copyright 2011/all rights reserved
OIL IN WATER
a novel by
Dave Hartos scrambled eggs over a low flame, his broad shoulders leaning into the alchemical task as the runny, yellow liquid sizzled into tangible shape. Satisfied with their consistency, he scooped two heaping portions onto plates and flushed the pan with water, scaring the steam out of it.
Sonia found him at the sink, still holding the pan, staring out the window. She approached on silent feet, wrapping her arms around his waist, a difficult task given her considerable girth around the mid-section. Even at 5’8′, her lips reached only as high as his shoulder blades so she planted a kiss between them. Hart set the pan down and scooped her up.
“Soon my fingers won’t touch back here.” He laughed.
Sonia smacked him, then sniffed the air. “Mmmmm. Lightly scrambled with cheese.” She flopped down at the table and pulled the heaping plate to her. “Besides. You can’t care that much if you’re serving me portions like this.” She spread blackberry preserves on toast and bit into it with unbridled delight.
Hart rubbed her belly, the size of a bowling ball, in slow, concentric circles, then stopped.
“Felt that, did ya’?” She moved his hand to the side and he felt the baby kick again.
“Stronger every day.” He kissed the spot and was rewarded with a light jab to the face.
“You’re a glutton for punishment,” she said, shoveling a forkful of egg into her mouth. “So. Tell me. What strange and dangerous task awaits you? Where’s he sending you?” Sonia’s eyes watered and she became preoccupied with her juice.
Hart set her glass down and took both her hands. “Iraq. I’m off to Iraq. It should only take two weeks, less if things go well, and then I swear I won’t leave your side for a second until the baby’s in college. Not even when you have to go to the bathroom.” He managed a weak smile.
“David. . . I was kidding. I knew you were going away, but. . . .” Her eyes turned hard. “Bicky’s idea, I presume?”
“Desert life’s tough on machinery. Some of the older rigs have problems. Akanabi volunteered to help get the equipment up to speed.”
“Volunteered? Since when does a corporation volunteer to do anything?” She spat out the words, sat back and folded her hands over her belly. Dark circles hung beneath Sonia’s hazel eyes, clutching weariness to them like a baby blanket.
Hart said, “What’s good for Akanabi is good for the country. The money they make will help them build their infrastructure.”
“You’ve been brainwashed,” Sonia huffed. “Likely in response to toiling under the close tutelage of my father for the last seven years.”
Hart stood and refilled his coffee. “I’ve got to assess the rigs and decide what needs to be torn down. I can’t do it from here, Sonia. I have to see them for myself.”
“And I guess Akanabi’s going to do the rebuilding, right?” She wiped her mouth with a napkin, stood, and stretched her back. “You know what I find so repugnant? The war had barely begun when American contractors were staking their claims to rebuilding the country. Don’t you find that attitude a bit imperialistic. I mean, shouldn’t the Iraqis make those kind of decisions?”
“Sonia. Please. It’s not that simple. If that country is ever going to get on its feet, it needs outside assistance.”
“Assistance. Here’s how we assisted. We bombed them into infancy in the first Gulf War, took out their power stations and hospitals, bombed the crap out of their water supply stations. Their barely crawling because of our assistance.
Hart leaned back and took a sip of his coffee. “Two weeks and I’ll be back. I promise.” “Somebody else can go. Someone who’s not about to have a baby.” She wrapped a hand around her throat to stall the inner turmoil threatening to jump her voice.
“There is nobody else.”
“Sonia. No more.”
He brushed the hair back from her long, angular face and kissed her open mouth. She pulled back to speak, but he shushed her as one does with an agitated child, then kissed her again. She broke free and sat down.
“What happened to the idealist I fell in love with?” she asked.
“Baby, you fell in love with a chemical engineer. This is what we do.”
“It’s not all you do.”
“No, but it makes way more money than most things.” Hart said. “What if I couldn’t afford to buy you the things you’re used to? What then?”
“Money is not something we need, David. Time is.” She took her plate to the counter, dumping the eggs in the sink.
“I don’t want to leave you. I just don’t have a choice.”
“All we have are choices,” she murmured, but the hostility was gone from her voice. She rinsed her plate and ran the garbage disposal. He came up behind her and massaged her neck, lightly at first, and then with more pressure. Sonia leaned against the sink and gave over to his healing hands, allowing her neck to fall to the side.
His nimble fingers poked and prodded, kneading the muscles, banishing the knots. “I promise when I get back we’ll talk about this until you can’t stand it anymore.”
“You could be a healer, David, with hands like those. You don’t have to work in oil.”
Hart leaned into Sonia’s hair and kissed her ear. “Friends?” She tried to say something but he had moved to her lower back, rubbing with great care. Sonia moaned.
“David, what if…”
“When I come back, we’ll talk to your father. Maybe there’s something else I can do. Who knows? I may have to give him another year, but we’ll set a definite date. I promise.” He turned her face to him and kissed her nose. “The best part of my job was always the field work, but I’m less inclined to go tearing around the world now,” he said, moving his hands down to her belly.
Hart pulled Sonia over to a chair and sat her gently on his knees. She put her arm around his shoulders and rested her head in the crook of his neck, listening to the steady rhythm of his breathing. He smiled and whispered in her ear.
“I’m still the same idealist I was when you met me. I just got sidetracked is all.”
to be continued. . .