Beth awoke with a start, her heart pounding, her pyjamas sticking to her body. Sitting up in bed, she raised her hands to her cheeks, unsurprised to find them wet. Taking a deep breath, she tried to remember what she had been dreaming about but it was gone. The metallic taste of fear in her mouth was all that remained.
Reaching out, Beth groped for the light switch and sighed in relief as a soft yellow glow filled the room. 3 am. Great. Knowing better than to try to go straight back to sleep, she slipped her feet into soft ballerinas, flung a cardigan on over her pyjamas and padded towards the kitchen. Outside the night was black and calm, the roads and pavements empty. The kettle gurgled and switched itself off as she reached for a mug and her favourite herbal tea. Opening the door to the balcony, she stepped out into the night. The cool night air settled around her. She wrapped her hands around the mug of tea, sipping it slowly, the sweet hot liquid slipping down her throat, soothing her.
Beth raised her eyes above the buildings, staring into the sky, watching sheer curtains of clouds cover the moon. At least tonight she could see the moon.
Leaning against the balcony railing, Beth willed herself to feel sleepy. She did not want to be awake till dawn again, like the last time. Perhaps the fresh air would make her tired.
The mug of tea had been refilled several times and the sky had lightened before her wish was granted. Falling into bed at 6 am, Beth sent up a small prayer of thanks that it was Saturday, and not a work day. She wasn’t sure she would get through another day of work on such little sleep.
When she wakened several hours later, she still felt groggy. Stepping into the shower, she turned the tap to lukewarm them cold to shock her brain into action. Shivering slightly, wrapped in a comfortable dressing gown, she went into the bedroom to dress, pulling on navy shorts and a loose linen shirt with contrasting collar. By the time she had prepared her breakfast and carried it onto the balcony, she was feeling more alert. The city below her was wide awake and already busy. The sounds of the farmers market in the neighbouring street drifted up and she decided to go later and buy some fresh fruit and vegetables. Beth bit into her bread roll, smothered in butter and orange marmelade and took a sip of tea.
Voices from the balcony below made her pause and set her tea down quietly. Eavesdropping is really naughty, she told herself, even as she strained to hear more.
“I don’t see why I can’t go with you to Amsterdam. You don’t have to take care of me. I will do some shopping and go to a couple of museums while you work. You’ll hardly notice I’m there”.
“Iris”, – aha! She had a name, “You know that it is frowned upon, my boss doesn’t like it when wives or girlfriends go along on business trips. And before you ask, he will know. He always knows what his guys are up to, it is his business to know.”
“It is so unfair”, she was sounding sulky now. Beth wondered if her bottom lip was all pouty and if he would fall for it. Men often did. “I don’t want to be left all alone here, I want to be with you, Yogibear”.
An soft involuntary snort escaped Beth. Yogibear! He hadn’t looked like a Yogibear kind of guy. She fought against the laughter that bubbled up inside. If she laughed, he would know that she was listening and that would put paid to any kind of neighbourly friendship. She felt that they had got off on the wrong foot and would have liked to start over. She could do with a friend, and maybe he could introduce her to some of his buddies. He seemed to be a decent guy. Aside from the Yogibear thing.
There was silence from the balcony below. Maybe they had gone inside. Peering gingerly over the balcony railing, Beth could see two pairs of feet, intimately intwined. Oh, she had moved on to other methods of persuasion. Beth drew back guiltily, feeling like a peeping Tom. She picked up her breakfast tray and moved into the small kitchen, a feeling of sadness stealing over her. She missed it – the lazy breakfasts, the cuddles, the feeling of being one half of a couple.
The end of the relationship with Finley had been so sudden, the aftermath so shocking that she had no time to mourn. The new job, the move had been both welcome distraction and avoidance of unresolved issues. She missed her friends, she missed Alex. There were things that she felt almost ready to talk about but she did not want to worry her friends and family. For the first time since she had arrived in Geneva, she realized how alone she was. Washing and drying her solitary tea cup and setting it back in it’s space in the cupboard she noted that none of the other cups had been used.
As she picked up her keys from the wooden cupboard in the hallway, and searched for a shopping bag, she decided she would introduce herself to the couple downstairs. Maybe a bottle of wine would break the ice. Her decision made, she unlocked the door and let herself out of the apartment.