Thanks to everyone for their encouragement! A HUGE thanks to robertannafan: I'm writing to try to put the hundreds of hours I've spent on your site watching videos to good use (so many happy, happy hours!).
I had decided weeks ago to set the opening of the story in Ottawa. Yesterday there was a terror attack on Parliament. The images in the news have been shocking to anyone who's ever visited or lived in that beautiful, peaceful city.
At 9:00 the sun had set and Anna was feeling restless. She changed into her running gear and headed out into the thick, still-warm evening air, hoping to work out the vibrating, buzzing tension in her nerves, or, poor substitute, exhaust herself enough that she could sleep.
She crossed the street and entered the park, running past the fountain and along the lighted paths until she reached the canal. Here she turned right. The canal water was smooth; everything was quiet; there was no wind, not even the slightest breeze. Anna's face was already wet with perspiration, her hair clinging to her forehead, her cheeks. She brushed it away as best she could, and set a steady pace. All along the canal, dimly lighting her way, lamps glowed white and round from above and, when the path veered close enough and no trees blocked her view, reflected up at her from the water. Cicadas sang in the trees. Anna felt her feet hitting the pavement, hard. She pushed herself forward. She'd run as far and as long as she was able, she decided.
Robert lay on his bed not watching the television, which was on. He didn't know what else to do.
He thought about Anna in her room. He thought about the revelations of the last two weeks.
He thought about their son.
A son who might be normal or who might have been . . . damaged by the explosion. A son who might be free or who might be a prisoner. A son who might be alive or who might be dead.
The other child they'd wanted, planned for, hoped for. A child they'd lost.
He thought about Anna. He thought about the lies. He thought about all the pain.
Anna had reached the lake, her chosen turn-around point. She crossed the bridge to get to the opposite side of the canal and headed back toward the city centre. She wasn't entirely sure how safe the path was here and partly hoped someone would confront her, threaten her. She could use an outlet for her frustration and anger. She could use an encounter with someone who deserved to be taken down. She'd enjoy surprising a thug who mistook her for an easy mark. She didn't have her gun, but then she didn't need it.
Robert turned off the television and walked to look out his window at the lights of the city. He'd been here only once before, years ago, and only for a single day. It had been the first step Robert had taken back to her, the first step he'd taken to learn the truth about Anna, about their marriage, and about her betrayal. The city was different now, more energetic and more alive. Back then it had been a sleepy backwater, astonishing for the capital of a nation. It had been a place agents went to die – or were sent to be disciplined, or to hide. Robert suspected Bronson had been sent there as punishment after the debacle in the Paris shipyard. He'd been one of Anna's handlers. And Robert had shot him almost dead.
Then in 1985 Robert travelled to corroborate Anna's story that she'd been forced to complete her final assignment as a DVX agent to save his life.
Bronson had been quite forthcoming, even jovial. Yes, she'd tried to leave the DVX. Yes, they'd threatened her with the death of her new husband. Yes, she'd been compliant, amenable, obedient. Anything to keep her beloved husband safe.
Why did Robert care after all these years? Bronson had asked him. Why did it matter?
What he should have asked was why Robert hadn't cared for all those years before, why he hadn't questioned or wondered or suspected there was more going on than he'd been told, or been inclined to believe.
Robert wondered if Bronson was still alive and did a quick mental calculation. If he were, he'd be at least ninety years old.
No one approached her, no one stopped her. Damned polite country. She could see the lights of the downtown centre both sparkling in front of her and reflected below in the canal. She was glad she was almost back at the hotel. She suddenly felt weary and very, very alone. She wanted a shower and her bed.
She wanted Robert. She wanted home.
She pushed through her exhaustion and ran even faster.
Robert sat down heavily in an armchair near the window. It was uncomfortable, a hotel chair, an item of furniture required by the space but practically useless and therefore, Robert was pretty sure, almost never used.
He thought of Anna again. He remembered two moments: when she'd told him she hadn't been pregnant when Faison kidnapped her and when she'd told him the child taken from her in 1992 was in fact not hers but theirs.
Wanting to avoid other guests, Anna took the stairs to the eighth floor. She struggled to free her key card from the security pocket of her running shorts, slowed, and stopped at Robert's door. She stood there for a moment. She hesitated. Then she knocked softly.
Robert heard the knock but didn't move, almost didn't breathe. He hoped she wouldn't knock again.
She didn't. She waited for a moment, then swept a hand angrily through her damp hair. Sweat had trickled down from her forehead; it stung her eyes. She walked down the hallway to her own room and, vision blurred, somehow managed to insert the card into the lock, opening the door. Ashamed, she slipped from the hallway into the darkness of her hotel room.
So many lies.
That she'd betrayed him for the money, nothing more. That she'd been scarred, not that she'd chosen to do penance. That their lives weren't intertwined, that he could resume his simple life with Holly once she'd left. That the mysterious man on Spoon Island was only the writer P.K. Sinclair. That she could handle Cesar Faison and prevent him from revealing their secrets. That he was no longer a threat. That they could choose not to let him ruin their lives. And most recently, that his actions over twenty years before hadn't caused them to lose anything more than each other.
But there were still others. That Shaun hadn't known the identity of the double agent. That the Swede was dead. That Anna had willingly left with Faison; that they were lovers. That the WSB was caring for Anna after the explosion. That Robert's loyalty was the price of her safety and recovery.
He'd let himself believe every one of those goddamned lies. He hadn't questioned any of them because he'd been a coward, because he'd wanted to believe the truth was uncomplicated, or because he'd wanted to believe his cynical, self-righteous opinions of the world were true.
Others had lied to manipulate him. But she had lied – every time – to protect him.
He'd let them use him. He'd let her shield him from difficult truths. He'd let her protect him. And how had he repaid her? He'd let her down.
When he hadn't believed their lies anymore – that Anna was still brain-damaged, that she was progressing but slowly, that she therefore still needed their care – he'd assumed she was dead. Again he'd chosen a simple truth, a truth that absolved him of guilt for his inaction and allowed him to justify further inaction.
But what if he'd looked for her when he'd first begun to doubt? What if he had found her? Would she have remembered sooner? Would she have considered him strong enough to know what had happened? Would she have trusted him with the truth?
Back then, if she had, he might have deserved the truth and her trust. But he didn't now.
Anna stripped her clothes as she walked to the bathroom – running top, bra, shorts, underwear, socks. Each item of clothing lay on the floor exactly where she'd left it discarded. She didn't have the energy anymore to care. She turned the shower on full force and stepped in.
The water was as hot as she could stand it. She leaned into the stream and felt its pressure at the top of her head and hairline. It ran down her face, making it difficult for her to breathe. As she stood there, she remembered Robert's expression when she'd told him the child stolen from her was not Faison's but his. And she had a sudden, clear realization: this time, she thought, Robert won't forgive me.
Robert stood up. He walked to the door of his room. He walked quietly down the hallway to Anna's. He stood there for a moment, unsure. Then he knocked softly.
Anna didn't hear him.
He didn't knock again. He walked back to his room, ashamed.