Rose Green is 38; Samantha Bradshaw is 25
She'd barely slept, but Samantha didn't care. She had things she needed to do, now, today. The longer she left it, the worse it would get.
It was only a short walk across town to the familiar blue house that she'd visited so many times. This time was different, though. This time, everything had changed.
She heard the sound of small feet running when she knocked, then the door flew open and she found herself face to face with a small, red-haired version of Cory.
She'd met Noah before, but somehow, now, she found the resemblance unsettling.
"My dad's not here," the boy said. "He went away."
"What - already?"
"You knew he was going?" Noah seemed confused. "He only decided last night."
"I... um... I don't know where he went..." Samantha stammered.
"To my uncle's house," Noah replied, glad to have some new information to share. "My uncle's moving to a new house and Dad's going to help him pack up all his stuff. That's why he went."
"Oh..." Samantha couldn't think of anything else to say.
Rose came up behind the boy. Samantha caught her look of surprise even as she quickly composed herself. "Cory's not here," she said.
"She knows," said Noah. "I told her."
"I didn't come to see Cory," said Samantha. "I came to speak to you."
"I don't think we've got anything to talk about."
"I think we do."
Rose started to shut the door, but Samantha stopped it with her foot. "I'm not here to make trouble," she said. "But you need to listen to what I have to say."
"Why would I even want to listen to you?"
"Please," said Samantha, glancing down at the boy.
Rose looked down at her son, too. "Noah, can you go outside and play with your sister?"
"But I wanted to -
"Please, just do it."
"Ok," he said, giving the two letter word at least three syllables. He stomped off out the back door.
Rose signalled for Samantha to come in. "Five minutes," she said. "Then, you leave."
"I've just come to tell you that I'm leaving."
"Leaving?" Rose repeated.
Samantha nodded. "Not right away, but in a couple of weeks... I want to wait until Helen and Leo are back so I can say goodbye to them. Also I want to give your father some time to try to find a replacement at the shop. But in two weeks, I'll be gone, you won't see me again, and nor will Cory."
"So you just make this mess, and then - "
"What else can I do? I can't change what has happened... I never wanted anyone to be hurt, I just - "
"You should have thought about that before you slept with my husband."
"We never slept together."
"Come on, you expect me to believe - "
"It's the truth! We kissed, once. On New Year's Eve... when I was drunk. I didn't even remember it until I heard Cory tell you at the reception, and - "
"You heard... you were listening...?"
Samantha nodded. "I went out to find him, after he ran off... then I heard what he said, and I kind of remembered... but that's all that ever happened between us, I swear.
"If you don't remember then how do you know nothing else happened?"
"We were here, you were upstairs... your whole family was... and we've never even been alone together since. Now I understand why."
"What do you mean?'
"I mean, whatever happened, whatever Cory thinks he feels for me, he's done everything he could to fight it. That's why he made sure he was never alone with me, that's why he quit his job at the shop. He's spent the past six months trying to push me away." Samantha took a breath. "You need to talk to Cory," she said. "You need to hear this from him."
"He had his chance to talk to me! If what you're saying is true, why didn't he say so? Everything I accused him of, everything I called him - he just took it. If it wasn't true, why didn't he even try to tell me that?"
"You know the answer to that. You know him better than I do. What's the one thing he hates the most - the one thing has no tolerance for?"
There was a pause, then Rose answered softly, "Infidelity."
"Right!" said Samantha. "So, he's got no sympathy for anyone who cheats in any circumstances... then suddenly he realises he's capable of doing the same. What does that mean?"
"It means he's a bloody hypocrite!"
"It means he has no sympathy for himself! Don't you get it, Rose?!" Samantha fought back the urge to shake the woman. "He must hate himself for this! He'll take whatever you called him, because he thinks he deserves it, just for wanting someone else, no matter what did or didn't actually happen." She took a breath, tried to calm herself a little. "Rose, you have to talk to him. That's why I'm leaving - you have to work this out, because if you don't this will destroy him."
"He said he was in love with you."
"He's confused... he might love me as a friend, he might mix that up with attraction and think he's in love with me, but he isn't. Not the way he's in love with you."
"What makes you say that?"
"Because when you're in love with someone, you care about how they feel. I've spent the last six months wondering what I've done wrong that he barely wants to talk to me anymore. He wasn't protecting my feelings by doing that. And he wasn't protecting my feelings, at the wedding. Think about it."
"I think you should go now," Rose said.
"Rose, you have to talk to him, or else... If you don't work this out, if you just let him go... if you want to know how that's going to feel, talk to your father-in-law. He's been there, and he's spent his whole life regretting it."
"Just go, please."
Even the summer sun couldn't warm Samantha as she walked briskly across town. She needed to tell Kyle that she was resigning from the shop, preferrably before Rose talked to him.
But there was somewhere else she had to go first, something even more pressing that she had to to do.
The look on Serdar's face when he opened the door told her everything. He knew, or he thought he did. He'd heard the real reason why Cory had left.
"I'm not here to make trouble," she said, for the second time that day. "I just need to tell you that you were wrong."
"What do you mean?"
"Sometimes, running away isn't wrong," she said. "Sometimes, running away is the only right thing you can do."