Daniel stood outside the cafe where he had agreed to meet his mother.
He winced as a motorbike loudly roared past and instantly regretted the last two beers he had drunk the night before. There were some parts of the previous night’s excursion that he didn’t regret however, and he smiled in memory of them. He would have loved to have stayed and reminisced for longer but he other things to do. Taking a deep breath he grabbed the handle of one of the doors and pulled it open. As he stepped inside he took a quick glance around and felt no surprise when he realised that she was nowhere to be seen. Checking his watch he saw that he was a few minutes early, so he sat down on a big, comfortable armchair and waited. He had been extremely reluctant to meet Artemis. After his conversation with Naomi on his birthday he hadn’t exactly been having warm and fuzzy feelings towards his mother, but she had been insistent and so he caved and agreed. He couldn’t deny that he was curious – she hadn’t explained her reasons on the phone – and this curiosity was definitely a major factor in his decision to see her.
It was mid-morning and the bright sun that streamed through the windows hurt his eyes. The town was in the midst of an unseasonable heat wave and the air was thick with humidity. He closed his eyes, shielding them from the rays, and tried to concentrate on staying awake. The main doors creaked open and Daniel opened an eye to see who had just entered, closing it again when he didn’t recognise the person. One thing that had
surprised him about this arrangement was that Artemis had wanted to meet so early. Usually she didn’t surface until around midday. He pried his tired eyes open and checked his watch again, pulling a face when he realised that she was ten minutes late. He started wondering if she was even going to show up. Perhaps the positivity she had felt yesterday had diminished overnight and she had now decided that she couldn’t be bothered with him again.
He waited another five minutes and when she still hadn’t arrived he felt annoyance starting to build. If she’s not coming then the least she could do would be to let me know
. He tapped his foot impatiently and began debating whether to give her another few minutes or to leave. Just then she walked through the door. He raised his eyebrows at her appearance; but not for a bad reason. She actually looked, well, nice
. He was so used to seeing her slob around the house in tatty old jogging bottoms that the outfit she was wearing today made her almost unrecognisable. He saw her look around nervously and when she saw him she smiled.
“Danny.” She said, gingerly taking the chair opposite him. “I’m so sorry I’m late, I just got given some... bad news.”
“Care to share it?” He asked.
“Firstly I need you to understand that I’ve really been making an effort to change. I know I’ve said this before-“ She added when Daniel flashed her a sceptical glance. “But I promise, I really do mean it this time. I’ve even started seeing a counsellor.”
“But... I slipped. I’d broken things off with Sam, hadn’t seen him since that... that day. But the day before your birthday I was in town and I bumped into him. Somehow one thing led to another and... his wife caught us together.”
Daniel’s throat tightened and he felt uneasy.
“That’s not the worst part though.” Artemis paused before breaking the news that made Daniel feel like his heart had leapt through his chest. “She tried to kill herself.”
He couldn’t speak. He just stared at her, his mouth opening and closing like a fish.
“She what?!” He exclaimed eventually.
“It’s horrible and I feel so awful-“
“When did this happen?” He asked, interrupting her.
“Yesterday. Sam found her and –“
Daniel jumped to his feet, pulling out his phone. “Is she... alive?” He asked.
Artemis nodded. “Yes, thank goodness – what are you doing?”
“Sam’s wife – who has a name by the way – is a good friend of Elliott’s. He needs to know about this.”