The air was thick with conversation as the bodies mingled throughout the flat. In the past week Sam had effectively moved in with Emma ahead of the semi-permanent arrangement that would follow Kathy’s departure. And tonight as the flat filled with guests coming to bid her a fond farewell Sam had fully intended to excuse himself and find an alternative distraction to fill the void in his evening.
His diary was rather full of voids these days. Without work to keep him occupied, and without Alex to provide easy company he was left with few others accept Emma and Kathy for company. He had been shocked by how quickly his former life that revolved around Holland Park evaporated after his shameful, maliciously induced, departure. Sam had tried to speak to a few of his closest friends, but that was not always the life giving experience he hoped it would provide. Some of them refused point blank to see him, obviously mindful of an edict from on high to severe all contact with the spurned black sheep of the congregation. Others were clearly less ready to heed the commands of the church leadership without finding out for themselves what had gone on.
On one such occasion he found himself regretting his eagerness for social contact. He met Juan Carlos in Starbucks assuming that their friendship would pick up where it had left off prior to recent events. Instead all he received was a swift inquisition as to the veracity of Adam’s version of events. And when Sam refused to be drawn apart from fully refuting them and standing by his alternative version he had presented so colourfully from the front of church that day, Juan’s interest receded with alarming speed. It depressed Sam to think that the person he had met with frequently, taken under his wings when he firsts arrived in London was so unable to think of any thing beyond the scandal and conjecture propagated from the pulpit.
If Sam was to have avoided Kathy’s leaving party it would have had to been through finding something for him to do alone. He become used to going to the cinema in the early afternoon taking advantage of the quiet showings to buy his single ticket and find a spot where his lack of company was unlikely to attract attention. Sam justified his lonely solace by arguing to himself as he waited for the film to begin that going to the cinema was an odd thing to do in company as you sat in silence and watch the film, what was the point in being with other people when their presence made no difference, he asked himself.
As Emma played the host and cheerleader in chief for Kathy’s farewell Sam slunk into a corner with his wine in the plastic beaker and managed to be both annoyed that no one was talking to him and desperate to keep himself to himself. The questions would become intolerable, they had been on every occasion he had to explain his new found liberty.
In this room Sam was Emma’s brother, he was known simply as that. It had been the same when he tagged along to St Bart’s. That first evening after he had been thrown out of his church he had nearly come along with her, simply needing above everything else to avoid being alone.
His saviour on that occasion was now his nemesis on this. Kathy had volunteered to stay at home while Emma went to church, she could see that he was not in a place to be among crowds, and wondered whether even her presence was one person too many. But she persisted and decided that it was times like this that she could make her impression. Kathy was not given to cynicism, nor did she intend to manipulative Sam at a time when his emotions were so sensitive. However, she did want to help him at a time when he was so clearly in need of compassion, and if as a side affect he thought better of her because of it, then that was a consequence she was not going to refuse.
Sam knew that she was acting the rescuer, taking the role that provided the greatest contact, he saw it as a mirror to his relationship with Alex, where he would always do whatever she wanted if it only meant that they spent a few more moments together. He told himself that he was in no position to make a decision about a relationship in the light of the turbulent period he had been through. And not one which was not just a decision about whether he liked someone and someone liked him in return, a dilemma that had always flummoxed him in the past. On this occasion it was a decision that affect the choices that the other person had made about their life, and also what choices he would make about his.
All this was too much for a Saturday evening as he nursingly cradled his wine. It was too much for Sam to get his head around at the best of times, but he did realise that perhaps this wasn’t so unusual a set of circumstances. Because surely all final decisions about whether or not you wanted to be with someone involved consideration of their plans and yours. Never was there a set of emotional relationships that could be determined in the abstract, detached from the specific circumstances of their life. Always lurking in the background were realities and exceptions that confused the situation, contaminated the purity of the love that perhaps two people wished could be theirs.
So despite the attention that Kathy fawned on Sam he drew back away from committing, her company was something he enjoyed, her conversation brought life to him even when he felt there was little else worth living for. Even in the darkness of the past fortnight it was Kathy who had provided the highest moment. But that was not enough. He was not ready to disrupt her plans, Sam did not think that he could say enough with enough conviction to make it worth his while to try and stop her from going, or even follow her across the world. That meant that amid the crowds Sam stayed away from Kathy and watched as everyone wished her well, and he just wished she would stay, but did not know what he could do or say that would make it happen.
Kathy was there waiting for his attention, clearly looking for a reason, any reason, to come and talk, but she remained still. She allowed herself to be distracted by the myriad well wishers and friends who had appeared. For her this was an exercise in soothing the pain, but almost becoming an act of self-flagellation as the attention she received from so many quarters was negated by the refusal of the one from whom she most wanted it, to even countenance her needs.
As the party turned from quiet to loud, from a frenzy into a lull, and as the guest started to depart, and the last stragglers gathered up their coats, Kathy still waited. And when only she, Emma and Sam were left he simply picked himself up and went upstairs, with only a “I’ll help tidy up in the morning.” It was almost as if he had shut out her impending departure, forced himself to not think too much about something that might cause too much pain.