Alice is young, in love and living on the Cornish coast. Life should be perfect. But Alice is about to meet someone who will make her question everything.
The train doors open with what sounds like a relieved sigh and I carry my bags through onto the platform as a swarm of commuters rush past me, reluctantly eager to start their day.
Rupert and his wife Lizzie drove to Manchester from their home in the Midlands being as Lizzie’s attending the conference that we’ll be shooting footage of. We’re both booked into a cheap, local hotel but they were kind enough to pick me up from the station. I’ve only met them a few times but I spot Rupert straight away: He’s a slightly rotund, stocky man with a greying mop of hair that seems to have happily rested in the mullet category. His approach to the ‘smart casual’ directive of the week seems a bit more well-mannered than mine as he stands beside their Nissan Micra wearing a full suit – the same colour as his hair I realise – with his shirt collar undone by one button. He looks slightly uncomfortable in the outfit and this look amplifies when he sees me and it compounds the realisation that he is overdressed. I opted for a pair of dark jeans and a simple short sleeved shirt with a red and blue cheque pattern. I decide it’s best for me not to comment and I opt to simple say hello and attempt to squash my bags into the impossibly tiny space left in the boot.
We make polite conversation in the car: Lizzie asking about my train journey, and me reciprocating by enquiring about their long motorway haul. It’s obvious after the short journey to the hotel car park that we’re all shattered from the early start, so we check into the hotel and agree to meet back at reception half an hour later to regroup and walk to the venue to set up our equipment.
I’m on the fourth floor, so I venture into the lift and select the relevant button. I pull my phone from my pocket to see that it’s 08:37 and seeing Alice’s smiling face on my screen, I have the urge to hear her voice. Her number goes straight to voicemail, and after a pregnant pause I hang up without speaking.
Last night was nice – I met her from the bar and walked her home, hoping to spend my last night in Devon in her bed. My wish came true, we talked, we made love and we somehow painted a fresh start over the night before.
I’ll admit that I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve asked Alice to marry me, at least a handful over the years we’ve been together but my instinct tells me that she wants to. This girl has been the only thing I’ve ever really wanted, and from the moment that I first kissed her during a walk on the beach in the rain three years ago, my world seemed to fall into place and as far as I can tell, she’s my soul mate.
I send her a quick text to say that we arrived safely, and open the door to my hotel room: It’s a standard type for budget places like this, but still pleasant, with its tiny kettle next to the single use coffee and milk pouches. The blinds are open and reveal a slightly oppressive view of the street outside with rush hour in full force. It makes me long for home, and the sound of the waves rather than horns beeping at each other in frustration.
Turning on the kettle, I unpack my bags quickly, aware that we need to be at the venue soon. I sit on the edge of the bed, feeling the need to lie back and rest my eyes, despite the less than luxurious firmness of the mattress. The water boils slowly and noisily, creating an annoying spluttering sound that luckily stops me from closing my eyes.
The coffee tastes like loneliness; bitter and watery. I finish the cup, burning my tongue and appraising myself in the small, simple wall mirror. Taking a deep breath and promising myself a better night’s sleep in a depressing single bed, I check my phone again. Disappointment seeps into my skin, more powerful than the cheap caffeine, seeing that the screen is still empty. I shake my head, running my fingers through my hair, chastising myself for the utter dependence I have on Alice to make me happy. It’s always been there, and I’ve always been aware of it.
I have no doubt that she loves me, and that I make her happy in return, but Alice has a kind of self-reliance that I’ve never understood. Perhaps why she often pushes me to come away on my work trips: She enjoys her own space and sometimes even seems to crave it when I’m at home for long periods of time. I know that’s normal, and has no bearing on us a couple, but I’d spend all of my time with her if I could. My whole world lights up when she’s with me, as if there’s a sensor inside my heart that pulsates when it feels her warmth.
Perhaps I’m just naïve, she’s my first love and ours is the first relationship I’ve had, but I can’t imagine my life being better than when I’m with her, and I wish that one day soon she’d let me solidify that feeling by committing to us fully. My friends think I’m foolish for wanting to be married at twenty-three but I think when you know you’ve found the one you want to be with, what’s the point in waiting? Alice’s silent treatment is making me realise that I may be waiting a while though.
I rinse my cup and pick up the bag containing my camera gear, looking forward to getting my thoughts lost in the day ahead.
Thank you, Gemma Roman and Random Things Tours.
About the author
“I’m Gemma Roman.
I have pretty much always been a bookworm.
I always loved reading, writing and the creative arts, and also enjoyed dancing which led me to study for a degree in Dance Studies when I was at University. Following graduation, I worked in retail and became interested in the wealth of characters that I came across daily while working in customer service.
I’d had a few ideas rumbling around in my head for a while, and so spent a few years writing my first novel in my spare time. I finally managed to release it in June 2016, and am now planning for the release of my new book ‘All At Sea’, which is due out in 2019.
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