Seroje lay awake, watching the ceiling. Craig was in a deep sleep beside her, holding one of her hands. A boat puttered past outside the window letting her know his house was near the water. She hadn’t tracked where he’d driven them and didn’t know where she was. Her phone on the night stand lit up, making no noise since she had it on mute. She slid her hand away from Craig’s and sat up to look at a text from her boss.
Meeting 8 am.
OSLO never slept and there was no such thing as a weekend if there was work to be done.
The time was seven thirty-eight.
9am, she texted back.
She rose and used the toilet. A new toothbrush in a package and a tube of toothpaste sat on the counter. The items hadn’t been there last time she’d used the toilet, so she figured Craig had set them out for her. She brushed her teeth, then headed out to get her clothes in a bag in the kitchen. She dressed and returned to the bedroom. The motion of her sitting on the bed by him, woke him.
“Good morning,” she said while she stared at his socks on the floor.
“Morning,” he said, glancing at the time on his phone.
“I need a ride to my car,” she said.
“You okay?” he said, stretching in bed before he rose.
“Yes, I am fine. How are you?” she said, following the flow of the back and forth conversation, that really meant nothing to her.
“Yes, I am fine,” he said, giving her a kiss on the cheek.
She remained sitting on the bed while she waited for him as he cleaned up and dressed.
“Do you want your leftovers for breakfast?” he said, putting on his shoes. He’d put on the same clothes he had on the day before.
“No,” she said. “We can snack on them later. I only have a quick errand to run today.”
She pretended they would get back together for the day, not knowing if they would or not.
“I’ll have the dress dry cleaned,” he said.
“Jewelry is on the table,” she said following him out of the bedroom.
“This ring you can keep,” he said, giving her the infinity ring. “Please.”
She nodded, putting the ring on as she followed him out to the garage. Accepting the ring was easier than refusing and she was in no mood to argue or be more forceful in the refusal.
The ride back to the salon where she’d parked her car took forty-five minutes. She gave him a quick kiss goodbye, leaving the car as soon as she could.
“Hey, what’s your phone number?” he said, calling after her. “Here’s mine. Call me when you’re done.” He handed her one of his business cards.
“Okay,” she said, taking his card, but not giving him her phone number.
Seroje hoped he’d drive right off, but he didn’t, waiting until she did. She drove toward her office, planning on taking some unnecessary turns to make sure Craig wasn’t following her; however, after a couple of blocks, he turned the other way. He looked as if he were heading back toward his house. She took a few unnecessary turns anyway just to make sure.
She parked a block and a half away as was her habit, despite the building having its own parking lot. The ring felt odd and she took it off, putting it in the cup holder of the car where she’d remember to put it back on if she was going to get back with Craig later that day.
She walked down the street to her company’s office. The security guard nodded at her as she passed him. She ignored him as she took the stairs to the second floor. Her boss wasn’t in his office, so she sat outside the door waiting. His secretary wasn’t in. She knew there were a few other people there, but they didn’t show themselves. The time was four after nine.
“You’re late,” Hank said, passing her with a cup of coffee.
She followed him without a word, shutting the door behind her, knowing she’d been on time.
“We don’t like your relationship with Mr. Manor. You are to end it immediately,” he said, sitting and sipped his coffee.
“Okay,” she said, using an automatic reply while she stared at his stapler, not yet sure of what she felt or understood. She needed a little time to process what he said.
“Okay? Okay? That’s all you can say?” he said, sounding angry.
“What do you want me to say?” she said, confused by his words. First he wanted her to do something and now he seemed upset that she said she was going to do as he said.
“And what the hell happened last night? Italian restaurant? Where’d you get a gun?” He had a fierce glare on his face.
“I don’t carry a gun,” she said, using careful words so not to be outright lying, wondering what he knew and how.
“Two dead people and you don’t carry a gun?” he said, not making any sense to Seroje.
“Do you know who those people were?” she said, not quite sure how to respond to his question.
“That isn’t the discussion here,” he said with an angry voice.
“What is the discussion?” she said with continued confusion, hearing the door open behind her.
“Hank,” said a voice that she knew was Harold’s, Hank’s boss. He was the big boss over everything.
“Hey, I’m having personnel problems. I don’t need your input,” Hank said. “I’ve got this handled.”
Seroje wondered what personnel problems.
“You don’t have this handled. We want Seroje to watch Craig for us,” Harold said, stepping up beside the desk. He was husky and about her height, wearing an ill-fitting suit that looked like it needed a good dry cleaning. His hair was receding.
“I have other assignments...” Hank said, trying to sound authoritative.
“She’s perfect. She’s already in position. Seroje, you’re to watch Craig for us and report on what he’s doing,” Harold said.
“Harold,” Hank said with irritation.
“This is a done deal. We need someone closer to him. She can watch him and keep him busy while we get everything set up. Understand?” Harold said, leaving the room making it clear he had the last word.
Seroje had no idea what had just came about other than her job was now to watch Craig. Watch Craig do what?
“You got that?” Hank said in a stern tone of voice, which Seroje thought was unnecessary.
“Yes,” she said, rising, even though she didn’t understand the assignment, but she was now in no mood to ask any further questions. She didn’t like Hank and now she was on the verge of hating him.
She left the building and sat in her car for half an hour as she watched the OSLO building and the street. There was no reason to watch, but she did, feeling uncomfortable. She wanted to go home, shower and change, but there were too many things bothering her.
She dialed Craig since she didn’t know what she should do.
“Hello, this is Seroje,” she said to his hello.
“You want to get away for the rest of the weekend?” he said.
“Yes,” she said, feeling the need to run and hide.
“Can you meet me at the airport?”
“At your jet?” she said.
“Yes, you can park next to me. You don’t need to pack anything. We can buy what we need,” he said. “I like traveling light.”
“I’ll be there directly,” she said, ending the call.
Two OSLO employees left the building. She waited until they got in their cars and drove off before she did.
Seroje pulled up beside Craig’s car at the airport. She remembered to put on the ring. Craig was not in his car or in sight, but there was a woman dressed as airport security who let her through the necessary doors. Pete stood at the foot of the airstairs that led up into the jet.
“Good morning, Seroje. Welcome aboard,” Pete said, waving her up.
“Thank you,” she said.
He smelled clean and she liked him.
Craig was on his phone as she walked down the aisle toward their seats. He kissed her cheek and continued his phone call.
She tried to tune out the call since she didn’t want to hear it. She had no intention of reporting anything to her boss about Craig. There was a problem with this assignment, something to do with conflict of interest. However, her mind wouldn’t let her phase out, but the call appeared more one sided and all he said was yes or no.
“Prepare for departure. Please fasten seat belts,” Pete announced overhead.
Craig ended the call as the jet taxied for takeoff, fastening his seat belt.
“How am I supposed to return any of your calls if your phone number comes across as private?” he said with a slight edge to his voice.
“You don’t have any of my calls to return,” she said, watching the wall.
He looked as if he wanted to argue the point further, but he didn’t.
“You know more about me than I know about you,” he said. “Do you thing that’s fair?”
The jet took off.
“Not a question of fairness,” she said. “There is less about me and more about you. Where are we going?”
“Coast,” he said.
They sat in silence until the jet leveled off.
“Do you want something to drink or eat?” he said.
“I’ll take a soda if you have one.”
“I do,” he said, rising.
He brought her a can as well as a glass with ice.
“How’s the cut on your shoulder?”
“Don’t even know it’s there,” she said while she watched him out of the corner of her eyes watching her. She sipped her drink while they both watched each other. She smiled to herself, thinking about her assignment. Didn’t her boss say she was supposed to watch him?
They watched each other for another ten minutes before he rose and got himself a cup of coffee and turned on a TV to watch a late morning news program.
Seroje stared at the floor and sipped her soda. A few minutes later, he turned the TV off.
“Do you watch TV?” he said.
“No,” she said, not saying why. She didn’t like how TV grabbed and twisted her emotions, taking away all her control, blasting into her face what the TV wanted her to feel.
“How do you keep up with news and such?” he said.
“Internet. I prefer to feed my senses on my own terms,” she said.
He nodded and sipped his coffee.
“You startled Amy when you spoke Italian. She didn’t think I hung out with Italian girls.”
“I’m not Italian,” Seroje said.
“Can you speak Italian fluently?”
“Yes,” she said.
“Do you speak any other languages?” he said.
“Just the Romance languages,” she said, “and English.”
“Spanish, French, and Italian. A few more but those are the most common ones,” she said.
“You pick up languages easily?” Craig said.
“Just the Romance based ones,” she said. “Because they are similar.”
“Puoi parlare automaticamente o devi pensarci?” he said, asking if she automatically spoke whatever language was spoken to her.
“Sì, parlo la lingua che mi parla,” she said, saying she did. She spoke her answer with no hesitation, taking a few moments to realize that she’d spoken in Italian back to him.
Craig looked as if he was thinking, staying silent while he continued to watch her. She kept her gaze toward the wall. He pulled out a laptop, settling into a comfortable silence. She was glad Craig didn’t seem to need the small talk a lot of guys did, allowing her to phase out as she alternated watching the wall and watching him.
“Prepare for arrival. Please fasten seat belts,” Pete announced overhead after a short time.
The windows showed the sky and the ocean, then a small airfield appeared.
The jet descended and touched down.
“We have arrived,” Pete announced overhead once the jet stopped.
Seroje knew as soon as they left the jet that they were on the east coast somewhere farther south. There were seagulls and the smell of salt. The weather was warm, but there were some billowing storm clouds in the distance.
“See you tomorrow, Pete,” Craig said, leading her toward a car.
“Yes, sir,” Pete said.
Another BMW i8 was parked in a parking space with his company name on it. This car was silver with the blue accent mark.
“Do you have a car at every airport?” she said.
“I only have two i8’s if that’s what you’re asking. I keep a car at the airports where I have a house or close friends that I visit a lot,” he said. “But the car we used in Iowa wasn’t mine. Small airfields like that always have a car or two anyone can borrow.”
“You have a house here?” she asked as he opened the car door for her.
“A summer vacation cottage,” he said.
The drive to his summer vacation cottage was pleasant, and the house he pulled up to wasn’t a cottage as she envisioned it. A cottage was supposed to be small and quaint. This house was large and private. French doors opened out to the beach from the large kitchen. The glass in the doors was safety glass.
“Safety glass?” she said.
“Hurricanes once in a while,” he said. “I’m steadily losing my beach front.”
She opened the doors, stepping out onto the patio. The wind was steady but pleasant, blowing northward along the beach. The weather was warm. She decided the storm would stay out over the ocean.
“Come in and see if anything fits you,” Craig said.
He stood in a large master suite.
“Things get left,” he said, as if explaining why there was women’s clothing in his house.
There was a muumuu style dress she picked up.
“This will do. I need a shower,” she said, and he waved a hand toward the bathroom.
She took the dress as she stepped into the large en suite bathroom. There was a granite walk-in shower with a new bar of soap. Clean towels were stacked on the counter. There were no other personal items in sight. She removed the bandage on her shoulder, throwing it into the trash, before she showered.
Her shower was quick. She dried herself and hung the towel up on a rack, then slipped on the dress with nothing underneath. She placed her other clothes, folded together, on a dresser in the bedroom before leaving to join Craig on the patio. He’d changed into shorts and a t-shirt. He was barefoot.
“May have a storm later,” he said, watching the clouds.
“No,” she said, smelling the breeze of salt and fish, “the wind isn’t right. It won’t come inland.”
She stepped off the patio onto the sand, warm and loose, and stepped across the beach to where the dry sand turned to wet sand. Only the larger waves reached this high. She stepped onto the wet sand and watched the waves.
“Are you happy?” he said, stepping up next to her.
“At the moment,” she said. “I like the beach. It’s soothing.”
“Only a small scab where the glass got you,” he said, touching her shoulder.
“Yes,” she said with an automatic reply as a wave almost reached her toes.
Seroje found the water cold. She only would wade through waves that reached them, running if any wave threatened to be too high.
Craig laughed when she did so.
“My new assignment is you,” she said as they stood gazing toward the horizon, watching a clipper-like sailboat pass.
“Can’t complain about that,” he said, putting his arm around her.
“I’d like not to hear any of your business calls,” she said.
“Okay,” he said. “Just us this weekend.”
He took her hand and led her back to the house, which now smelled delicious. The oven was on.
“I had dinner delivered,” he said.
Seroje was relieved to find that this fridge had more options than just beer. She could see bottled water and cans of soda as well as their leftover Italian. She was glad that Craig drank water and avoided the beer.
They spent the rest of the evening by a fire in a small fire pit on the patio, watching the stars. There was no moon. There were a few beach walkers enjoying the night, including some giggly teenagers and an older couple who also knew how to enjoy silence while they strolled along the beach holding hands.
She and Craig smelled of wood smoke when Craig led her to bed. The earthy smell of the smoke blended with the salty, fishy of the ocean creating an envelope around her as she enjoyed Craig’s body and what he did to her. They curled up together to sleep with the wind billowing the curtains. The storm never came.