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‘Gareth was asking after you,’ Jules said.
‘He was always distant with me,’ — resentfully — ‘said he had to work on his book. How’s it going?’
To get a female perspective on her problem with Aidan, Leona had arranged to meet up with Jules at a pub in Brunswick. They were sitting at a table in the saloon bar.
‘Not as well as he would like, so he says. He’s been down at Queenscliff because it’s the only way he can get the quietness and privacy.’
‘I didn’t realize he was under such pressure. Give him my regards.’
‘Will do. But he’s coming up to Melbourne on Saturday. It’s my birthday. I want you to come.’
‘Aidan’s expecting me to go out with him. I don’t want to but he’s insisting.’
‘What made you go back to him?’
‘He came on strong the other night. Really pushed me for a date and seemed really keen on me. I guess I was vulnerable and I needed someone to spend the night with.’
Jules sighed and sipped her beer. ‘I’ve never got back with anybody I’ve broken up with. It’s not often it works out. Where is Aidan, anyway?’
‘In Hong Kong on business, and as usual I haven’t heard anything from him, no even a postcard. But he said he’d be back this Friday,’ — after a long pause — ‘and I’m going to break off with him for good.’
‘Glad to hear it,’ — warning her — ‘he won’t like it, you know. Aidan can be terribly nasty when he’s jealous.’
‘That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Shows he cares.’
‘Aidan doesn’t care for anyone save himself and his own ego. He can be not just nasty when he’s angry but violent. You’re gonna see his ugly side, that’s for sure.’
‘I won’t let him stand over me.’
‘You have already! You’re a bit stupid where that man’s concerned. It’s as though he’s your blind spot. You can’t take his integrity for granted. You’re not seeing him as he is.’
‘You’ll only have yourself to blame when he hurts you like he hurt Sandra. Sandra divorced him because of his violence towards her.’ ‘Let’s talk about something else. Okay?’
‘ Sure. But don’t let Aidan control you,’ Jules said. ‘You deserve somebody that’s gonna be totally devoted to you. I was escort kartal hoping you and my brother would hit it off.’
Leona made a sad face and Jules noticed it and said. ‘Girl, you shouldn’t hide your feelings. You should talk about it.’
‘There’s not much to talk about,’ — with a slight break in her voice — ‘I went out with Gareth a couple of times; we even became lovers for one night; and just as I started to have feelings for him. He told me I was too controlling and that he needed breathing space. He made it very clear he was not into commitment.’
‘That’s typical Gareth. But he’s been asking after you frequently.’
Jules had such a way of looking after her younger brother, almost maternally protective of him, always looking out for him.
She went on to explain. ‘The publisher is pressing him to finish the book by the end of the year for the students. He’s not made a great deal of progress lately. He’s desperate to finish it on time.’ Leona had finished her beer and had beckoned to the barman to bring them another jug.
‘Do you think you could meet up with Gareth again?’
Leona sighed. ‘It’s unlikely.’
‘I want you to come to my party on Saturday. Gareth will be there of course.’
‘I’d feel a bit awkward,’ Leona said.
Jules noticed that her friend’s body language was uptight.
‘But there’ll be about a dozen people coming. I’m not pairing you off with him.’
‘Seems like you are,’ — sending Jules a slanting glance.
‘That’s because I care about you both. But you’ve got to go easy with him. He’s been through a bad time. You know about his wife’s death?’
‘Yes. But not the details. I know it’s bothering him all the time.’
‘The day of her accident Claire came to Gareth; told him she loved another man; said that she and Gareth had never really been in love, that what they felt for each other was only physical attraction. They argued, and she ran out. Later that night she was killed in a automobile accident. He’s never forgiven himself. And he’s never been involved with anyone else until you.’
‘I never realized that.’
‘He’s taken a hell maltepe escort of a battering over Claire. It’s just that he’s been needing a long healing time. He’s afraid to get involved again. That’s why he’s wanting to steer clear of an intimate relationship.’
‘Nothing’s gonna happen between us,’ Leona said. ‘so there’s nothing to worry about.’
‘I understand that, I really do. But I wish you would give him another chance.’
‘Well, I won’t be sitting around waiting for him to call.’
Jules got up and walked to the door. Leona followed her out to the footpath.
‘So I’ll see you on Saturday about eight-thirty, kiddo?’
The two women held each other for a moment, then headed off in different directions.
‘Come on in,’ Nathan greeted on opening the door the following Saturday night, ‘Jules just getting some savories in the kitchen. Let me introduce you to a few people.
Leona had arrived a little late for Jules’s birthday party in Moonee Ponds. There were about fifteen people in the house and Nathan introduced her to a pleasant elderly couple seated on a couch in the front room.
‘I’m so glad you could come,’ Jules gushed a little as she came into the room carrying a large plate of canapés. ‘I see you’ve met Elsa and Jim. Can I get you a drink?’
‘Thanks. Nathan’s getting me a sherry.’
‘Did you catch up with Aidan last night as you said?’
‘No. I haven’t heard a word from him. I don’t think he’s back from Hong Kong yet. But I’m definitely breaking off with him,’ she said as Nathan joined them.
‘One dry sherry coming up,’ — smiling. At first Leona didn’t see Gareth Hamilton, who was behind a make-shift bar in the far corner of the room where he was serving drinks to two of the male guests.
Gareth came to join his sister, ‘I’ll have to get some more ice for the beer a little later. Hello Leona,’ — greeting shyly, — ‘it’s great to see you again.’
She smiled, but barely uttered a word apart from a conventional hello. I don’t know how to relate to this man, she thought. He’s always playing hot and cold towards me. She now had a feeling of ice down pendik escort bayan her spine as Gareth stood awkwardly before her, he was watching her intently.
Someone had turned the music up loud and it was difficult to talk.
A little later that night he joined her in the kitchen at the back of the house where she had gone to look for Jules.
‘I feel I can talk to you at last,’ he said. ‘I feel you’re a good friend.
She looked at him, a little puzzled. ‘Well, friends tell each other things, so it’s cool with me if we talk.’
‘I want to apologise,’ — looking at her askance. ‘It’s just that for the last six months my life’s been taken up with my book …’
He pause long enough to swallow his drink. ‘ But it’s not only that. I made one hell of a I mistake when I let you go.’
‘What are you trying to say?’
‘I’m sorry I was such a jerk with you. You were the best thing that happened to me, and I let you go.’
Leona felt herself swamped by the most extraordinary feeling as he continued.
‘I’d been going through a bad time. And I guess I was frightened of getting too close to you, of becoming involved. I felt I was almost destroyed by one woman, and I believed I couldn’t trust again.’
‘I over-reacted I know. But I want to get back with you again.
He meant it, she knew. He really did have feelings for her.
She placed her hand on his. She wanted to hold him off, but he was putting his arm about her. She wanted to respond when he attempted to kiss her.
‘I’m sorry,’ — backing away — ‘but I’ve been going with somebody else.’
‘Jules told you?’
‘Yes. She told me you’ve been going with Aidan. Jules also told me how he treated his wife before she left him. He’s not for you. He’s not what you think. Please believe I am only …’
Suddenly Gareth kissed her. They kissed for a long time with Leona not fully responding.
‘I can’t do this,’ — breaking away — ‘I just can’t. I’m sorry.’
‘I know I screwed up,’ — said sadly — ‘but I had a lot going on in my mind during that time I was with you. I was afraid of any commitment.’
She now knew that Gareth was the one man who could end her vicious cycle, that he would break her bad pattern in relationships.
‘I need time to sort myself out,’ she said. ‘Let’s continue as friends for a time. Please.’
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