Sam had not intended in telling Emma about Alex’s elusive and enigmatic gentleman. He had not thought that anyone needed to know about it. It was, after all he reflected, now over. He had found himself returning to the subject at frequent intervals over the past few weeks. When he saw her at church he looked across to see who she was sitting with, after church he paid particular attention to her conversation partners. But that was also unproductive. Alex had taken to leaving promptly as the service finished and they had barely spoken since she had last began to open up about her liaison.
His curiosity however, could not leave it be. He wanted to know who it was, exactly what his circumstances were. Sam had got the impression that he was married, and he worried that Alex had got herself into something far beyond her desires. She had certainly frequently bemoaned the inability of guys in church to make a move, even when it was patently obvious that they were interested. Sam told himself that he was over her. That was a generous interpretation of the truth. While his infatuation may have receded to a manageable level he was still besotted with a deep affection towards her.
Sam had been determined to find out the truth so took the plunge and did what he had rarely done for the past year, especially since she had rebuffed his advances. He took the initiative and asked to meet. He was unsure whether it was time for him challenge her straight off, Sam lacked the forceful personality that could ask with a firmness but matched with a gentle touch that produced the desired result. In the end he rowed back from his planned confrontation. And they made small talk and even Alex avoided the usual round of questions relating to his romantic progress, from which he garnered scant consolation. At least he was saved having to give thought and explanation to the position he found himself in with Kathy.
Alex had left her laptop logged in when he was over the night before and twice she left the room for extended periods of time. Sam starred at the open screen toying with whether to take a peek. He resisted on each occasion, basking in his self control.
But Alex then tested his discipline to breaking point, passing him the computer and with a winsome grin that she knew always won him over asked if he would take a look at it and sort out some problems she was having.
So Sam was sat with the laptop in front of him. He had been planning on waiting until Emma was out but finally he could bear it no longer. It was as he started reading through her emails that Emma walked in.
With Kathy in Benin Emma had opted for Sam’s couch rather than suffer a fortnight of loneliness. She walked over with such haste that she noticed Sam quickly shut the screen he was reading, but the tab betrayed his lurking in Alex’s inbox.
“Sam, why are you reading Alex’s emails?”
“She’s asked me to take a look at her machine she’s got a few viruses and it’s causing it to grind to a halt.” Sam thought that he had himself covered, but his sister reached across and pulled the emails into view.
“Not sure that has much to do with viruses, what you trying to find out, who she likes instead of you?”.
Emma always had an insightful streak but this was taking it to a whole new level with even realising the prescience of her observation. She had remarked before in such a way to such that she was aware of her brother’s attraction towards his friend. This comment caught him off guard and his hesitation instantly betrayed him.
“I’m just curious. Is that so bad? I know it is, but she’s talked about him so much while stubbornly refusing to repent on her determination to maintain his anonymity. So I wanted to see if there were any clues.”
“And have you found any?” Emma was clearly not about to rip his head off for her invasion of privacy, in fact it appeared as if she had just tacitly approved.
“Nothing yet, just getting distracted by some gossipy emails,” Sam decided to embrace his investigations as though he had full permission to go ahead.
“It’s Facebook you need to check, if she’s been sending messages it’s bound to be on there.” The tacit permission gave way to a take over as she seized the laptop.
Finding their way into her account with negligible effort as all her passwords were stored, Emma headed straight for the inbox and chat history.
A silence penetrated the vacuum left as the brief frenzy of activity gave way to stillness as the four eyes were glazed over yet still glued to the screen as they saw Alex’s life unfolding before them.
It was enough that Sam’s suspicions were true. It was hard enough for him to know accept the reality that while rejecting him she had found space in her heart for a man that couldn’t and should not be hers.
It was enough that he had been betrayed by his best friend. Emma sat back and tried to fade into the distance as she realised that by enjoining Sam to continue his inquisition she had paved the road to this place of devastation. Emma barely knew Alex, they’d met a couple of times and right now she couldn’t help remember how she had described her to Kathy as a manipulative minx. But that wasn’t want Sam needed right now, she had no idea what would do the trick, she had no idea if anything she said would make the situation any better. So she waited and suffered the silence that grew between them.
More than the betrayal, and more than the slight he took upon himself it was the other party in this relationship that wrought devastation. He did not have the best of relationships with the Reverend Doctor, and when it came to theology they barely agreed on anything, not that he aware of the full extent of this division. But he was a man who in a certain, rather formal manner, Sam considered as someone worthy of respect.
As he morbidly scrolled through the messages as though seeking some mitigating evidence Sam was repulsed by the false penitence repeatedly portrayed. Adam would apologise for pushing things too far and moments later invited Alex over for dinner, bracketed with promises of civility and separation that bore all the authenticity of the holy and righteous demeanour he adopted at will when in front of the church.
Sam turned to Emma, and moved to say something but instead just allowed himself to collapse into her shoulder with tears streaming down his face. He tried again but all he managed was “I don’t know what to do.” It wasn’t a question in search of an answer it was a cry in need of a rescue. Sam had already braced himself for having to think about how to approach Alex with his new found knowledge. Not that he had devised a coherent or any other form of strategy, but now he was presented with a far bigger and graver challenge.
Emma looked on with sympathy and restraint. She waited for the silence to fade before considering how they might deal with this. In so many things Sam was the practical one, he was the sibling who would take the lead in organising their games as they grew up and leading family activities as he got older. He would take charge in a borderline bossy way, always giving the impression of being indefatigable, always ready with an answer.
But with relationships Sam was different. His certainty turned to sclerosis. His otherwise unflappable demeanour became flustered at the thought of having to combine action with emotions. And that was when they were his own emotions alone. Now Sam faced a relational dilemma of impregnable proportions. Not only did he now know for certain that the girl he had pined over for the past eighteen months had been involved with a married man. Not only was he grappling with the activity and indiscretions of his pastor and boss, but the two spirals of betrayal formed together into a perfect storm of a double helix that cut through to his heart, ransacked his mind and left him spinning out of control.
“You’re going to have to tell them you know.” Emma broke the silence after deliberating for the few minutes that felt like hours.
“I’m not sure that I can. I’ve got nothing to say to either of them. I only have hatred. I only have anger, I have nothing that can do the slightest bit of good. I’m left here and they are there, and I only want to smack their heads together to see the folly of their actions.”
Sam paused and waited to see where his sister was going to go next, but instead of delaying even longer he jumped back in, “I’m not sure what good it would do, it’s all over anyway, I’d just be causing trouble.”
“That’s no reason to stay silent, he’s the leader of your church and he’s been behaving in a way that he would have anyone else kicked out for.” Emma’s hostility towards Holland Park was barely simmering below the surface now. “And Alex is your friend, how’s that going to affect your friendship?”
“There is no friendship, at least, not any more I don’t think. But I think I need to talk to her. Not Adam, I can’t do that.”
Emma left the conversation lie, but she was not content to let this be the final word. She shut down the screen, turned off the computer and took the computer away from Sam’s unwavering gaze.