“Fernando wait!” cried Laura as she leapt up the steps onto the decking and ran towards him. She stopped abruptly feeling like she had been slapped in the face when she saw the tears streaming down his cheeks, raw pain showing on his face.
“I..I..It’s not what you think, Fernando” she stammered, her eyes pleading with him not to go.
“How can you say that Laura?” he replied angrily. She had never heard him raise his voice before, and it began to sink in quite how much she had hurt him. “Yesterday you told me he was just a tourist, and today you are kissing him?” his eyes wide and incredulous with what he perceived to be her blatant lies. “I have known you for a nearly a year Laura and I have loved you for all of that time. I know something hurt you in your past, and I have never pushed you to tell me what it was, but I have waited for you to heal slowly, waited for you to be ready for a little romance. And this is what I get Laura?“ He lifted his hand, palm facing upwards and cut the air in that Latin gesture meaning “basta”, enough! He regarded her for a moment longer, then turned and walked away.
The pain in Laura’s chest was so intense she couldn’t bear it. She collapsed into the nearest chair, sobs already escaping her throat and the tears flowing so freely they were falling like little rain drops on the deck. She was losing her job, her self control, and now it seemed she had lost Fernando. Worse than that, she felt disgusted with herself for having hurt him so much, and all over another man she didn’t even know, or want to know for that matter. How could she have made such a mess of things, again. “Oh Mum, I wish you were here” she sobbed needing someone to comfort her, needing her mother’s soothing voice telling her everything would be alright, just as she had when she had badly grazed her knees as a child when she had unsuccessfully tried a dance routine on the front garden wall, or when she thought her heart was irrevocably broken when the object of her considerable affections as a fifteen year old had kissed her best friend instead of her at the school disco. To Laura there was nothing quite like her mother’s comforting arms, and never would be. She could no longer see through the tears that blurred her eyes, “I still miss you every single day Mum, I’m so sorry.” She whispered between the bone racking sobs that coursed through her body, her lungs feeling as if they were bruising her ribs as she gulped for air.
Laura felt herself sinking into a hole she didn’t believe she could climb out of. She was angry at Sean Fenton for destroying her life, but she was no better, destroying Fernando’s hopes of a life with her, and with that, any chance of happiness she had. She was her own worst enemy. Four years on from her mother’s death, she suddenly felt no further away now from the raw pain of that day, and the hopelessness that engulfed her.
When the sobs finally slowed, and the tears dried up, Laura stood up, grateful that Pedro spent his mornings away from the restaurant, so he had not seen the mess she had made of things between her and Fernando. Pedro spent each morning fishing with his good friends. His catch of the day always being the most popular meal they served each evening, fresh and cooked to perfection in Pedro’s secret blend of herbs and spices.
Laura rose and walked over towards the kitchen where she found the cakes Fernando had brought that morning. She took them to the large walk-in fridge in the kitchen then returned to the bar to pour herself a glass of water. Her eyes caught a large envelope with ‘Senor Fenton’ written on in Pedro’s familiar neat hand. She reached out for the papers, then stopped herself. It was Pedro’s restaurant, and his decision to sell. He was right, she needed to start thinking of her own life. Feeling wretched for her behaviour this morning, she resolved to visit Fernando this afternoon once he had a chance to calm down and apologise. An almost hysterical laugh escaped her mouth as she thought of how Sean’s reaction to her apology this morning had been to kiss her, then run away. Two men running away from her in one morning! Laura shook her head in dismay, she really was hopeless. Pulling herself together, Laura drank her water, rinsed the glass out, then set off back to her apartment, ready for a shower, and some fresh clothes, then it was time for her start righting some of the wrongs she seemed intent on making in her life.
Sean had run back to his hotel as fast as he could, to try and rid himself of the frustration he felt over his loss of self control. He berated himself as she showered and changed into smart, casual clothes, fitting for the relaxed atmosphere of the small town he was doing business in. He had several meetings set up today with local contractors whom he intended to use for the refurbishment of his new acquisition. Sean forced himself to push Laura to the back of his mind as he concentrated on the day ahead. He would call by and pick up the papers from Pedro in the early afternoon. Judging by the previous day he would be able to complete the transaction and leave the restaurant before Laura started her shift. He had no desire to cross paths with her again today, not until he had confirmed all his business details. He stressed the word business to himself.
Tomorrow he would return his attention to Laura. The way she had returned his kiss on the beach this morning had surprised him. She obviously wanted him, just as much as he wanted her. The passion that kiss had held was so explosive he could not remember feeling so connected to someone with a mere kiss. Again that feeling that his attraction to Laura was more than just physical niggled at him. He brushed it aside and picking up his briefcase, which contained his laptop and relevant papers for the day’s meetings, he strode out of the luxurious penthouse suite of the hotel, his commanding height and obscene good looks turning the heads of the two room attendants caught chatting in the corridor ahead. He offered them his most dazzling smile as he swept past them, the consummate businessman, a role he played to perfection.
“Fernando?” Laura called out as she knocked on the door of the bakers shop in town. She had just finished her English lesson with the children, and was feeling much more positive now. Teaching, especially to children, she found to be an incredibly rewarding experience. Her students were so keen to learn and full of enthusiasm that she always left at the end of their lesson with a smile on her face and a warm heart. Today was no exception. She found the children remarkably uncomplicated in their outlook on life. To them it seemed to be all about having fun. Quick to forgive and forget, they had played a large part in her emotional healing this past year. She just hoped that Fernando was feeling forgiving too.
She knocked one more time and was about to call out again, when she heard the locks turn and the door opened to reveal Fernando standing before her, the expression on his face unreadable.
“I hope I didn’t disturb you Fernando, but I needed to talk to you.” said Laura. It was siesta time and all the shops were closed for the afternoon as usual, giving everyone a rest during the heat of the early afternoon, and leaving them with more energy to enjoy the balmy evenings.
Fernando hesitated before stepping aside and motioning for Laura to come into the shop. She stepped inside, her senses immediately assailed by the rich aroma of fresh baking. Choosing a life with Fernando would certainly mean she would have to buy bigger clothes to allow for all the extra cakes and pastries she would inevitably eat, if she woke up to this smell every morning, she acknowledged ruefully.
“Can I get you a coffee?” asked Fernando. Still so polite, she thought, even after she had broken his heart.
“Yes thank-you Fernando” she replied, grateful for the extra few moments it would give her to compose herself before making her second apology of the day.
They were soon seated together at a small wooden table with steaming cups of coffee set between them, and the obligatory plate of cakes, temptingly bite-sized morsels, rich with cream and chocolate. Laura resisted temptation for now, concentrating on what she had to say first.
“Fernando” she began shakily, “I’m so sorry. I am aware of your feelings for me, and I would never intentionally hurt you. I am very fond of you, and value your friendship highly”
“But you don’t love me” he interrupted. It was a statement, not a question.
“Not in the way you want me to Fernando, at least not now I don’t. But maybe I could learn to love you?” she gripped her coffee cup tightly, searching his face for a reaction. She knew she had to be totally honest with him. He deserved that. She couldn’t promise him anything more than friendship right now, but if he could be patient with her for just a little bit longer, then maybe...
“Laura, querida. I have waited for so long, hoping that you would begin to love me, but when I saw you kiss that man this morning, I realised that you never will. I understand that now. I had no right to be angry with you this morning because you kissed someone else. It is I who should be apologising, not you. You have never offered me any more than friendship, and it is time I accepted that Laura, and moved on.”
Oh Fernando, thought Laura, always so practical and sensible. She knew he was right, and was surprised to feel relieved. She had just told him she would try to learn to love him. She had resigned herself to spending her life with him. And therein lay the problem Laura realised. ‘Resigned’ herself. It was not what she wanted, but what she felt she should do.
She reached out and held Fernando’s hands across the table. “Any woman would be lucky to have you, you are an amazing man and your heart is warm and true,” she paused and glanced at the delectable cakes sitting on the table in front of them, “and you truly are the best baker in the whole world!” she declared with a smile.
Fernando smiled back at her and squeezed her hands. “Thank you Laura, I hope we can still be friends.”
“Claro que si, of course!” Laura exclaimed! “You can’t get rid of me that easily, and where else would I get my daily fix of pastries?” she giggled, reaching at last for a chocolate cream creation, that had been begging to be eaten from the moment she laid eyes on it.
Buoyed by her afternoon with the children, and then clearing the air with Fernando, Laura headed to work at the restaurant feeling a lot calmer than when she had left it this morning. Feeling a schoolgirl-like anticipation, she wondered if Sean would be there. She had not been able to stop thinking of the kiss they had shared that morning, and although he had left abruptly afterwards, she knew instinctively that Pedro was right, there was a spark between them, and the attraction was definitely mutual. She just didn’t know what she should do about it. For that matter she was unsure what she should do about anything right now. Her perfect plan to continue waitressing at Pedro’s restaurant and ultimately marrying Fernando, was now no longer possible. She felt less hopeless about her situation than earlier though. She knew she was a strong person, and had overcome worse setbacks than this. She told herself she would work it out, and find a way through it. She just had to figure out what that way was.
“Buenas Tardes Pedro” she called out as she reached the restaurant.
“Buenas Laura” Pedro replied as he came out of the kitchen and greeted her warmly with the customary kisses on both cheeks. He looked in her face searchingly for a moment, then seeming to be satisfied with what he saw there, he nodded and smiled, “It will all work out okay Laura, anyway I can help, you just let me know.”
“Thank you Pedro,” she replied, tears moistening her eyes as she realised just how lucky she was to know the wonderful people in this town, and be a part of their lives. She drew strength from their typically South Mediterranean happy and relaxed outlook on life. Busying herself with setting the tables, she casually asked, “Has Senor Fenton been around to collect his paperwork?”
Pedro regarded her sideways, smiling at the practiced nonchalance with which she asked the question. “Yes, Laura, he came by earlier to collect it. I offered him dinner here tonight, I had a very good catch this morning, tonight I’m cooking my Haddock in salsa verde.” Laura licked her lips at the thought of Pedro’s mouth-watering cooking, Haddock was her favourite fish, especially when cooked by Pedro’s expert hand.
“So, is he coming back to eat?” Laura probed further, hating herself for acting like a lovesick teenager desperate to see him again.
“So, is he coming back to eat?” Laura probed further, hating herself for acting like a lovesick teenager desperate to see him again.
“I’m afraid not,” Pedro replied “he said he had had a busy day and was just going to eat at the hotel and retire early. He’ll be here again though. I know he wants to get started with his plans for this place, now that it’s going to be his.”
Laura put the last of the napkins down and looked at Pedro thoughtfully. He had truly accepted the sale of his restaurant and was looking ahead. She could see his eyes dancing with an excitement she hadn’t seen in him before. “You really are happy aren’t you Pedro” she stated the fact simply.
“Yes, I am Laura,” he smiled at her, “what about you?”
“Oh, I’ll get there Pedro, I’ll get there,” she replied with a sigh, patting him on the shoulder as she spurred herself into action seeing the evening’s guests beginning to arrive after their early evening stroll along the beach.
Laura enjoyed working that evening. It helped to keep her mind off the future. She chatted with the tourists, and gossiped with the locals, but her eyes and her mind were constantly drawn to the bright lights of the hotel at the end of the beach, and the man she knew was staying there. Was he with the red-head again? She wondered jealously. She had no right to be jealous, she told herself. She barely knew the man, and all they had shared was one kiss, after which he had made a rather speedy exit, perhaps feeling guilty and wanting to get back to someone else? She alternated between feeling jealous that he was with another woman, and hopeful that was just an acquaintance and he was still interested in her, Laura. Just thinking of that kiss, made her stomach quiver, and she could almost taste him the memory was so vivid.
Finishing work for the evening, Laura said goodnight to Pedro, and walked home past the hotel again, hoping to catch a glimpse of Sean sitting outside again. He was nowhere in sight, and Laura continued home, full of uncertainty about her feelings for Senor Fenton, and even more so about his feelings towards her, if he had any at all that was.
Sean finally finished his work for the day at eleven o’clock. He had spoken to endless local contractors, and chosen those who he deemed suitable to do the work he had planned. He had collected the contract of sale from Pedro that afternoon, and had felt disappointed that he had not seen Laura at the restaurant, despite the fact he had deliberately planned to go there when he thought she wasn’t working. She was certainly quite firmly lodged under his skin, and now that he had time to sit back and relax, he found his mind wandering back to the kiss on the beach that morning. He had been completely under her spell, unable to resist those inviting green eyes, framed by long dark lashes. The feel of her soft cheeks in his hands... he groaned at the mere thought of her body, and decided that a long cold shower then a good night sleep was what he needed. Laura would have to wait until morning. Now that the business transaction was signed and well underway, he could devote his attention to a little pleasure with a beautiful lady. He fully intended to enjoy his remaining few days in this town, and Laura was the perfect companion with whom to do just that.
The story continues tomorrow....