Today, Harriet chose to sit on top of the sturdy little car shaped toy box instead of the chair. It gave her a different view point. Now the empty crib was on the left instead of the right and the window was behind her instead of in front of her and the green chair with the green flowers looked lonely beside the darkened lamp. Harriet wondered if she shouldn’t go sit in it. It looked so lonely and the toy box wasn’t nearly as comfortable as she thought it would be.
Harriet took in a deep breath and the blank smell of the room filled the air. It smelled like nothing. It should have smelled like baby powder and that new-baby smell she’d heard about and even a used diaper or two that had yet to be thrown out because she was just so tired from taking care of him all the time.
The old tune filled her head then, the song she’d sung to her belly when Everett would startle awake and start kicking as if he were having a bad dream. Nothing’s gonna harm you, not while I’m around…Only something had and that something was her. Her body had killed off two of two babies. She was clearly toxic.
She had never really thought about being a mother before, hadn’t been for or against it, but now that it was gone and past, Harriet wanted nothing more than to hold her son in her arms. She wondered if she could ever bare children. A miscarriage and a stillbirth were not good indications. Honestly, she didn’t think she would want to get pregnant again. Knowing that the chances of survival were so low, especially now…
Harriet nearly jumped out of her skin as the nursery door flew open with no warning. Andrew appeared in the doorway and marched in, dropping a pile of colored cloth in her lap. Harriet looked up at him.
“Get dressed,” He said. “We’re going to the airport in twenty minutes. You have three more weeks of leave and you’re not spending them in this room.”
Harriet opened her mouth to object, but Andrew didn’t give her the chance. “Francesca wants me to set up a base in London and I’m going to look at a potential site. Then we’re going to tour London and then we’re going to Ireland and Scotland and France and Germany and Italy.”
“We?” Harriet’s voice cracked.
“We. I’ve never been to Europe and you have. I already paid for your first class ticket, not coach like you said. I packed your clothes and your lady bug and we’re going. Get dressed and go down stairs and eat before we leave. Now.”
She tried to picture a dragon lurching beneath her as the plane took off, but all she could think about was the baby in the seat in front of them who kept peaking over his mother’s shoulder to look at her.
“This is going to be the longest flight I’ve ever been on.” Andrew said. “Do they feed us actual food? Harrie?”
Harriet blinked and turned away from the baby. “Sometimes. I haven’t been to Europe since I was a teenager.”
“I haven’t been ever.” He said as he looked out the window, watching Long Island turn into a tiny splotch of grey and green on the ground. “Do you think they’ll speak English?”
In another time, that would have made Harriet smile. “Yes Andrew. They speak English in England. And Ireland and Scotland. A lot of Germans and Italians speak it too. They actually care that their children know other languages.”
Harriet was going to teach Everett ASL. Babies could sign before they could speak. She’d once had a conversation (albeit a short, choppy one) with one year old Ben about his teddy bear. She was going to teach him French too. And how to play the piano downstairs. She was going to read with him every night until he could read the words on his own. She was going to make him an Operation game like the one her dad had made her. She was going to teach him his numbers and do flash cards and—
“I have to pee.” Harriet said, her voice dead.
She didn’t wait for Andrew to respond before taking off her seat belt and standing up, passing the baby whose dark eyes followed her. She stepped into the little bathroom and closed and locked the door. She sat down on the toilet seat and cried.
Francesca met them at the airport in London with a car. It was late at night in England and Harriet was exhausted from hours upon hours in the uncomfortable plane seats. She was happy for the plush interior of the town car and the fact that it was headed to a hotel even more so. Andrew was also tired, but no so much that it stopped him from looking out at the dark city as they rolled by. He commented on the architecture and how funny it was to drive on the “wrong side” of the road. He was the perfect definition of a tourist.
When she told him that, he smiled and said that he was okay with it.
“We’re going to do all the cliché stuff,” He said. “By the time we’re done, we’re going to be in cheese up to our ears.”
“Is that French cheese or a metaphor?” Francesca asked from the front seat. The woman was in her late fifties or so with gently died red hair and wrinkles that she didn’t try to hide as most women of her standing did. She was the wife of some late Wall Street man, but she was born mere blocks away from where the Bapsons currently lived.
“I’m not quite sure it’s a ‘metaphor’, per say, but yes, both.” Andrew said and smiled at Harriet. “Tired?”
“Do you see anything you recognize?”
Harriet recognized everything. The statue of a gold man on a horse, the street lamps, the white house on the corner that was made into a dentist office. She recognized a lot of the street names too, enough to know that they were only a few block from Harriet’s Great Aunt Irene. Harriet hadn’t told her she was coming to town and she didn’t think she would tell her now. Explaining how it had only been about six years since she was last here with her old boyfriend Daniel would only result in questions, she simply said, “Not really.”
Andrew could just make out the castle in the distance from the roof top of the hotel. He wasn’t exactly sure whether or not they were allowed up there, but the door had been unlocked, so he’d dragged Harriet up there anyway. He’d wanted to watch the sunset with her as they used to do sometime in the early, early mornings back when things were still good.
“Even out here the stars aren’t very bright.” Andrew told her as they sat together near the bronze, spikey railing the prevented them from falling the two floors down to the parking lot. He’s brought a blanket up to ward them against the cold if their snuggling didn’t cut it. Only Andrew wouldn’t exactly call what Harriet was doing “snuggling”. She was leaned up against him like a stack of potatoes, the life all but gone from her.
“Did it ever occur to you that maybe stars just aren’t as bright as you think?” She asked.
“They have to be.” Andrew said. “I’ve seen them bright in pictures.”
And if they weren’t, it would destroy him. Destroy him like it destroyed him like it destroyed Quinn when he found out Santa wasn’t real. Andrew was surprised his brother still bothered with Christmas. He and Harriet had debated for a whole week whether or not they were going to do the Santa-Easter-Bunny-Tooth-Fairy thing or just let it be. They never did decide.
Andrew looked back out toward the castle. Saint James’s Palace Harriet had told him. Only a few blocks away was Jermyn Street, a major fashion district. And a few blocks from that was a little building (part of one) that Francesca was looking into. Andrew didn’t need to be here as he’d told Harriet, but he’d thought about what Quinn had said and decided that it was a good opportunity to get Harriet out of the house. But from the look on her face and the physical, as well as emotional, exhaustion in her body, he wondered if it was the best idea.
They were going to Ireland the day after tomorrow and they were going to drink at a real pub. Then they were going to Scotland and they were going to see the countryside and see all the castles. Then they were flying to the mainland and to France where they would eat at a fancy café. Then Germany where they were going to…well, whatever people did in Germany. Then they were going to finish off in Italy and see all the cathedrals.
Or, at least that’s what Andrew had planned.
“Most of them are dead anyhow.”
Andrew blinked. “What?”
“The stars. Most of them are dead, only we don’t know it because it takes so long for the light to fade away.”
“Oh,” Andrew said, feeling his heart sinking. “I think I’m going to stretch my legs.”
He waited the long moments it took Harriet to gather the strength it took to sit up by herself before rising to his feet. His legs stung like needle pricks. He stretched his arms and walked a few feet away from Harriet before leaning up against the railing. He had never really been afraid of heights. He was afraid of blood a little and definitely afraid of drowning, but he wasn’t afraid of heights. Two floors up, he knew the fall could possibly be deadly, but the view below was so nice that he didn’t care.
There was a pretty garden below where he stood, a low shrub fence sectioning it off from the parking lot. It was full of blue flowers he didn’t know the names of and soft lanterns that revealed little bugs flying around the garden. There was an orange tree and below it, a statue of a man and woman sitting together with a little girl with curly stone hair sitting between them, holding a rose in one hand and a baby doll in the other.
He felt a pang in his heart as he observed the little girl’s face. It almost reminded him of Quinn’s, only on a little girl made of stone. The rose was perfect, so life like Andrew would have thought it was real, even twenty feet up, if it weren’t marble. A Juliet Rose.
He wanted to join them. He wanted so badly for that man on the bench to be him, for the woman—his wife—to be Harriet. And the little girl—whatever her name was—to be his. To be theirs.
Andrew felt himself leaning further over the railing as he tried desperately to imagine him and Harriet sitting in a park with their daughter playing with a doll. He wondered how bad it would hurt if he fell, if he would die instantly or…Maybe he would see Everett and raise his son like he was supposed to. He wondered if Everett would like roses too.
“Do it.” Someone whispered behind him and he felt his heart plummet forty feet before he whipped his head around and stepped away from the rail.
“What did you say?” He asked Harriet.
She looked at him. “I didn’t say anything.”
Andrew swallowed and looked around before going back to sit with Harriet under the warm blanket. They watched the sunrise and Harriet even sat up on her own for a while. But no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t shake the echo of that voice and couldn’t help but feel like someone was watching him.
“I still don’t get why we’re going to Italy first.” Harriet said dully as they got into a tiny plane for the second time in only a few days. Boarding planes was tedious at such a crowded airport, but they’d managed to get in while only losing half their minds. If Harriet lost half her mind, Andrew thought, she’d still have twice a mind as the rest of them.
“Because I have to go back to London for something so I figured we can just start out in Italy and head back over.” He told her, just as he’d explained before.
What it really had to do with was the time the man at the old jeweler’s down the street from his new property had given him. Even if Andrew didn’t feel it was quite right, it would still be good to have. It would make himself feel better, even if it didn’t make things better.
The idea had come to him late at night and he’d excused himself from their dinner of room-service steaks, saying that he’d forgotten important papers at the property. He actually had forgotten papers there; a little slip of paper with the cost of the tiny store.
Andrew had known it would be a lot, but his eyes had nearly bugged out of his head when he saw it. The building was smaller than his shop in LA, but it had cost almost three times as much. While Francesca would buy all that went into it, Andrew had to put the actual thing itself in his name with his money. The number and all its zeros had almost made him drop the idea, but he couldn’t get it out of his head anymore he could get away from the paranoia that he’d felt when he was on the roof. After a decent night’s sleep (and maybe a little heavy petting) he had felt better. He had Harriet had hardly been intimate over the few months, even before they’d lost Everett, and he’d missed it. Harriet just went along with it. The only reason it hadn’t developed into sex was because she just went along with it. She let him do what he wanted and responded, but she didn’t really put much into it.
So instead he’d gone off to take a cold shower and they went to bed as the sun rose high over Saint James’s Palace.
He’d bought the store, signing the papers Francesca had given him and had faxed copies over to Seymour and his lawyer, Mr. Howland. When that was done with, he’d thrown the numbers out of his head and went to meet with the short man behind the jeweler’s table.
“I suppose you’ll want to see the Tower, then?” She asked, sounding so terribly bored it was almost painful. Over the past few days, Harriet had been walking a fine line between sympathetic depression and LA brat. He didn’t like it, but he understood it. He wasn’t feeling like himself either, not deep inside where it counted. But he would just keep the act up, doing what needed to be done, and the rest of him would eventually catch up. It always did.
“Actually I was hoping to see the cathedrals.” He said. “Maybe go to Vatican City?”
She shrugged. “I hope you’ve been studying up your Italian.”
He looked at her. “You don’t speak it?”
“What am I supposed to be Andrew?” She snorted in an unflattering way. “Magic?”
You’re supposed to be Harriet Rose Bapson. He thought. But you’re not her anymore either.
“It takes time.” John had said from his world of silence.
“If that’s what it takes.” Quinn had said from inside his room in a looney bin.
So Andrew sat back and rode the dragon to Italy.