Laura has her off days, like anyone else. Sometimes it's no fun being the sane woman in the asylum. Laura/Gordon-ish.
It's all very well deciding to break with a pampered, empty life and a sham of a marriage propped up by wealth. Deciding to prove her independence and forge a meaningful career is just fine, but on the days when teaching aerobics to two scared-looking women watching the door for the manager is more exhausting than invigorating, it's hard not to wonder if working in a disaster zone of a leisure centre in which the staff outnumber the public four to one has any kind of meaning at all. She can console herself by telling herself she keeps the body count down, but the way it keeps mounting up despite her best efforts is somewhat disheartening.
On days like this, it's hard to cope with the prospect of going home to an empty house, however pleasantly well-kept the garden. On days like this, it's harder than usual to always be the sensible one, decent, levelheaded, a firm grip on her morality and an empty bed waiting at home. On days like this, she's deep-down tired of being sane and self-sacrificing. On days like this, it's hard to watch Gavin and Tim go off together with the day's squabbles forgotten in the ease of shared domesticity, Patrick's face lighting up as he phones his wife to let her know he's on his way and his insane manager hasn't achieved his death or maiming today, Carole doing quite an impressive job of pretending she's going home but with her precious babies around her.
On days like this, it's hard not to suspect that people like Helen and Michael have all the fun. Hard not be childish and petulant and whine, at least to herself, that it's just not fair.
In her most exhausted, aching, uncharitable moments, Laura asks herself what the hell it is about Helen. It's beyond all reason that a skinny, frumpish, middle-aged mother of five is so damn irresistible to men. There must be something about her, something that makes them gravitate to her.
Something to justify Gordon keeping her on a pedestal, made of gold so that it will never tarnish, no matter how badly Helen behaves.
Laura pulls her sweat-damp hair out of its band and shakes it loose. Stupid to speculate like this. She knows perfectly well what it is about the other woman. Helen is anything but innocent, but there is something very much of the damsel in distress about her, a drowning Ophelia with straggling hair and valium-happy eyes cloaking desperation; it's only natural to want to pull her to dry land and embrace her protectively. Laura knows that's how Gordon first met her and will always see her, a pathetic figure with an abusive boyfriend who deserves so much better, who needs to be taken care of and loved. Gordon's like that. Laura feels the familiar - well, more a mess than an emotion, frustration and humour and reluctant, fierce tenderness tenderness all tangled up together until she can't sort them out anymore than she can make sense of Julie's filing system - feelings that mean Gordon Brittas to her well up. Gordon wants to make the world better, and Helen is all part of that.
She can't blame him. If Laura had attracted to women, she might have fallen for Helen herself. As it is, she finds herself Helen's champion and protector in any case. Poor darling Helen; it couldn't be denied that being married to Gordon was an agony to her, and it was not helpful at all to wonder what Gordon would be like with a stronger wife, one who shared his own morality, one who could, perhaps, manage him, just a little.
You can't betray your own damsel in distress, not once you've taken up her colours.
Laura and Gordon have this in common: they are Helen's protectors. And it's really, really not done for two knights in shining armour to leave their damsel to the dragon and fall into each other's arms.
Laura turns her face up to the hot water of the shower, lets it vibrate on her face, provide an innocent reason for the heat. It's no good, pursuing impossible lines of thought. And her betraying self - the self that wanted Michael Farrell even when she knew he was no good, would hurt her, it's not as if she didn't know in advance how it all would turn out - is both insane to have the kind of thoughts it does, and eminently lacking in commonsense or logic. After all, good, sensible, married Laura had kissed Gordon still, and what had it got her? No Hollywood passion, no fairytale romance, just lips against hers as unresponsive as rubber and a body frozen with shock. He hadn't, for example, turned into the kiss, wrapped arms that Laura knows are strong and muscled from conscientious exercise around her, turned all that single-minded attention to detail and earnestness and intensity into the kiss... Kissed her deep and hard, so that there was no guilt left, no uncertainty, only a tongue in her mouth and hands in her hair, warmth and strength and the chance, just for once, to stop being strong, to melt and give in.
If he had, Laura would have hated it, she knows. She would have hated herself. She's been the victim of too many infidelities to want to be the instrument of the death of a man's honour. And a man who would kiss her back, who would ignore his unhappy, pregnant wife and make it with his married deputy, wouldn't be worthy of love. Wouldn't be Gordon Brittas.
Laura finishes giving herself a talking to, as sternly as she would lecture one of her (children) workmates, and knows the correct course of action is to switch the hot water off, get dressed and go home. Be sensible.
Instead she curls up on the bottom of the shower and rests her head on her knees, water pounding over her.
Gordon Brittas loves his wife, and that's that. Laura loves Helen, almost despite herself, and that's equally final. And she loves Michael, much as she wishes she doesn't.
Whether she and Gordon might possibly, very possibly be in love with each other as well is entirely beside the point.
Laura has her off days, like anyone else. While they last, she really, really detests having to be the one sane woman in the asylum.