Craig was again holding one of her hands, in a deep sleep beside her. She knew it was early, a few hours before dawn, so she watched the ceiling and listened to the ocean. The wind was still blowing, but the curtains in the window were snagged on the curtain rod and no longer billowing out.
Craig moved, putting his other arm around her. She snuggled up next to him, wanting him again. Her hormones must be high, she thought, knowing she wasn’t always like this, but it was sweet to coincide when she was with someone.
Craig woke and cuddled up to her.
“I am terrible in the morning,” he said in a sleepy murmur, as she sought his hand to touch her between her legs.
“Just touch me,” she said, whispering.
“Why my second wife left me,” he said, following her guidance.
“The supermodel,” she said. “You were only married a short time. Six weeks?”
His hand was in the perfect spot.
“She wanted sex all the time. I’m maybe a once a day sort of guy,” he said. “Don’t know why she thought we’d have the time for morning, noon and night sex after getting married, when we didn’t have it before.”
“Because you’d be together more,” she said, putting her head on his shoulder to see if she could find the faint scent of his cologne. There was the musk of his skin with a faint scent of salt and wood smoke.
“We were together less because of schedules. Her job. My job. We both traveled and rarely traveled together.”
She licked his arm and found the salt. The sensations of touch, taste and smell took her to pleasure and release.
“I’m a lousy spectator,” Craig said in a murmur, rising to slide between her legs, adding to her enjoyment.
He finished, breathing hard as he rolled off of her.
“I don’t know how you do that to me,” he said.
“You did that to yourself,” she said, speaking automatically.
“Guess I like participating and make a lousy spectator,” he said again, taking a deep breath.
She laughed, propping herself up on her elbow. The release of tensions allowed her to focus and shut out the world around her as if her senses were overloaded and shutdown. She had a moment of peace without being overwhelmed by sight, sound, smell, and touch.
“I’m in high hormones. Don’t worry, in a few days I won’t want anything to do with you,” she said.
“That’s good,” he said. “I’ll get some rest then.”
She knew he wasn’t serious.
“It’s not even dawn yet,” he said with another deep breath as he recovered.
“Go back to sleep,” she said.
“You’re up and wide awake,” he said.
“I don’t sleep much,” she said.
He watched her.
“You can focus and your eyes are steady,” he said.
“At the moment. Usually, I’m easily overwhelmed with stimuli,” she said.
“Many are. Some more than others,” he said with a nod as if he understood.
Seroje was beginning to think he did understand.
“Shall we have Italian for breakfast?” he said.
“Once the sun is up,” she said. “I want to eat on the patio with the sun.”
“Sounds heavenly,” he said, snuggling back up with her.
She thought he nodded off while she counted the time, listening to the waves. His breathing changed, and she now knew he’d gone back to sleep. She liked listening to him breathe.
The breeze through the window changed when the sun was full up. Seroje slipped out of bed, but Craig woke.
“Breakfast,” she said in a whisper to him as she went to use the toilet and slip on the muumuu.
She stepped out onto the patio while Craig dressed. The day promised to be as warm as the day before.
Craig brought her a soda.
“Breakfast is heating unless you want it cold,” he said.
“No, warmed is good,” she said, sipping her soda.
The microwave dinged from within the house and Craig left, soon returning with their leftover Italian.
Seroje ate all that was left, savoring every bite. The faint scent of wood ash blended in with the salty breeze, adding to the pleasure of her meal.
“There are some shops we can walk to and find you a swimsuit,” he said.
“I can’t run naked in the water?” she said, but she wasn’t serious.
“Not here,” he said. “We are not alone.” His voice made it sound as if he was talking about life on another planet.
There’d been a steady stream of people walking on the beach past the house. The first ones appeared to be older people looking for shells. Joggers appeared after them. Now children with parents passed.
“Come, my dear,” he said, rising and offering his hand.
The muumuu billowed around her as they joined the people walking on the beach. The direction he took her was toward the more crowded area with shops and restaurants. Craig kept hold of her hand, and she kept her eyes down and unfocused on the sand as if looking for shells.
The first shop had little to choose from since it was the end of the season. The second shop had a single purple bikini in her size. Seroje didn’t care what color it was, as long as it fit. She wore the suit under the dress as they walked back down the beach to the house.
A basket of fruit sat on the patio table that had not been there before.
“Groceries came,” Craig said in explanation. “We’ll have something to eat other than Italian, not that I’m complaining.”
Seroje ate an orange, then took the dress off to wander to the edge of the water, right where the wet sand met the dry. When she did step into the water, she went no further than part way up to her knees. Craig swam. Seroje was relieved he didn’t try and make her join him in the deeper water. She didn’t tell him she had to be able to see her feet if she was to be in deep water.
She dug in the sand and built a sand castle. Craig went back into the house and brought back some plastic cups to help. Seroje felt like a kid as they played in the sand, laughing when the rare large wave reached their creations.
The afternoon sun baked the sand, sending them hiding from the heat under the umbrella on the patio. Craig grilled shrimp over the fire for dinner.
“We have to fly back tonight. I have some business to attend to tomorrow,” he said as they finished dinner.
“I’ll change back into my other clothes and leave everything here for next time,” she said, since she didn’t want to carry anything back with her.
“Okay,” he said as he took the dishes into the house. She helped him wash up.
They ended, ready to go, in the middle of the living room as he wrapped his arms around her.
“Thank you for the weekend. Very pleasant,” she said, as she kept her eyes down on his shirt.
“You’re welcome,” he said. “Thank you.”
He lifted her chin and kissed her, gentle, but longer than usual. Seroje almost lost her breath, but he released her and led her to the car. They remained silent during the drive back to the airport.
“Prepare for departure. Please fasten seat belts,” Pete’s voice said.
The return flight seemed much shorter and soon Pete announced overhead.
“We have arrived.”
Craig escorted her off the jet and to her car. He gave her one more kiss and she drove off.
She’d felt peaceful and happy with Craig at the beach, but now, like she flipped a switch, she was back to feeling irritated and perturbed about OSLO, as if she’d never left. She didn’t know where she wanted to go, but home wasn’t an option when she felt this way.
Seroje ended up at a storage unit she had rented, parking her car on the street and walking in. The area was deserted. There was one light that allowed her to see. She opened her unit, lowering the garage door with her inside. She slid a bar across the door, locking it in place, before she sat on the floor. The only item in the storage unit was a large safe almost as tall as she was.
The darkness was intense, shutting out all her visual senses. The only smell was dust and the metal of the safe. The only touch was the cool cement floor. The sounds of the city were dulled by the door and walls.
Seroje felt bothered, only letting her mind figure it out after blocking everything else out. OSLO was bothering her. Having them assign her to watch Craig bothered her. The shooting in the Italian restaurant bothered her even more. One expected to eat a meal at a restaurant not get shot at. She didn’t like this type of change from the norm, even though she knew change was inevitable and it’d taken her years to figure out a coping mechanism to handle the inevitable change. But getting shot at? She could still be bothered by it and knew she was allowed to be bothered.
Home was supposed to be her place of no change, her place of safety. However, sometimes she felt the need to hide in her storage unit. She knew it wasn’t the appropriate behavior in which to hide from the world, but no one was around to tell her so. She made sure no one was around to notice.
She phased out, not even measuring the time or caring what time it was until a truck rumbled by and she checked her phone. The time was four am on Monday.
She relocked the unit and got back into her car. Traffic was light. She stopped at a convenience store to use their restroom and buy some water. Then she drove to her favorite place, Quiet Waters Park.
Seroje was early enough to park in her favorite lot, in her favorite parking spot. The joggers and dog walkers weren’t there yet.
She kept to the shadows, stepping off whenever some early jogger passed, until it was too light out to hide. At eight am, she tossed the empty water bottle into a recycle bin and sat on a bench watching the trees. There was enough of a breeze overhead to move the branches in a somewhat rhythmic dance that hypnotized her.
A man jogged by, then stopped to sit on a bench near her as if he was resting. He didn’t look like the typical jogger since he was wearing jeans.
Seroje watched him out of the corner of her eye while he watched her. She rose, feeling irritated, walking to one of the garden areas to sit. The guy didn’t look like he followed her, but then he appeared, looking too interested in the flowers.
She had a tail. She wondered if this was his first contact since she’d been careful in her car about whether she was followed or not.
How good are you, she thought?
She moved to another area of the park as if looking for birds, looking up and around in the trees. The man followed, this time not even hiding himself, and she decided he wasn’t very good at all.
Time to turn this around, she thought, heading for a restroom area and going into the women’s side. She used the toilet, then stepped on the seat, jumping to catch one of the rafters overhead. One kick to a screen created an opening that allowed her to drop down on the men’s side where the door was on the opposite side of the building. She exited the building at a trot, keeping the building between her and him, and stepped behind a tree to wait.
The guy had no patience and was soon walking around the building. Then he disappeared, and she figured he was checking the women’s side. He circled the building again, then returned to the running path, looking up and down both sides, looking perplexed.
She smiled, feeling the thrill run through her body of having gotten the better of him.
He returned and circled the building before going into the men’s side. She remained hidden behind the tree, tracking him by sound because he didn’t try to hide his footsteps. He again returned to the path to look, then began to walk down it, causing Seroje to back up around the tree to remain out of sight. As soon as he was far enough down the path, she followed.
Two women power-walked by and she joined in behind them, just close enough that she might be with them, but far enough behind that she didn’t bother them. The man broke into a jog, then showed his frustration through how he moved as he slowed down. She stepped behind another tree when she saw signs that he was going to stop. A moment later, he stopped and turned. She listened, hearing him approach and then pass her unaware.
She followed him back past the toilet and to a parking lot, where her car was parked. He made a phone call while he stood by his car. Seroje stayed behind a tree as the man stared over his car at an angle away from her.
Seroje could see what he was saying, reading his lips.
He flinched as if someone was yelling at him.
The man ended the call and jogged back into the park. She waited until he was out of sight before she got into her own car and left the park. She’d remember his license number.
Seroje felt even more bothered now that someone was trying to tail her. She suspected OSLO, not fully understanding why. This wasn’t making any sense to her. Was it because she’d not reported to Hank about what Craig was doing? Then why had Hank not texted her? To schedule a meeting?
She drove to the OSLO building, parking down the block, deciding the place to be was under OSLO’s nose. If they were really the one’s trying to watch her than perhaps she needed to watch them.
She noted every car that passed. The only cars she recognized were Harold’s and Hank’s as they left the building at five, when most of the parking lot cleared out. The rest of the cars left in a trickle and soon the lot was empty.
Seroje drove back to her storage unit, still feeling too irritated to go home. She took extra care to make sure no one was following. Again, she spent the night there.