A Day in the Life
By S. Faith, © 2016
Rating: M / R (For Chapter 3)
Summary, Disclaimer, Notes: See Chapter 1.
Saturday, 14 May
"You. An actual holiday. I can hardly believe it." Eleanor Heaney entwined her fingers, then rested her chin on them, as she sat at the bistro table across from Mark. "Where are you going?" Then she lowered her voice, smirking a little. "And more importantly… are you going alone?"
He smiled a little. "I think you know, regarding that second question."
She sat upright in her chair, clapping her hands together. "Where are you going, then?"
"South of France."
"Ooh," she said. "Nice that you're taking a break from it all. Away from phone calls and emails…"
"Well, I'm not sure there's ever an escape from those," Mark quipped.
"All right, then. Away from other people," said Eleanor, winking.
"And how are you doing?" Mark said abruptly. "How's Kafir?"
"He'll be here in five minutes, so you can ask him yourself," Eleanor retorted; Mark couldn't help note, and not for the first time, how much lighter in spirit she was since knowing for certain her husband was here to stay. "So how's Bridget?"
Mark knew he could have said the same—as Bridget would likely arrive before long—but in truth, he was pleased to talk to someone about her who wasn't in the immediate circle of family and family friends. "She's well," he said. "She's still working as a freelancer."
"And a new, full-time job?"
"She's still thinking about what happens next," he said. "It's all still up in the air."
"I'm surprised to hear you so laid back about uncertainty," she said.
He knew what she meant. He was very much about plans and order. "I'm loosening up a little," he said.
"And how does she feel about this holiday trip?"
"I don't know," he said. "I haven't asked her yet."
"What? Why not?"
It wasn't rational, and he knew it. "It's only been a few months," he said. "I… don't want her to think it's all going too fast."
She smiled. "I really don't think you have a thing to worry about."
Bridget was late again, and she couldn't even blame not being able to slip out of work. Well, not work in an open office, anyway. She had gotten so caught up in research on a piece on which she was working that she'd lost track of time, and glanced up to realise she was due at the bistro in thirty minutes.
She hadn't done so bad, all things considered: she looked fairly to moderately presentable for the time constraint. The weather had turned pleasantly spring-like, so she had worn a new floral sundress she'd been saving, with a light cardigan to keep warm in the shade.
She arrived to find that she had been the last to arrive. She wasn't surprised; she usually was the last person to arrive to a lunch date. Mark's eyes scanned the room, then flicked back to her as recognition set in.
And then he smiled.
He got to his feet as she came near, grasping her elbow and kissing her lightly on the lips. "Hello, lovely," he said quietly, his gaze locked to hers. The butterflies in her stomach started doing somersaults.
"Hi," she said to him in that same low tone, then looked to Eleanor and Kafir. "And hello to you! You're looking so well."
And they both did. Eleanor's face looked a bit fuller now that she wasn't constantly worrying about their future. Kafir too looked less haggard, more well-rested, and he greeted her with a smile. "So how are you?"
She was hoping that Kafir had gotten work with Amnesty or some such, or Eleanor was working with Red Cross UK, but to her surprise, the married couple shared a look then turned back with broad smiles. "We're fine," said Eleanor. "All three of us."
It took a moment for the meaning to filter through, but when it did, she made a sound that was very like a squeal. "Oh my God, that's marvellous!" she said. "I'm so happy for you both! What a wonderful conclusion to this long nightmare."
"It has been a nightmare," said Kafir. "But at least there were silver linings. Meeting the two of you. And now the little one."
"How far along?"
"Just a tick over three months," she said, beaming proudly. Bridget counted back… and conception must have happened just around the court date, when their stress levels had plummeted. She was inordinately pleased.
"We sat here chatting for twenty minutes before these two arrived, and you never said a word," Mark said in a serious tone, but then smiled. "Your poker face is on point. You'll make a great mum. You'll both make great parents."
"Thank you," Eleanor said. "We've been talking, and since I'm working now with British Red Cross—" Ha! Bridget thought. "—that it might make sense to keep on doing that while Kafir keeps the baby at home."
"That sounds like a wonderful plan," Bridget said.
The server came to take the meal orders just then, and talk moved to other things. The lunch was perfectly enjoyable all around; she was glad to have made a friend in Eleanor and Kafir, though to be honest Eleanor seemed so much more of a 'real adult' than she could ever hope to be. Even more than Magda, and that was saying something.
Before long they were saying their goodbyes, peppered with declarations like "So good to see you!" and "Let's do this again soon." But it was something Eleanor said to Mark, something that Bridget suspected she wasn't supposed to have overheard, that confused her completely.
"Keep taking care of yourself and of her, and have a nice time, all right?"
While Bridget walked away with Mark—no firm plans had been set for after the group lunch, but she figured he would just come to her flat, so that they could spend time together—she asked him, her hand in his, "What did Eleanor mean by that?"
"'Have a nice time'," she said.
"Ah," he said, looking down as they walked. When they got to his car a few short steps later, he turned to look at her. He seemed so nervous, unaccountably so. "I… I'm taking a holiday. A week in Marseille."
"Oh," she said. "That's… lovely."
"I was hoping you'd join me."
She blinked, thinking she'd misunderstood. "A holiday with you?"
"It sounds lovely," she said, "but I don't know if I can afford a holiday, or the time away from working. I'm doing all right with freelance, but without the full-time work…"
He chuckled, then took her hands in his. "Perhaps I wasn't clear," he said. "I want you to be my guest. See, I want to take a holiday, but I don't want to go alone. And honestly, I don't really want to be away from you for a week."
It astounded her, really. How Mark had gone from the cold, brusque man she'd met on assignment, to this, with his emotional, almost vulnerable justification for wanting to take her with him. It was a transformation, really, and she was thankful to have elicited it, because she could easily see falling in love with him.
Perhaps she already was.
She felt her eyes brimming with happy tears, and she smiled, threw her arms around his neck and kissed him quickly on the lips. "When you put it that way," she said, "I guess I'd better go find my passport, eh?"
She loved her life. She fucking, fucking, fucking loved her life.