Hi guys...this is the last chapter. Thanks for all your comments! They make it all worthwhile...
Anger ch 8.
They both look at the London skyline for a few moments, unable to break the mounting tension between them. And it is Ruth who gives in first. 'Harry, I...'
'Did you have a nice holiday?', he asks flatly.
'I...there's something I need to say...I...'
'Because for someone who was supposed to stay home', he cuts in coldly, 'you look remarkably tanned. Given how appalling the weather has been here. Spent lots of time in your garden perhaps? Though I should think your garden is a bit short on olive trees', he adds ruthlessly.
She pales. 'You knew? How did you find out?'
'It doesn't matter how I found out. What matters is that...'
'Of course it matters! I travelled with one of the passports Zaf gave me when I left...I didn't need to use it at the time...so how on earth did you...My God. Please. Don't tell me that you asked Malcolm...' She steps away from him, shaking with nascent anger.
'I knew you'd lied to me. I needed to know where you were'.
'You had him check up on me? How dare you!', she flares up. 'How dare you spy on me!'
'Spy on you? I hate to remind you, Ruth, but when I ask you, as per regulations, whether you are travelling abroad, you must tell me so! I reminded you of the forms you had to fill, and…'
'Forms? You're telling me about forms? What's got into you!' she raises her voice, incensed by his self-righteousness. 'After what happened between us, you go to a former employee and pressurise him into spying on me, because of forms? Who do you think you are?'
'Your boss!', he almost shouts. 'What do you think? That you are owed special favours because of….because of our…non-existent relationship! My God, Ruth…who do you think you are?'
She gapes at him. 'Oh. I see. So if Tariq had gone to Cyprus without telling you….or Ros…you'd be reading them the riot act too…Rubbish. Utter rubbish.' He turns away from her, unwilling to confront her gaze. 'Or', she continues, coldly, ruthlessly, 'if I had gone to….to Luxembourg, you'd also be reading me the riot act. Christ. Listen to yourself….it's got nothing to do with one of your officers going abroad and not telling you, it's got everything to do with me going to Cyprus! At least be honest enough to admit it!'
'Fine! I'll admit it!', he grinds out, having completely lost control of their conversation. 'And what's wrong with that! Last time you were in Cyprus you had to flee because goons from Indian intelligence were coming after you, and shortly after that your lover died! Do you honestly believe that the people you knew there, Nico's family, George's friends…do you honestly believe they still think that the story you concocted when you first got there years ago is true? Don't you think that they know or guess some of your past? How could you be so stupid, Ruth! Rule number one, never, ever give away who you are and whom you work for except closest relatives! And if strangers find out, stay the hell away from them!', he yells. 'Have the three years of mindless clerical work you did there completely erased basic training?'
'My God', she whispers, 'you've lost your mind…what do you think could have happened? That I would have been kidnapped again? By whom? Who on earth would have any interest in….'
'Oh please. Cyprus is full of intelligence offficers from all over the world. Do you honestly believe that your presence would have gone unnoticed? People talk, Ruth. They talk, they gossip, and those talks and gossips are picked up by harmless looking tourists sitting in cafés and listening in on conversations, except that they are not tourists of course….' He cuts in savagely. ' Oh, listen, this British woman whose husband died in the UK a few months ago…you know, George, the doctor from the hospital…all very hush hush but apparently she was a spy…well, she is here. No, really? Yes, yes, she is, Pavlos saw her at the market the other day….that'show it all happens, as you should very well know! You compromised your safety, you compromised the service, you….how could you do this?'
And she remains silent. Because she knows, deep down, that he is right. That she was so focused on her quest for self-forgiveness, on trying to make it work with him, that she failed fully to take into account the risks she was running, and posing to hers. And yet…she won't back down. Not fully. She looks at him. 'I made a mistake. I'm sorry', she says simply. 'But so did you, so don't you dare shout at me for…'
'How many times!', he explodes. 'How many times do I need to apologise for choosing the lives of many innocent over his? This is hopeless….I don't see any point in…'
'That's not what I meant!', she says, aghast. 'Harry…' He looks at her, and her eyes are filled with tears. 'That's not at all what I meant. I meant the letter.'
'Which letter?', he asks warily, anger still resonnating in his voice.
'The letter you wrote to Maria, George's sister…handwrote, in fact. Rule number 2: do not ever, ever write anything which could be traced to you. I'd say handwriting is a pretty clear trace, wouldn't you?' He stares back at the skyline. 'And you practically pointed the finger at yourself, Harry. Remember that bit? About this man who was responsible for her brother's death, and who is not wicked, but will always wish that…'
He keeps staring ahead of him, unwilling, or unable, to face her fully. 'Yes, well', he says at last, 'I shouldn't have done that…it was…unprofessional.'
She shakes her head. 'Perhaps. But it was also human, Harry, just as my going to Cyprus was…'
'Look', he cuts in, 'I'm sorry I shouted at you. I shouldn't have. But….'
She moves closer to him, so close that they are almost touching each other. 'It's not about forms is it…or even about endangering the Service. Or at least not just about that. Is it?'
He swallows. 'No. Of course not. It's just that…imagining you out there…I was so afraid…'
'What were you so afraid of, Harry?', she asks softly.
He turns towards her, his eyes bleak, the lines on either side of his nose deeper than she remembered. 'I was afraid that they would get angry with you. That they would cause you pain' he says in a low, strained voice. 'Mostly…that you would spend all this time crucifying yourself for George's death and Nico's loss…That you would find that you couldn't even begin to forgive yourself….'
She looks down at his hands, holding on to the stone railing so tightly that his knuckles are white. She clasps his fingers in hers and leans against him. 'I needed to go. To say goodbye properly. To walk past the house one last time…to face Maria.' She chokes. 'I didn't see Nico. It wouldn't have been fair on him. But I needed to see his school, one last time…the beach where we used to go swimming. I needed to see George's grave…' His body is tense against hers, his hands stiff underneath her own. 'I needed to do this, Harry, for my sake mostly. But also for us. Do you understand?' she pleads.
'Us?', he asks shakily, a film of tears in his eyes.
She raises her hand to his cheek. 'Yes. Us. What did you think? That I'd given up on us?'
He sighs. 'I was worried you'd decide that your life isn't here after all…that despite everything Cyprus really was your home. That George was the man you loved.'
'Oh, Harry….' She shakes her head. 'I couldn't forget about you for three years while I was with him. I love you, Harry…you know that…and that kind of feeling doesn't go away overnight.' She strokes his cheek, unsure of herself suddenly. 'I still feel guilty', she says sadly. 'I always will. But I am slowly learning to forgive myself. And I want to be with you, more than ever. Will you….?'
He frames her face in his hands. 'Tell me this. When we are together…properly together….is there a part of you that will think of him?'
She allows her eyes to meet his, fully, unblinkingly. 'No. Never. Because you see…when I was with him, there was always a part of me who was thinking of you. You're all I want, Harry. All I ever wanted.'
He smiles, a slow, lovely smile which lights up his well worn features, and brings her mouth to his, in a long, deep, passionate kiss, delighting in the way she responds - fully, without restraint, letting years of longing finally burst out of their shell. They pull apart at last, still holding each other. 'It's been a very long time for me', he whispers.
'I know. Don't worry. We'll be fine. I promise.'
He kisses her again, thoroughly. 'You're not supposed to be here today, are you?' he says teasingly.
'No. What do you have in mind?', she replies with a playful smile.
'Early diner. Very early diner.'
'And then?', she asks mischieviously.
He grows serious. 'And then…whatever we both feel is right, Ruth.'
'Good. I love you, Harry.'
'I love you, Ruth.'