Dodging the rain and the plague of students Louise slips into the café after her stint with the two brothers. Chelsee gives her a slight, conspiratorial smile as she pours Louise’s tea but the place is packed and her usual table occupied by a young man hiding behind the Guardian. She sits down, murmuring an apology.
Louise sees no sign of the anxious, put-upon mother or the volatile brother so she relaxes and nods again to the skinny girl now clearing tables. “You’re busy today?”
“Students,” she replies, looking almost friendly. “Term starts tomorrow.” Both girls look curiously at the Guardian man who gradually seems to realise he is under scrutiny. Chelsee turns away but is still in earshot when he grins at Louise. “Hal Thompson, lecturer, Physics.”
Louise blushes under his admiring eyes but answers in the same vein. “Louise Jones, aromatherapy, massage, holistic care.”
“Aha,” he looks pleased. “You’re not a local either, in spite of the Jones? I thought I was the only foreigner in the entire town.”
After a quiet, cautious day, finding her way with Malcolm and George, aware of a knife-edge between the brothers, it is astonishing to find someone cheerful in Greyling Bay, someone besides Gwen, that is. She is aware of Chelsee’s covert stare but Hal’s warmth and his unashamed interest in her overwhelms her, so she manages to ignore the other girl’s down-turned mouth and unsmiling shrug of farewell.
Hal walks her home and talks her into a dinner date for the next night. This is what normal people do, she realises. Dare I?
Gwen’s robust laugh echoes in her head: Go on with you, girl. Grasp at life with both hands, start living.
Suddenly, shockingly, a woman’s voice says Andrew’s name out loud. Last night’s extravaganza in Cardiff was broadcast live though Louise’s television stayed firmly off, but here he is again on the local telly: so trustworthy, so lovable, so charismatic, charming the interviewer who flutters her eyelashes. Louise listens, nausea rising.
“I’ll tell you a secret,” he confides, and where the reporter hears melting honey in his voice, Louise hears only danger and familiar shards of ice. “ I’m looking for a girl called Serafina and something tells me she’s out there watching us.” He lifts that handsome head and those sincere red-brown eyes glow as he gazes straight at her. “Serafina,” he smiles. “Come back to me, darling. You know you want to.”