Petra and Robert were less than two hours in the air, but it felt like more. Petra had been nearly killed, but it didn’t cause her the personal agony the hours did while flying next to him. Robert was polite. He let her sit by the window. He stood when she needed to walk about the plane. He ordered her a drink. God knew they both needed one. He was insistent that this ‘talk’ they were going to have was not going to be in public. He was not going to be standing in front of the world while she removed the dagger from his gut that she had left there in Niagara Falls.
“We’ll be on the ground soon. Do you know anyone in London?”
She shook her head ‘no’. She knew no one there. That made this trip both exhiliarating and frightening. But not terrifying. Not impossible. After all, she could endure anything so long as Robert was there. She was thinking how quaint, and then how corny. But he had saved her from being murdered, hadn’t he? She would not have stood a chance. She might not now, she thought, but the odds were better.
Under Charles, she had felt strong and sleek. He had given her a new skill, a way to schmooze a man out of anything. A predator. A cat. On her own, she didn’t feel so strong. She felt like Petra again, the little Czech refugee. Sadie had told her how her name meant ‘Rock’, like Peter in the Bible. Like hell she was made of stone. She would be sleeping a hell of a lot better if that were true.
Charles had taught her to take, only take. Sitting here next to the only man who had ever robbed her of sleep, she had to admit she had done those horrible things, no matter who had taught her. She must be that way inside. That must be the real Petra. Dirty and manipulative, treating every man like a possible mark.
In London, it was not America, namely that the states had not been bombed and there was much reconstruction going on still in Europe. Face to face with the war once more, it was not something that Petra could brush aside easily like a wisp of a memory. It lay there like a wet book.
“I was able to get a room,” Robert said. “It isn’t grand or fancy. But it’s clean and safe.” Robert took charge without much conversation. He had planned this out in advance, leaving no detail to chance. The Robert that she started to fall in love with in New York was showing himself, showing her what a fine man she had made a fool out of. Would that he could forgive her and give her a chance to make it up to him. She had hope, but she made up her mind not to ask him for anything. He appeared to be cold and indifferent. But she knew better, knowing that he had put a lot of work into getting her away from Mr. Perkins. Taking anything from Charles Perkins was no small feat.
She listened to Robert check them into their room with false names, presenting her as his wife. It felt like Niagara Falls, like a second chance. He had to feel something to go to such lengths, didn’t he? Once they were alone in their room, she clung to that hope and thought.
His name hung in the air and she watched his face, only feet away from hers. She waited for him to shoot her down again, but there, in the privacy of that small room, he allowed it.
“Yes, Pet?” He wanted to hear her voice again, that damned voice that kept him awake every night since she had left. He had tried to shut it off, but instead he worked in earnest to find her. When he found she was in danger, how could he not help? Still, the dagger. It remained in the gut. And it burned.
She was startled by his silence, the way he listened and watched her, his eyes earnest, waiting for what she would say to him. She was moved by this, oh so much. But she did not make a move toward him. Not yet. Not until she could be sure that he would not shove her away.
“You saved my life, Robert. You saved me after I left you there. After I left you without a word.”
“Oh, you said words. You said a lot of words. Words like ‘I love you Robert’, ‘I want to be with you always Robert’.
His words were delivered softly, but they accused. They bit. They cut her deep. She wanted to tell him how she wished he would hurt her back, how she couldn’t bear his politeness. But she didn’t say it. She persisted in apologizing, not explaining, just apologizing, and finding herself less than articulate. Eventually, she sat on the edge of the bed. She would have said that she still loved him, but who would believe it now? She lifted her gaze to him.
“I’m sorry. I was so wrong. And I was completely wrong about you.”
“Tell me why. Tell me what you were wrong about.”
“I was wrong about you being a fool. You are nobody’s fool.”