The Secrets We Keep – Part 41

“Nat, my god, what happened?”

“I broke my ankle.”  I am as anxious to get to the room as he is.  I can’t wait until I have to try to pull the room key out of my purse.

I can see him formulating a range of questions, both by the look on his face and the movement of his mouth when he finally just blurts out, “When?”

“Monday night.”

“Are you okay?”  I keep my eyes on getting everything into the elevator, pushing the buttons and watching the door as if it might open again.  It’s what we do in an elevator.

“Well, I have a broken ankle, so there’s that.”  I look away from the door and at his face and he might be speechless or he might just be processing.  He’s definitely exhausted.   Somehow, though, it’s not his usual silence while he thinks of the right words.  He has no words to offer.

“I’m fine.  Let’s just get to the room so I can put it up.”

It’s not until we get to the door of the room, and I hand him the drinks and remove the bag of food from its perch on top of my purse so I can retrieve the key that he finally begins to process the situation.

“You didn’t say anything all week.”

“As if you would have been able to do anything about it?”

If he wasn’t blindsided enough when he got into the car, he is completely spent by the time he enters the room.  He leaves his bags in the hallway as the door closes behind us while he sets the drinks on the first surface he finds.  I set my purse down on the bed and wander back for his bags.

“No, no,” he brushes me aside and goes for them.

I start to sit on the edge of the bed, but instead lean against the dresser and start pulling food out of the bag.  Once he’s in and clears the entrance to the bathroom, I go to wash my hands.  He shoves the bags in the closet and follows me into the tiled room.  He wraps his arms around me, and we just lean into each other, wordless, physically dulled, hungry, tired, in desperate love with one another, and thankful to be together in a strange bathroom.

He reaches his hands into the warm water and I wash them for him, and when finished, he dries my hands blended with his.  When religious people speak of the two shall become one, I’m pretty sure they mean moments like this.  He sets the towel on the counter and puts his arms around me.  We may never eat at this rate, but I’ll be damned if I am going to fall asleep on this tile floor.

I pull away and take him by the hand.  He flicks off the light in that room and I turn on another one in the main room.  He sits on the edge of the bed and tries to pull me next to him.  I resist knowing that the sooner we eat, the sooner we can lie down for the night.  He resigns himself to taking my lead and accepts the food I hand him, the paper napkin I place on his lap, and the drink I put in his hand once its straw is inserted.  He takes a big drink, closing his eyes as if he’s just crossed the Sahara, and then breathes, and stands to put it on the nightstand.  He repositions himself against the headboard and I join him there once I have my serving.

“So, what happened?”

“Daniel, it is a long story, and one that I will tell you in detail tomorrow when we drive home,” we’ll have hours together to discuss the details, “but I’m thankful to have a broken ankle.”

He looks at me with the confused expression I expect.

“I initiated a search and rescue Monday night after dark.”

I can tell he wants to interrupt to share his two cents about my wellbeing, but I hold my hand up to stop him.

“I know what you’re going to say, and you can say it to me tomorrow, but a little boy is alive and his father is not, and if I had to choose, I’m glad to be the one who only has a broken ankle.”

He sets his sandwich down and grabs my head on either side and pulls me against his shoulder.  We rock back and forth for several moments as if he is taking the rest of the story and absorbing it off my shoulders, out of my head, and away from my heart.  I start crying, even though I am feeling brave.  I just can’t be strong when he has the ability to be stronger.

When he finally releases me, he asks for his own confirmation, “But you’re okay?”

“I’ll heal.  I don’t need surgery, and I feel like a klutz, but I’m alive.  And you’re alive.  And we’re together, and that’s enough for me.”

He leans in and kisses me, and then to lighten the situation, steals a French fry out of my hand with his teeth.

“Okay, enough about me.  Why are you home early?  What’s going on at work?”

He takes a bite of his sandwich, then another.  Then a drink.  And then, finally, he starts to answer.

“I’d like to be able to give you as simple an answer for tonight as you gave me, but it’s not that simple.”

I reach out for his free hand.  He needs my support.  I need his.  We’re tangled in this together.

“Newbold is no longer with the firm.”

That’s big news, admittedly, but I have a feeling the Titanic hitting this iceberg is just the beginning.

“We held a partner’s meeting today, and after a ton of debate and legal and financial wrangling, we are going to buy him out.”

While I am sure this news will impact Daniel, and Mr. Waterfield, and all the other partners, I immediately assume this means he’s going back to Afghanistan.  I wait a suitable amount of time to ask, although it’s probably only been less than a minute, and definitely not long enough.

“Do you have to go back?”

“I don’t have to, but I’m going to.” He knows what I mean.

Damn it!  I thought we were safe!  I thought this was all over!  I thought tonight’s exhaustion was the end of this!

I try to remain calm.  I fail.

“Why?  What happened?”  I demand to know more.  We can’t save this conversation for the car tomorrow.

“Jesus, where do I start?”

I take time to clean up the dinner trash, giving him time to pull his thoughts together.  By the time I finish, he’s ready.

“Newbold and I have been on this project since the beginning, and now that he’s gone, it makes sense that I have to carry the baton.”

“That makes sense, but why is he gone?”

Again, he waits to summon the correct words.  I don’t mean to be impatient, but I will settle for any words at this point.  I remind myself that this is Daniel’s style, and I love his style.

“When we left last time, do you remember that he made other travel plans on his way back?”

“Vaguely.”

“Apparently, he has, shall we say, a woman in every port.  He was hooking up with someone that day and that’s why he made the change.”

I’m don’t particularly care for men like that, even though in my previous life, I dated men like that.  I don’t think you remove a firm’s partner for that, though.

“When he and I were in Afghanistan last spring, he not only was in a hurry to get back to…” Daniel shrugs, “…whomever, but also was involved with a woman in country.”

“In Afghanistan?”

“Yes.”

“Someone in the military?”  I could see if he was having an affair with a married woman, that would be a big deal for both of them.

“No, a local girl.”

“A girl?”  Is he that kind of sicko?

“I mean, a young woman, but not that far removed.  I think she is nineteen or something.”  He stops for a swallow of his drink but appears ready to tell me more, so I just wait.

“Anyway, you can guess what happened next.  She is now expecting and because she is unmarried and an Afghani, there is a huge risk that her family will…”

“Will kill her because she has shamed her family.”  I finished his sentence, knowing that treating women like crap isn’t just something that happens in America.

‘Naturally,’ his hand gestures at me.

“I have never heard Mr. Waterfield raise his voice before, but he was adamant that Mitchell be fired.  And I’ve got to say, I don’t blame him.”

“Mitchell?”

“Yeah.  So, we spent hours today debating it and what it would mean for each of us.”

I think he was talking to me about the debate they had behind closed doors today, but my mind wandered off.  I know Mitchell.  I never knew his last name, but I absolutely know who he is, and I would have kicked him out the door myself if I had been in the room.

NEXT: The Secrets We Keep – Part 42

BACK TO THE BEGINNING

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: