Emma had agreed to accompany Kathy to the airport, she hadn’t really been able to say no, but wasn’t looking forward to the last minute agonising over whether she was doing the right thing. Sam had clearly decided to stay in bed to avoid any awkward last minute conversations but that just made for an inevitable opening salvo one Kathy and Emma were clear of the house.
“He couldn’t even bring himself to say goodbye, after avoiding me all night yesterday he refused to get out of bed, pretending he was still asleep when I knocked.” The words flowed out of Kathy’s mouth which had clearly been brewing over the past day as Sam had intentionally distanced himself.
“And I thought there might just be something between us, we had been getting on so well, but when I want him to do the one thing that he needs to do he backed off and took the easy option.”
Emma looked carefully at her friend before opting for the direct approach. “Kathy, if you’d wanted him to ask you to stay that much because you wanted him to want you, and he hasn’t then you’re better off leaving him behind, but if you wanted to stay and just fancied the easy way out then you don’t need him to tell you to stay.
“What if he had asked you to stay, would you have? And what if he’d said he’d come with you, would you have been happy with that? You’re treating one thing as the solution to the other, when in fact you can be getting both things wrong at the same time. Going to Benin isn’t going to appease the fact that Sam hasn’t asked you out, and staying here is not going to convince him that you’re into him. That’s just not how it works. If you want to be with him then you’ve got to make that decision. And if you want to go to Benin then you’ve got to work out how those two decisions work together. Maybe they can, but maybe they’re can’t, perhaps it’s about time that you took a difficult decision, because I’m worried that life has left you a bit soft.”
Emma resented the constant attention that Kathy required, and although certain she would miss her, was also slightly relieved that their relationship would enter a less intense phase through separation across thousands of miles. It also offended Emma that Kathy was so full of her own dilemmas and problems, and whether or not she was well enough liked, and as a result never took any notice of the trials that she was facing. Because as Kathy pressed ahead with her decision to move to Benin, Emma was grappling to hold the threads of her friendships with both Theo and Talitha together. And she knew that this was a hopeless, thankless and unwise task.
Over the past few weeks Talitha had come to rely on Emma as her link into the church, and the initial awkwardness as she spoke of the halting development of her relationship with Theo was swiftly bypassed, especially as she realised how much Emma knew from the other side of the fence. The problem for Emma was maintaining contact with Theo, which she could not avoid as they stood side by side most days for hours on end. Refusing to talk to one another was only ever a prospect on Emma’s side as Theo continued his advances, clearly spurred on once he knew that Talitha was walking away, refusing to become beholden to his fleeting whims.
It was therefore ironic that as Emma counselled Talitha about the course of action she had taken, and of it’s wisdom, that she herself seriously contemplated throwing it all to one side and ignoring the sage words that she delivered and saying yes to Theo. The only thing that held her back was a sense of respectability that was more ingrained in her from her parents than through any notion of what might or might not be the correct course of action at any particular time. Emma did not feel convicted about the continual flirting that she engaged in because she told herself it was going nowhere, even when she pretended to be disinterested, even when she greeted his kindness with stony silence. When they stood in silence working she fumed at her attraction towards him, knowing with every breath in her that it was a road that she should not pursue.
So as Kathy poured out her trauma with the seventeenth repetition Emma’s patience was wearing thin, but this being her final morning, her very act of departure, Emma swallowed her frustration and smiled with compassion as the various aspects of the relationship were played over in minute detail, all to the end of showing why she was correct in thinking Sam was into her, and why he was an idiot for not telling her.
But Kathy continued unabated towards the airport, towards her terminal and towards her departure, as far as Emma was concerned Kathy had made her decision, if she so wanted to be with Sam then she would have done something about it. Deep down she viewed this latest act as just the most recent in a long line of avoidance measures, all designed to ensure that she never had to face up to the reality of her life. Kathy was so determined to illustrate her independence that she was prepared to forgo what she thought she most wanted. Reflecting, Emma decided, a hidden priority that took precedence over everything else.
Sam had stayed in bed and tried to ignore the noises that came around him. He tried to forget that the girl who was throwing herself at him was now leaving. That was a series of signals he could not get his head around. If she was so interested in him, why then would she make such a public display of leaving the country and flaunting her lack of attachment for all the world to see. He heard the knocks on the door, he heard the voices calling out goodbye. And he ignored them all. It was better Sam decided not to get sucked into awkward and unnecessary farewells, if there was nothing between them, which Sam was sure was the case then why did his final words matter one iota.
However, Sam knew that it was not all as simple as this. He knew that there was a girl which he liked to a degree that stopped him from sleeping, and he knew that this girl was about to walk out of his life for good. It cannot of been easy for her to make the decision, nor can it have been easy for her to put to one side what ever attraction she felt towards him, to ensure that she could leave and not be haunted by what she left behind.
He only thought about what she felt, or what he thought that she must be feeling. He had relegated his thoughts to a lower rank, not needing any consideration, at least not in the present.