Chapter Nine

The present


The more I think about William, the more Intrigued I am. I have no memory of him at all. It’s a bit like waking up to find yourself in bed with a stranger but have no knowledge of how or when you got there.

   I must have known him. No, that won’t do. You don’t jet off on a romantic holiday to some exotic love nest with someone you just know, not someone of the opposite sex anyway, so it follows thatI must have been having a relationship with him. Really? I can’t imagine sensible me doing anything so daring, so audacious, so erotic. Me, having a lover and cheating on Alex. I have difficulty taking that in. Why would I do that?

   Does it mean I was tempted to gaze into a stranger’s eyes one moonlit night after a few large vodkas and then allowed myself to be slowly undressed and seduced, my heart beating wildly at the prospect.

   I have never been one for one-night stands really – not really – considering them rather grubby and meaningless. Having said that, that was exactly how I lost my virginity at 17 in a garden shed at my boyfriend’s house. I had to move a couple of hammers and a hacksaw out of the way before I sat on a workbench covered in sawdust with my knickers off so that he could do his stuff. Romantic it was not, and I was picking bits off my bum for days afterwards.

   So, I have always been a bit fussy who I have sex with. It has always been men I have a connection with – emotionally, intellectually, or even academically. Looks don’t necessarily come into it, although I am not immune to a good-looking guy, any more than any other woman is. I guess the ideal would be a good-looking guy with brains.

   It is one of the ways Evie and I differ. She is more interested in what they have between their legs and yes, of course good looks come into it as well. But the prospect of a long-term relationship has no interest for her. In fact, any guy who begins to exhibit nest-making traits would be unceremoniously dumped. I know why she is like that. If she could be persuaded to talk about it, she would tell you that it is because she was crazy about a guy when she was 19; she would literally have done anything for him or with him. I think he was something of a cold-hearted bastard who treated her with contempt.

He at one time teased her in front of a crowd, taunting her about what she would do for him, like swim with millions of jellyfish, or do a skydive, bungee jump or even go free climbing. Poor Evie tolerated his jibes for ages until one day she snapped, and all her pent-up anger and resentment exploded with her grabbing a knife in the kitchen and going for him. He ran for it and never returned. Ever. Sensibly.

After that, she shunned anyone who looked like he was going to get serious. I did try to tell her on a few occasions that not all men are like that, but she would have none of it and now the subject is quite simply closed and is never mentioned.

Anyway, the riddle of who William is will remain a riddle for the moment. I am hoping that my abilities will gradually increase until I am able to leave Terminal Three and finally solve the mystery of what happened to me and why I am here. Hopefully, that will tell me what I was up to with William and why I cheated on Alex, if indeed that is what I did.

So, I periodically wander around the terminal listening to what people are saying and doing and hoping that I might one day see someone I know. I watch as people stand stoically in the check-in queue, shuffling forward slowly as people like Sarah at BA process them with a ready smile and a comforting word for the nervous.

Apart from Sarah who, as I said previously, has a dark home life, there is also Jonathan at the American Airlines desk who I also like and have sympathy for. He is looking after an ageing and demanding father who suffers from Alzheimer’s and who sometimes complains when he gets home after work that he wants to see his son and not some strange man. I can’t imagine how soul-destroying that must be. And yet, he carries on day after day, cheerfully dealing with everything that turns up to test his patience.

When you think about it, an airport really is a weird place. It is totally ruled by time. It’s not somewhere you go if you’re looking for fun or a nice day out, is it? Not if you have all your marbles anyway? What sane person would willingly subject themselves to being shunted like cattle, ruled by the clock, prodded into going where you are told, when you are told. It really is another world, a parallel universe where reality is suspended.

I leave the check-in area and go to departures. I like this place. It’s slightly less frenetic because people know they are on their way, and it is just a matter of time before they jet off. The only challenge they face is finding the right gate which is not as simple as it sounds because they are spread in totally different directions. And a gate is not announced until shortly before it opens so there is a swarm like demented bees once the number is revealed.

I leave the area full of eateries and head for one of the holiday check-ins. I stop and stare as I pass one and recognise a man sitting at a gate with his arm around a blonde who is almost sitting in his lap. I realise I know him! He is Tom Clarke, a bosom friend of Alex’s who did his best to try and seduce me not so long ago, I suspect with conniving Alex’s help. I thought it was despicable behaviour at the time and I haven’t changed my mind since. He is a man I have never liked or trusted.

I first met him at a party that Alex and I had been invited to by people he obviously knew but whom I had never heard of before. I’m hardly the shy sort, you understand, who is afraid of meeting new people; I’m a researcher for the Beeb for chrisssake, and meeting people all the time is what I do. And I’m good at it as well. Anyway, party invites are usually from people I or we know, and I thought it a bit odd that we should be invited by people only he knew. How come I had never heard of these people before.

When we arrived, Clarke greeted us effusively, giving me a hug and kissing me on both cheeks which I thought was a bit OTT quite honestly. I also did not like the way his eyes wandered speculatively over my body, pausing for longer than was polite on my breasts.

He then rather offhandedly introduced us to his wife Margaret, a demure woman with all the looks of a downtrodden lady who was also rather older than him at a guess. She said little as Clarke and Alex began exchanging jocular remarks, mostly about other women in the room. I didn’t like that either.

I decided to take Margaret to one side, leaving the two men behaving like pigs rolling in shit with their sexual innuendos and asked Margaret if she knew anyone else in the room. She said she had met one or two people before and added that she was only there because he had insisted. She glanced nervously in his direction obviously afraid he would overhear.

As I scanned the room, I could not help feeling there was something a bit strange about it all. I didn’t like it. There was an atmosphere of suppressed expectation tinged with excitement. It felt really odd. I felt uneasy. Margaret looked uneasy too. I could not figure out what was going on. They all appeared to know each other and took virtually no notice of either Margaret or me, although I did notice one or two men nudging each other and glancing in my direction. What was that all about?

‘What is going on here,’ I whispered to Margaret. ‘I feel as if I’ve gate-crashed a private party.’

‘You don’t know,’ she said wonderingly staring at me. I shook my head.

‘Tell me please,’ I said to her.

‘I think you should ask Alex,’ she said, and we moved back to join Alex and Clarke. As we did, a man turned up full of bonhomie and broad smiles, revealing rows of perfect teeth reminding me slightly of a an alligator. He was holding two large bowls with strips of paper neatly folded in each. He offered the first bowl to Margaret and then me and then turned to the two men. I opened mine and it had the number 12 on it.

‘Good luck, enjoy,’ he said making his way to the next couple.

‘Is this some sort of lottery,’ I said mystified. The two men thought that was hilarious and clapped each other on the back, hooting with laughter.

‘What’s the prize?’ I ask.

‘Well, in a way you are,’ says Clarke, grinning at me lasciviously. Before I could ask him what he was talking about the man with the bowl asked for silence and announced that the draw would take place.

The first number he called out was six. He looked around and a woman at the front held up her hand. He dipped into the second bowl and called out eight. A man at the back held up his hand and the two headed for each other.

I was beginning to get an uneasy feeling about all this. I must have been seriously stupid not to realise what was going on. The man dips into the first bowl again and calls out 12.

‘That’s you,’ said Clarke snatching the paper from my hand. I scowl at him. The man then read out the second number which was 5. Clarke held up his hand. It was then I realised the bastards had fixed it. He and Alex had got it all planned, or so they thought. Did they really think I would tamely go along with it?

‘Looks like you’re mine,’ said Clarke, sidling up to me with a satisfied leer. I glared at him. ‘If that’s what you think you can go fuck yourself,’ I said heading for the door, shoving Alex roughly and spilling his drink over his shirt. Heads stared at me as I exited. I could hear giggles and muttering.

Alex, the bastard, had obviously invited me to a sex party without telling me, no doubt because he knew I would never go along with anything so seedy.

 The memory fades as I stare at Clarke and his girlfriend in the Terminal Three lounge as they wait for their flight to be called. He is obviously cheating on poor Margaret who I daresay he is treating contemptibly. If she is forced to go to sex parties, what other humiliations does he heap upon her? It doesn’t bear thinking about.

I remember being beyond furious with Alex. Maybe that was why he didn’t come that night which was just as well because I bolted all the doors on the inside.

That really was the beginning of the end to our relationship, I think.

Published by pod1942

I am a cereer journalist having worked for the London Dail Mail, Reuters and latterly the Liverpool Daily Post on Merseyside as well as the journalists’ leader in the region. I have experience as a crime reporter, feature writer, business editor and latterly, a senior sub-editor. My qualifications include a BA (Hons) English, from the University of Liverpool; a BA (Hons) Fine Art and an MA in Creative Practice both from Liverpool Hope University. I now divide my time between art and writing. I will shortly be publishing my first full-length novel, The Poseidon Files and as a taster I have written a short story which features the same central female character in which she talks about her world and her life. It is, however, essentially a ghost story.

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