Newly graduated, NIS Junior Field Agent Rachel Welch shrugged and looked across the Potomac with a frown. Despite the cool evening air, the lingering dampness in her underarms was irritating her. Being called in to see the Director had caused the sweat to overpower her roll-on and stain her blouse because she didn’t have any experience of one to ones with God. Having graduated valedictorian from the academy, Rachel felt she should not have been nervous. She thought the pomp of coming top of the year would inure her to nerves. That idea had fallen by the wayside when they called her in to meet with Director Hubble, the Naval Investigative Service’s version of God.
‘What will you do?’ Jake asked. Rachel shook her head and wondered, darting a look at her husband sitting on the bench beside her.
Why was I nervous?
Nervousness just didn’t fit her profile. Rachel was best in the year and one of the first women to graduate from the academy. As far as she was concerned, this small change 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,” or was it “The end of the beginning.” She couldn’t recall who said it or about what, which didn’t make it any less accurate. She was witnessing and was part of the beginning of the end.
She had to say it in her head. Jake wasn’t ready for celebrations. Rachel’s husband was not prepared for the same euphoria pumping through her heart at an unhealthy rate. The feeling was different from her nervousness on the leather sofa in the Director’s anteroom. She’d been unable to stop her legs from swinging one way then the next, sensing the surrender of her deodorant after five minutes, just before the aide told her Hubble was ready.
‘I thought you’d be proud,’ she said, staring at the opposite bank. Jake just grunted.
He doesn’t care.
It had been a short meeting, her nervousness unfounded. Director Hubble wanted her on his personal staff. Would she be willing? Of course, I would be honoured. Who wouldn’t be? The dismissal after proclaiming her honour had been brusque; Hubble immediately 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.
Another glance at her husband sitting on the bench beside her took away all her pleasure. Jake wasn’t honoured or juiced. Jake was mad. Saw himself as the highflyer. Inaccurately. He’d graduated from the FBI Academy a middle-of-the-highway straight C student and was wearing his feelings like an oilskin, droplets of hurt and derision rolling off him.
Rachel sighed, feeling a momentary sadness, this being one 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. Like he was some sort of a career ladder?
How did I use you, Jake? Did I use you like they said I used Billy Wilson? Rachel felt a surge of loathing for her husband then. She’d spent years trying to forget Billy Wilson and there was no reason to bring it up. Jake knew she was better than him. Faster. More intelligent. She would make her career on merit. God damn it.
How dare you? ‘You have to see my side, Jake,’ she tried again.
‘Do I. Seems like there’s only one side, and it ain’t mine.’
She looked at him, pouting over the river, distorting his handsomely rugged face. His charm was evaporating in the weak evening sun. Charm that enveloped her when she first met him, a newly graduated FBI agent with a shiny badge and chin, a head and shoulders taller than her. A man who could easily audition for the lead in a Superman flick. He’d been so suave, the epitome of the sophisticated older man. Now his failing charisma was giving that particular beginning of the end a kick in the pants. A real hurry up.
How could I have got him so wrong?
‘What would you do?’ Rachel asked, unsure of Jake’s expectations.
‘Turn it down. He’ll have you in irons. You take it, and you’ll tie yourself to Quantico. I want to travel with the job. Been dreaming of it since I was an ankle-biter.’
She frowned at the suddenly choppy river. 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 that clichéd drunken weekend had been a mistake. The well-rounded guy he’d been when they started dating must have been an illusion.
That’s what comes from making life-changing decisions when wasted and unable to see through the tequila-soaked haze, she admonished. And now the haze clears, just as my career is about to fly.
After leaving Hubble, 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 look that screamed at Rachel, I know what you’re gonna say. She supposed it should not have been a surprise. They’d both known she was going to fly – and he resented it. She’d caught a surly look from him each time she told him her grades, whether it was academics, or PT, even on the firing range. There’d always been that look, quickly masked. On the surface, Rachel ignored it. Underneath, she’d known where it would eventually lead, and here they were, in the park watching the Potomac’s current drag their marriage away.
‘I won’t turn it down, Jake. It’s a career move. When Hubble asks you to join his staff, you don’t refuse.’
‘It’s your choice, doll. Just so you know, I ain’t hanging around.’
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.
And good luck, not hanging around. You’ll go where the FBI tells you to go; stay where they tell you to stay.
‘I am going to accept, Jake. You can do what you want with it.’
He stood and walked away without saying anything else. Rachel watched him go. She could not believe how insensitive he was to her needs. She had as much right to a career. More even. She was the one who was top of her year.
Sighing, Rachel 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. Rachel 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.
‘Just like back home,’ Rachel hissed at the river, earning herself a strange look from a passing jogger in FBI sweats. ‘Well, I won’t let anyone else do a Billy Wilson on me.’
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Thanks Helena — PhilDelete
Thanks Maddie — PhilDelete