'I've decided to get away for a while.' Honor had secured a seat in a corner of the departure lounge but the place was a zoo. She had to scrunch the phone against one ear and press her finger into the other to hear her dad over the clamour of announcements, complaining passengers and excited children howling for cookies or anything else they could see on the food concessions.
'Away?' His voice was deep and concerned. 'Is that a good idea, honey? I know things have been hard for you but running away never solved -' He paused as he was drowned out by the last call for the American Airlines flight to Miami. 'Ah. You're already at an airport.' His exhale was thick with frustration.
She tucked her red carry-on bag more securely between her feet against the trampling of a couple diving for newly vacated seats nearby. 'JFK.'
'Ah,' he said, again.
Honor pictured him behind his maplewood desk in the offices of Lefevre and Sontag, swivelling gently in his tan leather chair, brow creasing as he switched his mind from lawyer mode to how in the hell he was going to persuade his thirty-year-old daughter out of leaving town. She spoke quickly, heading him off before he could find ways to make her doubt the intoxicating decision she'd made. 'I'm sorry, Daddy. I expect you're disappointed that you're hearing about this at the last minute and that I didn't talk things over with you. But it's been difficult for me in Hamilton Drives since Stef pulled his stunt. Then, when it was in the newspaper, my clients disappeared and Vic let me go -'
'Honor, Vic didn't really "let you go" -'
'- so I sublet the apartment -'
'You've sublet? Honey, don't you think that's -?'
'- as soon as the realtor found me someone. I arranged for the transfer of all the utilities and for the furniture to go into storage and Stef's things to be delivered to his dad until Stef turns up again.' Her voice shook.
'I need some space.'
'I guess you do, to have put all of that in place in the two weeks since you left VPV Finance,' he agreed, slowly. 'Where do you plan to go?'
She hesitated. A nearby child began to cry, rolling his face tiredly against his mother's leg. The mother, who looked as if she might be close to tears herself, crouched, trying awkwardly to hug the little boy around a fussing baby already in her arms. Honor jumped up, touching the woman's arm and indicating the vacant seat.
The woman sagged in relief. 'You just saved my life.'
Throwing a sympathetic smile at the tired mother and grabbing her bag, Honor headed away from the baby as its fussing became a wail. 'It's better if you don't know, Dad. Then Will and Stef can't expect you to tell them, can they? I realise that you're all caught up in the middle of the mess. I guess we never saw this kind of downside of your daughter hooking up with the son of your law practice partner.'
Garvin laughed. 'It's not ideal for Will Sontag or for me and it's tempting to say that what would fix everything is you sticking around - but I have to be honest that the gossips are buzzing about what Stef did to Billie's boyfriend. And he's left you to live it down. And … I'm doing a bad job of talking you out of this, aren't I?'
Honor looked up at the information screen as it flickered and updated, checking the entry beside her gate number. 'Kind of.' She tried to laugh around the lump in her throat. 'My plane's boarding, Dad. I have to go.'
His voice rose, anxiously. 'If you won't tell me where, then will you let me know when you've arrived safely?'
'Yes.' Her voice strangled at his love coming through the cell phone.
He instantly tried to prise at the crack in her armour. 'You know, you still have time to change your mind - because running away doesn't solve a lot. You could come and live at home while you think things through. Just ignore the gossip.'
The idea of living again in her childhood home with Karen was enough to restore the spirit that had brought her this far. 'I'm getting away. Not running. Dad -' She turned to pace, making a man sigh because he had to side-step around her. 'Try to cut me a little slack. I want to go somewhere where nobody will gaze at me with all that overdone sympathy and then whisper behind their hands that Honor Lefevre should have known better than to have anything to do with Stefan Sontag because that boy was always crazy, right from High School.' She swallowed, pulling off her bag and her jacket, suddenly hot in the breathless airport terminal. 'I'll miss you, Jessamine and Zak - though Zak's in Texas, anyway.' She didn't say she'd miss Karen, her stepmother. You only missed Karen in the way you missed tight jeans - so used to the constraints that you only noticed how uncomfortable you'd been once you struggled free.
'I think your options need further thought -' Doggedly, Garvin relaunched his offensive. She knew he'd tell Karen and Jess, later, 'I tried to make her take a balanced view.' Mentally, she added, but she wouldn't listen. His voice rose and fell, warm, reassuringly Garvin Lefevre, as Honor edged closer to the boarding gate. The first, eager passengers were funnelling in to show their boarding cards at the head of the jetway. She made time to listen as he tried to do his best for her. He always had done his best.
He had doubts about 'such a wild plan'. She'd known he would, which was why she hadn't told him when she'd been glued to the internet, finding a house to rent, booking space at Dennison's Self-Storage and a truck and two men to move the furniture into it. Booking a train, a plane and an airport service car, tickets for which had popped into her inbox and been made real by her printer. Packing her suitcases with clothes to take with her; boxing up the suits and dress shoes she'd worn to work to put in storage; selling her car in Danbury to avoid word getting back to her family in their small west Connecticut town.
Her moods had sawed between exhilaration and trepidation, joy and fear. Faithful, dependable Honor had warred with the other part of her, the part that was screaming, 'Enough about Stef! What about me?' Yearning for change. To cut herself out of her old life.
'- and you have to realise what a big step you're taking. There's a lot of security in the town where you were born and brought up, your family close by to support and love you. Has Stef called at all? Have you talked things through?'
'He tried to call. But I'm not ready to talk to him yet.' Then, to forestall the next question, 'I don't know when I will be.' Through the glass wall she could see the waiting airplane, sleek silver in the evening sun, banded from end to end with blue, white and red, linked to the terminal building by the utilitarian grey jetway. Sucking in her breath, she was giddy for a moment at the prospect of riding up into the sky and far away to a place of different accents and fresh scenery. Rows one to twelve were boarding. Honor's row was number forty.
'Honor, that doesn't solve anything, either! Wouldn't it be more sensible to wait a while -'
'You cut loose, once, didn't you, Dad?'
That halted his persuasive discourse.
'I think you did,' she teased. 'Do you remember?' Bobbing passengers brushed past her, clutching passports, tickets, cabin baggage, cardboard cups of coffee and glistening bottles of water.
'Was it so bad?'
His silence was eloquent.
The passengers shuffled by. 'Dad?'
Unwillingly, he laughed. 'You got me.'
'And you got me,' she grinned. 'Nine months after you cut loose for a while -you got me. You cared for me while I grew up and you've loved me all my life, even though I was kind of a shock.'
'Honey, you know I don't regret a thing about having you but -'
'But cutting loose changed your life. And I need to get on this airplane and change mine,' she interrupted, gently. 'It's something I need to do. I'm going, Daddy. I love you.'
Honor flew through the night, not even attempting sleep in the airline seat, watching movies, making herself a 'to do' list for getting settled in her temporary home, even enjoying the airline food and not getting frustrated that the bulky man in the next seat was an inconsiderate flyer. He monopolised the armrest and encroached on her space, but a little judicious elbow jogging at coffee time illuminated the issue for him. She smiled in the face of his frown. This was her great adventure and she meant to enjoy every moment.
That there was a delay to their landing slot didn't worry her. The bags from her flight were slow to arrive on their carousel but she waited philosophically. She had time.
When she finally made it out of the terminal building, the car was waiting. The grey-suited driver said, 'Good morning,' smiled and stowed her cases whilst she breathed deep breaths of glorious outdoor air.
The last time she'd been here, Stef had been with her. They'd stayed in the city, then, but this time she'd rented a house on the coast. Stef had hated that vacation, probably because the eccentric old city had been her choice. He was used to being the one to get his own way. It wasn't that Honor was weak, she assured herself, leaning her head against the cool window and watching the environs of the airport pass by as the car nosed its way out to join the lines of traffic. Honor was the strong one in the relationship. And Stef was the most self-absorbed.
She didn't switch her phone on after leaving the plane. It felt significant. Ceremonial. A declaration that she would choose who to contact, and when. She watched the scenery. It wasn't that long before fields began to appear, rolling along beside the roads beneath a clear morning sky. She was tired enough to sleep but she didn't want to miss a moment of this turning point, this day when she finally, completely, thoroughly, pleased herself.
The driver was the quiet kind and she was able to drink the place in. An-hour-and-a-half later, the car emerged onto a coast road. One moment they were driving between shoulder-to-shoulder houses and the next they were swinging left and climbing a hill and Honor's breath was halted by the wide blue ocean, glittering, frothing restlessly below the cliffs on her right hand side.
'Wow,' she breathed, squinting as sun danced golden on the waves.
'Pretty,' the driver observed. 'Nice day to come and stay on the coast.'
In five minutes, he was turning the car into the driveway of a small white house. Honor blinked and struggled stiffly from the back seat of the car. The fare had been paid online but she tipped the driver and he carried her cases up the concrete steps to the house whilst she, consulting the printout of the email from the owner for directions, located the key stuck under a ledge of the metal garage door in a magnetised box.
Whilst she figured out the unfamiliar locking system, the driver gazed out over the edge of the patio. 'What a view.'
The lock gave up the fight and the door swung open. Honor turned and joined him in admiring the view. The traffic was running along the coast road between her and the ocean but the elevated position of the house made that a small issue, especially on such a beautiful, sunshine drenched day. 'It's real pretty,' she agreed.
After he'd carried her cases into her bedroom, and gone, Honor prowled around the small silent property, decorated in plain pastel shades. Kitchen, bathroom, bedroom and sitting room. Lawns front and back. Her space! Her home for four months. The owner had left her a tiny welcome pack of teabags, instant coffee, sugar and, in the refrigerator, a small container of milk. Everything was exactly as promised and arranged online via her laptop back home in Hamilton Drives.
Making coffee, her hands almost shook with excitement. And fatigue, she supposed. Missing an entire night's sleep had left her head floating amongst the clouds. She'd better nap for a few hours and then find the local grocery store and stock her cupboards.
But she was still too strung up to sleep so she would take her coffee out first, to that cute patio, and watch the ocean and breathe the salty air.
She selected one of the two wooden loungers and settled herself in the sun, the heat made comfortable by a dancing breeze. The lounger set slantwise, she could admire the ocean over the white balustrade or gaze down the hill, the way she'd come, as she drank down the hot, comforting - if fairly average - coffee.
But suddenly fatigue threw its sack over her head. And she closed her eyes.
'Excuse me, you're burning.'
The man in Honor's dream, whoever he was, was right - her face, arm and thigh felt as if they were on fire. She'd been dreaming of falling asleep too close to a furnace. Could it be on a boat? Because she could hear seagulls, too. And feel the seasickness.
'Quit yanking on my arm, you're making me queasy,' she tried to protest. But the words clung thick and sticky to her lips.
The voice grew louder. 'Wakey, wakey. Come on, lady! You're burning.'
Waves of nausea swelled sweatily up her body as she tried to prise up her heavy eyelids. The sun blazed into her eyes and she scrunched them shut again. 'Please don't,' she whimpered.
The voice was deep, coaxing. 'Just help me to help you inside.'
She squinted one eye open again as the dark figure of a man bending over her moved around to block the sun. 'I think I'm sick,' she whispered as sweat trickled between her breasts. 'Real sick.'
'If you weren't before, you are now,' the silhouette agreed, cheerfully. He had a cute English accent. She was familiar with the English way of making jokes about serious stuff but she hoped he realised that she really was sick. Desperately. Colours-melting, brain-whirring sick.
What was a great tall Englishman doing filling her vision, anyway? She groped through her memory.
She was in England.
So, what happens to Honor, next? Try
Love & Freedom and find out.