He was standing in the lobby when she got back from the airport. She didn't even notice him at first, trying to shake the image of Tolya walking away. It was hard to miss him, though, when he maneuvered himself into her path so she had to either stop or bump into him. Florence took a step back, looked up at him, and sighed.
"What do you want, Freddie?"
She wanted to step around him, walk on up to her hotel room and get her bags and leave... But if she tried to move around him, he'd just follow. She knew Freddie. After seven years, she would hope she knew him.
"I wanted to talk to you before you left. I just wanted to ask-"
"No." She stepped around him and started for the elevator, taking a breath to steady herself. No requests from Freddie, no last-minute pleas or bargains... Not this time. She couldn't do it anymore, and she especially couldn't do it now, when each breath seemed to take conscious effort, when she just wanted to go home to England and go to bed that probably still smelled of Anatoly and never, ever get out of bed again. When she was almost afraid to speak for fear of bursting into tears with every word.
Freddie, as she had expected, followed her, matching her step for step and soon coming out ahead of her. "No? I didn't even say anything yet!"
"I don't care, Frederick. Whatever it is... I just want to go home."
"That's what I wanted to talk to you about."
They reached the elevator as the doors opened, and Freddie stepped in ahead of her, pushing the button to her floor, and then the button to close the doors. Florence knew for a fact that Freddie's room was on the fourteenth floor, not the twenty-first, so she decided she didn't want to know why Freddie knew where her room was. She moved to lean against the far wall as the doors closed, and closed her eyes wearily. She ought to ignore him, but the question escaped her lips anyway. "What do you mean, Freddie?"
"Come home with me."
She opened her eyes and stared at him. "What?"
"Please. I have two plane tickets to New York tomorrow morning, you could come back, we could be just like we were..."
Not this again. Not now. She closed her eyes again, wearily, and murmured, "No, Freddie. I can't..."
She heard him moving forward, but didn't quite register what he was doing until he captured her lips with his. Tired, and hurting, and lonely, she didn't open her eyes, and she didn't pull away.
Florence slid out of bed slowly, trying not to move the blankets and wake Freddie. She shouldn't even be here now, except that last night had been the only thing keeping her from curling around her pillow and sobbing uncontrollably. Surely it was better to feel like she could be stable, to feel like her heart hadn't just been torn from her chest for the second time in as many years...
Except that, standing beside the bed, looking at Freddie, she felt as if she might be opening an old wound she'd thought healed. He always looked so sweet, when he slept. The anger and bitterness his features had gained over the last few years always faded, so he was her Freddie again, at least until he woke up. He was smiling.
She started to reach out, lean down to brush his hair from his face, and pulled herself back sharply as she realized what she was doing. She knew how this dance went. She listened to him. She went back to New York with him, and he was wonderful and lovely and perfect until he was certain he had earned her forgiveness, and then it all went back to the way it was before.
Slowly, Florence stepped back from the bed. She picked up her wrinkled shirt and pants off the floor and pulled them on, taking care to be quiet, and Freddie didn't stir even once. She hesitated in the doorway, biting her lip and glancing back to him. She'd missed him so much, all she had to do was go back and curl up with him once more...
Florence turned and walked out of Freddie's hotel room at the Bangkok Hilton, and didn't look back.