Autumn in LondonBy: Louise Bay
“Just a drink? What have you got to lose?” Leah was trying to convince me to go on a date with one of her boyfriend Daniel’s old college friends.
“Leah, please. I’ve said no about a hundred times. Can you drop it?” I replied.
“I just hate to see you so sad Anna.”
“I’m not sad. I don’t know what you mean.”
Leah sighed. “You know exactly what I mean. You’ve been like this for months, since we came back from New York.”
“I’ve just had a lot going on since we came back. The flat—work has been busy. You know people are saying that we all might be out of jobs if the rumors are true about the firm being in trouble, and I’ve had so much work since Mindy left. There’s just a lot been going on and I’ve been distracted.” But although that was all true, Leah was right, I’d been under a black cloud since being back in London. Everything had just seemed a bit muted, and I couldn’t bring myself to feel enthusiastic about anything.
“You’re not going to lose your job. And even if you did, you could walk into another tomorrow.”
I’d managed to change the subject from New York. I wanted to scrub it from my memory and I wanted to relive it constantly at the same time. I’d had a perfect week with Ethan. I didn’t know if it was because we were both clear on our expectations—that the week would be uncomplicated and about enjoying ourselves and, most importantly, limited to only one week—but I’d never felt so comfortable in a man’s company before. There had been no pressure, no expectations, no bullshit. We’d just concentrated on enjoying ourselves and each other. He made me laugh—out loud—not many men could do that. I liked him and I liked the person I was around him. By the end, it had felt like there was something more between us. The fact that he’d brought me back to his place the last evening we had together had made me feel like I was special.
“You could call him,” she said.
“Who?” I pretended I didn’t know who “him” was.
“You know who. Ethan.”
“I don’t want to call him. It was just a holiday fling. And if I did want to, I couldn’t because I don’t have his number any more than I did the ten thousand times you’ve mentioned this before.”
“You could Google him.”
I’d not told Leah, but I’d already briefly tried to internet stalk him with no success. There were plenty of Ethan Scotts but nothing that I could see was relating to my Ethan. I was grateful in a way. No ambiguity. No promises. No bullshit.
“Drop it, Leah.”
“Okay. Let’s change the subject. When does the flat go through?”
My flat had been on the market since I came back from New York and I’d just accepted an offer. I was so relieved to be moving after the break in. I hated being in that place alone. Even though they’d not taken anything, the fact that uninvited strangers had been in my home was still terrifying.
“Hopefully within a month. The buyers want to move quickly.”
“But you’ve not found somewhere else? What are you going to do? I’ve told you, you can stay with Daniel and me if you’ve not found somewhere.”
I shrugged. “Thanks.” For once in my life, I didn’t have a plan and I didn’t want one.
“You could move to New York,” Leah said.
“Jesus Christ, Leah. I have to get back to work.” I stood from our table at our regular lunchtime place.
“Sorry,” she mumbled. “I just want you to be happy,” she said.
“I don’t need a man to make me happy,” I replied.
Leah ignored me. “Are you coming out on Saturday?” she asked as we climbed the stairs, making our way out of the basement into the rain of an autumn afternoon in London. It was a great time of year. It matched my mood perfectly: dark and dreary.
I shrugged. “It depends on work.”
“It’s Saturday night, Anna.”
We kissed each other goodbye and headed off in opposite directions.
I should make the effort to go on Saturday. It was our friend from law school, Alice’s, birthday. Work was busy but not busy enough to be working weekends. I was a little worried about my job. Leah was right, I probably could find something else but I’d been happy where I was and I liked the people I worked with. But if the firm was in trouble, we could all lose our jobs no matter how hard I worked.
The bustle of the office disguised my mood. No one noticed that I wasn’t participating, that my mind and my heart were elsewhere. It felt like they were all moving at a million miles an hour and that I was stuck in treacle, unable to keep up. I shouldn’t take breaks at lunchtime. It broke my concentration and allowed ‘him’ to seep through the cracks. If I kept busy, it kept him at bay. That’s why I’d been spending so much time at work recently. It was when I wasn’t in the office that I imagined bumping into him. The way I had the lunchtime after our first night together. Leah had told me it was fate and I’d scoffed. As far as I was concerned scoffing was mandatory when someone said something was fate. But part of me, a part I kept buried deep, away from sunlight and reality, wondered if she might have been right. And it was thoughts like that, that were driving me a little closer to insanity.
He could be in London right? He could be visiting his sister. London isn’t so big. Thirteen million people isn’t so many, right?
Wrong Anna. You’re an idiot, Anna.
I shot an email to Leah and told her I would go along on Saturday. I wasn’t going to get away with not going without a lot of grief, so I might as well give in now and not waste the energy. On balance, it was the easier option. I’d been working such long hours that I was almost up to date with everything. I needed a project. A distraction. Maybe finding a new flat would be a good place to start. I closed my office door and started trawling through the property websites. I called about a couple of places and set up appointments after work and on Saturday. I thought about seeing if Leah wanted to come with me but decided against it. I didn’t want her constantly reminding me of Ethan. I didn’t need reminding.
I’d never told Leah, or anyone, that I’d developed . . . feelings . . . I suppose would be the best way to describe it, for Ethan. She knew the sex was amazing. She knew I’d spent every night with him and she’d seen my black mood After Ethan. Before Ethan, I’d never really spent more than three months in a relationship with a guy and although, most of the time, it was their bad behavior that ended things, it never took me long to recover. Ben the Bastard, and what he had gotten me mixed up with, had been awful. It meant I didn’t feel comfortable in my own home, but I wasn’t day dreaming about Ben and fantasizing that things could be different, that we could still be together. I’d never done that before. I’d been pissed off. I’d been hurt, but I’d just moved on. Ethan, on the other hand, was following me around like a ghost and I didn’t know how to shake him off.
Usually, I didn’t like flying, especially long haul. Today it didn’t bother me. I had too much to do to distract me from the fact we were thirty thousand feet up in a metal tube and the pilot was probably asleep, drunk or fucking the cabin crew. I had too much to think about. Tomorrow was a big day. I had to prepare. I’d not read the communications pack that had been couriered to my apartment yesterday and we were having interviews with press and meetings with clients all day tomorrow, and before that a meeting with the staff at 10 a.m. to announce the merger.
And then there was Anna to think about. I should never have brought her back to my apartment on that last night. Since then, I’d seen her in every room. She looked so fucking amazing coming in my bed. It was all I could see when I tried to sleep in there. I’d started spending my nights in the guest room because those images of her refused to leave me.
I liked that I could make her laugh out loud and that when she did, it was unaffected, with her whole body. We’d laughed a lot. I didn’t normally have fun with women—it had always been about the sex before Anna. And she’d seemed to understand about the demands of my job, which had surprised me. She hadn’t been sulky or demanding when I had to work—she got it. What I liked most of all was that she didn’t seem to give a shit about all the New York pretenses—the parties and the important people. She was real and she had gotten under my skin in a way no woman ever had.
When the tin tube in which I was so precariously sitting hit the tarmac at London Heathrow in six hours, we would be in the same city. Breathing the same air. I wasn’t sure how I felt about it. Part of me was excited that I might see her again and part of me thought that that spelled complicated and I didn’t do complicated.
If I wanted to find her, there were ways. But I hadn’t decided if that was what I wanted. I knew I wanted to fuck her again but I knew that my dick didn’t always have my best interests at heart. My brain knew I didn’t need the distraction—work was going to be demanding. And she might be distracted with someone else. It had been months and she had an appetite as voracious as my own. The thought churned my stomach. I hoped it was her vibrator keeping her hunger at bay rather than some prick who didn’t know how to make her come.