As soon as I manage to zip up my case, my dad takes it from me and begins to wheel it down the corridor. +
“C’mon love, we’ve got to leave the room so they can start cleaning.”
“Just a minute.” I call back.
I grab my handbag and pour my loose change into the ashtray for the maid before hurrying out the door after my dad, closing it behind me. Me and my dad squish into a lift with the cases and I reach over to press the button.
“How’re you feeling?” My dad asks me.
“Better than yesterday, I think. Glad to be leaving.”
He nods, pulling into a one-armed hug and rubbing my arm with his hand. “You’ll be fine. Trust your old man.”
The lift arrives and I begin to help my dad get some of the cases out into the reception. I look around, watching as my dad makes his way toward the rest of my family who are sat on chairs near to the main entrance. Taking a last glance out at the pool and across to the line of hedges Jake led me through in order to get to the shingle beach.
My stomach twists at the memory, and I clench my fists.
When my focus shifts back inside, to the people stood around, I see him. He’s standing anxiously near the stairs, foot tapping as he looks across the reception. I shift slightly so I’m hidden behind a huge indoor plant, and watch him through a gap in the leaves.
He looks as though he hasn’t slept, his hair messy from him running his hands through it continuously. I don’t want to talk to him. I can’t. I’m so close to leaving this all behind. The ache in my chest is a constant reminder of what he did and how much he hurt me, but I could walk away now, and never have to face him ever again. He’ll carry on with the last three days of his holiday, and I will go home.
But this could be my last chance. It could be the last time I ever see him, my last chance to hear what he has to say. After that, I can fully put him behind me and move on. Surely someone who knew they were leading someone on wouldn’t be this upset about losing them? He looks awful. Disheveled and stressed, worried even. His glassy eyes a sign that maybe, just maybe, he’s feeling the same pain I am.
If it’s the last time I’ll ever see him, I might as well have the truth.
I take one step out from behind the plant, intending to walk towards him, but stop as I watch him shake his head, defeatedly. He begins to turn away, taking step after step towards the stairs, rubbing his eyes on the edge of his sleeve as he goes.
I could stop him. Run to him, call his name, let him know I’m here, listen as he explains everything to me. But I hold myself back.
It’s a sign that he gave up when he did. God knows how long he’s been waiting down here, and for him to give up at the exact moment he did? It can’t be a coincidence.
So, I blink the tears from my eyes as I take in his retreating figure for one last time before turning my back on him, on this holiday, on every memory I had made with Jake, and return to my family.