‘What will you do?’ Jake asked her.
She shrugged and looked across the Potomac. A dampness in her underarms was irritating her. It wasn’t that hot. Being called to see the director caused the sweat to overpower her roll-on and stain the underarms of her pantsuit. Or so she thought. She didn’t have much experience of one to ones with God, it being the first. She should not have felt nervous, having graduated Summa Cum Lauda school of ‘77. All the pomp of coming top of the year in the academy should have inured her to nervousness when meeting Director Hubble, the Naval Investigative Service version of God. Not only was she the best, but she was a woman. In fact, one of the first women to graduate from the academy. As far as Rachel could tell, it marked the end of chauvinism in the service. Or if not the end, then at least its inception. Someone once said, “the beginning of the end”. She couldn’t recall who or about what. But what the heck, it didn’t make it any less accurate. She was witnessing and was part of the beginning of the end.
‘Hallelujah,’ she said again. In her head, at least. She didn’t think Jake was ready for celebrations. Her euphoria pumped her heart at an unhealthy rate. Different from her nervousness on the leather sofa in the director’s anteroom. Awful. She’d been unable to stop her legs from swinging one way and then the next. She felt the surrender of her deodorant after about five minutes, just before the aide behind the ornate desk told her the director was ready. It was a short meeting, her nerves unfounded. Hubble wanted her on his personal staff. Would she be willing? Of course, Director Hubble, sir. I would be honoured. Who wouldn’t be? The dismissal after proclaiming her honour, brusque. He’d returned to perusing a document on his desk, not giving her another thought.
She didn’t care. She was juiced. Couldn’t remember ever being as juiced. Looking at her husband sitting on the bench beside her took all the pleasure out of it. Jake wasn’t honoured or juiced. Jake was pissed. Saw himself as the highflyer, the breadwinner. Inaccurately. He graduated from the FBI Academy as a middle-of-the-highway straight C student. He was wearing his feelings like an oilskin, droplets of hurt and derision rolling off him.
Rachel sighed, feeling a momentary sadness, this being a beginning of the end she did not relish. The director made her glow. Made her feel special. Jake made her feel like she used him to get where she was. How could she have used him? She was far better than he would ever be. Stronger. Faster. More intelligent.
How dare he?
‘You have to see my side, Jake.’
‘Do I. Sounds to me like your side is all I am seeing right now. Seems like there’s only one side, and it ain’t mine.’ She looked at him, pouting over the river. His charisma was giving the beginning of the end a kick in the pants. A real hurry up. His charm was evaporating in the weak evening sun. How could I have got him so wrong? she wondered.
‘What would you do?’
‘Turn it down. He’ll have you in irons. You take it, and you’ll tie yourself to Quantico. I want to travel. I have been dreaming of it since I was an ankle-biter.’
She frowned at the river; the surface suddenly choppy. Egotism and whining insecurity did not suit Jake. Or perhaps they did. Maybe she had not seen straight before now. Maybe the shotgun wedding in Vegas during a weekend’s R and R had been a mistake. The well-rounded guy she first started dating seemed to have been an illusion.
She’d called Jake, excited by her news. He told her to meet him in the Municipal Park. When she arrived, he’d been on a bench, staring over the Potomac with a surly look. A look that screamed at Rachel, I know what you’re gonna say. She supposed it should not have been a surprise. They’d known her marks were going to be high.
‘I will not turn it down, Jake. It is a career move. When the director asks you to join his staff, you do not refuse.’
‘Course, it is your choice, doll. I’m not hanging around here.’
Rachel frowned at him. She wanted to smack him upside his head for calling her doll. She hated it, and he knew it. He was using it to rile her. Well, she would not take the bait. Not this time. ‘I am going to accept, Jake. You can do what you want with it.’
He stood and walked away without saying anything. Rachel watched him go. She could not believe how insensitive he was to her needs. She had as much right to a career. More. She was top of her year, and he was only fair, straight down the middle of the highway.
Sighing, she looked across the river. She knew Jake would not back down. It was not in his psyche to accept he was not the best. She would not back down either. She was the best, and the director knew it. Hubble was grooming her, taking her onto his personal staff. It was not an offer anyone with any sense would refuse. If it cost her her marriage, so be it. It had never been a marriage. Not really.