“Good morning, August,” Annie said, curling around him, a smile of total contentment in her still-sleepy voice.
“Good morning, Anne.” Auggie felt the smile across his face, as he pulled her closer.
“It’s today.” He traced his finger along her shoulder, feeling more relaxed than he had in over a year.
“You still won’t tell me where it is we’re going?”
“Nope.” Auggie gave her a smug grin. “I told you, be ready for everything.”
“A girl can’t pack for everything.”
“Since when are you a packer?”
He felt her chin on his chest, as she peered up at him. “This isn’t a mission. This is life.”
Auggie sighed, happily. “Yes, it is. And we’re about to go live some of it.”
“And you won’t tell me?”
“You can beg, you can plead, you can throw yourself at my feet, and I will not spill a word.”
“Is it Barbados?”
“Your parents’ house?”
Auggie grinned. “Nope.”
“Gawd, not my parents' house.”
Auggie laughed. “Stop, I’m not going to tell you.”
“Will you at least tell me what I should wear first?”
Auggie rolled over, closing the space between them. “What you’re wearing now seems fine to me.”
Annie burst out laughing. “I doubt the airlines would feel the same.”
“I don’t know, you’re pretty impressive.”
“How do you know, you’ve never actually seen me naked.”
“Are you kidding me? I get the best close-up look of everyone.” He nuzzled her neck, and she giggled and sighed at the same time.
“We’d better get a move on, Soldier, if we have to make this elusive plane heading to this secretive land you’re so intent on keeping quiet.”
“I’m a spy, Annie. It’s what I do.” He gave her one more kiss and let her sit up. After she climbed from the bed, he followed suit, and put on a pair of sweatpants to go make some breakfast while Annie showered. As he was heading for the stairs, she caught him from behind, and turned him back to her, kissing him passionately. He almost lost his balance from the sheer emotion behind it, but held her fast.
“Okay,” he said, his mouth still on hers. She pulled away and he said, with a quirky grin, “Didn’t you just tell me we’d better get a move on?”
“I may have.”
“Then we best get to it. I can’t wait to see the world with you, Annie Walker.”
“I can’t wait to see it with you, August Anderson.”
He closed his eyes, remembering a week and a half ago, and he reached out for her cheek. “We’ll take the stars with us. Now, get ready. I’ll make us something to start our day right. It may or it may not involve eggs, depending on what is in that ’fridge.” He turned back to the stairs and started heading down as he spoke.
“There’re eggs!” Annie called after him. “And there’s cheese!”
“Okay, then, we know what the lady wants!”
Auggie busied himself in his kitchen. They’d worked at cleaning out as much of the ’fridge as they could, and Auggie had given Barber his key to come check on the apartment and eat whatever he wanted that was left.
He’d packed a suitcase; he thought he had accounted for everything he would need. He included a second spare cane and a book in Braille, and his labeller, in case. He also added the laptop that McQuaid had given him. It was top of the line, and took over for several of his other gadgets all at once.
He was starting to get excited. The world at his feet, Annie by his side, freedom from the spy stuff. They didn’t need to hide, or keep vigil. They were just two people in love on vacation. He did hope for a bit of excitement along the way, he wouldn’t be who he was without a little bit of a thrill. But the whole journey itself gave him immense pleasure.
He was just managing the plates and trying to make sure the portions were even when Annie came into the kitchen, and snuck behind him, wrapping her arms around his bare waist.
“I’m so ready for this,” she said.
He turned into her. “Are you? I thought you’d miss the chase.”
He didn’t see her close her eyes and the flash of pain that crossed her face. “I’ve lost a lot, Auggie. I lost who I was.”
“I know. We’re gonna find it.” Auggie’s smile brought Annie’s own back. “Maybe in the jungle hunting Bengals for the perfect photograph. Or in the Antarctic, with the Penguins.”
Annie looked at Auggie, and his grin was infectious. “Are those on the list?”
Auggie just smiled and turned back to his task at hand.
After they’d eaten, Auggie headed to the shower, while Annie tidied up. She returned to the loft bedroom and made the bed, her hands lingering on Auggie’s pillow, her thoughts only positive and filled with love for this man who, for all intents and purposes, had never given up on her. Never. She’d never understand how he had so much faith in her, even when he was so angry and upset that she had lied, had ran, had hidden. But she would never forget that thought now. She wouldn’t let him down again. He’d given her everything. Almost his life.
She turned as he came out of the bathroom, his hair wet and curling around his neck. He was the most beautiful man she had ever seen. She watched his hands as they searched through the remaining clothes in his closet, reading the Braille tags and touching the fabrics. He turned in her direction, a questioning look on his face.
“Are you watching me, Walker?”
A smile bloomed on her face. “I can’t keep my eyes off you.”
Auggie grinned and came to her, his hands out, finding her. “That’s fair, because I can’t keep my hands off you.”
She laughed. “Come on, the cab will be here soon. Have we got everything?”
“I hope so.” Auggie started buttoning up the shirt he’d put on over a t-shirt. “But all I really need is you.”
“Hokey,” Annie groaned. “But adorable.”
“And my cane.”
“And traveller’s cheques.”
“Okay. I got it. I’m moving down the list.”
Auggie grabbed her and kissed her. “You’re only always at the top of my list.” He stepped back. “Look around. Are we missing anything?”
“Nope. I think we got it.”
“Ah, well, we can always stop back if we need something. DC is a good central point.” Auggie felt on his bedside table for the one last piece of equipment he needed: his watch. He was back to using his old watch, after losing his new one in his struggle. He would get a new one, he’d decided, but for now, the old one would suffice as well as it always had. That done, he turned and followed Annie down the stairs.
The cab would be here soon. Auggie found his boots and pulled them on. He’d miss his apartment, and the familiarity of it and the streets below it. But he was ready for this, he was ready to make his way into a good adventure with Annie: together. They could do anything together.
They gathered their suitcases. Auggie put his messenger over his shoulder across his chest, and put the rest of his things in it. They stepped outside the apartment and Auggie pulled the door shut, locking it.
He turned. “Ready?”
Auggie felt nothing but joy and anticipation at that moment. He bent and found the handle on his suitcase, and Annie bumped her hand into his. He smiled, letting his hand slide up her arm and fitting into the familiar place that was so comfortable for them both now. They took the elevator downstairs, neither saying anything but feeling everything.
Auggie heard the cab pull up, and Annie signalled to him to step forward. She helped him maneuver the suitcases into the trunk of the cab, and then they climbed in the back, holding hands, Annie leaning somewhat against him as she looked out the window.
At the airport, Auggie asked an airport worker to take them to the right departure area. He knew Annie would catch on as soon as they got there, but he wanted to prolong her surprise as much as he could. They were seated in the waiting area, and Annie peered at all the screens, trying to figure out which flight it was that Auggie had them on.
“You know that won’t help,” Auggie almost sang to her. “I could have made connecting flights.”
He felt her open hand lightly hit his jacket. “You’re infuriating.”
Auggie smiled a smile that said he was very smug about his planning, and that he was not going to divulge anything until he had to.
“I will figure it out.”
“I expect nothing less.”
“Flight 170 to LAX,” came the announcement. Auggie gathered his stuff and stood.
“LA?” Annie said, standing beside him, grabbing her carry-on luggage.
“I don’t know. Did someone say LA?” Auggie moved her forward, and Annie eyed him suspiciously.
“What are you up to?” she wondered aloud.
“You know me,” Auggie said. “Always up to something. Come on, my dear, let’s get us to the gate. An adventure awaits us.”
The whole world awaited them. Auggie could not wait.