Beth put the last folder in the packing box and gazed at her office. She had been working here for the past four years and it was strange to think that this was the last time she would cross to the window and look out at the London streets, busy and bustling as ever.
The old man across the road was shutting up his flower shop, emptying the buckets into the gutter, putting the tables into the shop. She remembered when she first started working here she would often pick up a small bunch of flowers for her desk. That was when she had a tidy organised desk, before she had piles of folders, notes and books with the odd coffee cup dotted around for a bit of colour and a penicillin culture. Back then, she thought she was busy if she was working on three cases simultaneously. Despite the fact that she often juggled eight or nine cases, the partners still asked her to take on more work.
The move to Geneva would bring her one step closer to making partner. This was her chance to show the management that she was up to the challenge. In Switzerland, she would be working in a small office and would be one of the senior counsellors.
She closed the window, picked up her box and took one last look around the office before walking out and shutting the door softly behind her.
â€œBeth. I have been looking for you. Would you come into my office for a moment?â€ Mr Wilson, one of the senior partners, beckoned her.
Damn. She had planned to sneak out before he noticed her and gave her some more work to do. Her weekend was planned; she needed to finish sorting out her flat before the packers came on Monday. Not to mention a last farewell dinner with friends and family. It had been a very long goodbye. Her mother did not seem to realise that she was only going to Geneva, not to Mars.
Setting her box down on one of the secretariesâ€™ desks, she crossed to Wilsonâ€™s office. He was a decent boss but not one to allow his staff to sit around and chat. She was surprised to see that his secretary had gone home already; she normally stayed until Wilson left.
Opening the door to Wilsonâ€™s office, she walked through then stepped back in shock as a dozen of her colleagues shouted, â€œSURPRISE!â€.
â€œYou didnâ€™t think that we would let you jet to off to Geneva without at least a farewell drink?â€ Mr Wilson smiled at her shock, handing her a glass of champagne, â€œGood luck in Geneva, we will look forward to hearing how you are doingâ€.
My God. He was even smiling. Beth wondered how many glasses of champagne he had drunk before she arrived. His usually impeccable shirt was slightly wrinkled and he had even taken off his tie.
â€œAh, thank you â€œBeth stammered embarrassed to have been caught on the hop. She frowned at her secretary who might at least have given her a heads-up.
â€œSpeech… speech!â€ shouted one of the junior counsellors.
Oh, God. No. Not a speech. She wanted to go home, sit on the couch, have a pizza delivered and gorge on ice cream. Now she was stuck in the office delivering a speech. Smiling bravely, she muttered a few words about being very grateful for the opportunity and how she would miss everyone in the office, â€œexcept Simonâ€, she glared at the junior counsellor who had put her on the spot, to laughs of approval.
Later that evening Beth wandered restlessly around her apartment. The last couple of months had been so busy; she had hardly caught her breath. Now she had nothing left to do until the movers came on Monday and she was beginning to get cold feet. Ice cold feet.
What on earth was she thinking? Moving to Geneva, when she spoke no French. Sure, she would only be speaking English in the office but she would not be in the office all the time. She would have to go shopping, order a meal in a restaurant, and speak with doctors and dentists. She knew that some of her colleagues still did not speak any French, despite living in Geneva for years.
She would be different, she resolved. No way was she going to be a typical expat, she would learn French. She would not be stuck in an expat bubble. She would have fun.
Inner pep-talk over she fired up her computer to check her emails. Two from Finlay today, which like the others he had sent, went straight to her trash folder. She had a quick look, despite telling herself she should not. It was similar to the others he had sent. Started out apologetic, moved quickly to whiny and then on to abusive and nasty. She hoped that he would leave her in peace once she moved away. She was fed up hiding in her apartment to avoid him. When he came to pick up his belongings, she made sure that Alex was with her but since then he constantly turned up in the bars and restaurants that she frequented. She was getting tired of leaving early to avoid unpleasant remarks.
She also had an email from the company relocation agent â€“ arranging the time to meet her at her new apartment for the handover. She would have a few nights in a hotel close to the office before her furniture arrived by road.
When the phone rang, she checked caller-ID to ensure that it was not Finlay then picked up with relief. â€œHello Alex. I thought you were Finlay for a moment. Heâ€™s emailed twice already today.â€
â€œWhat an idiot. When is he going to get the message? Listen, do you fancy coming around for a glass of wine. I know we are going out tomorrow night with the rest of the gang, but thought you might need some distraction. Or shall I come to yours?â€
â€œI have ice cream. And alcohol needing used up before the move. Come hereâ€, Beth replied. One of the restrictions the company had on their removal policy was no transport of alcohol. Due to strict Swiss customs regulations, she was forbidden to take any wine or spirits as it could delay the customs procedures. Not that she had a huge expensive wine cellar to import, but there were a couple of bottles of champagne and some spirits. These were mostly gifts she had received over the years, often to her dismay. Did she really look like the kind of woman who drank Baileys and Bacardi, she thought with a frown. Looks like Mum will be getting a couple of bottles on Sunday.
The doorbell rang, interrupting her contemplation. Alex lived just two streets away; she would miss having a friend so close. She pressed the button for the door opener and went back into the apartment to find the corkscrew. Pulling her cardigan closer around her body against the cold draft from the hall, she called out, â€œCâ€™mon. Hurry up. You are letting all the cold inâ€.
She came out of the kitchen, holding a bottle of white wine in one hand and two glasses in the other to find Finlay closing the door behind him. â€œExpecting company, are you?â€ he asked snidely. â€œDidnâ€™t take you long to replace meâ€.
â€œGet out. Get out of my apartment right nowâ€.
â€œNo. I want you back, Beth. I know I made a mistake but that was only because you spent more time at work than with me. If you hadnâ€™t been so obsessed with your career, we could be married by nowâ€
â€œDonâ€™t be ridiculous, Finlay. We split up because you were shagging other women. Donâ€™t think your so-called friends didnâ€™t let me know about the others. They were gagging to tell me that Shannon wasnâ€™t the only one you had been entertaining while I was at workâ€
â€œThat is a lie. She was the only one, and only because she chased me. She would not let me alone. I didnâ€™t want her, I wanted you but you were so cold and frigid.â€
â€œOh, that is rich. Call me frigid now. Because I didnâ€™t want sex every time you fancied itâ€.
Changing tack, he walked towards her, hands outstretched, his eyes filled with tears. â€œI know I messed up. I am sorry. Please forgive me. I canâ€™t live without youâ€.
She softened slightly. â€œI am sorry, Finn, but the trust is gone. I cannot be with someone I donâ€™t trustâ€.
Taking her hand, he held it to his cheek. She could smell his aftershave, dark, musky and so familiar. â€œI will show you that you can trust me. I promise that I wonâ€™t ever let you downâ€.
She almost bought it. Almost. Then she thought of the other issues such as his unpunctuality, his unreliability, his reluctance to part with money, unless it was someone elseâ€™s money. She thought of how free she had felt since she had thrown him out. And she thought of that moment when she had walked in on him and Shannon.
Drawing back, the tears in her eyes drying, she shook her head. â€œNo. Finlay. I am sorry. It is over. I am moving to Switzerland on Monday.â€
Holding tight to her hand, he pleaded, â€œI can move to Switzerland. It will be cool, a new start for both of us. I can get a job thereâ€.
â€œNo. Finlay. Let me goâ€. She tugged at her hand. He pulled her towards him, wrapping his arms around her shoulders. Beth struggled but he was stronger. â€œFinlayâ€, she tried to stay calm. â€œFinn. You are hurting me. Let goâ€.
â€œNo, Beth. You have to see that we are meant to be togetherâ€.
She began to struggle in earnest now, fear rising inside her. He had never threatened violence before, but he seemed like a different person, so cold and unfeeling. He backed her against the wall, his body hard and solid against hers. She pushed hard at his shoulders, but it was like pushing a wall. He bent his head and tried to kiss her but she twisted her head so that his kiss landed on her hair.
â€œDonâ€™t do this, Finlay. Donâ€™tâ€, she pleaded now. She tried to calculate how long Alex would be, she only lived minutes away. Why was she not here yet? Looking around for something â€“ anything â€“ that she could use as a weapon, she cursed herself for not checking the peephole before letting him in. Hadnâ€™t she learned anything in her years in London?
Flailing behind her for the discarded bottle of wine, she struggled to reach it. It was just out of reach. She could almost touch it. She relaxed against him, hoping that he would soften his hold. â€œFinlay. You are right. We are meant to be together. Letâ€™s go and sit down and talk about it. I will show you the pictures of our apartment in Geneva. You will like it, we have a view of the lakeâ€, she could hardly talk for fear of what would happen next. He was holding her hair tightly wrapped around his fist, but loosened his grip at her words.
He lifted his hands, cupping her face gently in contrast to his harsh treatment just moments before. â€œI knew that you would see sense.â€ He moved toward her to kiss her and she wriggled out of his grasp, seizing the bottle of wine by its neck as she did so.
â€œGet away from meâ€, she yelled.â€Get the fuck out my houseâ€.
He made a grab for her but she was prepared and ducked out of reach. Moving towards the door, she kept a wary eye on him and a good grip of the bottle. Lucky she hadnâ€™t found that corkscrew after all.
The door bell rang, splitting the tension and distracting her for a second. He pounced, she swung the bottle and he lashed out with his fist. He caught the side of her face, throwing her to the floor. She lay dazed on the wooden floor, watching the bottle of wine roll across the hall. It had not broken, she noticed woozily. That was handy. Less to clean up.
She could hear footsteps, first heavy ones receding then lighter ones running up the stairs. â€œBeth! Oh, God. Beth. Are you all right? HELP! Someone help us please!â€
Doors along the corridor were opening, neighbours emerging to see what was going on. This was some farewell party, Beth thought, as she passed out.