Sean had run back along the beach towards his hotel after Laura had left, feeling frustrated. Laura was a distraction and a mystery to him. He wanted to get to know her more. There was clearly a strong, mutual attraction between them; she had flirted back with him, agreeing to the drink after work. The business side of this trip was running smoothly enough, he would get that organised, then spend the rest of the week winning Laura over. There was no doubt in his mind that he would achieve this. Sean Fenton was, after all a man who always got what he wanted.
After enjoying her daily coffee and cake ritual with Fernando and the easy conversation that went with it bringing her up to date with what was going on in the town today, Laura had returned to her small apartment in the town for a shower and to freshen up. She dressed in a pretty flowery dress, fitted tight around her chest and waist, then fanning out loosely down over her legs to just below her knees. On her feet she wore a pair of flat leather sandals with toffee coloured stones that reflected the sunlight, decorating the straps. She had taken the time to paint her toe and fingernails with a shiny pearl colour which emphasized her sun bronzed skin. She checked herself in the mirror, adding a pair of long dangling earrings and a necklace with similar stones to those on her sandals. Satisfied with her appearance, she grabbed her bag, and went out the door. Still plagued with thoughts of Sean Fenton, she was determined to go about her day and forget all about him.
Laura spent the morning shopping. She bought food from the market place, where she bartered good-naturedly with the local stall holders. They all knew her well. When she had first arrived in the town, coming to the daily market had been one of the ways she had improved her grasp of the language so quickly. She had found the locals friendly and willing to spend the time talking about their produce, their town, and then as she got to know them better, themselves and their lives. Laura was a good listener, and was well loved and respected by the local community. Not only was she a good listener, but she gave of herself and her time freely. Not long after her arrival in the town a year earlier, the local school children had found her and immediately taken to her lively fun loving attitude. What had started with a couple of kids practicing their few words of English from school on her in the park had now become daily lessons in English. She gave her time and skills freely, and one of the local shop owners had allowed her to use a room in his building. She adored the children, and they in turn loved and respected her. She made their lessons as much fun as she could. Teaching them songs and acting out movie scenes. The parents were generous in their gratitude, and she had made many friends and fitted into the town’s life comfortably and securely.
As she packed up her books and said goodbye to the children that afternoon, her thoughts turned to Pedro and his restaurant; then inevitably to Sean Fenton. She felt like a teenager, wondering if he would return to the restaurant tonight; hoping she might see him again and get the chance to, to what? Laura didn’t know what she wanted with Sean Fenton; she just knew she wanted him.
Nearing the restaurant, Laura could make out two figures standing on the decking. As she drew nearer she recognised them as Pedro and Mr Fenton. Her stomach involuntarily tightened and her nerves tingled at the sight of his broad shoulders and thick black wavy hair. He was dressed casually in an open necked white shirt and beige trousers. His sleeves rolled up revealing tanned muscled arms, his large watch, no doubt extremely expensive caught the sun and flashed a warning light out to Laura. Why was he here talking to Pedro? He looked dressed for business, and was handing over a sheaf of papers to Pedro. What was going on? She quickened her pace and took a deep breath as she climbed the steps off the beach and onto the restaurant deck.
“Buenos Dias Senors”, she said brightly, laying her books down on a nearby table and kissing Pedro warmly on both cheeks. She turned to Sean Fenton, and before she knew what was happening he stepped forwards, laid his hands gently on her shoulders and kissed her cheeks in greeting.
“Buenos Dias Senorita” his deep husky voice murmured. Laura felt her knees turn to jelly at the physical contact, and it took all her willpower to remain standing and not either turn and flee to escape the feelings, or alternatively fling herself into his arms and kiss him passionately on those soft, inviting lips. Laura’s face flushed as her mind raced with fantasies about this man, which she tried in vain to cover up with something sensible and down to earth.
“What brings you back to our restaurant at this time of day Senor Fenton?” she asked, her voice as steady as she could make it, she only hoped her nervousness didn’t show.
It was Pedro who answered. He rested his hand lightly on her shoulder and held up the papers she had seen Sean hand him as she approached from the beach.
“Senor Fenton has offered to buy this restaurant from me; he was just dropping the paperwork off for me to look over and sign.” Pedro smiled at her, seeming to search her face for a reaction.
No, she couldn’t have heard right. Completely stunned, Laura felt her whole world spinning out of control. The foundations she had built up over the last year began to crumble and she suddenly felt physically sick. She had built up a new, safe, life around this restaurant, and this man was just going to take it all away, just like that. Her emotions in turmoil, Laura reached out to steady herself on a chair, and looked directly at Sean. He was reaching for her, a concerned expression on his face, and he was speaking, but she couldn’t hear him over the roar of emotions in her head. She had spent the last day fantasising about this man! No wonder he hadn’t wanted to tell her what his business was last night, how could he seduce her if she knew he was about to ruin her life? Anger surfaced as the dominant emotion in Laura now and the colour rushed back to her cheeks.
“How dare you” she spat at Sean, recoiling from him, stumbling to keep her balance.
“You can’t just swan in here flashing your money about and buy somebody’s life! This man,” she said gesturing at Pedro, “this man has owned this restaurant his whole adult life. Pedro is this restaurant, without him it will be nothing. You can’t take it away from him.” Laura was struggling to come to grips with the situation, and wasn’t helped by the sad look on Pedro’s face. He obviously felt he was too old to fight for this she thought; well she wasn’t going to let it all just happen to him. He had helped her so much and now she had a chance to repay his generosity by saving his restaurant from Senor Sean Fenton.
Sean Fenton was taken aback by Laura’s sudden outburst. Not so much by her anger at him buying the restaurant, that, he had expected and experienced many times in similar situations. People became understandably upset at the thought of losing their jobs. That is before they realised quite how much money he was offering, then they seemed much happier with his plans! But he was surprised that Laura’s outburst had been in English, perfect English, not Spanish! Her language skills were impressive. And why was she, a mere waitress, quite so concerned about the old man selling the restaurant? Were they an item? Surely not, Pedro was old enough to be her father. Sean felt a surge of jealously at the thought, and realised he was allowing his emotions to play a part in his business. He never let that happen. What was this woman doing to him? Clearly Laura was not just a local waitress. What kind of game was she up to, maybe she worked for one of his competitors? He felt the anger rising up inside him. Something that had started out as the perfect business deal, a willing vendor, idyllic location, huge amounts of potential for this restaurant; was suddenly turning sour, thanks to the growing enigma of Laura. Well, he never let a woman get in the way of business and he wasn’t about to start now. She had tricked him until now with her facade as the pretty local waitress, now it was his turn to gain the upper hand.
“I see you aren’t the local Spanish waitress you proclaim to be Miss Knight, he said using her surname for the first time having noticed it on the restaurant’s financial paperwork Pedro had shown him earlier, so who exactly are you and who do you work for?” he growled in English, now knowing she understood his mother tongue.
Laura froze; she had been unaware that she had spoken in English. She looked at Sean Fenton, at the black depths of his eyes that were like cold hard granite rocks now, he seemed to radiate power and she could see that he was not a man to be crossed. But what did he mean, who did she work for? Laura struggled to understand what was happening. A few moments ago she was fantasizing about this man, now he was pulling the rug from under her feet, removing the very foundations of her new life here, and he seemed to think she was working for someone else? She felt disgusted by her attraction to the man who seemed poised to take the restaurant away from Pedro, and her.
Suddenly Laura felt a calm come over her. She felt like somehow she was in the eye of the storm that was her emotions, they were swirling around her, but she was removed from them. This was how she had felt the moment she realised her mother was dead. Some kind of defence mechanism in her mind took over, preventing her from bearing the brunt of the screaming terror racing towards her, pure black and unstopping. This time she recognised the feeling, and was dimly aware that it was only a temporary reprieve, which she must use, before she plunged back into the storm. She turned to Sean Fenton and with disturbing clarity she spoke, “Who I am is none of your business, Mr Fenton, nor is this restaurant. Please leave.”
Sean recognised the change in her. It was like a mask had fallen over her beautiful face, and it was now devoid of all emotion. Who did she think she was? She had chosen to play the pretty waitress so that is how he would treat her.
“Senorita, I appreciate your concern about your job, but you will be adequately financially compensated. Also, should you wish to return to your job once the restaurant reopens, feel free to submit your resume to the new management.” Sean then dismissed Laura by turning his back on her to face Pedro. “I’ll come back tomorrow to collect the paperwork”. The two men shook hands warmly and Sean strode off to the road at the other side of the restaurant, where he climbed into a metallic blue sports car with the top down, and sped off towards town.
Laura sank into a chair, put her head in her hands and started to cry. She felt utterly spent, emotionally and physically. Pedro sat next to her and put his arm around her comfortingly. They sat like that until Laura had calmed down. Reaching into her handbag, Laura pulled out a pack of tissues, extracted one and wiped her eyes dry.
“I’m sorry Pedro; I just can’t bear the thought of you losing this restaurant. I know how much it means to you. I’ll stick by you to fight Mr Fenton. If he thinks he can just throw his money around and”
“Laura, Laura” soothed Pedro, “It’s alright. I already told Senor Fenton that I’d accept his offer, we just need to work out the details.”
No, this couldn’t be happening to her. Laura was too stunned to speak. She just looked at Pedro unblinking, not quite able to believe what she was hearing. Pedro had become like a father to her over this past year. She knew he had lived in and run this restaurant for forty years together with his wife, Conchita, until her untimely death just over a year ago. She had never imagined Pedro would consider doing anything else. He was this restaurant. Something she realised she had come to rely on.
“Conchita and I used to talk about selling this restaurant one day and retiring you know.” said Pedro.
Laura looked up at him, her mind still grappling with the situation and trying to fathom what it all meant for her. She listened to Pedro’s admission intently, the realisation slowly dawning on her that Pedro was serious about selling.
“We always loved boats, and it was our dream that one day we could sell our little restaurant and hopefully make enough to buy a sailing boat that we could live on, and sail slowly around the world, seeing all the places the tourists come here from. Conchita used to love to talk to the tourist customers and hear all about their home towns and countries. She was full of dreams, places she wanted to visit, things she wanted to see.” A wistful look settled on Pedro’s face as he thought of his late wife.
“But they were your dreams together.” Laura managed to whisper, “It can’t be the same without her, you can’t do it alone.”
“Ah but I won’t be alone. Conchita will always be with me in my heart. Besides, she was too full of life herself, she would be angry with me if she knew I had passed up an opportunity to live our dream. Mr Fenton is offering quite a substantial amount of money.”
“Oh, I’m sure he is,” bristled Laura, her anger resurfacing at the mention of Sean Fenton’s name. “Money is clearly no object to him. Men like that think they can buy whatever they want.” Laura’s mind was beginning race now. If Pedro sold the restaurant, what would she do? This is who she was now, a waitress working at this beautiful beachside restaurant in a small town in Spain. End of story. She didn’t want that to change. But then again, since Sean Fenton had showed up she had begun to question her perfect, safe, boring life. Boring? Was it really boring? She didn’t know what to think right now.
“Your mother wouldn’t have wanted you to pass up on opportunities either. I think she would be sad to see you still grieving for her. Four years is a long time Laura, you need to start looking forward. You have to let yourself dream again.” Pedro regarded her with wise eyes.
“I don’t think I can Pedro. I don’t even know if I want to.” Laura shivered despite the warmth of the afternoon sun. Her mind began to open up to memories of all the dreams she had once shared with her beloved mother. Her mother who had given up all of her dreams when she had found out she was pregnant at eighteen with Laura. She had put her whole life on hold to give everything to her daughter.
Once a teenager herself, Laura had finally persuaded her mother to go University part-time to fulfil her dream of becoming an anthropologist. They had studied together and shared dreams of their futures. They were such happy memories. But all that had changed with her mother’s death. The guilt she felt for what had happened had totally consumed Laura to the point where she had shut herself off from everyone she knew. Friends with whom she had shared her hopes and dreams, those who knew her love of life and unashamed ambition to do it all, and then some; were left by the wayside as Laura began the life she felt she deserved.
She had thrown herself into the first job she found, cleaning rooms at a hotel. She no longer allowed herself dreams and aspirations for the future. Instead she concentrated on the here and now. After three years working in the same hotel, never accepting the many promotions she was offered to be supervisor, restaurant manager, you name it, she could do it, and oh so well. Yet she never wanted the responsibility of being in charge; content to help out all over the hotel, waitressing in the evening, standing at the reception desk, whatever was needed. Her trip to Spain to stay for free at the new hotel, one in the same chain as that which she worked in had been her first holiday in three years. She had been bullied into it by the other staff members, and had finally agreed reluctantly.
Once she arrived in Spain, she felt like she had been freed from a prison of her own making. Staying in the same town she had grown up in, where she had shared so much with her mother, had served as a constant reminder of her past. The hurt never quite leaving her, happiness never breaking through the facade she had created for herself. Chancing on Pedro’s restaurant, at the opposite end of the beach to the hotel, just at the time his own waitress had left with fully booked tables for the evening, she had felt needed, and instantly at ease with Pedro. It seemed the most natural thing in the world to stay there. A good job, Pedro, recently widowed and happy for the undemanding, easy company of Laura; and a beautiful location.
This past year had soothed her soul, and the many long conversations she had with Pedro after work, had helped them both to come to terms with their losses. He had spoken often of his late wife, whom he clearly was devoted to. He had also succeeded in getting Laura to speak of her mother a little. Something she had shied away from for three years. He had helped her to come to terms with the fact that her mother had gone, but the guilt over her death still remained.
Roused from her thoughts, Pedro spoke once more as he rose from the chair and gathered up the paperwork purposefully. “Sean Fenton has provided us both with an opportunity to move on with our lives. I’m going to take mine Laura, you need to decide what you are going to do with yours.”
“Oh yeah great” said Laura, “losing my job is a fantastic opportunity Pedro, thanks for that!” Laura regarded the old man despairingly.
“Jobs come ten a penny Laura, but not men like Senor Fenton. I see the connection between you two, the sparks that fly when you meet! That’s not something that can be ignored my dear.“ Pedro smiled, “You need to let yourself live, Laura. You have so much to offer, don’t shut yourself away” and with those words of advice, he walked back towards the kitchen to begin his day’s work.
Men like Sean Fenton don’t come round every day? No, they certainly do not, thought Laura. She felt like an idiot, last night he had avoided her questions about his business here, now she understood why. He had caused her to doubt the safe life she had here, and now he was taking part of that life away from her. Well Pedro was right, another job would be easy to find, she’d start looking first thing tomorrow morning. What was Pedro talking about, a connection between her and Sean Fenton? Physical attraction is nothing special, she thought. She wasn’t going to be swayed with the flash of money as Pedro had been. Laura took a deep breath and reassured herself that nothing need change. She would get another job, stay in this town, probably end up marrying Fernando, the baker and live a comfortable life. She wasn’t going to let a total stranger disrupt the life she had so carefully built up. She was at a loss to explain her feelings towards Sean Fenton. He was having such an enormous effect on her, by both his physical presence, and his business venture. Whatever she felt, it was an intense emotion that was slowly tearing down the protective walls she had built around herself over the past four years.
Laura looked out to sea, the open expanse before her allowing her mind to slowly open too. She breathed in the fresh sea air, tasting the salt on her lips, and thought of Pedro sailing around the World, following his dream. What an adventure, fun, excitement. She could feel a small grain of hope inside her, begging to be set free; but she knew she couldn’t allow herself that freedom, the freedom to dream. Her shoulders drooped and her heart sank as she told herself what she had a thousand times over the past four years. Keep your eyes on the present; don’t lose what you’ve got now for a mere dream of something in the future. Yet, still the image of Sean Fenton kept on coming back, unbidden into her mind. Laura stood up and walking towards the kitchen she grabbed a cloth and began wiping the tables down in preparation for the day’s customers. As she always had, putting her energies into her work to take her mind off her thoughts.
Sean Fenton drove away with his mind racing. Who was Laura? Not just a local Spanish waitress it seemed, she was becoming more and more intriguing by the minute, which made Sean all the more determined to have her. Was she close enough to the old man to persuade him not to sell? Sean frowned at the thought, this deal was all but wrapped up, he’d drawn up the plans of how he would change the restaurant in his sketch book the previous night. He could see the potential of this small town slowly beginning to filter through to the rest of the World. A couple of American movie stars had stayed in the exquisitely designed penthouse suite of the hotel this year, as had some of the less prominent members of the British royal family. The reputation of this beautiful unspoilt town was beginning to spread, and if he could get in now before it took off, he stood to make a small fortune, developing this exclusive, secluded beachfront restaurant. Maybe this business deal wasn’t going to go quite so smoothly after all, but then again maybe it was going to be a whole lot more fun than expected. Sean smiled, he loved a challenge, and Laura was certainly that. He would have this restaurant, and he would have Laura too.
The story continues tomorrow......