“I was telling you about how this is going to impact us, but you seem to have checked out there for a moment.”
“I’m sorry, Daniel. I just put two and two together and figured out that Newbold is Mitchell Newbold.”
“Yeah.” He didn’t seem surprised, which of course he wouldn’t be. He’s worked with him for years and traveled half way around the world with him. Twice. For me, the realization is only starting to seep into my mind.
“I was saying, we all agreed to forego our dividends until we can reimburse the fund for his buyout.”
“How long will that be?”
“We don’t know exactly. The accountants will have to take a close look, and I am sure it depends on investments and earnings, but it could be as long as two years, maybe less.”
“So, for the next two years, you won’t earn anything?”
“Not quite. I’ll earn my salary, but no dividends and no bonuses. That was kind of a sticking point for some of the partners. I wanted to make sure the staff still got their bonuses as it isn’t fair they should lose out because Newbold can’t keep his dick in his pants.”
Never in my life have I heard Daniel be so vulgar. I’ve known from his tone that he was upset since we spoke earlier this week, but I had no idea how angry and impactful this is for him.
“And there’s something else.”
In a moment, a feeling of hot panic comes across my face. I never told Daniel about my interaction with Mitchell at that first Christmas party. I know I should have, but I didn’t want to impact his relationship with his coworkers.
“I agreed to cover the girl’s expenses.” His revelation certainly isn’t what I expect.
“I’m sorry, Nat. I know I probably should have checked with you first, but it wasn’t something that could wait.”
“No, I mean, what expenses?”
“I hate that we didn’t talk about this first. I don’t ever want to keep anything from you.”
If either of us should feel guilty, I don’t think it is him.
“But it wasn’t a supposition. Her family actually made threats against her life. I paid for her to get a place in a town several hundred miles away, near another military installation, so she can have some protection and escape her family.”
“You paid for her apartment?”
“Yeah, I’m sorry I didn’t check with you first. I just couldn’t let something happen to her.”
This is one of those impetuous moments that needs no words. It reminds me of the first time we kissed, when he grabbed me and changed my entire focus. That’s how I kiss him now.
“You’re not mad at me?”
“Daniel, you probably saved her life. And her baby’s life.” I presume the woman plans to keep it – Afghanistan is not known for its freedom of choice.
He sits quietly, slumped into the mess of pillows and bed spread. I go to get ready for bed, knowing we are both exhausted and just need to decompress. I want to make love to him so much, but as I hobble the short distance to the bathroom, I wonder how we’re going to manage.
I wash my face, eyes closed, as I splash it with water until I grope for the hand towel that I know is hanging nearby. After I pat most of the moisture of my face, I open my eyes to see Daniel standing in front of me.
“I want to go back and be there. You know.” He looks at me, his face looking as guilty as when he first confessed to housing her.
I stop for a moment, trying to connect the dots without looking completely dense. Suddenly it hits me.
“You want to be there when the baby is born.” It falls out of my mouth as a statement, not a question.
He stands silent, the way he does when there is nothing to say because the answer is obvious.
“Do you want to be in the delivery room?”
Never, for as long as we will ever know each other, will he be able to be in the delivery room with me. I think that he is disappointed in me. This might be his only chance to experience what that’s like.
“No.” I am so relieved – relieved and spent, and just emotionally worn out from the life and death experiences of the week. I try to set the towel on the counter, and instead, find my weight being pressed upon it instead and I start crying.
“Oh, Nat, I am so, so sorry.” He sounds as if he is as exhausted and emotional as I am. We hold each other, and thankfully, the counter holds us both as we lean into it.
Time stops for us here. Our relationship started with us crying in each other’s arms, and frequently while in therapy, but it’s been a while since we have both needed each other’s strength so intensely.
When we finally pull away, I assure him as best I can.
“Daniel, I love you. I am so proud of you and the sacrifices you are willing to make – that you’ve always been willing to make – for others. You have more goodness in your heart than you can ever give to me, so it’s only fair that others benefit from it, too, and I think it’s important for you to help find a way to bring this new life into the world safely.”
I think about the life lost this week. I think about the lives he lost in his unit in Iraq. I cannot help but think about my Amelia and how my life – both of our lives – would have been different if her heart had the DNA of his heart.
“Daniel, everything about this feels completely right. Don’t apologize for anything. You are a hero. You are my hero, and now you are the hero for even more people.”
His smile unfurls, the size of which I have not seen in far too long.
“Besides, you have a project to finish. And Waterfield, Pruitt, Herston, Gransberry, Newbold, and McClure are going to need every penny they can get.”
“Waterfield, Pruitt, Herston, Gransberry, and McClure,” he corrects.
“Yes!” I look at him as I watch the weight lift from his shoulders.
“I cannot imagine what my life would be like if you hadn’t wandered into it and changed it forever. I will always love you, Mr. McClure.”
“I love you, Mrs. McClure.” Another kiss and then I shoo him out of the bathroom so I can finish my bedtime routine.
He stands in the doorway so I cannot close the door behind him.
“What?” I finally ask.
“Do you need help, Nat, you know getting ready for bed and all?” For a moment I wonder if he is trying to seduce me in the hotel bathroom until he points at my foot.
I look down and smile at my own clumsiness.
“If you only knew what my ankle and I have done this week on our own, you’d be amazed. Now I don’t know about you, but I’m tired and I’d like to get my butt into bed and maybe, just maybe mind you, make love to my husband.”
He smiles and winks and I am pissed at myself that I cannot go any faster to get myself into bed.