Chapter 4 Counterpoints
=== On the boat ===
Marybeth had changed into shorts and a shirt and now was busy with applying a bandage around her leg. It was nothing serious; however, she would have to stay out of the water for a few days!
“We are a good, team, right?” Claude said, secretly – or maybe not so secretly – enjoying what he saw.
“You never give up, do you?” she answered, thankfully laughing and not sounding angry. So he felt encouraged enough to move on.
“Give up what? Telling you we can work well together? We have just proven that. Neither of us would have been able to free that dolphin alone.”
“You still want me in your boat for the grant application.” She bent down to him and smiled teasingly.
I want you in my boat, yes. But not for that grant. He was tempted to pull her into his arms and kiss her. But then, the sudden loud grumbling of her stomach ruined the moment before he could muse about daring or not daring.
“I had no breakfast,” Marybeth apologized.
“I had half of an instant coffee,” he replied. “So what about going to that IHOP down the street once we're back?”
“That sounds like a great idea! I'm afraid I'm going to eat a very unhealthy load of those pancakes today!”
=== In the IHOP ===
About an hour later, she sat in front of exactly that delicious pile of pancakes with bananas and syrup. Claude had ordered a French Toast.
“It tastes good! Almost as good as the ones I make after my Mom's old recipe!” he said.
“You make French Toast?”
“If I have the time. Why are you that surprised?”
“Oh, you know the old cliché of the bachelor who only sets foot in the kitchen to grab a beer!”
“Ah… that one! I'd rather prepare my meals myself, so I can eat quietly at home and read while eating instead of sitting in a noisy diner or something.”
Just now, a family with two little squabbling kids had taken a seat on the table next to them, and Marybeth commented. “I know you are not particularly fond of children!”
“Yes. Maybe… it's true. They gave me a hard time when I was one then, so… Well… We should talk about what we could do to remove that wreckage permanently. I will contact the Rangers from the National Park and the Coast Guard. Blowing it up might be the best way.”
“Perhaps we could tear it down somehow. Attach ropes and pull it away. We'd have to relocate the dolphins, though. I don't like that, especially now, during birthing season.”
While they were sitting and discussing, Judith and Nora came in – about to have a nice breakfast instead of the muesli her Mom always prepared when they were at home together.
“Oh, God!” Nora grabbed her sister's arm. “There's Mom!”
“No way; she would never—“
The girls halted in their way to the next free table and stared incredulously. “And with that Carver guy!” Judith added whispering, even though half of the restaurant's space and a lot of chatting people were between them and their mother.
Claude and Marybeth had finished their breakfast (or better, their brunch, in that case). It was about time to get back to the Institute. Claude signaled one of the waitresses, reached out to get his wallet from his vest's pocket – and froze. Hastily, he padded his other pockets, only to discover it was not there. In the meantime, the waitress stood next to them. Worst case scenario! “So stupid. I must have left my wallet in the car when I arrived this morning,” he said tortured.
“No problem, I got my credit card!” Marybeth retrieved it out of her bag and handed it to him.
After being shortly distracted by a nice-looking boy walking by, Judith just focused her attention back to her mother. “I'm freaking out!”
“She's holding his hand!!”
“I can't see anything. She's just sitting there, and now they're getting ready to leave! They'll spot us!” Nora pulled her sister out of sight.
Marybeth took her credit card back.
“I'm sorry,” Claude said again, still embarrassed. “I know it looks like—“
“It looks like as if you have forgotten to bring your wallet. No big deal! You were in such a hurry!”
“Well, if you insist!” Marybeth said smiling and stood up. “Mr. Carver, you're hereby sentenced to take Mrs. Dunnhill out to dinner at the earliest convenience!”
“If you promise not to bring up things as grant money and funding… I'm going to take you to the most expensive restaurant this island has to offer.”
“Oh – Then… That can be arranged.” She smiled again, and he felt swept away by happiness.
Judith and Nora slowly emerged from their hastily searched hiding spot behind a potted plant. “I'm sure they were NOT holding hands,” Nora said to comfort herself as well as defend her mother's honor.
“No matter what, she is not supposed to hang out with this idiot! Do you know if Jordan has talked to his dad yet, about the moving-in?”
Her sister nodded. “Everything is perfect.”
“So we only have to bring Mom and Terry together after work today, and things will roll!”
“I hope so!” Nora crossed her fingers. “But now, let's eat something! I'm totally starving!”
=== Later that day / Home of the Dunnhill-family ===
Marybeth and her colleagues from the Institute had spent half the day discussing what to do with the wreckage. Finally, they agreed to try their luck with pulling it down, using the boat and the little submarine. If that would not be successful, they'd contact the Rangers. Nonetheless, the small dolphin colony had to be relocated temporarily. Marybeth had suggested gently forcing them away with buoys that could be moved further and further. But in Claude's opinion, that would take too long and so they would only risk another incident. He wanted to use certain sounds to drive them away and accomplish the task. She did not have a good feeling about that, but yes, they had no time!
In the afternoon, while Claude and Becky discussed how to best attach the ropes, Marybeth was occupied with her application again. There were still the detailed budget plans to fill out, plus the outline of every planned step in her research. Bureaucracy! She hated it. She wanted to be out and work with the animals not filling out forms. She felt exhausted when she arrived home and her leg hurt. Maybe I should have taken Claude's offer to drive me home instead of taking the bike… She dropped her folders, let herself fall into the hammock on the porch, and closed her eyes. Judith and Nora still seemed to be on the beach; she could hear them.
She had almost fallen asleep when Jordan's voice reached her. Blinking, she discovered the boy standing in the door, an envelope in his hands, from which he now pulled a bunch of photos. “Hello, Marybeth! Look, I just picked them up at the drugstore!”
I need a coffee… She suppressed a yawn. “Oh, let's see!” A moment later, she did not have to pretend to find the photos intriguing, though. The jumping dolphins, the glittering water drops, the sun rays mirroring in the water and on the backs of the animals… “Those are really good! You should take part in a contest, Jordan!”
“I will. There is one in two weeks, by “Friends of the Earth”. The winner gets a new Nikon camera!”
“They are amazing. You really capture the soul of things…” Her voice trailed off, as she looked at the next photo. Jordan must have pressed the button when she was talking to Claude – she had not noticed it. In the backlight, they were basically reduced to silhouettes; their hands seemed to almost touch, and from within, the two dolphins to jump upwards into the evening sun. She could not turn her eyes away. It was magical… Something out of a fantasy world.
“You can keep that one,” Jordan said. “If you like it!”
“Yes…” She cleared her throat and finally looked up again. “Thank you!” She put the photo into her folder with the documents.
“Well, I have to go! Zeus wants to go on his evening walk! See you!”
The boy was barely out of sight when Marybeth saw his father Terry closing in from the beach. And he looked the opposite of what she was feeling: relaxed and full of energy, with black sunglasses, leather jacket, and everything else spreading Easy-Rider-feeling. She fumbled through her hair. Seeing him, that energy seemed to reach out to her and electrify her. “Hello, Terry!”
“Hi, Marybeth! I'm sure you're tired and just want to chill out after the working day. I only checked in to thank you for the opportunity to move over into your house! So Jordan can have some more vacation time in the sun, and you have Zeus for your project, and I – well, I have you!” He laughed and hugged her. “It's a great idea! Thank you!”
Marybeth was slightly surprised. “My idea? My daughters told me, Jordan said it was your idea…”
“Uhm….” Terry looked down to the beach, where now Jordan, Judith and Nora were playing ball. “It seems our conspiratorial and devious offspring have set us up.”
“Yes…” She did not know if she should be angry or find the situation funny. All in all, it reminded her of a stupid sitcom. “I can't believe it!”
“Does this mean the deal is off?!” Terry asked. “I hope not…”
“Oh no! I did not mean that! We have plenty of space! And –“ I need Zeus for my project. If you go and take him with you, it is over. My funding will be down the drain! She virtually hit herself, realizing that every second thought was the money! “And I think the kids get along well. – When do you think you will move over?” She felt safer on the ground of facts and plans.
“In two days, on Sunday. Tomorrow I have to finish my score for the Nike advertising, and then we have yet to pack our stuff. Is that okay with you?”
“That's fine with me!”
“So…” He bent down and took a bottle of wine from the suitcase. “Let's enjoy the evening and celebrate our new housing agreement!”
=== Same evening, Claude Carver's apartment ===
On his way home, Claude had already thought about the place he could choose for that dinner with Marybeth. In terms of “most expensive”, only the LATITUDE was worth considering. He had never been there, though. So he could only hope the place lived up to its reputation!
Now Claude stood in front of the mirror in his bedroom and tested his black suit, which he had last used 5 or 6 years ago during a celebration for a retired professor at his old university. He had been afraid he might have gained too much weight and it might not fit anymore, but everything was just fine. Still, he watched himself critically like a specimen in a lab. Ready to compete with Mr. Leatherjacket-Biker? He loosened his tie, opened the upper two buttons of the shirt – and shook his head. No, this is not me! He sighed and changed again.
The truth was, he did not have much experience in dating and dinner invitations. His first girlfriend from college days had dumped him in favor of their professor (what had probably been a smart move, but still…), and another colleague had turned out more into women than men. Then he had favored being married to his work – to make a virtue out of necessity. Until Marybeth showed up, with her fiery spirit, keen intellect, long legs, and eyes as blue as the ocean.
=== Next day, Institute ===
When Marybeth came back next day to the Institute a little later than usual, after visiting a doc because of her leg, the dolphins had just been relocated to a safe area. There had been an incident, though…
“One has been injured?” she asked, her heart cramping. “Roxanne?”
“Roxanne is safe. It was the old one. I think he got confused by the sound pattern. Maybe his hearing is not that accurate anymore,” Claude answered, already standing on the boat, ready for the next phase of their rescue project. “He turned in the wrong direction and hurt his fin on one of the wreckage part.”
“I told you it was a bad idea!” Poor oldtimer… “We should have taken more time. But you were in a hurry to do it before I could return!” She got angry, not only because of the injured dolphin but because of something else she could not determine yet.
“He is injured, but we take care of him in the basin. Otherwise, the plan has worked well,” Claude answered.
“So it is a small price to pay for the overall success, in the end?!”
“That's not what I meant. But sometimes we have to make difficult decisions, and keep in mind the greater good.”
“AND your scientific reputation, because you just happened to prove your theory!”
“That's EXACTLY why we can't work together! You're just ready to sacrifice anything for your goal!”
“No, that is exactly the reason why we would make a good team! I might be too calculating and lose perspective. And you are here to remind me, question me. It is a perfect balance. Just as on a ship with its captain and first officer.”
“And of course YOU are the captain of this SHIP and YOU decide what's best!”
“You are just like my ex-husband! You want to be in charge of everything, control everything and push your ideas through! And then you rationalize it!”
Claude wanted to answer and realized that this very problem had been standing between them right from the start. But for the moment, there was no time for arguing and analyzing. “Marybeth, either you take the controls of the sub now, or I'll do it.”
She inhaled deeply. “Fine. I'll go.” She climbed on board and went over to where the submarine was stored without looking at him.
Claude walked past her and only thought that his plans for the LATITUDE were as superfluous as the damned wreckage they were about to tear down.