A Little Piece Of Paradise.
Cathy could hear someone calling her name. She lay still and listened. She looked at the alarm clock on her bedside cabinet. The glowing red numbers told her it was 11.47. Deciding it was her imagination she turned over to go back to sleep. Then she heard the low sound of the tv in the lounge.
She got up and padded across the bedroom and down the short hall to where a soft light was creeping from beneath the lounge door.
Eden was curled up on the sofa. She`d changed out of her clothes and was wearing one of the extra, extra large teeshirts she`d bought for sleeping in.
"Hey." Cathy said sitting next to her friend. Eden hadn`t turned a light on and Cathy peered at her intently, sensing something was amiss. "Did you call me?"
Eden nodded. "Sorry, didn`t mean to wake you."
"No, that`s alright." She put a hand on her friend`s arm. "You ok?"
Eden shook her head no and Cathy pulled her roommate into her arms.
"Didn`t it go well?" She said into the blond`s hair.
"No, it went great. I don`t know why I`m getting like this." Eden sniffed.
Cathy was at a loss. She decided talking would help. "So where did you go?"
"The Boater. We didn`t go anywhere else, it was too cold to walk around."
"Ok, so tell me about her."
"Oh Cathy." Eden smiled, her eyes shining in the light from the tv." She`s like..... I don`t know." Eden tried again." She`s like someone you dream about. You know, what your perfect partner would be. She`s gorgeous, funny, very gallant. She held doors for me. We talked and talked."
"So where`s she from?" Cathy was pleased that she`d seemed to have lightened the blond`s mood.
"And? Is he moving here for good?" She pulled her friend closer. When there was no answer she gave her a nudge. "Eden?"
"I`ve just realised, she didn`t tell me anything about herself. " Eden shook her head in sudden wonderment. "We talked all night, but she didn`t tell me anything about her, her family. Just that she's here to get her head together."
"What did you talk about?"
"Me, my job. My parents. You." Eden smiled at her friend.
"What did you tell her about me?" Said Cathy suspiciously.
"Only good things. How good a friend you`ve been to me these last few years, how understanding you`ve been." Eden leaned more heavily into her. "Thanks."
"Just for being my friend."
Cathy gave her a squeeze. "Always, you know that. So.....what`s up?"
Eden shook her head. "It`s hard to explain. You know, when I was little, maybe four or five, I got lost on the beach at Bournemouth. I was wandering about, not paying attention to where I was going. Suddenly I realised I`d lost sight of Mum and Dad. I ran and ran, looking for them, but all I could see was a sea of bodies, beach towels and wind breaks. Then I saw Dad. He was frantic, kind of angry with me, but relieved to find me. I cried and cried. I hadn`t up to then, I was too scared to cry, but once he found me it just all came out. The relief, the fear, everything."
"Is that how you feel now?" Cathy asked quietly. "Relieved?"
"Yeah. Does that make sense?"
Cathy smiled at her friend. "If this is what you`ve been waiting for, be sure it`s what you think it is. I don`t want to see you hurt."
"I`m a big girl Cath."
"Yes you are, best friend in all the world. But you still engage the heart before the head sometimes. I love you Eddie, you know that don`t you?"
Eden put her arms around her friend`s shoulders and gave her a hug. "Yeah I know. Come on let`s go to bed."
"You propositioning me Eden Gallagher?"
"As if." Eden said smiling. Then she looked down at her hands. "I just don`t want to be alone tonight." She glanced up at her friend. "Is that ok?"
"Of course it is." Cathy said and stood, holding a hand out for
The realm of Morpheus was not going to open it`s doors for Victoria Conrad however, but this was a common occurance.
She`d walked her new friend to a taxi rank in the shadow of the Abbey. They hadn`t made it to the gay bar Eden told her about, but, nevertheless, they`d enjoyed their evening in The Boater. Neither woman had felt the need to move from their comfortable little table, and when closing time was announced they`d left by the back door so that Eden could show Tori the view of Pultney Bridge.
The bridge overlooked the weir. Three curved steps constructed to stop the yearly flooding, but which was, at that time, almost obscured beneath the fast flowing water.
The bridge itself was a marvel of Georgian architecture. The only bridge in England with shops on both sides. Infact there is only one other similar bridge in the world, which is in Florence. Eden passed on her sketchy knowlege to the taller woman, who was leaning on the railing taking in the sight of the cleverly floodlit bridge.
"So you`ll give me the tour?" Tori asked.
"Of course, when?"
"Um, how about Saturday?"
"Saturday`s fine, but I`m working a couple of hours in the morning." Eden damned Mark for asking her to work.
"Saturday afternoon then." Said Tori, turning so that her back was to the railing.
Eden looked to her left and found herself locked in the gaze of cerulean eyes. She returned the gaze and found herself leaning towards the woman, her eyes slid from the blue orbs toward the lips that parted slightly.
A group stumbled out of The Boater noisily, breaking the spell and Eden took a step back. When she looked back at Tori she found the taller woman smiling.
"Come on." Tori said. "Let`s find you a taxi."
So Tori had ended up in her hotel room again. She turned the tv on and flicked through the channels, not really seeing what she was watching.
"Eden Gallagher." She said the name out loud. `Who are you?` she thought to herself. `Ten years ago you`d have been here with me now, and in the morning you would have been gone, because that would have been the rules I`d laid down.`
Tori was laying on top of the bed covers, one arm across her eyes, the tv unwatched.
`I don`t know if I`m ready for you Eden. I`m here to heal. I don`t know if I can give you what you`re looking for.`
She sighed a long sigh. `Maybe you can heal me.`
Eden couldn`t concentrate. It was 11.30am and she hadn`t done anything meaningful at work since she`d arrived in the office at 9am.
Mark watched her as she aimlessly paced around the office. A number of customers had come in and must have thought that all the good property in Bath had been sold, for this young woman had been unable to find them anything suitable. For the twentieth or thirtieth time that day she went to the window and peered out.
"What`s going on Eddie?" Asked Mark leaning back in his chair.
"Going on? Nothing`s going on." Said Eden returning to her chair and pulling out some details that needed to be posted to prospective customers. "What did the Johansens want, anything up to 400 grand?"
"No, up to 200. Put your estate agent head on Eden, the one you have on right now doesn`t work."
Eden dropped the papers on the desk and let out a long sigh.
She gave him an embarassed look. "Sorry Mark. Hey, you know I said I`d work tomorrow?"
"Yeah?" He said suspiciously.
"Well, can I back out?"
"Depends. Why?" He knew he held the upper hand.
"I`m showing a friend round Bath. I`d like the whole day."
"Just a minute." He turned to one of the other two people who worked in the office. " Jason, can you do a few hours tomorrow morning?"
Jason looked up from his work. "I s`pose so. As long as I`m finished before the rugby starts."
Mark turned back to Eden but her attention was taken. He followed her gaze and saw the woman who had come in the day before walking towards the door.
Eden stood as she entered and held out her hand. Tori took it holding it a little longer than was necessary. Shaking her hand gently she said. "Good morning."
"It is." Agreed Eden. "Please sit down."
Tori let her eyes roam over the young woman. She was dressed in a grey trouser suit with a white silk teeshirt, and to Tori`s eyes was very, very attractive. She`d thought about that a lot the previous night. She`d debated til after 3am whether or not to continue with what she`d begun in The Boater.
But the sight of the girl with laughing green eyes and golden hair kept burning itself into her thoughts. And she found herself wishing the new day was starting so that she would once again find herself in the company of this gentle soul.
But she overslept. It was after 11am when she woke and nearly noon by the time she got to the office.
"We`ve been faxed the forms for you to fill out for the property, and we`ve been authorised to hand the keys over to you." Said Eden as she opened her desk drawer and pulled out a small bunch of keys. "They`re all labeled. Front door, back door. This one is for the garage and there`s an extra security lock on all the doors which this thing fits." She showed Tori a peculiar looking key.
Tori took the keys from her, rubbing her thumb across the back of Eden`s hand as she did so. "Thankyou." She smiled, and stood. "When`s your lunch break?"
"Whenever you want." Said Eden gazing up at her.
"Let`s go then." Said Tori, unable to hide the self satisfied grin on her face.
Eden looked across at Mark who just shrugged. "So now your lunch break`s from 12 and not 1. Ok Eddie, don`t get lost." He smirked.
They were outside the office and Eden was pulling on her coat. "Eddie?" Said Tori.
"Some of my friends call me that." Eden said, indicating with a nod of her head that they should walk past the office towards Milsom Street.
"But Eden`s such a beautiful name, it seems a shame to change it."
Eden blushed again and wondered briefly if there was any world record for the amount of blushes in any twenty four hours.
As they walked up the gentle slope of Milsom Street Eden decided to try her luck. "I was wondering why you came to Bath."
She immediately regretted it when she felt the tall woman tense and slow her stride.
Eden stopped and looked back at Tori, who had found something incredibly interesting to look at in a gentlemens outfitters. The smaller woman walked back and regarded the austere suits with her.
"Sorry, didn`t mean to pry." She said.
Tori sighed. "That`s ok." She looked down at her companion. "Why do I want to tell you my sad story? Because I do." Tori sounded surprised, and chuckled to herself. "Come on, we were going to do lunch."
The pub used to be a bank and the outside bore witness to it`s origins, but inside it was plush and comfortable. Eden got the drinks while Tori found a seat.
When Eden got to the table with the drinks Tori handed her a card.
"What`s this?" Said Eden taking the card.
"It`s my phone number. Well, the mobile one anyway, disregard the London number, that`s my old business number."
Eden fished into her bag and retrieved her mobile. "I`m gonna put it in my memory, tell me what the number is."
Eden repeated the number. "Oh hang on, missed the 8. Ok go ahead."
"734." She waited. "251."
"Got it." Said Eden, saving the number and then assigning it a letter. "I`m gonna put you under X."
"Why?" Said Tori.
"No X." Said Eden, as she finished programming the phone.
"No, why X?" Tori sniggered.
"Oh." Another blush. "Well, I have Val under V and Terri under T, so I`ve put you under X. I shouldn`t think anyone I meet will have a name beginning with X. Would they?"
"Stranger things have happened."
They sat and held each other`s gaze for a moment.
"What were we talking about?" Said Tori.
"You I think." Said Eden smiling.
"Oh right. So how long is your lunch break?"
"As long as necessary."
"Ok." Tori closed her eyes for a moment, amazing herself that she was even contemplating letting this woman into the sad mess that was her life.
"My father is Gordon Conrad, he owns Conrad and Kemp."
Eden`s eyes bugged. "You`re not serious! They`re one of the largest real estate companies in the country!"
Tori nodded. "My father has pretty strict ideas. He`s adament that the business should stay in the family."
"That`s not unusual, it`s an old business."
"That`s right, and my father is stuck in the dark ages. He won`t have a woman running the business. When old Harold Kemp died father was left in sole control because Kemp didn`t have an heir. Now he wants the business to stay in the Conrad family. Kemp gave over control to him on the understanding that the Kemp name would survive."
Eden put her glass down. "So who`s going to take over after your father?"
"It would have been Rory."
"My brother. He was two years older than me. Father never really took any notice of me when I was younger. I was packed off to boarding school as soon as I was old enough, and from there went to university. I had a job waiting for me in the business when I graduated, and everything was fine. Eventually Rory would take over and the business would stay in the family."
"So what went wrong?" Asked Eden.
"Rory was killed in a skiing accident in Aspen." She said regarding her glass.
"Oh God I`m sorry."
Tori shrugged. "We weren`t close." But the pain showed.
"Anyway," Tori continued." Father suddenly needed someone who would be able to carry on the business after he retired. He wanted to keep it in the family so it meant he had to expand his family."
"He wanted to marry you off?" Eden was horrified.
Tori nodded. "Damien.........."
Eden reached across and grabbed Tori`s hand "Damien? Like the Omen`s Damien."
Tori was pleased at the lightening of the moment. "Yeah, I hadn`t thought of that. Well, Damien and I became engaged. He was ok, very charming. I grew very fond of him. Father thought the sun shone out of his behind. He had a brilliant business mind, so Dad immediately offered him a job."
Tori sighed. "The wedding was set for last September." She saw the alarm in Eden`s face and shook her head. "It didn`t happen."
"Oh wow, you didn`t stand him up at the alter did you?" Eden was engrossed.
Tori shook her head. "No, nothing as dramatic as that. I called it off about a month before. Dad went apeshit, so did Damien. It was gonna be a huge do. Dad was really pulling out all the stops."
Tori fiddled with her glass. "I um, I had a minor breakdown. I haven`t worked since then. I`ve been living in my flat in Chelsea, but just had to get away for a while. I told Dad I`d take some time away and give him an answer in the next few months."
Eden felt her chest constrict. "What are you gonna do?"
Tori shook her head. "I`m not sure. I feel like I`m letting everyone down." Tori suddenly exhaled loudly, making Eden jump. "I can`t believe I just told you all that, even my shrink didn`t get that much out of me."
"So, why did you tell me?" Eden asked.
Tori regarded her for a long time. "Because I think maybe you`re going to figure in my future, and I want you to know what you`re getting into."
This time there was no blush. Eden knew exactly what this woman was giving her, an insight into her soul. "Thankyou for trusting me."
Tori took in the features of the woman sitting opposite her, the gentle lines of her face, the small lines at the corner of her mouth. And, above all, the eyes. "I`ve found you, and I didn`t even realise I was looking." She said more to herself than to her companion.
"Well, I`ve waited long enough." Said Eden leaning forward on the table.
"We really need to talk." Tori stood, and drained her glass. "There`s a cute little cottage somewhere. I need to be shown how to turn the electric and gas on."
Eden reached for her phone and dialled the office.