Page 32 of Together

‘You made her,’ Emily continued. ‘This boat is really important to you, and to us.’

‘But she’s worth quite a bit of money. A handmade boat, unique. The fellow was from New York and he said he wanted something for day sails.’

‘She’d only get used every now and then, in the winter.’

‘She’s a boat, Emily. And we’d have a child.’

‘You made her for William.’

Robbie looked away, over the water. The pod of dolphins had swum off eastward.

‘It’s been three years,’ he said quietly. ‘He’s seven. If he even remembers me, he won’t want to see me. I can imagine what Marie’s been telling him about me.’

‘It could change. She could change her mind.’

‘You don’t know what kind of a husband I was to her.’

‘If that’s so, she’s strangely reluctant to let go of being married to you.’

He shook his head. ‘She’s doing it for punishment. I never knew her well, Em, but I know her well enough to understand that. She hated that church, but not half as much as she hated me.’

Emily ran her hand over the shining teak. ‘I don’t like the idea of you selling this boat. It’s as if . . . it feels as if you’d be giving up on William.’

‘I’m not. I wouldn’t. But we have to be realistic. And the boat is only a boat. It’s a symbol, not a real child.’

‘But all those years of work—’

‘I can make another boat. You and I . . .’ He hesitated, and she stiffened slightly.

‘We’ve been in a holding pattern,’ he said at last. ‘We’ve been living in the present and trying to ignore the past.’

‘What’s wrong with that? That’s what we wanted. It’s what we decided to do.’

‘Yes. It’s exactly what we wanted. But I think it might be time for us to stop ignoring the past and just to let it go. Let it go. Stop letting it define us. And part of that might be to start doing things to make the future happen.’

‘So you think we should go through Honeywell,’ she said.

‘I think we should take every chance we can.’

She gazed at him. He was forty this year; she’d spotted threads of silver in his dark hair. She had seen lines in her own face in the mirror, lines around her eyes from squinting in the sun, bracketing her mouth from smiling. Their bodies had shed cells and renewed them. In so many ways they were no longer the same people who had met all those years ago.

Who knew what they would be in the future?

‘All right,’ she said. She reached over and took his hand. ‘I agree. Let’s do it.’

He knocked on Luís Fuentes’ door.

Luís was a money person. Rumour had it that he had come over from Cuba with his elderly mother in a tiny boat during the revolution, though Luís never spoke of that, and from what Robbie could see he had never actually set foot on a boat since. The marina was his investment. Luís handled the budgets and left all of the practical running of the marina to Robbie and his friend and former drinking buddy, Tom. Once upon a time, it had mostly been Tom running things. Now, it was mostly Robbie.

When Robbie went into the office, Luís was surrounded by paperwork and cigarette smoke. He wordlessly held out the pack of Camels to Robbie, who took one and sat down across from him to wait until he’d stopped punching numbers into the adding machine.

‘What is it?’ Luís said finally, looking up and lighting a new cigarette from the butt of the one he’d just finished.

‘I need to borrow some money,’ said Robbie.

Luís was obviously surprised. ‘You haven’t asked me that in a while.’

‘I haven’t needed it till now.’

‘Well, it’s no problem. Something to tide you over to next month?’ Luís reached for his wallet, and then frowned at Robbie. ‘I thought your missus was a doctor.’

‘She is.’

‘She must make good money. You got that nice house in Coral Gables.’

‘She does. We do.’

‘She know about you asking me this? It doesn’t make a difference to me; I just want to know what to say and what not to say next time you have me for dinner, that’s all.’

Robbie hesitated. ‘She . . . doesn’t. Emily knows what the money is for; she doesn’t know that I’m asking you for it.’

‘I see.’

‘And I need to borrow a little more than something to tide me over. I need three thousand.’

Luís’s only indication of surprise was the bright red flare of his cigarette as he sucked in harder than usual. ‘That’s a lot of money.’

‘Yes, it is.’

‘Can I ask what it’s for?’

He thought of Emily again. ‘You . . . can’t. I’m sorry. If you agree to lend it to me, you can take it out of my wages every month. With interest. Or I’ll write you a cheque and pay it back in a lump sum when I’ve got it, whatever you prefer.’

‘I hear you sold your boat. That nice little hand-built wooden number.’

‘That’s right.’

Luís actually parked his cigarette on the edge of the ashtray and leaned forward on his desk. ‘Are you in trouble, Bob?’

‘No.’

‘Because I remember when you were a drinking man. And that’s been different for awhile now, I thought—’

‘Over two years.’

‘Glad to hear it. But a man can do things when he’s thirsty, that he wouldn’t do otherwise.’

‘This has nothing to do with drinking. Or anything like that. But if you don’t want to lend it to me, no hard feelings. I can understand that you’d want to know more.’ He stood. The loss of hope weighed him down. There was nothing else to sell, and no one else to ask.

If Emily were with someone other than him, she wouldn’t be having this problem. She would probably already have a child by now.

‘Now slow down there, Bob,’ said Luís. ‘Have a seat.’

Robbie sat down.

‘You nearly lost your job a few years back. I cut you some slack, because your work is good, and because you’re a veteran. But you were becoming a liability instead of an asset. You’ve turned that around, now. You’re the best man I’ve got. I don’t want to think you’re in trouble again.’

‘I’m not in trouble, Luís.’

‘Then I trust you.’ Luís put his cigarette back in his mouth, reached into his desk drawer, and took out his chequebook. ‘You just pay me back when you can.’

‘With interest.’

‘No interest. I’m considering this an investment in my business because it keeps you happy.’ He tore off the cheque, cigarette dangling from his lip, and handed it to Robbie, who looked without real comprehension at the figure on it. ‘You want to do something for me in return, you talk with Tom and tell him how you’re managing to stay sober.’

‘You see more than you let on from up here, don’t you?’

Luís tapped his forehead with his finger and smiled. ‘Just talk with Tom.’

‘I’ll try. But if someone hasn’t got a reason to stay sober, it’s never going to happen.’

‘And you have a reason?’

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