Léa rose too early the next morning; Keith heard the door that had been Andrea’s- but, no, now it was merely the guest door- clatter open on that squeaky hinge. Usually, had he not covertly booked leave from work the previous night- on a whim, but also so he wouldn’t have to face Harry’s jeers- Keith would have been munching through breakfast by now. But, instead, here he lay.
Half an hour later, Keith knew he had waited long enough. He carefully unlocked his bedroom door, hoping to make as little noise as possible so she wouldn’t identify that he had got up. The door swung to and Keith wandered out of his bedroom, barefoot.
He crept down the stairs, thinking. There was something unsettling about Léa being around, as if she was taking up the little remaining memories of Andrea’s presence. She would be gone soon, and it was that thought that kept Keith moving.
“Good morning, Keith,” Léa said without looking up from the book she was studying.
Keith jumped. He stopped, blushing, cursing her perspicacity, too. How had she…?
He fetched a bowl and cereal from the cupboard and wandered over to the opposite side of the table where Léa was still engrossed. Keith’s eyes lingered on the cover; it was one of his uni books, of course: ‘Words at Work’. When her eyes stopped at the end of the line, intrigued, they flicked up to Keith, and neither could find the courage to pull away.
Finally, Léa’s harsh gaze toned down and she sat observing Keith’s face, nothing prominent in her expression. He cleared his throat and helped himself to another spoonful.
“I was wondering, Keith…” she said, voice clear and steady as Keith continued to avoid her gaze.
“It was simply that I wanted to ask: where are you descended from? To get that sort of genetics, I mean. I’m a linguist, you see, mostly translating books, guides, and novels, but I do travel a little.”
Keith raised his eyebrows at her, frowning. First he coughed awkwardly, trying to find the words that were avoiding him. Next, he gave up and lifted the book from where she had laid it, shoving it back into its space in the alcove bookcase. He rolled his shoulders as they tensed.
“It doesn’t matter, does it? I’m English. I always have been. And what is it to you, as a guest?”
“Okay!” Léa sprung out of her chair, hands raised. “I’m sorry. I was curious, that’s all. I have a curious streak. Don’t you ever wonder at the world?”
“Oh, grumpy Keith.”
“I just don’t think that travel gives you a strange right to ask about heritage.” He sat back down, but Léa remained standing. “You?” Keith added, for that was probably what she was determined to get in return.
“Oh, you can’t hear the Northern accent in my voice? I guess my travelling has cancelled it out.”
“No, you have an accent. Let’s not talk about travelling. It makes my head reel. The furthest I’ve gone was a slow drone into Lansdale, in steps from home to campus and campus to bank.”
More irritation prickled at his throat, where his thoughts raced over that audacity of hers that kept him hanging on to the coming words.
Léa, too, must have seen that she had passed the limit of their comfort; she lifted her bowl and thrust it into the dishwasher.
“I’ll ring my brother and then we’ll head off. Is it okay if I take up space in your living room? Sorry,” she added sheepishly.
Keith ducked his head.
With that remark said, Léa wandered- she was already fully dressed in her tight dress from last night- into the living room, snatching her purse or clutch-bag-object from the table as she passed Keith the other way.
Keith had one advantage of still eating his breakfast as she wandered off: he knew his home well and Léa didn’t; Keith occupied himself spying on the woman as she made her phone call, angled perfectly into the shape of the townhouse.
Having waited about a minute with her phone to her ear, Léa finally spoke.
“Hi, Lucas. It’s me.”
Just hearing the name of the man who had his ex-beloved made Keith’s blood boil, thinking of the defilement he was committing every minute he lay beside her.
“Yeah, I know.”
She paused, chewing a strand of her light brown hair.
“Well, I would very much like that, you understand.”
And now, Keith couldn’t eat. All questions about of the phone conversation whipped through his mind. Had they been awake? Had Andrea been tricked into forgetting reason? Keith scowled at the imaginary torture.
Andrea raised her eyebrows in the question ‘who is it?’. As Lucas mouthed ‘Léa’, he tried not to stare at the tired morning figure of his girlfriend; her figure clung tight under one of his shirts, borrowed for the night until Andrea would be able to pop back to Keith’s for her stuff.
“Okay,” Andrea chirped, not at all ignoring the way he looked at her. Lucas flushed his usual pink shade.
“Yeah,” he held the phone closer as Andrea backed away, yawning. She wandered through the open archway out of his room and through the next into her own room, the place still bare. Not long now, Lucas promised himself.
“Lucas, you’re not listening,” Léa reprimanded from the other side of the line.
“Okay, well, what did I just say to which you answered ‘yeah’?”
“You said…that you knew Andrea would be here.”
“Lucas! I was adding to what you said about talking to her some time.”
There was almost silence on the other end of the phone, only punctuated by the rustling back and forth. Léa must have been shaking her head.
“Lucas, we need to talk.”
“You drove off without me last night!”
“I’m sorry. I had to. Léa, I do apologise. It was…” He stumbled over the word. “Ignorance.”
“It was everything. We’ll talk when you pick me up.”
“Pick you up?” Lucas boggled. “From…wait, where are you?”
“And you want me to pick you up from there? With our history?”
“This isn’t Northern Redshire, Lucas! I know nothing of Lansdale.”
“Can’t you pick a better location? The school, per-”
“Four Lincoln Drive, West Lansdale Court.”
“And when we drive the two hours home, we can discuss your abandonment of me.”
“Léa, not ‘abandonment’,” Lucas said with mock indignation.
Lucas groaned, only half in mock this time.
“Why couldn’t you have just taken a train?”
“Because of money, timings, oh, and I don’t know where the station is. Lucas, don’t treat me like a child. I’m older than you. Four Lincoln Drive, got that?”
“I will,” Lucas replied with a smirk.
“See you, Lucas.”
Andrea had returned, and was watching the last of the discourse.
“Lea!” Andrea reached for Lucas’ phone, but his sister had already hung up. Turning to his girlfriend, Lucas raised his eyebrows.
“I wanted to see if she could get Keith to talk to me.”
“Have you tried phoning him?”
“It would help.”
“I can’t… I feel as if I afford him an apology face to face.”
“You’ve already given enough excuses and apologies, dear.”
And he gave a sigh, tracing the untamed ginger curls lightly with a finger.
“Lucas, what’s up?” She had already seen his expression.
“Léa wants me to pick her up from Keith’s house and drive her home. You know the way?”
“To Keith’s house. I do.”
Andrea observed her fingertips.
“Do you want me to come?”
“You have to pick up your stuff.”
“That wasn't my question.”
“I’d like you to come, yes. Maybe it would be for the best if you spoke to Keith face to face, like you said. However, I can’t drive you back… And I won’t be home until the end of the day.”
“That’s okay. I’ll make you a nice warm dinner. Thank goodness we have a perfect stove.”
Lucas chuckled. Oh, yes, Andrea and cooking didn’t get along well.
“Cheers, sweetheart. Will you be okay getting back?”
“I know Lansdale,” she replied, nodding.
“Get dressed. Then we’ll go,” Lucas told her. He fought the growing urge to refer to a set time, but there would be no telling how long the woman would take to get ready, even if she was not part of the makeup-wearing type. Lucas had dated too many women who would fuss over their looks; thank goodness he finally was enchanted by one who became more beautiful the more au natural she was.