Alex walked into Sam’s living room still uncertain as to whether she was going to tell him about all that had gone on. She had been ignoring all of his phone calls over the past couple of weeks. Part of her wanted to put it all behind her, and pretend that it had never happened. Another part wanted to tell Sam everything and then run a thousand miles away and become a nun in an isolated community off the coast of Scotland. Whatever she did she had decided that her time at Holland Park was coming to a close.
Sam was not looking forward to seeing Alex. Usually he was desperate for her company but on this occasion feared that seeing her would cause a great deal of confusion in his mind. Not only was he trying to work out whether to pursue Kathy, and if so, how on earth he might go about doing that, but he was finding a nagging doubt about Talitha in his mind. If she hadn’t ever have come to church it would have all been so much more simple. But now that Sam was faced with the prospect that she might not be that far away from becoming a Christian a major hurdle that he had made insurmountable in his mind was now more fragile.
She slumped into the seat that Sam had vacated to answer the door, and immediately Alex decided to move onto the offensive rather than wait for the queries to come about her particular dilemma. Alex slightly regretted having said anything to Sam however elliptical she had made it, he was still aware that she was walking down a round that she should not be stepping on. And despite his admirable restraint in saying nothing in response so far she knew that would not last long. They had barely spoken since the train crash, she was ashamed to see him in case the recollection of where she was when he had been in such danger came to light.
Adam had tried to get in touch with her a few times, even on Sunday as she searched the building for anyone to keep her mind off him, failing even to find solace in Sam who had decided that this was the week to swap churches. She had rebuffed him each time, but his regret and his apologies, and his commitment that he just valued her and wanted to be friends wore away at her defences and she was on the cusp of agreeing to meet up, just to see how to remain friends mind. At least that was what she told herself. Alex was not convinced that she would be able to show such restraint when they were together, even if they meet in a crowded place, even if they constructed a legitimate scenario to meet in a church context but get some time alone. Alex knew that she would want more than a quiet conversation at the back of a church meeting, and incognito coincidental meetings in the church kitchen.
Once the plug was released she knew where it was going. She wanted to tell someone but had no idea what any of this would lead to, she would be shamed, and she would cause such harm to Adam as well. He would have to step down from leading the church, she would cause such irrevocable harm to a bright young career. Alex continually told herself that Adam was young, well his was she thought for the position he held, and he’d not been married long she justified as the reason she gave herself caused further agony to her soul. His wife of the past two years, what would the news coming out do to her?
“So Sam, tell me all about your adventure, I hear you were a bit of a super hero, sweeping the damsels in distress away from the danger and immanent disaster.” Alex spoke to shut off the train of her thought, knowing that it was helping her go nowhere fast.
“It was all a bit dramatic, I’m not sure I did much sweeping, it was more like shoving in the crazy scenes that were thrown up around us. I still don’t think I’ve really got my head around what happened. We just did what we had to do to get out of there, and then as we sat on the bank and saw the other carriages burn I sort of knew in my head the loss that it represented but I barely connected it to the danger that we had been in because we had escaped.
“Even in the urgency and momentary nature of the chaos I felt I grew closer to people I only met for minutes than those who I have known for years,” Sam reflected on the liminality of his experience, of how the walls that are constructed in everyday life are suddenly torn to shreds.
Sam paused before deciding that he had to mention Kathy, to do otherwise would not be a faithful portrayal of the event. “It was strange. For the first part of the journey I was sat at a table, across from a girl who I felt I ought to know. Although I couldn’t decide if it was just her appearance that distracted me as I kept looking up from my reading to take another look. But it wasn’t just her looks that had diverted my gaze, she was the girl that Emma was trying to set me up with, it was Kathy who Emma lives with.”
“So she was the damsel who you swept off her feet?” Alex interjected.
“I think at one point I had to carry her because we’d used her heels to smash the window.” Sam was thinking about Kathy as he spoke, and off the heels that she forsook. She was perhaps not elegant in the classic sort of way, lacking the height considered necessary, but she had a stylish streak that overcame and negated her stature. “We had a really strange experience as we were caught in the middle of it all, we were quite literally thrown together, and she’s, she’s, well, I’ve thought about her quite a lot over the past couple of weeks.”
“So you’re smitten?”
“Maybe, maybe I’m just confused, maybe I haven’t got an idea what I want, maybe it’s just that a beautiful woman was thrust into my arms and dependent on me, someone who needed me, even if only for a fragment of time.”
“What are you going to do about it? Have you seen her since, maybe you could remedy you dating misadventure by giving it a second chance?” Alex had entered her inquisitional mode and clearly wasn’t going to give up very soon.
“I think I’d like to. In fact it was in the back of my mind when I went to St Bart’s with Emma on Sunday. But actually everything got very complicated and I found myself wanting to spend time with her but not knowing how to engineer it.”
“Engineer it? That’s not very romantic is it!”
“You know what I mean, I couldn’t find the words to say, or the words that I would need to say if I was to justify talking to her. So in the end it all lingered on rather as we had lunch with Emma’s friend Theo and Talitha.”
“Talitha, who’s she?”
“Well she’s kind of Theo’s girlfriend, but she’s also the girl who I met when I was supposed to be meeting Kathy, and she’s been telling me about her dilemmas with this guy she likes but he’s not really making a move. Although she’d said his name was Theo, I’d no idea it was this guy who works with Emma.
“Alex. That’s enough about me,” Sam realised that he had began to ramble in incoherent circles trying to explain in brief the complex dynamics of Sunday’s lunchtime conversation. “Alex, how are things with you. Are you still seeing, you know, the guy you’ve kind of been seeing, hell Alex, who is he!”
“It’s over, I think, it was never going to go anywhere, and every time I saw him I just wanted more, and I knew that the more I wanted, the more I was going to get, and the more I got the more wrong it all would become. So I let it be.
“And that’s it, I’m sorry Sam, I know you’ve always been so open with me, but I’ve got to ask you to leave this one there.”