“Hi, this is Lorelei. I can’t come to the phone right now so please leave your name and number and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.”
Elliott sighed exasperatedly and put the receiver down with a bit too much force; the clatter it made causing his colleague at the desk opposite to glance over, clearly wondering what was going on. Elliott flashed him a grin to assure him that things were fine and started biting his thumbnail.
He had been trying to call Lorelei for three days now. When he had tried to ring her from the pub the night he found out Sam was having an affair the phone had at least rung. For the last three days all he had been getting was her voicemail and it was worrying him. At first he thought that she was screening his calls, so he had tried withholding the number but when that didn’t make any difference he started to suspect something was wrong.
He glanced around his office wondering whether anyone would notice if he ducked out for a few minutes. Discretely slipping his wallet and mobile phone into his pocket he looked across to his boss’ desk. His boss’ name was Wendy, a red faced, toad like woman who abused the tiny amount of power she had. Her nasty habit of speaking to the people who worked below her as though they were naughty, young children infuriated those she was in charge of, but when it came to people who worked above her she would be nauseatingly charming. For reasons unknown to Elliott, Wendy had taken a great dislike to him – something she made extremely obvious – and he was keen to avoid her. On seeing that her desk was empty he stood up, hurried across the office and made his way outside. If she interrogated him on his return then he would think of an excuse but for the moment he had bigger concerns.
He had managed to leave the office without bumping into anyone who might question where he was going and when he got downstairs he hurried through the front door. He headed towards the spa where Lorelei worked as a receptionist, which luckily was only a short walk away, and once there he pushed open the doors and walked inside. The smell of massage oil lingered in the air and as he looked around he spotted a woman behind the desk he recognised, but it wasn’t who he was looking for.
He walked over to her and when she saw him she gave him a smile.
“Oh hi. Haven’t seen you for a while.” She leant over the counter as she spoke, her bright blonde hair skimming the desk.
“Alright Amy.” He said. “Is Lorelei working today?”
“Yeah she’s just nipped to the ladies. She won’t be a moment. Actually, before she comes back,” She got up and ushered him into the staff area behind her. “Is everything ok with her at the moment?” She spoke in a hushed voice. Elliott wasn’t entirely convinced that she was asking out of pure concern for a colleague.
. He thought, although he didn’t say it. “I’m the wrong person to ask.” He replied.
“The reason I ask,” She paused and looked through the door before continuing, clearly ignoring his last statement. “Is she hasn’t been herself lately. She’s really quiet and jumpy, and the other week she came in with all these marks on her neck. They looked like bruises. You don’t think-“ Elliott was pretty sure he knew what she was implying, and he had a horrible suspicion that she might be right but she didn’t get a chance to finish because at that moment Lorelei appeared.
As soon as he looked at her he could see exactly what Amy had been talking about; despite trying to hide it with makeup, her face was gaunt and there were big bags under her eyes, and although she hadn’t lost any weight she looked smaller somehow.
“Elliott.” She said sounding startled. “What are you doing here?” Amy slunk back out to the desk and began flipping through a magazine.
“I’ve been trying to call you for days but your phone’s been off.” He stated.
She crossed her arms and shifted her weight onto one leg. “Oh er... it broke. I’ve not had the chance to get a new one.”
“I’ve been worried.” He said.
She smiled and let out a laugh that was clearly supposed to sound carefree but it just sounded strained and false. “Oh don’t be silly, why would you be worried? I’m fine.”
“You don’t look fine.”
“Well I am.” She said defensively, her voice unnaturally high. Something was definitely wrong. “So is that all you wanted?”
“No. I need to talk to you about something.”
“What is it?”
As he looked at her he suddenly remembered where he was and realised that this was the most inappropriate time and place to break the news that not only was her husband abusive, he was also unfaithful and had been for some time. “Er, I can’t really... here’s not a good place... what time do you finish?”
“Ok.” He said. “Are you able to meet for lunch?”
“Elliott I don’t know.” She said, sounding very unsure. “Can’t you just tell me what it is now?”
He shook his head. “I’ve got to get back to work; I’m not even supposed to have left.”
She bit her lip. “Ok I can meet you, but not for long. I’ve got lots of stuff to do this afternoon.”
“Great. I’ll come by here for you at one then.”
The rest of the morning Elliott deliberated over what exactly he was going to say when he met Lorelei, and as the time drew nearer he began to get nervous. As is typical, the more he wanted time to crawl, the quicker it seemed to approach and when one o’clock rolled around he was no better prepared than he had been three days ago. As he walked to the salon he was half-expecting her not to be there, but when he arrived he saw her standing outside, waiting for him.
He walked over and greeted her and the two of them headed into the park, circling it for a place to sit. Elliott gestured towards an empty bench, and they sat down. She turned towards him, unsmiling.
“So what is this thing you needed to talk to me about?” She asked. Elliott ran a hand through his hair, wishing that he had thought about this more. Ever since he’d found out, his main concern was making sure Lorelei knew but not how
she would find out.
He squirmed uncomfortably and managed to force himself to speak. “Well it’s... erm... it’s er... it’s about Sam.”
As soon as he said those words she rolled her eyes. “What is it?” She said exasperatedly.
Elliott paused, still stuck for words. Lorelei looked at him, clearly impatient, her eyes willing him to continue. “He’s having an affair.” At these words she recoiled as though something revolting had suddenly appeared in his place.
“What are you talking about?” She spat out, her face strangely contorted.
“He’s been sleeping with someone else.” He wasn’t sure how many alternative ways there was of saying this.
“Who told you this?” She demanded. Elliott could tell from the tone of her voice that she was going to take some convincing.
“The son of the other woman. He’s a friend of mine.”
“Sam isn’t having an affair, he wouldn’t do that.” She said defiantly.
“Yes he is.” He replied incredulously. “And yes he would do that to you.”
She sat back and folded her arms over her chest. “I don’t believe you. I think you’re making this up.”
“Why would I make this up?”
“You don’t like Sam, you never have.”
“Yes, with good reason. How many times over the course of your relationship with him have you called me up in tears because of something that he’s said or done?”
“Just because we argue doesn’t automatically mean he’s a bad person.” She looked away and pursed her lips, clearly disgruntled. Her inability to accept the reality of her so-called ‘marriage’ was the tip of the iceberg. He didn’t mind being a friend or a shoulder to cry on, but couldn’t sit and watch her stick her head in the sand when she should be taking action.
“For God’s sake Lorelei, what is it going to take for you to realise that you need to leave him?! He is horrible to you, not just occasionally when you’ve rowed, but all the time. And now he’s cheating on you and you point-blank refuse to accept it!” He knew he was shouting and that people were looking but he didn’t care.
She shook her head. “You don’t know what you’re talking about. It’s easy for people on the outside to judge.”
“Oh I’m not judging.” He exclaimed. “It’s pretty clear to me and everyone else what’s going on, and you know exactly what I’m talking about. Where did you get those bruises?”
“What bruises?” She said, obviously trying to remain nonchalant but her hand flew to her neck giving herself away. Up until now any suspicion Elliott had that Sam was physically abusing Lorelei had been pure conjecture, but this was confirmation for him that his suspicions had been correct. It made his blood boil.
“I knew it. I bloody knew it. How long has he been hitting you for?”
This time it was her turn to get angry. “No Elliott you don’t know anything about me or about Sam. This isn’t about him anyway, this is about you. You just can’t handle that I’m with someone who isn’t you. Well it’s never going to happen so get over it!” She furiously stood up and stormed off.