This is a continuation of my story New Year. I'm a bit nervous to be taking the plunge again . . . but here I go!
Anna checked her hair in the full length mirror outside the bathroom, practiced a smile, and remembered to remove her cardigan, tossing it carelessly on the back of a nearby chair.
She walked back to the bed, sat down on it, crossed her legs. She carefully arranged her laptop, ensuring the webcam pointed away from the hotel suite's large window. She forced herself to smile again, chose her contact, left-clicked, waited for the call to be answered, for an image to appear on the screen.
It finally did.
"Mom!" Robin's voice, Robin's face. And next to her, Emma. "It's so good to hear from you! It's been almost a week. I thought you were going to call us as soon as you got there. I was getting worried."
"We miss you, Grandma," Emma added, serious. "When will you be home again?"
Anna responded with a smile that was genuine, though slightly sad. She hoped Robin would think the sadness feigned. "I miss you too, Pumpkin. But Grandma just left on her trip, so I won't be back for a little while. Remember I promised to buy you a really nice present? I haven't found the right one yet."
Robin grinned. "I have a feeling it's going to take Grandma a few weeks of lying on the beach drinking Piña Coladas . . ."
Ann shook her head, corrected her. "Mai tais."
Robin laughed. ". . . to find you the perfect gift, Emma. And remember, Grandma's tired. She's gone away to rest. We miss her, but we're happy she's finally taking a vacation. She works too hard."
"To no success," Anna mumbled.
But Robin heard her. "Everything is fine here, Mom. I think the media have completely forgotten about the shootings. It's almost as though they never happened. Not one of those reporters, those vultures, cared about justice for any of the victims, especially not for Sonny"
Anna felt the muscles in her right shoulder tighten. She'd never understood her daughter's affection for Corinthos. And yet, she recognized her own responsibility for that affection. Robin never would have turned to Sonny if Anna had been in Port Charles while her daughter was still young, impressionable, and vulnerable.
"I know you did your best to catch his murderer. And we both know what Giordano's disappearance means. He'll never pay for his crimes because he's dead."
Swimming with the fishes, Anna thought, his body weighted down somewhere at the bottom of Port Charles harbour. Good riddance. Detective Gauthier of the Montreal police service had uttered an expletive, then a partial prayer of gratitude to Saint Jude, patron of lost causes, when she'd telephoned with news of Giordano's probable death.
All she said was, "Let's not discuss this in front of Emma, Robin."
Robin pulled her daughter onto her lap and stroked her hair. "Emma's a big girl now, Mom. And she knows all about the family business. Don't you, Bud?"
Emma nodded solemnly. Anna felt her heart drop a bit.
"Well, it's not the family business right at the moment," she said brightly. "Grandma's off the clock. Shall I describe the beautiful villa I'm sitting in right now? Or would you be too jealous if I told you how wonderful it is here in Montserrat?"
Robin rolled her eyes. "Good grief, Mom, I don't want to hear about it. I want to see it! Why not walk around with your laptop and show us?"
Anna shook her head. "Sorry, I can't do that. The battery's practically gone – I forgot to charge it, and all I have with me is my short travel cord. So my description will have to suffice. Close your eyes and imagine what I'm about to describe. Close them. Both of you. Emma, no peeking."
Robin laughed, put her hands over her daughter's eyes.
Anna then shut her own. "Okay, so this place is up on a cliff, and there's a terrific view outside the sliding doors in the living room. There's ocean on three sides. The most beautiful blue you can imagine stretches as far as your eye can see. There's a reef about a half a mile out, and you can see the waves crashing up against it, and then the water from there to the shore is calm, almost flat, so lovely. I can hear the sound of the water when I sit out on the patio beside the pool. And when I'm in the water, Emma, it almost looks as though I'm in the ocean because I can't see the edge of the cliff at all."
"It's an infinity pool, Emma," Robin explained. "She knows what that is, Mom. We watch House Hunters all the time."
"I sometimes forget how sophisticated you are, Pumpkin," Anna apologized. "So, there's an infinity pool here, Emma, and I like to sit in it and imagine I'm swimming in the ocean."
"You can't swim," Robin corrected. "You're a terrible swimmer."
"Well, I don't really have the body for swimming," Anna admitted. "I sink more than I float. But that's neither here nor there. It's really very lovely. And when I get out of the pool, I can go out into the side garden. There are avocado and mango trees here. I had an absolutely luscious papaya for breakfast this morning."
"Ooh, luscious," Robin mocked.
"Quiet, you," Anna laughed, her eyes still shut, picturing the scene herself. "And at night I sit and watch the sunset. The sun flames up red and gold just before it slips down under the horizon. If there are clouds, they glow pink and yellow, and everything becomes really calm. I don't know why, but when the sun sets, the wind dies down, the waves go quiet, even the birds go quiet, and everything becomes still."
Anna stopped speaking. The three generations of women sat silent together for a moment.
Then Anna opened her eyes. "It's really very peaceful. It's just what I need right now."
Robin opened her eyes. "I'm glad, Mom."
Emma opened her eyes last. "It's okay if you don't come home right away, Grandma. It sounds really nice there."
Anna smiled. "Thank you, Emma. But I promise you I won't stay away for very long."
Robin kissed the top of her daughter's head. "It's nice of you to tell Grandma she can stay, Sweetheart," she said to Emma, and then, asked her mother, "Where's Dad? Can we say hi to him too?"
Anna hoped her smile didn't change, still looked natural and not forced. "He's completely exhausted, Robin. Last time I checked he was snoozing by the pool. I think he's been over-exerting himself a bit."
Robin shuddered. "Okay, this time I'll insist: let's not discuss this in front of Emma, Mom."
Anna was nonplussed. "I'm sure I don't have any idea what you think I meant, but to clarify: he's been overdoing his rehabilitation. We've been training again – Karate, Krav Maga. He runs every morning. I tell him he's pushing too hard, but he won't listen, of course. He's trying to regain some of what he lost while in the coma."
"You're both supposed to be resting."
"You'll get no argument from me. Since we agree, and since your father's finally doing just that, let's leave him be for now. I'll tell him we talked. I promise he'll call you later." Anna changed the subject. "I'm sure he'll be interested to know how your interview went. Did you get the position?"
Robin didn't smile, she beamed. "Yes I did. You're looking at the newest member on faculty at Port Charles University: I'm an honest-to-god part-time associate professor of Medicine. I start in a month, at the beginning of the new term. I lecture two days a week, do rounds at the hospital two days a week, and spend Fridays in the lab. I'm so excited."
Anna put her hand to her mouth and shook her head. "Oh my god," she exclaimed, more shrilly than she'd intended. "That's so wonderful. My baby girl's a professor. I'm so proud!"
She and Robin smiled at each other across the miles. Then Emma began to fidget. Robin looked down, then up again. "I love you, Mom. But we should go. I should get Emma's supper."
Anna nodded. "I love you back, my girl. And I promise I'll be home soon."
Robin's hand reached out toward her computer. Before she disconnected, she said, "Tell Dad I love him too."
Anna nodded again. "And my love to Patrick."
The screen went dark. Anna shut her computer, held it in her lap for a moment before putting it down on the bed. She unfolded her legs, stood, up, and looked out the window. Only the sky was blue. She gazed down across a wide street busy with traffic to a park crowded with paths, deciduous trees (not palms), a fantastic sculpture. The only water in the scene before her poured from a fountain that once stood proudly in Trafalgar Square.
Anna walked over to collect her cardigan and put it on. No cool tropical breezes here, just excessive air conditioning that overcompensated for oppressive heat and humidity.
Waves of hot air shimmered up off the pavement, distorting her view of the park. She checked her cell phone – no messages.
Three hours later there was a knock at her door. She rushed to answer it.
Robert stood in the hallway.
"Thank god," Anna said, beckoning him in; "I was so worried." She shut the door behind him. "Why didn't you tell me you were going out? Where the hell did you go? This morning when I first realized you'd left . . ." – she reached for his hand; he allowed her to take it but didn't grasp hers back – ". . . I panicked. You promised me you wouldn't do this again, wouldn't go off on your own."
Robert extricated himself, walked further into the room toward the bed, and sat down. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to worry you. I had to see someone. I didn't think it would take this long."
Anna followed and sat down beside him. "Had to see someone? Who? I should have come along. We agreed we'd watch each others' backs."
Robert shook his head. "No. It was an old acquaintance, someone I could trust, someone nervous about being exposed. I couldn't take you. I had to go alone."
Anna pressed her hand on Robert's thigh. "Who, Robert? Did he have information for us? What did you think he might know?"
Robert looked away. Anna pulled back. "I thought this person might be able to confirm that your," he grimaced, "doctor finally surfaced here. Though I still think we're barking up the wrong tree."
Anna put her hands in her lap and looked down at them. "We have no alternative, Robert. According to my file she may have come here. We at least have to check out the possibility."
"Bloody WSB," Robert growled, "couldn't find their collective ass with their collective hands in their collective back pockets."
"We have no other lead. What did your acquaintance say?"
Robert looked up and into Anna's eyes. "She said she'd find out what she can. She'll look through the files at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, see if she can find a certificate of registration to practice medicine issued within six months of . . ." – Robert paused, couldn't bring himself to say. "Anyway, she'll look for any description that fits the information in your file. She'll pass along all references to middle-aged female doctors applying in 1992 or 1993 from out-of-country to practice medicine. I suspect the list won't be very long."
Anna noted the pronoun but didn't comment. "Our target might have falsified her documents, might have claimed to have an in-country medical degree."
Robert shook his head. "It would be too easy for the authorities to check and too difficult for her to manage confirmation at the source here. If she worked for the WSB even for a short time, she likely had connections and could have arranged for counterfeit documents to be sent from somewhere in the United States."
"So we wait," Anna concluded. "How long will it take your source to check the files?"
"She didn't know. A week at least. She may have to be on-site, access paper archives."
"And she has the clearance to do that kind of thing?"
"If she didn't," Robert answered tersely, "I wouldn't have asked for her help."
Anna went quiet. After an awkward silence, Robert stood and announced, "I'm tired. I'm going back to my room for a rest."
Just before he reached the door, Anna said, "Our daughter got the job. She was over the moon. You should call to congratulate her."
Robert stopped for a moment, his back to her, and stood with his shoulders hunched.
"Remember, we're in Montserrat. Tell her that for some reason Skype stopped working on my computer. Use your cell phone. And if she asks for me, tell her I'm in the bath. Or better yet, call her the next time we're in a room together for more than ten minutes. Whenever you'd like that to be."
Robert opened the door and left. Anna turned and stared again at the park outside her window.