Laura deliberately avoided going past the hotel on her way home. The last thing she needed right now was to bump into Sean. Pedro was right; she needed to figure out what she wanted. Since Sean had made it clear what he wanted was to get on with his work, and that meant leaving this town, she figured the best thing she could do was try to forget him. Despite Pedro’s talk of her and Sean being meant for each other and the parallels he had drawn between the two of them, and he and Conchita, she could not, would not allow herself to hope again, where Sean Fenton was concerned. She was convinced it would only hurt her further, as his departure from this town seemed inevitable.
Sean had spent the afternoon trying to concentrate on his work. Worried that he was about Laura, and quite how upset and emotional she had been when she had fled from him earlier, common sense told him that since it was him she was angry with, he was the last person she would want to see, let alone talk to. He had tried to convince himself it was for the best. She clearly wanted more from him than he was able to give. Yes, he felt the connection between them she had talked of, but he simply could not see how he could explore it further, other than sporadic trips back to this town to see her, a solution she had refused in no uncertain terms.
Hours later, and still no further ahead with the work he had been attempting to do on his laptop, Sean stood up in frustration and strode out onto the wide balcony that wrapped around the whole of the penthouse suite. The suite comprised the entire top floor of the hotel, and offered uninterrupted views out to sea, along the coast in both directions and back towards the town. He walked around so he could look along the length of the beach towards the restaurant where Laura would be working. He strained his eyes to try and make out details, but he was too far away to see who individual people were.
Finally, Sean could stand it no longer. He had to see her, to make sure she was alright, or that was the reason he tried to convince himself he was going, when in reality, he just had to see her, it was a physical need that was threatening to consume him if he did not satiate it.
When Sean arrived at the restaurant, there were very few diners left and those who were, seemed to be staying to enjoy the quiet atmosphere and sound of the sea gently lapping on the sand, rather than to eat or drink any more. He spotted Pedro sitting at a table at the back of the restaurant with a lady. Laura was nowhere in sight.
“Sean!” Pedro called as he saw the Canadian climb the steps off the beach.
“Pedro. Hello,” Sean replied, shaking the older man’s hand warmly. He liked Pedro. The old man had a genuinely warm nature and acceptance of people as they were.
“I take it by this late hour you aren’t here on business,” Pedro observed. “But I’m afraid you’re out of luck, Laura has already left for the night. She seemed particularly tired tonight,” he added pointedly, searching Sean’s face for a reaction.
Sean felt like a teenager, being grilled by a girl’s father before taking her out on a date. “Is she ok?” he asked, concerned that she had left work early, and feeling guilty at Pedro’s insinuating look that made it clear he was aware Sean had something to do with Laura’s state.
Pedro’s face softened, “Yes, Sean, she is fine, just a bit upset and confused.”
“Did she talk to you?” Sean asked, unable to leave without at least trying to find out something more about Laura and how she was feeling.
“A little,” Pedro admitted, but offered no more. It was clear he felt what Laura had told him was not something she would wish him to share with Sean.
Sean raked his hands through his hair, realising his walk to the restaurant had been wasted, although not completely, at least he knew that Laura was ok, at least she had come into work, judging by quite how upset she had been on the beach, he wouldn’t have been surprised if she had kept on running out of town, to get as far away from him as she could.
“Would you like a drink?” Pedro asked Sean.
Sean glanced at the lady Pedro had been sitting with when he arrived. Pedro caught the glance and smiled at Valentina. She stood, understanding the meaning behind his smile and said, “I’ll make a start on those dishes, you look after your guests Pedro,” and with that she shuffled off into the kitchen.
Pedro pointed to another table, indicating that Sean should sit, and he went over to the bar to pour two whiskeys. He returned and set one of the drinks down in front of Sean, keeping the other in his hand as he sat opposite him.
“Do you love her?” Pedro asked, seeing no need to beat around the bush.
Sean looked at Pedro, startled by the directness of the question. He took a sip of his drink and seemed to battle with his thoughts before saying, “I’ve only just met her Pedro.”
“I didn’t ask how long you’ve known her, I asked if you love her?” Pedro said, repeating his question.
Sean hesitated again, unwilling to put that name to the emotion he felt for Laura. If he loved her, then he couldn’t just walk away from her and only see her occasionally in the future, which he as he had already decided was his only option where Laura Knight was concerned. To answer yes, would throw his ordered life into confusion, but to answer no, he acknowledged, would be a lie.
Pedro regarded Sean thoughtfully. It was clear to him that these two people loved each other and needed to be together. Just as he and Conchita had. He could also see that simple fact was not so clear to the people involved. Pedro thought of Laura. He and Conchita had been unable to have children of their own, but Pedro now loved Laura as he would have if she were his own daughter. He didn’t want to see her miss out on her chance at true happiness.
“Laura is a very special woman,” Pedro began, “but she has also suffered a terrible loss which has somehow made her feel like she doesn’t deserve to be happy again.”
Sean nodded, thinking of her pain when she mentioned her mother’s death, and her emotional reaction to him suggesting her scar was related to her not having any dreams for her future.
Pedro went on, “You two are meant for each other, that fact is undeniably true. Don’t waste this opportunity, Sean. Laura just needs a little help to believe in herself again, to believe she deserves happiness. At least answer my question to yourself. Do you love her?”
Sean watched as Pedro collected his empty glass and walked away. He looked up to see that there were no longer any people left in the restaurant, although he had not noticed any of them leave.
With Pedro’s words ringing in his ears, Sean rose to leave. He looked out to sea, the moon lighting the sky enough to make out the shadows of boats out on the horizon, their lights winking at him across the wide expanse of water. Laura seemed as far away from him as those boats were from shore. The distance between them so vast that Sean did not know how to cross it. He walked back along the beach towards the hotel feeling even more confused that he had earlier.
Laura did not sleep well that night, nor could she bring herself to go for her morning run on the beach for fear she might bump into Sean. Instead, she decided to pull out her old photo albums. She had not looked at them since coming to Spain a year ago, but now felt the need to be reminded of her mother, and the fun they had shared together. For too long now, her only thoughts of her mother had been of the accident and her guilt. She felt ashamed that she had not remembered happier times. She was tired of punishing herself. Just a couple of hours of relaxed happiness spent in Sean’s company over lunch, had reminded her of what it felt like to be alive, really alive, not just exist, as she knew she had these past four years.
Her hands shaking slightly, Laura opened up the front cover and stared at the picture on the first page. It showed her mother, aged 18, in hospital holding her newborn baby daughter, Laura. Her mother looked so young and happy. Looking at that photo you would never guess how much her life had been turned upside down in the months leading up to that day. Her lover deserting her, terrified by the prospect of a baby; no parents herself to support her; and her dreams and future at university and out in the world, indefinitely put on hold. Yet despite all the difficulties she had experienced and now faced, her mother appeared as happy as she had ever known her. She was never one to wallow in self pity, always finding a brighter side of anything, no matter how impossible and terrible the situation seemed.
Laura looked up from the page, realising finally that it was time for her to start living again. It was time for her to accept the past, not try to forget about it. The question first Sean, and then Pedro had asked her, “What do you want?” echoed in her mind. She knew she had to find the answer to that question, and whether or not it involved Sean Fenton.
The story continues tomorrow....