Chapter twenty

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So we come to the end of this one. I'm not sure what you will make of this but I hope ou like it. Huge thanks to time4tea Jaydee and Megs for all their help.

Chapter twenty

The coffee shop was fuller than he’d have liked but, it was the height of the holiday season and everywhere was busy, even this small, sleepy harbour side village. The weather was being kind and the quaint village seemed to absorb the light and glowed in the midmorning sunshine. The sea was calm, with the light breeze barely stirring the waves, but this village knew better than most how cruel the sea could be. Mousehole might be a charming village but the memories of the death of the entire life boat crew more than thirty years ago still echoed around. He guessed that many of the holiday makers were visiting to pay their respects to the men who died on that December night so long ago. Like him, they were on a pilgrimage of sorts.

The waitress came over and asked him if he was ready to order. He hesitated, about to order an espresso. If Alex was here she’d chide him and say an espresso was just a sign of the intensity he was trying to leave behind. With that in mind, he ordered a cappuccino but declined any food. If he’d done his homework right he hoped to persuade Rhiannon to at least have lunch with him.

He watched the waitress make his coffee. She handled the coffee machine with ease and confidence and he suspected she was one of the more experienced staff employed at the café. Was she a student like Alex, he wondered?

She placed the cup on the table and smiled.

“What brings you to Mousehole?” she asked.

He smiled. He’d been asked the world over what brought him to a place and generally he answered the same way, but if he told the girl he’d heard about the great coffee she might assume he was flirting.

“I’m hoping to catch up with an old friend and I wanted to visit the lifeboat station.”

“Almost everybody does – the village can’t escape the tragedy.”

“No, I don’t suppose it can.”

The waitress moved off and served another couple of holiday makers. His eyes moved around the café as he sipped his coffee; a woman was trying to catch his eye. He doubted she would have if she’d known he was half a man. He turned from her gaze. Alex’s would tell him not to exaggerate – it was one limb not half his body.

When he’d woken and discovered they’d had to amputate his leg, his first thought hadn’t been for himself, it had been for Rhiannon. He had to know she was safe and he remained uncooperative and agitated until Layla had visited and told him that she was. To her credit she’d waited until he was discharged from the high dependency unit before she interrogated him. Even now he remembered her opening words.

“Where are the condoms, Porter?”

No ‘hello’ or ‘good to see you’re feeling better’. He’d been evasive, telling her it was none of her business.

“It is if you slept with the PM’s daughter.”

“Did the PM’s daughter say I had?”

“No, she just keeps begging to see you.”

He’d turned cold at that.

“Absolutely not, Layla… I don’t want her to see me… not like this.”

Layla had paused for a second.

“Seeing you like this – as you call it – wouldn’t matter if nothing had happened in Colombia.”

“Layla – Colombia is in the past – it’s over.”

But it hadn’t been, not really. During the long months of his rehabilitation he couldn’t help but wonder how her rehab was going. How could she ever recover from all she'd seen? And the long nights in his empty bed were the loneliest he’d ever known. Put simply, he missed her.

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