MANCHESTER and BATH
Sebastian had not been himself since that ... what could only be described as a 'bolt from the blue' ... afternoon with Marianna.
It had totally thrown any equilibrium he might have had, and all his plans for the future, into total disarray. He was suddenly restless. Found himself pacing round the house, couldn't sleep, couldn't think. It was consuming his every waking minute ... and there were a lot of those. It was bad timing as he had quite a lot of work at the moment, stuff for a Radio 4 dramatisation of a novel, which was a good job as there were 10 episodes and the pay was better than a lot of his jobs.
So, he was having to spend time in Manchester, when he wanted to be in Bath ... seeing Marianna, talking to her, sorting things out. He hated things that were left hanging mid-air. And this having to choose business, which she'd thrown at him as her parting shot. How could her choose? He needed to see her and talk it all through. It was affecting his work. The producer had got annoyed with him on several occasions when he'd missed a cue because he was day-dreaming about how wonderful it had been to be in bed with her again, and when he'd fluffed his lines repeatedly, causing the rest of the cast to huff and sigh as they had to do it for the fourth time.
He hoped he'd been maintaining a 'normal' front with Gina. He wasn't sure. He found that the wedding and her had been somehow pushed to the back of his mind. He was sure he was coming across as distracted. Well, it wasn't surprising really.
"Hey!" Gina had said on the phone on the Thursday, "I'll cook you a nice meal for when you get back tomorrow, you'd like that wouldn't you? Well, I haven't seen you for 5 days ... and I've missed you!
"Mmmm ... missed you too darling," he'd replied distractedly. "Yes, that would be a treat after BBC canteen food."
"Come on! You go out with the others in the evening don't you?"
"Yes, but we never seem to eat anything much ... well pub food ... I've been tired at the end of the days ... not used to so much working! Early nights."
It wasn't that really, it was that he didn't feel like he was as good company as usual. He'd gone back to his hotel early and played with his mobile phone while lying on the bed watching whatever was on TV. He hated not being at home. Being in some faceless room by himself, when he'd rather be having a cosy evening with Gina or with his friends at their favourite pub. His home from home. Everyone he knew, who could get out of the house, went there in the evenings just to talk and drink and be social. It was a way of life. He missed it, even for a few days. He wanted badly to call Marianna, ask her what it all meant. But, something told him she might not talk to him unless he had an answer. He didn't want the phone put down on him when he was miles away in a hotel room. That would just make it worse. But the problem was ... he couldn't answer unless they could talk about it.
"Doesn't sound like the fun and social Sebastian!" Gina joked. "My liver needs a rest sometimes you know!" he replied. "So, I'm taking advantage of being here and giving it a few days off," he lied. He was drinking more than usual as he felt so stressed. And drinking alone wasn't good either. He never did that normally. Never had the opportunity really. He was always with people ... hardly ever alone.
"When you come back, we must talk about the wedding ... if we keep putting it off, we'll never get a date for the church," Gina said.
"Yes, we must," he'd said absently, "We'll discuss it over the weekend."
"You all right Sebastian?" Gina said, sounding a little concerned. "Oh yes, sweetie, I'm just tired that's all, and I miss home."
But not me, Gina thought?
"Well, see you tomorrow evening then. Bye now. Sleep well."
"Yes, and you. Bye" And he'd put the phone down. Why couldn't he have told Gina that he loved her at least. It usually came spontaneously ... but not since Marianna had somehow changed everything. Made him feel like a zombie almost. Possessed.
He lay back on the uncomfortable hotel pillows. Picking up the TV remote control, he pointed it at the television, zapping through all the channels. Nothing really grabbed his attention because all he wanted to see was Marianna's body lying next to his. Tempting, tantaslising, forbidden. He turned the TV off.
He was totally confused by it all. He'd gone to meet her the week before because, she'd asked him to, without giving anything away concerning what it was about. She knew he'd turn up. He had never imagined that what had happened would happen. Never. And it annoyed him that she knew him so well, and that he'd been so compliant. He had really meant to resist her.
Before the meeting, he thought it might be something to do with Dale or Madison or ... anything really ... and he wasn't prepared for what had been flung at him.
Her words echoed, "You choose ... her or me." Choose what dammit! When he'd wanted her, she'd said it wasn't possible and that he'd just have to be happy with what was on offer. Which was seeing her ... but only when it was convenient to her. So, after few years of this ... he'd finally got fed up and given her an ultimatum. "Leave Dale and come and live with me ... marry me!" He wasn't getting any younger, and nor was she and he really wanted a child, a family of his own. He didn't like living in the house by himself, since his mother had left. She'd said she would think about it. And had played him along for what felt like a very long time. Finally, when pressed ... she'd said that she didn't think she could leave Dale after all, very sorry. He was totally crushed by this as he'd been so sure she would.
That was a year ago now and he hadn't seen her alone all that time. He said it was the only way. It was all too painful to have to see her socially even, or when he was round at Dale's office, which was in their house, sometimes she'd put her head round the door and say hello, because it would have looked odd if she hadn't.
And it had been torment, when she and Dale had come to the pub some evenings, to be so close to her and not to be able to have her. He used to envy Dale, who just seemed to take everything for granted.
And it was shortly after all this that he'd met Gina. A rebound relationship he supposed, but, most relationships were in a way. Gina had bounced into his life just at the right moment. They'd met at a dinner given by some old friends of his who also happened to know someone that Gina had known in Hong Kong and they'd invited her ... to meet some people who lived in Bath. He'd liked her straight away. Her easy manner made him feel relaxed and she was attractive too.
Completely different to Marianna of course, but then she was unique. At the end of the evening, he'd asked Gina for her phone number and asked if he could call, and she'd said 'yes' without being coy about it. And a short time after that, they were going out together quite frequently.
His friends were relieved. They'd seen him alone and tormented for too long, but they would have preferred that he'd chosen one of their group. Sebastian didn't want that though, because most of them knew about Marianna, and he wanted to get away from all that and have a fresh start. Hanging out with people you'd known since primary school could all get a bit incestuous after a while.
He wanted another drink but he'd finished the bottle a while ago and there was no mini-bar and he wasn't going downstairs for one.
He got up off the bed and went into the bathroom and cleaned his teeth. Then looked at himself in the mirror as he put some moisturiser on. You stupid bastard, he thought, as his blue eyes stared back at him. How are you going to sort all this out now?
He sighed, and reaching out to turn off the light, got into bed. He lay there in the dark. Home tomorrow at last.
But even the thought of home made him apprehensive now. Gina would be there, having cooked him some delicious food, and now he wouldn't be able to feel the same any more. And she'd want to talk about the wedding. He was having difficulty imagining all that now.
Marianna tainted everything she touched. Sometimes he wished he'd never met her. But ... then he would have been denied everything they'd had together. His brain refused to tell him that actually they hadn't had that much. Yes, great sex, fun, laughs ... but possibly because it was illicit. He'd never really thought about what she'd be like 24/7. Not how he saw her now for sure.
But they hadn't had holidays, or Christmas Days, or normal life together. Hadn't faced growing old together. How could he choose something he had no way of knowing what it might be like in reality. At least he had a fairly safe idea of what life with Gina would be like. He thought he knew her very well now. Even though they hadn't known each other that long, they'd made up for it by being open with each other. Well, she had been open. She didn't have anything to hide really. He knew her life story, most of it.
He snapped on the light again. He couldn't switch off his brain. He picked up the book that was lying on the bedside table. Maybe that would distract him. It was 'Captain Corelli's Mandolin', which he'd always meant to read when it first came out and was talked about so much. He rather fancied whatever her name was ... something beginning with P. He read a few pages and felt his eyes start to glaze over. He put the book down and at last he slept.
- - - - -
The next evening, he was finally home again. It was still freezing. He actually felt it after getting accustomed tothe overheated hotel room and the warmth of the train and thetaxi back home. Gina had done her best to warm the house up a little, making a fire, but it was still cold, except in the kitchen where there was an Aga. He'd tended to live in the kitchen in pre-Gina days, but she liked to sit in front of the fire in the sitting room some of the time, so they sat on the sofa together watching TV and trying to keep warm. He'd been pleased to see her despite all the things going on in his head. It felt like love, he thought, but he wasn't sure if it was her or home or the combination of being away from the hotel at last.
He could tell she was pleased to see him. She rushed out of the kitchen when she heard the front door close and threw her arms around his neck, kissing him hard. "I've missed you so much! I'm so glad you're back!"
It was nice to be missed. Something he hadn't experienced for a long time. She looked pretty, her greenish eyes made greener by the deep cherry colour of a thick sweater. He suddenly realised that he had missed her, despite all the obsessive thoughts about Marianna.
"I missed you too darling! Hello dogs!" The dogs by now had realised he was back and made a huge fuss of him.
"I'm starving! Pour me a drink and let's eat!" he said, putting his case down at the bottom of the stairs.
He followed her into the kitchen and hugged her from behind, while she was pouring him a large glass of red wine.
"It's good to be home."
After a very good meal of roast chicken, he was beginning to feel more life his old self again. Content.
"Hey, can we go to bed yet? Or is it too early. I think I need an early night!" he said winking at her.
"Well, it's only 9.30. I thought we could sit in front of the fire and talk for a while. There's a lot I need to talk to you about," she said.
"I've only been away for 5 days ... there can't be that much. Come here, I need to hold you. I've really missed you ... all those lonely nights!"
She smiled. "Yes, I know ... poor you ... must be hell being away from me!"
"It was ... if only you knew!" He pulled her close to him.
"I do have a lot to tell you ... we need to discuss the wedding and Ellie and I ..." he started to kiss her to stop her saying any more.
She hadn't said anything about all that at dinner, because she wanted to wait until he was relaxed before she felt she could start nagging about the wedding. So, they'd just discussed what had been going on around Bath and she'd made him tell her about his time in Manchester.
And ... she had to tell him about the holiday to the Bahamas. She wasn't quite sure how he'd take it when she said they were staying with Tom, whom he didn't know. She preferred saying this kind of stuff face to face.
"Shh. Not now." He really didn't want to embark on all that tonight. "Tomorrow. We'll talk about everything tomorrow."
And to stop her saying any more, he picked her up, turned off the lights and made for the staircase.
"Sebastian!" Gina giggled, despite herself. She felt like some medieval maiden who was about to be ravaged by her lord come back from battle after a year or something like that. Not that she minded! "Oh well! I guess it can wait. Boy! Men do have their priorities!"
"And women don't?" he said teasingly.
"Pffft! All right then!"
Laughing, they ascended the stairs to the bedroom.
A/N: This chapter isn't too good I think. It needs working on some more, but I just wanted to get something down and keep the momentum going.