didn’t seem to mind.”
Laura could picture the young couple sitting on a blanket out in the countryside, content with just each other’s company. She felt a twinge in her heart as it made her think of lunch earlier that day with Sean. She had wanted that lunch to last forever. It had been so perfect and complete. Nothing else had seemed to matter. Pedro had stopped talking, lost in his memories of what had obviously been a special time for him and the woman he loved.
“Go on” Laura urged, eager to hear more.
“The more I talked of my fishing idea, the more Conchita seemed to get swept up by my enthusiasm, and her own dreams began take shape too. She too had never seen the sea, and despite her earlier reservations about me attempting something I knew nothing about, she began to talk of ideas of a restaurant at the beach where she would cook the fish I caught to serve to the customers.“ Pedro paused to laugh, “I pointed out to her that she knew nothing about running a restaurant or cooking fish!”
“Well!” exclaimed Laura, “lack of knowledge didn’t stop either of you it seems.”
Pedro took both Laura’s hands in his own, and looking into her emerald green eyes he said, “When we were together, we felt like we could do anything. We just knew that we had to be together.” Pedro paused letting his words sink in to Laura’s mind, “The way you look at Sean Fenton, is like the way Conchita used to look at me. And I see him returning that look with equal intensity. You and he are meant to be together Laura.”
Laura’s mind was a whirlwind of thoughts, racing round and around in her head. Could what she felt for Sean really be compared to the lifetime of love that Pedro and Conchita had shared? Surely not, she barely knew this man, how could she be in love with him?
“I’ve only known Sean for three days. How can you say that?” Laura asked, not really daring to hope again, but wanting to despite herself.
“Don’t you believe in love at first sight Laura?” Pedro asked.
“Isn’t that just for the movies?” she answered, not wanting to admit that instant true love was one thing she used to wholeheartedly believe in. She and her mother had been hopeless romantics, often spending their evenings with rented romance movies, and then chatting over hot chocolate before bed about how one day they would both be swept off their feet by dashingly handsome men.
“The idea for those movies had to come from somewhere Laura” Pedro answered. Then he stood up and collected her now empty coffee cup and plate. “It’s time to get ready Laura”
“For what?” she answered looking puzzled.
“For tonight’s customers” he smiled, pointing up the beach to the figures heading their way.
“Oh! Sorry, Pedro, my mind’s not in the right place this evening,” she said, embarrassed by her lack of concentration on her job! She leapt up and quickly began setting the tables.
Her conversation with Pedro had made Laura feel a little more positive in her outlook on things. But no matter how she looked at things between her and Sean, she kept on coming back to the fact that he did not think he had room in his life for a relationship. His work would always come first.
Once the evening rush had died down, Pedro came over to her.
“Laura, I think you need to go home,” he said.
She looked at him surprised. Pedro had never asked her to go home early.
“What’s wrong?” she asked, worried that with her mind so preoccupied she had forgotten an order, or made a mistake.
“What’s wrong is that you need to get your head straight and think about what you are going to do,” he replied.
“I can’t Pedro, what about the customers? Their desserts and drinks?” she asked. She knew it was too much for one person to cope with and wouldn’t dream of leaving Pedro in the lurch.
“Valentina has offered to help me finish off the evening’s work” he replied, gesturing to the graceful lady, around the same age as Pedro, who had been visiting the restaurant more and more often lately, and Laura suspected it wasn’t just because she liked Pedro’s cooking!. She smiled, wondering if Pedro was aware of Valentina’s growing attentions towards him, then scolded herself for assuming things of other people that could just be in her over-active imagination!
“Ok Pedro, thank you, I am feeling very tired, I would appreciate an early night.” Laura replied, turning towards the bar to collect her bag and change her shoes. Time to think and clear her head was exactly what she needed Laura realised as she left the restaurant.
The story continues tomorrow....