She smiled. “Okay, then. On my last day with you, I want you to know I love you and I’m glad I was too weak to break your nose the first time we met.”
He laughed and pushed his hands through his hair, graham crumbs dribbling onto his shirt. “Fair enough. On my last day with you, I want you to answer some questions.”
“Hah!” She lifted a wafer from his tray. “The doctor is in today, after all. Let’s have it, then.”
“You’ll answer honestly?”
“I’ve never lied to you, David.”
“I’ve withheld information. You’ve never done that?”
His response was to stand and put the kettle on, glancing out at the pier through the breakfast nook window as he stepped around her chair. A very distinctive fishing skiff rocked about ten metres off their buoy. “I guess Brian Stanley came back for a second look.”
Selena shrugged. “Jealous? Maybe you can woo him with some of your cookies.”
“He wishes he were so lucky.” David took the bowback next to hers, leaving a gap just wide enough to accommodate Barney. He huffed at David, then lay his snout on Lena’s knee. “Why don’t you want children?”
“Oh, fuck off.”
“Okay, I’ll try another one: Is it me?”
“I’m done fighting with you, David.”
“So just answer the question. What have you got to lose?”
It was a manipulation. He clearly did not believe there was true danger approaching. He had seen what Colin could do. David remembered. But she knew he had already rationalized away the footprints on the logging road and the words on the card. The threat that had sent him sprinting home had been reduced to a comfortable anomaly. And now he was managing her behaviour to produce manageable outcomes. His talent.
“It’s not you,” she said, because he was all she had to lose. “I never expected… this. I knew he would come for me, so my plans have always been relatively short-term. We buy things with cash. My contract at the school is annual. You know that. I can’t commit to decades, and I can’t put a child through that kind of loss.
“What if he’s not coming?” David held up his hands before she could protest. “Just humour me. Play along for a minute. You told me he died years ago. What if that were true?”
“A lot of things would be different.” She folded the parchment around the remaining peanut butter chocolate treats, turning the edges to form a neat package. “Are you coming?”
They scuffed into mud boots and trekked down the dock, Barney loping along beside. It took some shouting to rouse Brian, who was not immune to the afternoon heat and the sea’s easy sway. He motored close enough to exchange pleasantries and accept his gift, his face red hot even as the sun flushed the skies good night. “Britt will be right beside herself, Christophers. I better be on my way.”
As Brian turned his boat toward home, David said, “I want what they have.”
She settled back into him, warm and safe, his arms tight around her. “Maybe one day, you’ll have it.”
Barney paced the width of the dock, restless eyes scanning the darkening laneway. His long, low growl was lost in the rising twilight breeze.
© Desi S. Valentine, 2012