copyright 2011/all rights reserved
a novel by
CHAPTER NINE (b)
They window-shopped along the streets of Houston in a haze of love and Hart admired his wife’s reflection in every storefront they passed.
When Sonia’s feet were so swollen they seemed to spill out of her shoes, she finally called the game. “How about a decaf cappuccino? There’s a little outdoor café a couple doors up.”
Hart carried a giggling Sonia the last three hundred feet and they sat down at a corner table with an umbrella for shade. The waiter materialized, took their order, disappeared. Hart placed Sonia’s feet on his lap and began to massage them. She groaned with delight.
“So what’s in the envelope?”
“You are the worst liar.”
Sonia’s blushed and tried to remove her feet from Hart’s lap but he held firm.
“Why do you have to be so nosey?”
“Just trying to keep you out of trouble, is all.” He tweaked a baby toe.
Sonia appraised her husband with narrowed eyes, the broad shoulders and chiseled arms, the blue eyes and wavy brown hair, the air of confidence that surrounded him, the gentle look he reserved only for her. With him, she was safe. She drew a breath.
“I was at Dad’s office. There was a report sitting on his desk written for that coalition of oil companies. So I looked through it.”
“And, I borrowed it. I wanted to read the rest.”
“When was that?”
“Yesterday. Bicky told me that if I didn’t give it back I’d be in danger. And if I told you about it, you’d be in danger, too.”
Hart guffawed. “He said danger, not trouble? And you believed him?”
“It says we don’t have much oil left,” Sonia said in a whisper.
A light flashed in Hart’s eyes and he snickered.
“It’s only dangerous for the oil companies because it’s overt admission. A smoking gun. If they didn’t write the report themselves they could dismiss it as rubbish. But to be caught red-handed with the information and do nothing to rectify the problem. It’s a time bomb, even to a largely self-regulated industry.”
“But Dad really believed…”
“Well, he may be right. But more than that, I think he senses a possible corruption of his power base and he’s trying to cover his tracks. He doesn’t know that you won’t do something stupid like give it to the newspaper. Not just the altruistic are passionate about causes, Sonia. I’m sure Hitler believed his own hype.”
“Are you comparing Bicky to Hitler?”
“No. Bicky’s got a better schtick. But there are one or two people that can still dwarf him in the power broker department. And he doesn’t want to piss any of them off. Sonia rubbed her head as if the whole conversation were giving her a headache.
“Why didn’t you just give it back to him last night?”
“I don’t know. I was thinking of using it to force his hand.”
“To do what?”
“To get you a job closer to home.”
Hart placed Sonia’s feet on the floor, leaned over and kissed her. “Well, I am home. For good.”
“What do you mean, for good?” Sonia asked.
“I mean, that was it. The last job for your Dad. Time to do something for us.”
Hart smiled and massaged Sonia’s fingers. Sonia stared at her husband for several moments before dropping her head back to smile at the sun.
Hart roused Sonia from a half-sleep as they pulled into the driveway sometime around 7 o’clock. He had plied her with all kinds of hot sauces at dinner because he’d heard they bring on contractions. Sonia had appeased him until her mouth couldn’t stand anymore. Hart laid a hand on Sonia’s belly, the only part of her not sleeping, when Sonia stirred.
“I think he’s doing backstroke,” he whispered. “C’mon. Let’s get you both inside.”
“Just take me with you. I’ll stay in the car.”
“And what? I go inside and drink cognac with your father? How’s that going to look?”
“It’s going to look like you can’t stand to leave me.” Sonia smiled and pouted at once. “Pleeeaaaase. Take me with you.”
“No. You need to rest. We’ve been going all day.”
“I’ll sleep in the car. I promise.”
“What if something happens. What if your water breaks? You’ll be in the car.”
“Helloooo.” Sonia pulled out her cell phone and jiggled it in Hart’s face.
“Alright, Miss Smart-Ass. Get your butt inside or I’ll kick it from here to Broad Street.”
“What if the boogy man gets me?”
“Sonia, c’mon. The longer we do this, the longer it is until I’m lying in bed with you.”
Sonia gripped the dashboard.
“Have it your way.” He ran around to the passenger side and hoisted his wife out of the car. She flailed and Hart buckled under the weight which got Sonia’s attention. She wrapped her arms around his neck and pantomimed the part of the damsel in distress. He staggered into the house and after several false starts because of mutual bouts of laughter, managed to navigate the stairs without mishap. He ceremoniously draped her across the bed, covered her with a hand-woven quilt and handed her the remote.
“There’s nothing I can say to make you change your mind?” she asked.
“It’s 7 o’clock now. I’ll be home by 9. Promise.”
“Enough of your promises, David Hartos. Call me later and let me know how late you’re going to be.” She smiled, tight-lipped and sad, and he brushed a lock of hair back from her eyes.
“Hey,” he said. “What’s wrong?”
“I missed your face.”
“After tonight you can look at it as much as you want. All day in fact.” The corner of her mouth suggested a smile. He stroked her belly gently in response, slowly moving his hand lower. Sonia moaned, rising to his touch.
“Based on field research, conducted today, I’d have to say that it’s not true what they say about pregnant women?”
“At least not this pregnant woman,” she replied, kissing him.
“Maybe I should just tell Bicky I’ll see him tomorrow.”
She grabbed his hand and kissed it. “I can wait. But hurry home.” He kissed her hard and turned to go, hesitating at the door to look at her.
“It only takes seven seconds to imprint an image in the mind forever. I’m fixing you in mine.
“Who told you that?” Sonia asked, smiling.
“My high school art teacher.”
“Well get going, Rembrandt. I’ll have use for you later.” She tossed a pillow at his head. He dodged it and headed down the hall, whistling.
Hart stood at the base of the stairs in the foyer and called up. “I’ll take the envelope for Bicky,” he yelled. From their bedroom on the second floor came Sonia’s muffled assent.
Sonia watched from their bedroom window as Hart’s car pulled out of the driveway. When he was gone she switched off the T.V., and reached in between the mattress and box spring, her hands coming to rest on a manila envelope. She pried the coffee-stained report free, made herself comfortable and began to read.
to be continued. . . .
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