“I don’t want to go back.” Harriet said as they walked through the tiny, well-hidden park in London, the end of their journey only a few hours away.
“You mean you don’t want to go back to work?” Andrew asked. The path they walked on was a glow with tiny lanterns that rested on the sides near the grass.
“How mad do you think my dad would be if I just…quit?” Harriet asked, her voice turning high in the last note as if it were a joke, but in truth she’d been considering it for a while.
Before she’d lost Everett—before she’d even conceived him, she had begun to work assisting and even performing surgeries. She was good at it, yes, but she didn’t necessarily enjoy it. Her longest surgery to date was only four hours and she almost hadn’t made it. She couldn’t imagine staying awake and alert and working non-stop for the hours and hours longer it sometimes took.
“I think he would be upset,” Andrew said. “For a while I think, but nowhere near upset as you’d be.”
Harriet thought of the thankful parents and friends and families of the patients she’d worked on, how thankful they were. She thought of the way the patients would wake up slowly, their eye lids fluttering, their eyes groggy, but awake and alive and better than they were before Harriet had met them.
“You’re probably right.” She told him and leaned her head against his shoulder. They walked like that, arm in arm through the park. There was an empty fountain at the center to the park, the water drained from it perhaps to bleach away the thick coating of moss inside the great bowl.
When they reached the fountain, Andrew let go of her arm and stepped up onto the lip around the bowl. He held out a hand for her and pulled her up.
“Look,” Andrew said, pointing. “They left in the coins.”
And they had. There were coins glittering in the soft light from all over the world. Harriet recognized an American nickel and a Russian Ruble and a Canadian penny and many of other from places she had never been.
“They didn’t want to disturb the wishes.” Harriet said without thinking.
“Well then,” Andrew dug around in his pocket for a second before pulling out a silver French coin, change from the café across from the book store. “What should we wish for?”
“You know it’s not real, right?”
“Humor me.” He said.
Harriet look into the empty pool and the glittering coins. In the center of the large pool was a little girl with an armful of flowers. Her stone hair and dress were frozen in the non-existent breeze and she held out a rose. Harriet hadn’t realized London had so many statues with roses, or maybe this was the first time she ever bothered to look.
“I wish Everett had gotten to see London. To drink in Irish pubs and see the Scottish castles and eat at cafes in Paris and see the horde of tourists in Italy looking like they’re dancing the Thriller outside the Tower.”
“Harriet.” Andrew said softly.
“Only he can’t,” She went on. “Because he’s dead. He never really even lived. And it’s awful and it’s going to hurt for the rest of our lives. So I guess what I want to wish for is that one day we’ll come back to London or Paris or Belfast with a child of our own. Not to replace him, but to do all the things Everett never got to. For him.”
Andrew gripped the coin tight. “See Stonehenge.”
“The Louver.” Harriet said.
“A book shop with flowers hanging above it.”
Andrew’s eyes flicked up for a moment. “The stars.”
“And he—or she—will fall in love so hard they don’t even realize it.” Harriet said and gripped Andrew’s free hand.
“They’ll be funny.”
“A good heart.”
“Can sing prettier than any angel. Like you.”
Harriet smiled at him. “Corky.”
“Yeah,” She laughed, ignoring the stinging in her eyes. “Like you.”
“How about a doctor like you?”
“No. Whatever they want to be. Whoever they want to be. Don’t let them turn into someone else because they think they should.”
Andrew nodded. “Their own person. Totally unique.”
Harriet nodded, unable to think of anything else. The tears fell free and dripped into the empty pool onto the coins below. “Yeah.”
“Let them know love,” Andrew said. “And magic too. Let them toss coins into an empty fountain, knowing it won’t actually work, just because they can.”
Andrew nodded. “Ready?”
“You do it.” Harriet told him.
He took a deep breath like he had to concentrate and then he flicked it in with his thumb. It went flashing and spinning through the air, arching higher and farther and Andrew probably intended. Harriet watched as it clinked unlikely against the stem of the rose the marble girl was holding. Harriet blinked as a loud crack echoed through the statue and the rose at the top of the stem came crashing down.
They just stared at it in shock. “Are you kidding me?”
Andrew pointed a long finger at the coin that had fallen amongst the others. “You’re so grounded. No TV for a month.”
Harriet laughed and stepped down into the fountain. “Come on, let’s see if we can put it back on somewhere.”
“I hadn’t realized you carried around statue glue in your pockets.” Andrew grumbled and stepped down, tip toeing around the coins as best he could.
Harriet crossed over with the grace of a dancer and picked up the fallen rose, angling it in the dim lights. “It’s cracked.”
“Well, damn it.” Andrew looked at it. “Is it…is that ivory?”
“What?” Harriet turned it over. “I think it is.”
“Poor elephant.” Andrew said. “Should we call someone? Isn’t ivory worth a lot of money?”
“You want to pawn it?” Harriet raised her brow at him.
“No I don’t want to PAWN IT.” He rolled his eyes. “I meant call the city or—”
“Hey!” Came a shout from across the park and they turned to see an officer shining a flash light at them. “What are you doing? Get out of there! Can’t you tell this place is under construction! Hey!”
Andrew gripped Harriet’s arm and pulled her out of the fountain and they began to run in the opposite direction of the officer who ran after them, shouting for them to stop.
They laughed as they ran, knowing they could outrun the fat man, but enjoying the chase none the less. They ran until Harriet’s lungs burned before Andrew yanked her hand and pulled her into a small alley and they pressed themselves against the side of a building. The officer huffed passed, not even looking their way. Andrew and Harriet didn’t speak until the footsteps and wheezing breaths were long faded.
Andrew finally released Harriet and she stood, stretching her arms up over her head to allow the oxygen into her lungs more easily. It was only then she realized she was still holding onto the cracked ivory rose.
“Look,” She said, holding it up.
Andrew laughed shakily. “I don’t even think that was a real cop. A traffic guard maybe.”
The laughed. “Did you realize it was under construction?”
“No,” He huffed, his eyes suddenly turning nervous. “Though the cones blocking off the entrance might have suggested it.”
“Are you alright?” She asked. She knew he had slight asthma, but he looked rather sick at that moment.
He scratched his head and righted the glasses that were slipping down his nose. They gleamed in the flickering light coming from the bare bulb above the back steps if some shop, old boxes stacked up beside the door.
“I hadn’t really intended for this to happen in a back alley because we were running from a glorified traffic cop, but—”
“Andrew.” Harriet said, staring with wide eyes as Andrew dropped into one knee and reached into his pocket.
“I know we’ve been distant the past couple months, but I also know we’ll get through it. And…I—I’m not good at speeches or much else, but—I…will you marry me?”
Harriet’s mouth fell open as he produced a little green velvet box with a gold band from his jacket pocket and opened it. Cushioned in dark velvet was a golden band with a circle of diamonds, clustered together with a circular moon stone in the center. It was the most beautiful thing she’d ever seen.
“Andrew.” She said again, unable to say anything else.
He looked down at the ring nervously. “I know you’re supposed to give an engagement ring first instead of going straight for it, but the idea just came to me and—I—that’s what we came back for—next to the new store. I didn’t ask your dad either. If you were wondering maybe I should have—I probably should have, but—I forgot I guess. Harrie?”
Harriet was shaking her head slowly, surprise and giddiness racing through her veins, taking over her body. Andrew’s face fell and she realized what he must have thought, seeing her shake her head like that. “I—is that a no?”
“Yes,” Harriet cried. “I mean no. I mean—”
Andrew’s smile was forced, like a mask bent into a smile of nervousness. “You’re giving me really mixed signals here.”
Harriet barked out a laugh as she began to cry. She fell onto her knees and wrapped her arms around him, wanting to feel the strength of his body more than she wanted the ring.
“Yes, Andrew.” She whispered. “Yes, I’ll marry you.”
“Excuse me you WHAT?” Andrew flinched at the eruption that came from the phone.
“Mom, I thought you would be happy.” Harriet said, glancing sideways at Andrew who was holding the phone between them.
“Why would you think that? How could you think this is a good idea? What’s the matter with you? Do you know how much money your father spent sending you to school? And now you want to just throw it away to the wind? I’m here to tell you that’s the worst decision I ever made and—”
“Mary, dear.” Dr. Thatcher, who had been quiet up until that point, interjected. “She said she was engaged, not dropping her residency. That IS what you said, correct?”
Harriet rolled her eyes as muffled bickering continued from her parent’s end. “No, I’m not quitting. And it’s nice to know that I caused you such grief Mother.”
That shut her up. Andrew had only learned a few months ago that Harriet (though he loathed saying or thinking about it) was, in fact, a product of a gang date rape. Harriet didn’t know all the details, but apparently after Mary had refused to abort the baby as her friend Phyllis (who now regretted ever thinking it) had suggested, she drop out of nursing school and ended up living in a trailer until Phyllis got married and Mary met Dr. Thatcher.
It hurt Andrew’s heart to know that happened. To know even a portion of what Mary went through, to know that Harriet used to sleep in a padded laundry basket beside her mother on a trailer mattress. Looking at her now in her pink track suit, having just come home from a jog around the park, it was hard to picture. Seeing the photo albums and all the projects her and her father did together, one would never guess she was born Harriet Rose Porter and not Harriet Rose Thatcher.
“Mom, I’m going to keep doing what I set out to do. Look at dad, he has a wife and a daughter and a huge dog and a Susan and he’s STILL working. You weren’t freaking out when you found out I was expecting Everett.”
The mention of the name broke through her mom’s stone cold barrier. She took a deep breath through the phone. “I know baby. I’m so so proud of you. I never thought—I never thought we’d be here, you and me. I’m happy for you Hattie. And you too Andrew. Though I do wish we’d gotten a heads up.”
“Go to bed now,” Dr. Thatcher said. “It’s getting late over there. We’ll talk more tomorrow. We love you Bug.”
Andrew smiled at Harriet whose eyes filled with tears of gratitude. “Thanks Daddy. Love you both.”
Harriet took the phone from her and set it down on the receiver. She wiped her nose on her sleeve and smiled at Andrew. “Should we call your parents now?”
Andrew snorted. “No thank you. I told Quinn yesterday, but I’d like some more time to prepare before the reverend saint hears about it.”
Harriet laughed and kissed him. “I’m feeling a little chilly. Maybe we should go to bed.”
“Right away doctor.” Andrew said wickedly and scooped her up into his arms.
A loud, repetitive beeping cut through her laughter and she looked down at the little pager attached to her track suit and groaned. Andrew set her down as she cursed the thing. “You’re needed?”
“Oh, they probably want me to go wash a bed pan. It’s your fault for calling me that.” Harriet said in annoyance. “Maybe I should just blow it off. No, I know. Don’t look at me like that.”
Andrew pulled her close and kissed her forehead. “Bed pans first. Go on doctor. Go clean that bed pan like no pan has ever been cleaned before.”
Harriet laughed as she disappeared from the library, off to go save someone. Andrew smiled.