Chapter 5

A change of rhythm

 

=== Out on the sea ===

The daring maneuver of the Institute's team went perfectly. Becky and Claude dove to the wreckage and attached four ropes that were fastened to the little ship and to Marybeth's little submarine. Then, they gave full thrust in opposite directions, and the dangerous old junk slid apart just as planned. Laying almost flat on the ground, no dolphin or other larger sea creature could get trapped within anymore. The ropes were unhinged, and Marybeth could prepare to emerge.

Now that the action was over, she felt the pain in her injured leg again. This was just a little scratch; it should not give her that much trouble! She was annoyed and also angry at herself. She had yelled at Claude in front of the others and behaved very unprofessionally.  Five years after my divorce and Mat still gets me to explode if I even think about him!  And all the stress and constant money worries were really starting to wear her down. Plus: the worries about her daughters and their future...  Judith was becoming just as rebellious as she had been at that age. If I only could get that grant and have some financial security for the next few years! It was important for the girls…  

The sub resurfaced. Marybeth maneuvered to their ship, where Ole picked her up with the crane and safely brought her back on board. Everyone was in a cheerful mood. They had accomplished a big task! “Hey, we all did our best,” she said when Becky padded her shoulder and grinned: “Our submarine commander!” 

Suddenly, she had a plastic cup in her hand. Becky opened a bottle of sparkling wine. “To everyone on the team! To the dolphin rescuers!” She took a sip, but then she noticed Claude standing alone on the bridge. That did not feel right. A little pang of guilt was settling in. She went over and asked: “Don't you want to join us?”

“Someone has to bring us home safely while you're busy celebrating.” This had come out harsher than intended, but Claude was grumpy. The more, because the situation reminded him at the time in school. Where everyone else had a good time while he was standing somewhere alone in a corner, hoping not to get noticed by any bully. But well, he was simply no one to like, that would never change! He had to live with it.

“It's your success as well,” Marybeth answered, stepping at his side. “We have made the area safe again, for the dolphins and the diving schools.”

“Not to mention I have proved my theory,” he said without looking at her. “And injured one of the dolphins in doing so.”

“I was not fair to you this morning. I'm… that stressed out with everything lately… The application, the money…” She sighed.

“I'm sure you'll get that grant. You will have a staff of your own and not have to put up with me anymore.” 

“Claude, I'm sorry.” She placed a hand on his arm. “You won't hold this against me the whole life, will you?” She smiled.

Now he turned around. Fumbling for the right words aside from any more sarcastic comments, he said: “I really did not mean to overpower you, or take control. I appreciate you… your input… and…”

“And we ARE a good team,” Marybeth finished laughing and handed him her plastic cup.

There might be hope to win her heart,  he slowly dared to hope again.  If we get our funding…

 

=== Later at the Institute ===

In the outer basin, Roxanne danced in a playful pirouette and made her little clicking sounds. Marybeth already knew what that specific intonation meant. “Yes, tomorrow I'll bring Zeus along again, I promise!”

Becky knelt down next to her. “There's one dolphin in love, it seems! And what about dolphin behavior specialist Marybeth Dunnhill and a certain musician?!”

“We're friends!” She stood up while Roxanne turned away.

“Good friends?”

“Good friends!”

“Come on, Marybeth, life is waiting!”

“Ha, for now, work is waiting.” She huffed. “One last look at my application. And I have yet to label the photographs.”

“I certainly hope you're successful this time! You deserve it!”

The two women gave each other a high five and parted ways. Marybeth wanted to check in on Oldtimer, before she left. She went over to one of the inner basins. From afar, she saw Claude standing there. 

“Oldtimer will be fine,” he said when she had reached him. “I gave him antibiotics to be on the safe side. But look, he's moving fine already. I won't be at the Institute, though, until Tuesday. I have a lecture in Tampa at the University. Ole will take care of him. And I guess you will have an eye on Oldtimer as well?”

“Tomorrow, yes. And I hope I'll find some time on Sunday, but Terry is moving over to my house. I can't let him bustle around alone.”

“Terry?”

“Oh, Jordan's father!”

Claude felt as if stabbed with a knife, or rather a harpoon. “He is … moving in with you?” he repeated as if to make sure it hurt as much as possible. Marybeth's answer reached him only partially. God, I'm such an idiot! And I have almost made a fool of myself and taken her to fancy candlelight dinner!

They exchanged a few banalities, then she went to the office, and Claude was alone again. In watching Oldtimer dive and resurface, his ability to think came slowly back. You're moving in with him. Well, that must have been love at first sight! You only know him for what – three weeks?! Good luck!

He walked back but stayed outside the building, not wanting to cross her path again. Only now he realized how much she meant to him. It is good I have to drive to Tampa tomorrow, he thought. And if there are any faculty positions open, I'm going to apply!

 

=== Sunday / Terry Barnett's vacation home ===

Jordan had filled a medium-sized cardboard box with his photos and all sorts of paper he used for his handicrafts. His father stood a few steps away and was busy packing his music and recording equipment. At some point, he stretched his back, looked around … and his view got caught at the framed photograph of his late wife. He took it down from the shelf, caressed over the smiling face. At that moment, he had the feeling to sit on his bike and race down the freeway, faster and faster. He knew that experience. First, it was great and fun, thrilling. But then, all of a sudden, it was TOO FAST; it got out of control and hurt himself and others. And now… Everything happened too fast again! He liked Marybeth. But…

“Dad, I'll bring this box over, okay?”

“No.” Terry inhaled deeply and had made up his mind. He put the framed photo on top of the filled box. “To the car.”

His son did not understand. “What? Why?”

“Because I say so!”

Jordan winced. His father NEVER yelled at him. What was going on?! He was far too young to grasp that particular problem. And Terry was not capable to explain it anyway.

“Just do as I said,” he repeated.

The little boy shuffled outside with head and shoulders hanging, dragging the cardboard box behind him. Terry cursed silently. Then, Marybeth showed up before he had had even time to think what he should tell her.

“Hello, how's goin'? I saw Jordan bring a box to your car…”

“Yeah. Well… it's … I thought about it, and I'm simply not ready yet.”

“Not ready to move in with us for the rest of your vacation?”

“Not ready for… for everything.”

Marybeth saw the photograph in the box and understood. They had not even talked about the death of his wife. Obviously, she was just as present in his life as her ex-husband Mat was in hers… The little world she had just seen to come together so nicely, fell apart like a house of cards. She tried not to make a scene, though, as Jordan had come back, and her daughters stood in the doorway as well. Everyone stared and tried to comprehend the sudden change of plans. “I understand,” she said and even managed a tiny smile. “It is not that we are in any hurry, right?”

“Right.”

“Well. I guess, I… I'll go home, then, and … leave you to your packing.” She felt awful. She wished she could simply curl up in her bed and cry. However, she had to prepare dinner. If not for Terry and Jordan, at least for herself and the girls. And she had to find some wise words to lighten the mood of Judith and Nora, as was the duty of a mother. 

That night, Marybeth could find no sleep at all. The next day, she rode to the Institute as early as possible. She wanted to play and swim with Roxanne and hopefully forget a bit about the world outside the water. Judith and Nora would meet with a friend to watch a rock concert via satellite dish. They would only return on Tuesday. She was grateful for that. Some time to sort her thoughts and feelings and devise a plan on how to finance their lives!

 

=== Monday / At the Institute ===

Claude had brought a bunch of papers and books back from the University, and because the Institute was on his way, he decided to drop everything off at work before hauling it home and then back again. He was surprised to find the lights still on in the office, despite the late hour. It was almost 10:30PM ! Had there been an emergency or other problem? He parked his car and ran upstairs. There, he discovered Marybeth sitting at her desk. He opened his mouth to ask, but as she raised her head, he saw that she was crying. Now she wiped hastily over her face. 

“What… are you doing here?” She asked, bustling through the papers in front of her and trying to look busy.

“I'm dropping off some paperwork.” Claude put the box with the folders and book on his desk and turned to his colleague again. “What are YOU doing here? What happened?”

“I…I'm working…” She stopped, having obviously no strength for any pretending right now, and buried her face in her hands. “He's gone! Terry is gone! And Zeus with him! They just left!”

Hearing that, his emotions raced from a sudden evil joy to compassion. How could this Leatherjacket-asshole do that to her?! He realized that the envelope in front of her was addressed to the Cartwright Foundation for Maritime Research. Her application.

“And Roxanne is also nowhere to spot. I called her the whole evening. She didn't show up.”

“She has been away for hours already. She will come back tomorrow. She is too fond of you to leave.” Claude tried to calm Marybeth a bit but failed.

“No, she's gone. I feel it. And so is my hope to get that grant!” She cried again and cursed. “I don't even know how to pay the next rent when my contract here expires! “

She huffed, stood up, and stared out of the window into the night. The moon was shining, and the sea was calm. Unimpressed by any human problem and turmoil. “Dammit! And everything had looked that good! I thought… I could…”

Claude touched her shoulder and then gently put his arm around her. “We… I mean, you will find a way. If you want, we can still apply for the Smithsonian together, as a team. If we sit down, we can hammer out a new outline and budget plan in the next two days and still meet the deadline. A lot of grants go to teams these days. A lot of Nobel prizes as well!” 

For some time, they stood together that way, and only the ticking of the office clock disturbed the silence. “Shall I make you a tea?”

“No, thank you. Unless… unless you fill some Scotch into that cup, too.” Still leaning against him, she took a deep breath and tried to gather some strength.

“I'll drive you home.”

She shook her head. “I'm going to sleep on the boat. Later. Or maybe I just sit here. Don't worry.”

“But I do.” Claude did not want to leave her alone. She was too upset. And it felt just that good to hold her… “I think you'd better have some company. I'll take you home with me. I'll grab something to eat at the gas station. I'm sure you have not eaten anything.”

“I'm not hungry. Really. … God, I'm sorry.” Now she pulled away. “You're tired, and I dump all this crap on you.”

“No problem. Come on.” He smiled a little. “I promise to behave and not to probe your mind for any scientific secrets.”