Time rained down on Clare. 8:30 a.m. on the clock hanging above the breakfast alcove. Twenty-five years of pretending Ireland never existed.
She would have to step again into that air terminal. Stare into the dark waters of the River Liffey. Look over her shoulder at every instant.
“The ambassador has just been diagnosed with viral pneumonia,” Edward had whispered last evening, sliding his BlackBerry into his inner jacket pocket, as they entered a cocktail reception for the Franco-British Entente Cordiale program. “And the permanent under-secretary’s flight touched down at Charles de Gaulle forty-five minutes ago. He’s requested the dinner in his honor tomorrow night be shifted to our place.”
“How many people?”
“Twelve. With us included.”
The permanent under-secretary could have easily asked Edward—who, as British minister in Paris, was deputy head of the embassy—to take over as host in the Salon Bleu. If the permanent under-secretary wanted dinner moved from the ambassador’s residence to their place, he was seizing the opportunity to size Edward up in his own territory. The permanent under-secretary was in charge of ambassadorial appointments.
She’d touched Edward’s solid wrist. “I’ve got it.” She’d given him a thumbs-up and begun mentally planning. She’d been happy.
She hadn’t yet known what country the permanent under-secretary had in mind.
Now she was drinking her morning coffee in the Residence’s spacious white kitchen, calmly making a list for this evening. She did not glance at Edward, reading through a pile of briefs beside his tea and toast and marmalade. She continued drinking her coffee and eating her own toast quietly, as she did every morning. She did nothing that might betray her anguish.
If tonight’s dinner went well, Edward would be named the new ambassador to Ireland.
“Word is,” Edward had said after they’d gotten home last night, unwinding his tie from his neck, “Michael Leroy is being named to Israel.”
“Michael Leroy? The ambassador in Dublin?”
“Not after August. Apparently he’s wanted Tel Aviv for ages. Not enough chaos for him in Ireland currently.”
She’d allowed her nightgown to fall over her head, obscuring her expression just long enough to erase it, and slipped in between their bed’s cool sheets, pulling them up close to her chin. Edward didn’t know with what care, during the two decades they had been married, she’d avoided stepping foot on Irish soil. He didn’t realize she’d ever even been to Dublin. Edward knew when she woke she would brush her teeth both before and after breakfast. He knew that even in the flurry of preparations she would not tell Amélie, their well-meaning housekeeper, what a pain it was to communicate in Amélie’s broken English. But Edward knew nothing about her really, because he knew nothing about her life before him. He knew only the part she’d chosen to show him.
Thanks to her serene efficiency all these years—not just in entertaining but also in deception—Edward had probably thought he was handing her a present.
“So,” she’d said, “Dublin will soon be vacant.”
Edward had kissed her forehead. “Yes, Dublin will soon be vacant.” He’d turned off their bedroom’s overhead light, and she’d heard his measured tread move down the hall towards the study. He’d have meetings to prepare for now that he would be replacing the ambassador throughout the following day.