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Sanctuary

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I’d always valued my time alone. I think it came from being an only child. Time alone was time to think, to not worry about being judged or caring for the feelings of others around me. Time alone was time to feel and cry and scream and sometimes smile.

 

I hadn’t been alone in two years, Hayley wouldn’t allow it, and for a time, I could understand why. Now, it was all I wanted, and I knew I had to do something extreme to get my wish.

 

“Alaska! What the bloody hell is in Alaska?” Hayley’s eyes were filled with confusion.

 

I sighed heavily, I knew this wouldn’t be an easy conversation. I didn’t want to upset her, she meant well, she always meant well.

 

“I know, I know it seems extreme, it is extreme. I need some time just for me, away from here, away from everything I know.” I was staring out of my kitchen window at a bird sitting on my fence.

What I would give to just fly away!

Hayley was sat at the small round kitchen table hot mug of tea in her hands, I turned back to her and frowned at the frustrated expression that greeted me. I could see she was trying to understand what I was telling her. Hayley was never able to hide her feelings.

 

“Why Alaska though, couldn’t you just go to Greece like everyone else? If you need a holiday I can take time off work, we can go together.” She wasn’t getting it. I sat down next to her.

 

“Don’t take this personally Hayley, I need time alone. This place, I found it, it’s really exclusive and literally away from everything and everyone. It’s just two weeks Hayley.” I reached out and touched her arm. She put a hand over mine, her expression softening a little.

 

“You know I worry about you.” she gave me a reluctant half smile. “You’re rubbish on your own.”

Cheeky cow!

I narrowed my eyes at her, playing at being offended, my grin betrayed me. “I am not” I playfully slapped her arm and she snatched it away.

 

“You’ve not gone anywhere alone since…” she paused, we both knew the end of the sentence. “What if you have a panic attack?”

 

I’d considered the possibility. They were still fairly regular. I argued, “I’m much better with those now, I can manage them, with the breathing exercises and the pills.”

 

Hayley stood up and walked across to the kitchen counter, she opened the biscuit tin and pulled out a chocolate digestive. She closed the tin and turned back to me watching me thoughtfully as she took a bite. I felt guilty, she had been my rock through the past two years. She was protective, just what I needed in the beginning when the grief was so raw I could barely breathe. She was my shield, took care of literally everything, including me.

 

“Ange… you know why I’m worried.” she said seriously.

 

I nodded and lowered my head. “That was a long time ago Hayley, I’m stronger now.”

 

She gave a doubtful smile then sighed heavily and sat back down.

 

“Ange you’ve been lost, I know that… and I want to see you really smile again so much. If you think this is what you need… then I’ll support you. But for the record, I think you’re nuts.”

 

I smiled and reached over to hug my friend, she had been my raft these past two years, but now it was time for me to swim.


 

Heathrow was chaos.

 

Hayley had insisted on driving me there and ten minutes earlier we had said a tearful farewell before I made my way through security. I’d booked first class, ridiculously expensive but I knew the journey itself would be the hardest part of this for me. I still got very anxious around lots of people and I’d hoped this would help. First class ticket got me into the fast track security lane and access to the private lounges.

 

My bank account allowed the extravagance; as a result of the accident I had been awarded more money than I would ever need, than I knew what to do with. I had taken a pill to calm my nerves before entering the terminal, the butterflies still danced in my stomach and my heart still raced as I navigated the crowds of travellers trying to find the lounge.

 

Once the door closed behind me I let out a long breath. It was like someone had turned the sound off on the TV which had been playing too loud. The lounge was decorated in natural tones; browns, green and gold predominantly. It was dark and soothing, with soft light highlighting a feature here and there. There was a bar and wide comfortable looking armchairs dotted irregularly around the room. At the far end the wall was a large tinted window looking out onto the airfield. There were only a couple of people here, all smartly dressed and I realised I must have looked completely out of place in my jeans and hoodie. I took another breath, stepped in and ordered a glass of water.

Could do with a stiff drink, but not with these pills.

I picked a chair by the window, from here I could see the information screen and had a great view around the lounge and out to the airfield. My flight to Seattle was slightly delayed so I settled back into my chair and went over the relaxation techniques my therapist had taught me.

 

The key was to find a focus, something to take my mind away from whatever was causing the anxiety. most often this meant closing my eyes and simply focussing on my breathing. I’d learned though that, sometimes, in the right surroundings, it helped to just watch other people; their mannerisms, their expressions. It built a story in my mind and that took my thoughts to another place.

 

I watched the airfield for a while, the ballet of planes and tugs and luggage carts all moving around each other with people dotted between, all with purpose and a place in the production. It was constant movement and quite hypnotic, I snapped my gaze away as I realized my eyes were drooping.

The pill will have made me sleepy too.

I switched my focus to the people in the room; a smartly dressed bartender polished glasses and seemed to be humming to himself, there were around a dozen or so men seeming to be aged between 25 and 60, all in suits, with either laptops or tablets, engrossed in whatever they were doing. Around half a dozen other women here, some with the men, but a few on their own, also dressed for business and with their heads buried in a laptop or tablet. All very business-like. I wasn’t sure what I expected from first class travellers, I’d hoped perhaps a fading rock star or an Arab Sheikh, this was quite disappointing.

 

While I was watching one particular business-like couple who’s body language was betraying a little more to their relationship I’d missed the entrance of the latest visitor. It was only when my eyes moved back to the bar that I noticed him. Long legs covered in blue denim a grey hoodie, quite like mine in shade, blonde hair peeked out from under a baseball cap and from the profile view I had of him a familiar profile, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. He’d ordered whiskey and I noticed him carefully take in the scent of the amber liquid before taking a sip.

Well he knows what he’s doing!

He sat up at a stool at the bar, his rather smart looking rucksack dropped at his feet and turned towards the window to take in the view as he sipped his drink.

Bloody Hell! No… it can’t be… O.M.G.

I quickly looked away then tried to peer back without seeming obvious. There was no doubt about it, he was either Sam Heughan or a bloody good look-a-like. Even I knew the look-a-like industry was probably not profitable enough to stump for first class flights. I suddenly felt a few degrees warmer and breathless.

I was talking about him yesterday with Hayley, I don’t believe this. Probably going to LA for some glamorous event or more filming.

Before the accident Hayley had insisted I sit and watch ‘Outlander’ with her. It was a drama based on books written over 20 years ago, and was largely based in 18th Century Scotland, with some more modern pieces due to a quirky time-travel element in the story. The main story though was that of Claire and her romance with Jamie Fraser. I completely fell in love with their love story. Recently she re-watched it with me, Hayley had known what she was doing, Claire and Jamie, was me and Daniel, destined for each other and watching the series had made me smile for the first time since I had lost him.

 

Sam Heughan, played Jamie Fraser, he’d also started to appear in popular Hollywood movies and was tipped for the next James Bond. Hayley had enjoyed ogling over the intimate scenes in the TV show, and we both would girlishly giggle over what we’d do with our own muscular kilted highland warrior after a few glasses of wine. The TV show had helped lift me from an almost deadly depression, and even Hayley acknowledged she didn’t think it would have such a profound effect on me. Somehow seeing their love story played out soothed my soul a little, and as a result I started to climb out of my pit of grief and despair. I still had my moments though, when the grief would consume me, or the anxiety possess me and make me incapable of anything.

 

Sam raised his glass to me and smiled politely.

Oh my God, he saw me staring, he must think I’m such a creep! I want to die!

I looked away quickly and sank into my chair, my focus firmly fixed on the window.

Swallow me up right now!

I stared hard at that window for the next thirty minutes, I felt so embarrassed and could hear Hayley’s voice in my head.

Why you embarrassed? He’s already forgotten you. You should have got a picture with him though.

The tannoy announced that it was time for me to go to my gate. I was so on edge I popped another pill before I left, my eyes focussed straight ahead, but it looked like he had already gone.