Lawrence found himself sleeping in Beth's hotel room again. This time, he had taken the spare key and let himself in. He knew Beth wouldn't mind. After all, she started all this whole business off in the first place. Sure, he had feelings for her, but as soon as he had learn she was married, those feelings were put to the back of his mind. And now Beth was confusing him even more, by sending him very mixed signals. During the day she would completely ignore Lawrence, but in the evening she was all over him. Of course, he didn't mind this sudden attention; after all, what sane man would? All the same, it made him feel uneasy. Beth had changed, and he was not entirely sure that it was for the better. Gone were the days when she was a quiet thoughtful creature, only daring to pour her secrets into the hearts of a select few. Her reason for bringing their relationship to an end, he remembered, was that he was too forward. Now the tables had turned it would seem. Lawrence was tangled up in a web of lies, and like a helpless fly, all it seemed he could do was wait for his eventual undoing. He doubted he could fabricate another reason for not going back to his designated room with O'Connor. Timothy, dozy as he was, had picked up on his absence. When questioned on the subject, the Inspector had replied, 'Erm...I couldn't sleep, you see. So I went for a walk. I couldn't find my way back, and by the time I did, it was daybreak. Now, because of this I have had no sleep at all, so stop questioning me on the matter, or I'll break your nose.' He was not sure whether Timothy had believed this or not. He hoped, for Beth's sake more than anything else, that he had.
The double bed's sheets felt smooth on his skin. He was sure everything was better in Beth's room than his. The light, the carpet, everything seemed that little more...luxurious. He could smell her perfume on the sheets. Then he heard the sound of a key turning in the lock. She was back. Lawrence tried to act normal, but he couldn't. She made his heart race. He couldn't explain it. Around her, he was tongue-tied and clumsy. It was like he was a school boy again, tripped over his own feet. He braced himself for what was coming.
'Hello Alexei. The receptionist told me you'd taken the key. You know this will never come to true love, don't you? I'm sorry, I really am. But I've been thinking, and it's not fair on everyone else. It's not fair on the team, it's not fair on you or I, and most importantly, it's certainly not fair on my husband.' She looked at the floor, ashamed at what she had just said.
Lawrence's face dropped. This was, it had to be said, not what he was expecting. What he had just thought about Beth changing, he took back. This was more like her. She was always the more moral of the two. She had a clear albeit not always right view of right and wrong. The world was in black and white, as far as she was concerned. For Lawrence, however, it was many shades of grey.
Finally, after this long train of thought, he decided to answer; 'But what about what you said this morning? Your husband bored you! How can you stay with a man who makes your life such an utter misery?'
'I never said that!' she snapped back, 'He may be a tad dull at times, but he's kind and considerate, and that's all I can ever ask for!'
'Fine, fine...' Lawrence trailed off. Beth's devotion, when questioned, was obviously very strong. And who was he to decide whether a marriage breaks down or not? No, the best thing to do was to be there for his secret love, no matter what. He would be her shoulder to cry on when things got too tough to handle. He would start by getting to know a bit more about her, 'Here, take a seat. So what's this husband of your like then? This is purely for observational purposes, you understand?' he added, seeing the mortified look in her eyes, 'To compare myself to your no doubt superior man.'
Beth laughed, and a solitary tear trickled down her pale cheek, 'Well, my Fernando is thirty-five, and all I can say is that he's the total opposite to you. For a start, he laughs a lot, and he's a painter. A real "free spirit" you know? And he's a Spaniard. I met him on holiday a few years ago, can you believe it?'
Lawrence could believe it. They seemed made for each other. Ah well, he though, this Fernando sounds more than a match for me. He can have Beth, if it keeps her happy.
'But...' her eyes drifted away from him.
'Oh, there's a "but" is there? Don't tell me, he has a mother like a dragon! Or several brothers who are far more good looking! Oh I know!' he clapped his hand to his head in mock dismay, 'He's somewhat...erm...lacking down there!'
Lawrence was laughing, and was expecting Beth to be laughing along with him. But her face was sombre.
'No, it's just...he has terminal cancer.'
Lawrence was speechless. This was typical of the world; bad things always happened to goo people. At least this explained Beth's changing in moods and habits. Trying to stay faithful to her husband, but never knowing when he would leave her forever. Beth continued;
'The thing is, it's just all becoming too much for me to handle. We found out two days after our wedding day. Fernando had a headache - he thought it was just a hangover at the time. Anyway, we went to the doctors', and...' she sniffed and dried her eyes on her sleeve, 'and they said it was a brain tumour. They can't operate on it - it's too dangerous. He's dying, and I don't know what to do!' She pounded her fist on the bedside table.
'How long does he have to live?' asked Lawrence, all traces of laughter wiped from his face.
'They don't know. It could be anything from six months to five years. I can't take it any more! I'm too young to be widowed. I thought a new case would be good for me - take my mind off everything, you know?'
'And has it?'
'Not in the slightest. If anything, it's only made it worse. It's made me realise how human life can be blown out like a candle.My husband's like hangs in the balance, and I'm stuck here on this dratted investigation! I just wish I was back at home!' Beth's sobs were becoming ever louder, 'I don't know this place, and I definitely don't like it. All I want now is to be back in Dublin with Fernando. Is that too much to ask?'
'No, of course not.' sighed Lawrence. But now he thought about it, was peace of mind too much to ask for? In today's society, were were always thinking about what we wanted - food, drink, a place to rest our heads - but not what our human souls needed. We never had time to just sit and think any more. He remembered when he was a little lad; his mother just used to send him off out to play, without worrying about the risks. It wasn't that she was a bad mother, (in fact she was an exceptionally good one) it was just that thinking for one's self was considered good back then. Nowadays, we cooped our young 'uns up until they were driven to distraction. Then they were drawn into the false senses of security that were corporate companies. No time to think; only time to buy. And this, he had no doubt, resulted in people being too busy to think about what really mattered. The whole world was in a constant unchanging state of anxiety and agitation. It just wasn't fair.
'Listen Beth,' he said quietly, so as not to shatter her already fragile nerves, 'I'll talk to Donnelly tomorrow, see if I can't get you transferred to another case. Something closer to home. How does that sound?'
Her eyes lit up in an instant, and she looked like a child being promised the world for her birthday, 'Really? You'd do that for me? Even after the way I've treated you? Oh Lord, I can't thank you enough! I love you Alexei!' She embraced him and squeezed him so hard that the air was almost knocked out of his lungs. It was then that he realised she was more like a daughter to him than a lover. Beth depended on him now, and he would love her unconditionally until the day he died. He was her rock. And there was no way of escaping that fact.
'It'll be alright, you'll see. I'll make it be alright.' said Lawrence. Again, he felt the familiar pang of guilt. He would always love her, and there was nothing he could do about it. Every time she smiled that devastatingly beautiful smile, every time she talked, it was like a knife was slowly twisting itself deeper into his heart, knotting itself around him. This pain was such a part of him like his eyes and hands were. And the next time he felt it, it would be stronger, bolder. Yet he would bare the scars happily if this was how it felt. For Beth to have total trust and faith in him was quite enough. He stroked her long brown hair as she fell asleep in his arms. He had given Beth his word that he would help her, and he must keep it. But he did not want to re-enter the real world quite yet. He felt as if this was his last night in the company of a safe delusion of love. When day broke he would have to leave it behind forever.