Shaking fingers close the buttons of my blouse, then my raincoat as I escape the hotel. I keep my head down, my hair hiding much of my face. Behind me heavy rain beats on the monolithic glass front of the Hyatt as people flee inside, chased by the downpour. Starting the trudge out of the city centre, a fierce wind shears rain into my face as if to erode my resolve. I pay it no mind. Having had the strength to leave, walking away is easy and I let my momentum carry me.
The pavements are filled with wet, shambling pedestrians, stumbling determinedly through sheets of rain. I move slower than most, conscious of every step, willing the rain to soak me, scour me, cleanse me. Streams of water burst from my hair and slip serpent like down my back, wet finger-trails chilling my spine.
In a blur of rain and footsteps and streets I lose myself. Traffic passes me in waves, the rush of sound pounding and retreating, a tide carrying me forward. I try to avoid thoughts of what just happened but they rise to the surface, following in my wake. For a moment I feel sorry for Richard, running out on him like that, but that brings me to what I would have done had I stayed. I increase my pace, once more feeling only the urgent need to be home.
The grey light of evening begins to creep across the sky, darkening the already heavy clouds. I hear a car pull into the road behind me and for moment I imagine it is Richard following, desperate to convince me to stay. I quicken my step. The car passes. It is not Richard. Ridiculous to think it was. He’s not the type to follow a lover out into the rain. He’s probably already back in the bar, making a move on someone else. I focus on my footsteps and the sound of the rain. It almost clears my head.
Finally reaching our drive, I stand for a moment and stare at the front door, unable to move. The living room light is on, the curtains closed. Upstairs the glow from the landing tells me the girls are tucked up in bed. I place my key in the door but it opens before I turn, Adam standing on the other side smiling. He helps me inside, kissing me on my numb, still wet cheek. A dark puddle slowly grows under my feet as raindrops reform and fall from my drenched coat and hair. Grime is spattered up the backs of my legs, a random dot to dot drawn on my pale trousers.
Adam helps me out of my coat. The rain has run down my neck, merged with the rivulets of sweat generated by my exertions and soaked the thin cotton of my blouse. I am grateful for the wet almost animal smell from my soaked overcoat that fills the hall, masking any tell tale odours. I might not have slept with Richard but enough happened for the stink of his aftershave to be all over me. I need to shower.
‘How come you’re not staying at the hotel tonight?’ Adam asks as he hangs up my coat.
‘There was a mix-up, the hotel was double booked or someone made a mistake with the conference numbers our end or something,’ I blurt out.
This lie, not my first, leaves my lips easily despite the weight of it, the damage it could do if discovered. I watch for Adams reaction waiting for his trust to run out, unsure if I can handle more questions.
He just laughs and says, ‘Typical. Your bosses couldn’t organise a piss up in the proverbial.’
I want to grab him and hold him and kiss him and cry and tell him everything but I don’t. Instead I smile, mumble about the shower and head upstairs before he realises more is wrong than my simply being soaked and tired.
I undress quickly and dump my clothes next to the washing basket, ready to take straight to the machine. In the shower I turn the water up as high as I can bear. My skin reddens to match the shame welling up inside me.
‘Want a cup of tea?’
Adam’s voice, calling from the door of the en suite, startles me.
‘Please,’ I manage to reply and then wait for him to head back down to the kitchen.
Only then, my back pressed to the tiles behind me, do I slide down to a hunched position, bury my face in my hands and let the hot shower spray nearly burn my quaking shoulders.