Chapter 8

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Predictably, she is gone when he wakes up.

He checks his alarm clock, realises he’s slept longer than normal.

Her scent is still on the sheets around him, he turns on his side, hugs the pillow and sighs.

On his way into Chorlton he knocks at her door.

“Hi.” He says nervously when she eventually opens. 

He can tell immediately.

The same old story.

It's written all over her face.

She shakes her head and tells him how sorry she is. That it had all been a terrible mistake. That it was all her fault. That she had been infatuated and hadn't been able to say “no”. It is only when she tells him that she knows how vulnerable he is that he gets angry. 

“What is it with you women that makes you think you know what's going on inside a man’s head?” He asks, impatiently.

“I am a trained counsellor, Lukas.” She says and crosses her arms.

“Yes, you are.” He nods. “And now you won't counsel me anymore.”

“I can't, Lukas. Not after what happened last night.”

“I thought you cared. That's what you said!”

“I do care.”

“So will you see me, socially?” 

“I don't think that would be a good idea at the moment.”

“Why?” He scowls.

“You're upset, Lukas. Your wife has started divorce proceedings and you are on the rebound. It's not a good time for you to start a new relationship.”

He frowns at her for a while. “So you're not saying there's no chance...”

“Lukas. Please. I should’ve encouraged you to spend more time with yourself instead of allowing you to focus your attention on me. You need to reconnect with your centre, we’ve talked about this at length. Another person can only help you so far, the rest you need to do yourself.”

“How, Eda? You've ripped me further apart than I was in the first place.”

“Sometimes an upset like this can be the deciding factor in following through.”

“What?” He growls. “Are you saying you messed me around deliberately?”

“No, I didn't.” She says, calmly. “Lukas, I found you irresistible.”

“Ha! Past tense?”

She slowly shakes her head. “No, present tense.”

His heart beats in his throat. “So you're not saying that it's out of the question that We could...” He peters out.

“No, I'm not saying it's out of the question. But I can't treat you anymore.”

He nods.

“Are you willing to work on yourself?”

“Yes, I am. Absolutely. I've pledged. I'm in.” He says quietly and looks her in the eye. “What do I do next?”

“You have all the tools. You need to be quiet, alone. Walk. A lot. Let your mind drift. Talk to yourself. Listen to music. Use the book. Study Tibor’s.”

“It says to find my Guardian Angel.”

“Yes, it does.” 

“I think I’ve already found mine.” He steps up to her, kisses her softly on the mouth, turns and walks away.

Mechanically, he walks through the shops and buys today’s essentials and a paper.(he posts the letter to Liz’s solicitor containing the hard copy of the email he wrote two nights ago). He can't let go of her face, she is with him, right in front of him in his mind’s eye, smiling, talking, moaning in his arms. He walks on to Longford Park and sits in the frosty rose garden. Strangely, he is not upset, just numb; his anger earlier had been triggered by her comments, which reminded him of Liz. Of course she is a professional counsellor, of course she can read him like a book.

The book. 

He should have brought the book.

Instead he studies the pruned rose bushes, the angle the branches grow out of the stems and the distance between individual shoots; it's as if each new branch allows its predecessor a certain amount of time to grow before making its own appearance.

A certain amount of time, maybe, or rather the perfect amount of time to ensure the new shoot has enough sustenance to grow. The perfect amount of time for it to flourish. He sighs and picks a leaf off the bush next to him. Maybe it's the same for humans. Maybe humans tend to want to rush things, to push matters artificially, and that's why things so often don't work out, not being allowed to progress at a natural speed. 

He studies the leaf. What was he thinking, taking her to bed? He knew it would all go pear shaped after that. Had he really needed to prove to himself that he could still do it? Had he jinxed it all, now that he’d put her into a situation where she would have to make the decision she’d had to make? Had he ever even thought about her feelings in the buildup to their night of passion?

The veins on the leaf follow the same pattern as the bush’s branches. He knows it's the fibernacci sequence and something to do with the number Pi, though he is unsure of the exact relationship. He takes out his phone and makes a note to look up the connection when he gets back home.

He sighs and looks around. A wintery wind tries to shake the leafless trees, branches vibrate, rather than sway in the gusts. He pulls his collar up higher and gets up. The branches of the nearest tree, a cherry he believes, already show the tiniest of dark red buds, right at the end of the smallest branch offshoots. Life goes on regardless, he tells himself, though the time of year, the weather and his mood make him want to believe that life has ground to an irreversible halt. What has made him become the emotional cry-baby he has been over the last few days? What has shaken him up to the extend that he has burst into tears in front of strangers and has recited gobbledygook poetry in front of his mates, in the pub, oblivious to their presence? Surely it can't just be the divorce thing. And Markus, Markus he thought he had digested ages ago. The divorce then, after all? Or is it true that he’s lost his identity trying to please Liz, that he doesn't know who he really is anymore, having contorted his personality to keep the peace? 

He tells himself to shut up and pull himself together. After crossing High Lane he strides out towards the Mersey meadows where the wind catches him properly and mercilessly batters his face.

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