The party was in full swing when Lydia walked in to the opulent main hall. The crystal chandeliers caught her attention first, they were mesmerizing. They hung from the ceiling like glittering jewels, and took her attention away from the throng for a minute.
A hand slipped round her waist and broke the grip of the chandelier’s spell. She turned, confused, to face the owner of said hand. Her own slender digits poised and ready to slap.
The last person she expected to see in the whole world was standing in front of her, grinning.
‘Hello babe.’ He said. Those deep set brown eyes made her knees weak, but his black suit and tie really didn’t help matters. He stared at her, hungrily.
‘Hi Adam,’ was all she could manage before her voice caught in her throat and she coughed. ‘Ugh, sorry. Bad throat,’ she fibbed, attempting to hide her blushes behind her hand.
‘Here, take this,’ he took her hand and placed a crumpled handkerchief in her palm. ‘I’m very pleased to see you again. I’ve not stopped thinking about you.’ He looked her up and down. ‘Are you ok?’
‘I’m fine,’ she said swiftly. ‘How are you here?’ Lydia couldn’t look him in the face. She remembered vividly the last time they spoke. The familiar touch of his hand sent shivers across her body.
‘I’m friends with the owner.’ He gestured to the hall. ‘She invited me along.’
‘Of course she did,’ said Lydia, proffering the handkerchief.
He shook his head. ‘You keep it. Just in case.’
‘Thanks.’ She looked around the immediate vicinity. ‘Are you alone? He was rarely single for long. His date would be pretty, slim and glaring jealously at her.
‘I am single, if that’s what you mean? I didn’t bring anyone, either.’ He grabbed two champagne flutes as they passed by on a waiters tray and handed her one. ‘I assume you drink champagne now that you’re a famous author and all?’ He winked at her.
‘I do. Though, I prefer cider these days.’ She blushed as he placed his hand on her waist again. ‘Don’t’ she mumbled, removing his hand and backing off. ‘That’s not fair.’
‘I miss you,’ he whispered, hanging his head. ‘I’m sorry I hurt you.’
‘You didn’t hurt me. You broke me.’ Lydia said with a pinch of venom. ‘It took me a very long time to get over you, Adam.’ Lydia took another step backwards, eyeing him up and down as she did so. ‘I’m walking away now. It was nice to see you looking so… Well,’ her face flushed crimson.
Lydia mentored herself, ‘don’t look back.’ She spotted the familiar face of her publisher and bee-lined towards him. ‘Don’t look back. You know full well he’s watching you leave. Do not look back at him.’
Lydia knew the hall quite well. The manor house, grounds and venues were a hive of activity all through the summer. She was the main guest with her book signing tour only last month. Her publisher saw her steamrolling towards him at the last second.
‘Oh, hello darling,’ he said, somewhat surprised. ‘I didn’t think you’d make it. I’m so pleased that you did.’ He took her arm and lead her a few feet away from the group he was chatting to. ‘What changed your mind, honey?’ he said, a knowing look on his face. He sipped his gin and tonic dramatically.
‘Rufus I need a favour.’ Lydia said, ignoring his question. She looked around the room ‘Remember I told you about Adam?’ She didn’t wait for a reply. ‘Well he’s here. I don’t know why. Can you sneak me out?’
‘Yes, of course. He really did a number on you, didn’t he, darling? I know people who-‘
‘No Rufus. It’s fine, don’t do anything. Just get me out of here. Please?’
‘There’s a fire exit, behind the curtains over there.’ He pointed across the hall to where the golden drapes had come apart slightly. ‘See it? It takes you out to the side of the building where the kitchens are.’
‘Thanks Rufus. I’ll see you tomorrow at breakfast.’
Lydia made it less than eight feet through the packed venue when a microphone crackled into life, and all eyes turned to the stage that was set up at the far end of the hall. She continued to filter through the well dressed gathering, and had almost made her escape when a spot light illuminated her presence.
‘Ladies and Gentlemen, may I have your attention please?’ said an unknown female. It has just come to my attention that we have Lydia Banks in attendance this evening.’ Everyone turned around to look at her as she tried to hide behind the curtains. ‘Mrs Banks, would like to come up and answer some questions for us? I’m certain you have a lot of fans in the room.’
Lydia cringed. Rufus suddenly took her hand and pulled her towards the stage. She spotted Adam. Her palms began to sweat. Panic grabbed at her senses. She’s at the stage. The steps seemingly going on forever. ‘Lydia Banks, Ladies and Gentlemen.’ A loud round of applause erupted through the hall as Rufus grabs her shoulders and puts his face in hers.
‘Lydia. Are you ok?’
‘You have to get up there honey. Just look at me. Eyes on me, all the time. I’m right here. Now go, darling.’ He gave her a gentle push towards the bottom step. She turned to Rufus for reassurance and saw Adam. The world came into focus.
Later that same evening, Lydia was deep in conversation with a young woman.
‘I really liked the way ya used them long words in proper sen’ences, innit.’ The young woman spoke in a common manner. Lydia remained professional, but internally, she rolled her eyes.
‘I do love words. They have a language all of their own, don’t you think?’ she leaned in a little closer to the young woman ‘Do you want to know one of my weaknesses?’
‘Yeah. Whassat then?’ said the woman, also leaning in.
‘A person who knows how to pronounce their words properly.’ Lydia said with a smirk
‘Yeah.’ said the woman, nonchalantly. ‘I like a man who knows ‘ow to woo me. S’long as he’s got ‘is own teeth and hair and ain’t older than me Daddy, I’m ‘appy.’
‘Didn’t your Mother teach you to aim higher?’ Lydia was dying inside. This lady wasn’t going to go anywhere in life, she could tell. She did nothing to restore her faith in the next generation.
‘Nope. Mummy always said ”any hole’s a goal darlin’. Beggars ain’t choosers.” Talking of beggar’s, that bloke’s got mad devils eyes for you righ’ now.’ The lady nodded over Lydia’s shoulder towards the bar. ‘Can I juss say: Damn!’
‘You can say what you like – what was your name again?’ Lydia sat upright, suddenly aware of those eyes burning into her back.
‘Maybelle’ she smiled ‘I’m a big fan of ya work, innit. I’ve seen all of ya films. Wot’s ‘is name?’ She again nodded towards the bar ‘Tall, dark and O.M.G.’ She grinned at Lydia. ‘Is he a film star too?’
‘No, Maybelle, he isn’t. Neither am I. I am a writer. Do you read?’ Lydia rummaged in her bag and pulled out a copy of her latest bestseller. ‘Here.’ She offered it to Maybelle back-to-front, with her own portrait facing up, to put the point across.
‘Thanks, bu’ I thought ya were thingy from tha’ film with ‘im what’s good with a bow,’ she pushed the book across the table. ‘Why would I wanna read when I’m pretty, anyway?’ Maybelle flicked her blonde hair and adjusted her dress. ‘I’m gonna say hi ta some famous people. You ‘ave a nice evenin’ now.’
‘Well. Thanks for the… insights.’ Lydia said, as Maybelle grabbed her bag and jacket off of the chair. ‘His name is Adam, if you’re interested, and I have to go now.’ Lydia stood up. Under the guise of picking up her bag, she risked a glance towards the bar. He was still watching her. That sexy half smirk glancing his lips as he caught her looking. ‘Damn it to hell,’ she mumbled under her breath. ‘Here we go again.’
Lydia left the party by the fire exit, and headed towards the mansion. The grass was dry under foot. The last of the summer sun had left remnants of heat in the air. She paused to take in the stars, grateful that the hall wasn’t attached to the house. The full moon was sitting proudly in the sky like a king looking over his realm. Lydia smiled to herself as she remembered a similar night under the same stars, many moons ago.
‘You remember it too, don’t you?’ Adam’s familiar husky voice filled her head with memories of long past.
‘Why are you so persistent? she asked, remaining half turned away. Knowing that if she looked him in the eyes she would be lost.
‘I want to say I’m sorry. Babe, I’m sorry.’ Adam took a deliberate step forwards and stopped ‘Can I come closer to you, please?’ He was almost begging her, arms outstretched. ‘Nothing in this lifetime can ever make up for what I did to you. I am truly sorry.’ His perfectly gorgeous face shimmered in the moonlight.
‘I don’t think that would be a good idea.’ Lydia forced herself to turn her back on him. ‘Your tears will not sway me,’ she whispered. ‘Please. Don’t do this. I won’t survive again.’ Wiping tears from her cheeks, Lydia walked away.
‘I can’t carry on, Lydy. I made a mistake.’ he called after her. ‘I need you, like the earth needs rain. Like fire needs air to breath!’ He shouted, to no avail.
Adam gave up and sat on the grass, head in his hands. ‘I’m sorry.’ he whispered as he watched her disappear into the house.
The following morning Rufus was sat at the usual table in the dining room. He had started on his egg soldiers already when Lydia arrived.
‘Are you in a rush?’ she asked as she pulled out the chair and sat down.
‘I’m afraid something came up last night that I have to go and deal with, darling. We’ll catch up at lunch time though. You are still going to be here, yes?’ He spooned egg into his mouth.
‘I’m not to sure about that one, Ruf. It all depends on if someone is still here or not-‘
‘Listen honey. Advice from an old man, I may be as bent as two pound note but I know love when I see it. I think you need to hear Adam out. What’s the worst that could happen, huh?’ He wiped his mouth with the corner of the serviette, looking at her with his piercing blue eyes.
‘Shall I explain?’ Lydia said with a sigh.
‘Only if you want to, honey.’ Rufus patted her hand ‘I’m not about to make you tell me something that is so obviously very painful.’ He looked at his Rolex.
‘I’ll tell you at dinner.’ Lydia caught a waiters attention ‘Have a great day Rufus.’ she said as he got his stuff together and left.
Just as her breakfast arrived Adam sat down opposite her and picked up a menu. Lydia was trapped.
‘What are you doing?’ she asked him.
‘I’m about to order some food.’ he flashed his cheesiest grin at her. An act that used to make her laugh.
‘Why are you still here? Didn’t you leave with that blonde bimbo last night?’
‘You aren’t jealous, are you?’ Adam placed his elbow on the table and leaned on his hand, smiling at her.
‘No. It’s just your style. She’s the sort of woman you go for. Loose morals and no respect for herself.’ she smirked at him and cut into her bacon with force.
‘So, does that mean that you are too?’ A half smile played across his lips, he knew what he was saying.
‘I have higher standards than that. That’s why I said yes when you asked me out, I assumed that you did too.’ Lydia was hungry enough to let Adam talk to her while she ate.
‘I do have very high standards. I only went with those women after our son-‘ he looked at the floor. ‘I’m so sorry.’
‘Lydia placed her cutlery down on the plate slowly. She couldn’t throw her drink over him, this was not the sort of place for that behavior.
‘After our baby died? That’s what you were going to say, isn’t it?’ Lydia suppressed her tears. ‘You sleep with other women two days after our son dies, and you come crawling back twenty years later still expecting me to forgive you?!’
‘I don’t want to upset you.’ A waiter came to the table. ‘I need you to listen to me.’ He shooed the waiter away without even looking at him.
‘Go to hell.’ Lydia spat under her breath. ‘I had a breakdown after you deserted me. I tried to kill myself. My son and my fiancee both gone in a week. How dare you even think that saying sorry will ever make me forgive you.’ Lydia stood with such force that her chair went over. She shot an apology glance at the waiter and stormed out of the dining hall.
Lydia ran up the stairs to her room. The house owner was about to knock on her door, but turned when she heard the heavy, fast footsteps coming along the landing.
‘Lydia. I’m glad I caught you- what’s the matter?
‘Now isn’t a good time, Phillipa.’ Lydia pulled the room key out of her bag and opened the door. ‘Can you come back later?’ She wiped the stream of tears from her cheeks with a single sleeve and went to close the door. Phillipa stopped her.
‘Clearly something is wrong here. You don’t want to be alone, do you?’ Phillipa smiled warmly at Lydia. ‘Come on. A cup of tea is what you need. Come with me.’
Phillipa took Lydia to her private quarters and instructed her butler to make some tea.
‘Now. What’s got you so upset?’ she asked. ‘I don’t like seeing my guests in such a state. Can I help?’
‘Last night my ex turned up. I have no idea why he was here. He was trying to talk to me all evening but I kept saying I didn’t want to know. This morning he corners me at breakfast and reminds me of our past. Why would he do this to me?’ Lydia grabbed a tissue out of the box on the table and blew her nose.
‘Men.’ Phillipa rolled her eyes. ‘So how recent was the break-up?’
‘Eighteen years ago.’
‘Not eighteen months? You mean years, yes?’
‘Yes. Why does it matter?’
That’s a long time to still be considering someone your ex, is all. Surely all you are now is friends at best, maybe acquaintances?’
‘That’s a good point.’ Lydia said. ‘Thank you for pointing that out to me. I never thought about it like that. He’s not a friend. He’s just someone who I used to be engaged too.’
‘Gosh! Engaged. Really? You must have been young?’
‘I was sixteen when we met. Well, fifteen actually, but only for a couple of months until my birthday. It was so cliche. Love at first sight and all of that bollocks.’
‘Yes, in a cafe. We’d gone out on the bike and we’d stopped for a cup of tea.’
‘Tandem? You don’t strike me as the type of person to ride a push bike. Did you stop peddling to make him work harder?’ Phillipa laughed so hard she snorted. It made Lydia smile.
‘Motorbike. We spent a good almost three years together riding a motorbike. It was a lot of fun actually. He looked so handsome in those leathers…’ Lydia’s distant look gave Phillipa the chance to pull some photo albums from a cupboard.
‘I used to ride a Yamaha myself back in the day. But, like you, I had to stop when my life changed. I’m guessing you didn’t go back to biking when you split up?’ Phillipa was spreading photo albums over the table.
‘What are these?’ Lydia’s eyes widened as she saw the writing on the fronts of them all.
‘Rallies. I was a budding young photographer at one point. These are all of the pictures I took. Have a look?’
‘That’s amazing. Thank you.’ Lydia gazed at the albums, looking for a particular date.
‘Tea’s here. Grab an album to make room, won’t you?’ said Phillipa. The butler placed a silver tray laden with a teapot, cups, cakes and sandwiches onto the table and bowed to his mistress. ‘Thank you, Percy.’
‘I’ll look at… this one.’ Lydia said with a massive cheesy grin across her face.
Phillipa pulled the tray to the middle of the table so they could both reach it.
‘Help yourself to food. Do you have sugar?’ said Phillipa, picking up a bone china cup.
‘No, I’m sweet enough already.’ Lydia laughed. ‘Thanks.’
Lydia thumbed through the album. Mullets galore, denim cut-off’s and old Honda’s made for some great memory inducing laughs. Page after page of two finger salutes, crazy pillions, demolished tents and passed out bikers filled the pages of the first two albums.
‘These are great, Phillipa. Why did you ever stop taking them?’ Lydia said, picking up a third album.
‘I met my Prince.’
‘Yeah. I met mine too…’ Lydia opened the front cover and a familiar face greeted her, with it’s sexy half smile. She closed it.
‘You may not want to see that one, my dear.’ Phillipa said. ‘But, if you’re feeling ready… I’m here.’
Lydia opened it again and braced herself for the twang of pain in her heart. It was like going back in time, to when he was happy.
‘You have pictures of Adam?’
‘And of you…’
‘Do you have any whiskey?’
An hour later and Lydia was laughing so hard that tears streamed down her face, making her neck and chest damp.
‘Then, he decided to try to stand up… but his leg was dead.’ Lydia snorted.
‘She didn’t even hit him that hard.’ Phillipa also snorted, but tea came out of her nose, making them laugh harder.
‘She was a weight lifter. In training. His leg was dead for ages.’
‘Just goes to show that you shouldn’t judge someone by their looks…’
The laughing faded.
‘You mean that I should talk to Adam, don’t you?’
‘Well… who is he in these pictures?’ Phillipa sat back in the chair ‘look at them, tell me what you see.’
‘He’s smiling in every single photo. He has his arms around me, or he’s kissing me in almost all of them.’
‘The ones that you aren’t in, what’s he doing. I’ll give you a hint, shall I?’
‘No. Let me see if i can spot it.’
Phillipa sat up and poured more tea, she took a sandwich off of the slowly depleting plate.
‘I- huh. He’s not looking at the camera, is he?’
‘No my dear. He was looking at me.’ Phillipa slid forwards and pointed to another picture, ‘See here? he’s not looking at me or the camera, he’s looking at her.’ Phillipa was pointing to a slim blonde in a white top.
‘In every picture without me in it he’s looking at other women…’ Lydia closed the album.
‘Yes. But he never once cheated on you. He didn’t even hug anyone else off of his own back. He’s a ladies man, he flirts, he looks but he never once touched another woman while you two were together. He turned them down in droves, honestly.’
‘How do you know all of this?’
‘I came on to him, before I realized he was with you. He politely said no.’
‘But you’re gorgeous.’
‘Well, thank you. But he loved – he loves, you.’
Maybe I shall talk to him. Hear him out. To be honest, now I’ve seen all of these pictures it’s made me realize I never gave him the chance to explain anything. I just kicked him out and moved on. I didn’t consider how he was feeling after our son died.’
‘That’s a normal reaction to what you went through. Pushing people away is also a normal reaction. But you do need to talk to him now.’
‘I shall. Thank you, Phillipa, for helping me to see the light.’
‘You are most welcome. I’m here if you need me again. I’ll print off some of those pictures, if you wish?’
‘Oh, that would be wonderful. Thank you.’
Lydia left Phillipa’s quarters and went downstairs to the dining hall. Adam wasn’t there.
‘I don’t know what I was expecting. Why would he still be here.’ she mumbled to herself.
A waiter saw her and came over.
‘Can I help you, madam?’ He said.
‘No, thank you. I was just looking for someone.’
‘I believe he said he was going to the waterfall.’
‘The chap who joined you at breakfast, when he left he was on the phone. He was meeting someone at the waterfall.’
‘Oh, thanks.’ Lydia smiled at the young man.
‘You’re welcome, madam.
This is a revised first draft. Therefore if you see any errors, plot holes, or such please leave me a comment and let me know. Constructive criticism is very welcome. Rudeness is not.