Sam walked across the grass with the damp of the morning dew lifting off the blades onto his shoes. He looked through the trees with amazement that this was the situation he was in. He’d not wanted to confront Alex, he had hoped that he would be able to ignore it altogether. But it kept eating away at him, each time he tried to move on was reminded of the pain, of what Alex had done, and he knew what he had perhaps always known, that he had to speak to her.
Now as they sat on the bench in the brisk early morning sun of a December morning he started to wonder if there hadn’t been a better way out of this predicament. “Alex, I know about you and Adam.”
Alex considered whether to deny the unspecified charge, but realising that would indite her she stuck to ignorance. “What to you mean, me and Adam?”
“I mean that the two of you have been having it off with each other.” Sam, usually uncomfortable with colloquial, even crude, language could find no better way of expressing their clear but not complete betrayal. “I know that he’s been with you, I know the two of you have been doing things you know you shouldn’t.”
“How do you know?” But Alex knew how Sam had come to know of her illicit liaison with Adam. When she had handed her laptop over to him she was aware of the incriminating evidence it contained.
Sam had known that he would have to admit to his own act of betrayal, minor he considered in contrast to the greater truth it exposed. “I looked through your facebook messages when I was supposed to be sorting out your laptop.” Sam waited to see if she would furnish him with the details that his curiosity demanded but his wisdom suggested were superfluous to his need.
“It kind of just happened. All the time I knew that I shouldn’t be doing it, but we got on so well, everything seemed so natural. I’ve just so fed up of waiting for any of the guys in church to pay me any attention, I’ve tried so hard to wait. But in the end, I just couldn’t wait. Not when it was there, right in front of me. Offering me attention, playing to my needs, giving me affection. I’d become so fed up with having to wait, I decided why should I wait any longer.”
Alex became increasingly flustered as Samuel continued to stare straight at her, “Don’t tell me you couldn’t wait,” he growled.
There was an anger in his voice she’d not seen before, “You will always be waiting for something,” he stormed on. “You wait to get old enough to do all the fun things that were once out of bounds. You waited until you were old enough to date. And then you waited a bit more. And your waiting has always worked out. Even now you’ve given up on waiting you’re waiting to see how long you can get away with it.
“We wait for happiness, we wait for joy, we wait for it all to go wrong so we can say I told you so. We wait for that day when our troubles will be no more, we wait for everything.” Alex thought he was done, she knew that she had been in for a tough time when Sam used the words ‘we need to talk’ in his text. His words stopped forming on his lips but then he moved on from the pause and started up again.
As he spoke he was no longer staring at Alex. His eyes bore holes in the trees to the left of her head as he strained to hold back the tears.
“I’ve always been waiting. I’ve given up on waiting so many times before, but I still have not let go. I have tried so hard to stop waiting, or at least find something else to wait for. But I am still waiting for you. It’s the most ridiculous thing.” Samuel found silence at the end of his words and solace that his coffee was not finished. He poured the cup back and swallowed fast hoping to obscure the tears now flowing freely down his face. “And then you go and do, do whatever it was that you did, with my boss.”
“I think all along I was just waiting for it to go wrong,” and Alex stopped speaking as swiftly as she had begun.
As the silence stretched out Samuel started to calm down. He had thought he had so much to say. But anger had rolled it all up into a concertinaed outburst of emotion. And he was exhausted, he thought for a moment Alex was going to say something but she just sat there. One foot tucked under the other leg, frozen, unwilling to move in case it made the situation worse.
Samuel made to go but as he pulled away from the bench open Alex managed to force “wait” from her lungs.
“I’m done with waiting,” has he shook his head and tried again to leave.
“Quit the glib remarks, I’m trying to say sorry”
Without saying anything Samuel turned and waited. He waited thinking, this is the last time I’ll put anything on hold for you. Except he realised that on this, as in so many earlier occasions there was nothing to put on hold. Unless your count the awkward arrangement of feigned contentment of a quiet evening in. Yet he did stay and listen, and later he wondered if if even after all this she still had far too much power over him. He knew he was always going to stay if she asked. Even the getting up and making as to leave was done knowing subconsciously that he’d not make it through the door.
It was this continued attachment that meant Sam was not convinced by his attraction to Kathy. He was beholden in no such way to her, he could take it and leave it. As Sam watched the crowds rush by he thought about how he dealt with her absence, and how he had dealt with her presence.
He knew he had not been on the best form when she had come over. Sam had been a wreck and responded to her attempt to seize the initiative and put some definition to their relationship with ambiguity and distance. He did not expect her to hang around for too long.
Sam surprised himself with his clinical attitude and realised that he had become numb to emotion as he waded his way through the trauma of uncovering and then processing Alex’s behaviour. It was for this reason he’d made their meeting such an urgent request. He didn’t want to feel this way, he wished that he didn’t suffer from this anaesthetic of his soul. He wanted to experience love, he wanted to know what it meant to really want to be with someone, so much so that he would give up on so much else. But that was not how he felt. Any affection that he felt towards Kathy, he decided, was conjured out of a sense that he ought to respond to her in equal measure.
In his mind Sam considered Alex to be his muse, to be the one around which all other girls would circle. Kathy, he dubbed as a temptation, and Talitha as a distraction. He had almost banished Talitha from his thoughts when Kathy’s sudden reappearance brought his dilemma back to life. Sam thought of them both in tandem, as two parallel tracks, which he could ride along without making a decision of which to commit to.
As Sam and Alex walked through the park towards her university building they settled into a comfortable silence. There was very little that either felt able to say whiwhat ch would not hurt the other. And there was nothing that Alex felt able to do which would aid her redemption. Sam on the other hand thought that there was plenty she could do.
“Alex, what are we going to do about this crazy situation.” Sam asked the question that he had been searching for an answer to these past thirty six hours.
“Well it’s over so that’s the end of it,” Alex immediately responded before remembering that he had read her messages. “I know I said that before, and I know that in the end it meant nothing. But this time is different. This time it has to stop, I’m not going to let myself get sucked into anything like this again. I’m going to stop going to Holland Park, I couldn’t cope with sitting there, watching him. Knowing what I want and what he wants, and forcing myself to stay away.”
Sam listened carefully as he saw her penitence was starting to emerge, startled by her admission of the feelings they still shared. “I think that’s very sensible. But you’re not the only person who might need to do something about this.
“I’d very much like to just ignore everything that’s gone on, pretend that there was nothing more to it and move on. But that’s not really an option. For one, I’ve got to work with him, day in and day out, and watch his pious acts when they are betrayed by his actions. I don’t know what to do, but it’s got to come out into the open. Some people have to know what’s gone on.”
“And let my name become mud as the dirty tart who ensnared the church leaders? There’s no way that I’m going to let this become public.” Alex reacted angrily to his proposal, “besides, he’s got so much more to loose than I have. If it came out, it would affect his family, probably his job, his church, I’m not sure what he’d have left. It’s for the best if it is just left alone.”
Sam put one foot in front of the other. It was all he could do, concentrate on the most mundane of acts, to avoid matching her anger with comparable rage. He found it outrageous that Alex would be content with Adam getting away with everything that had gone on.
“Alex there’s never going to be anything more between the two of you. You do know that, don’t you?” Sam spoke directly to her, in the harshest tones he could muster without losing his cool.
“I know, but I still think about him most mornings when I wake up, and most nights when I go to bed. I don’t want anything bad to happen to him. I don’t think that’s really so wrong, he’s a good man.”
“But he’s done so much that makes his sermons like acts of a hustler pretending to be one thing when really just grabbing your wallet. He’s the leader of the church and he’s done something that is wrong in every church leader text book I’ve ever seen.”
“Sam, I know you’re angry, and I guess you might be right, but I’m just not able to bring myself to do this at the moment. I don’t want it to be public, and I’ve thought about talking to the other leaders, but I’m not ready to do that.”
As Alex reached the end of the path that led to her building they hugged. It was the first time in quite a while he’d been granted that privilege. And it bore none of the sensuality of previous embraces. It was hug of sympathy, of kindness. It was a move that conveyed trust and understanding.
But as Sam broke away and left he was undecided whether to go through with the second part of the plan he had committed to last night.