He runs seven miles along the beach every morning, out to the headland and back, before diving into the sea. He returns to the house to shower off the salt water, hair and body dripping a trail across the wooden sun deck. I'm brewing coffee as he walks in. He reaches for the towel I offer him, mouth quirking a brief, shy smile of thanks, before he disappears inside.
We're off the radar, I'd told the old man, ten days. He could see the toll that last one had taken, knew I didn't have a choice. No one knows where we are. I made the reservation myself, under a false name, told no one, not even my companion, where we were going. It's an old colonial-style villa, on the lush tip of a Pacific island, picked at random out of a brochure, far away from everywhere. There's no communicator signal here. Only the wireless. I tune in twice a day for the international news and island weather forecast. The only human contact is with an old woman and her son, who deliver provisions and day-old newspapers to us each morning by boat.
Our days here have quickly adopted a pattern. In the mornings, I lie on the shaded deck lounger and read while he swims in the pool like he was born there, occasionally diving off the board, a brief flash of bronze and gold. After lunch, he goes off, exploring, snorkeling in deep inlet pools, and finding green grottoes, edged with waterfalls, which he later drags me to see and dive in with him. Sometimes we take the jeep and drive up into the mountains to do a little climbing. He likes the pleasant exertion, the stunning views when we pause and look back down over the crystalline bay. I like the cool, clean air, the peace and serenity of being up there alone together.
In the evenings, I cook. Something simple, all in one pan or on the little charcoal burner out back. Everything tastes so fresh and healthy here. We sit on the terrace and sip the wine that's been chilling in the little icebox. He tells me stories of childhood summers in the Ukranian countryside and winters in Kiev. I search my memory for anything I haven't yet told him—simple anecdotes from my training days, anything light enough from my army experience, even old college tales. Even when I know he's heard them before, he seems to enjoy them, laughing animatedly and asking questions. We never talk about the work.
Afterwards, he finishes his wine while I rinse the plates. We go into the living room and if it gets cool, I light a fire of driftwood in the stone fireplace. He'll fiddle with the wireless to find something he likes, a play perhaps, or more often music, classical or jazz. He'll lie on the sofa, eyes shut, conducting with his fingers. I sit in the chair and read, or watch him.
Before the sun sinks entirely, I dampen the fire and we go out for a last walk along the beach. It gets a little colder then so he pulls on a wool turtleneck and I grab a blazer. He skirts the wave line, sometimes picking up pebbles and shells, examining them, casting them back into the water. When the sun touches the horizon, we stand and watch, as it's swallowed into the sea. On the way back, I might throw an arm across his shoulders and he'll lean into it in a way he never would anywhere but here.
When we return, there's not much to do. No need even to lock the doors or windows. But I make the rounds anyway, like a closing ritual. Then I take his hand and we go into our room. We slip our clothes, turn back the cool white sheets, and let our bodies slowly greet each other. We make love, then, according to our mood, slow and languorous, or hungry and urgent, and when we have exhausted ourselves enough, we sink into sleep, still wrapped around each other.
Sometimes I wake in the night. The moon's slanting light is bright as morning in the bedroom. All I can hear are the waves breaking on the beach, the wind rustling in the palm trees and his soft breathing against my heart. I struggle, then, to let him sleep, when I really want desperately to wake him. I want to kiss his eyes open again, to begin from the beginning again, to tell him again, and again, and again.
'You know, don't you?' I'd whisper, stroking his hair. 'That this was meant to happen? That this was inevitable?'
'Yes,' he'd tell me, his hands cradling my face. 'I always knew, somehow... we'd rescue each other.'
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