One morning she was pondering Carlo’s attentions to her while she sipped her coffee. Gisella had learned to make it the way she liked it: half coffee, half milk, a scoop of chocolate powder, and a packet of stevia. It felt so very good to be wanted by Carlo, but she felt guilty because she ought to be feeling wanted by her husband. She couldn’t even remember what it felt like to be wrapped in James’ arms, or to kiss him passionately. She was forgetting the sound of his voice. He had been gone for over six months. She had to do something. She could not sit around and wait for him, not knowing if he was ever going to come home. She assumed the agency would let her know if something ever happened to him. They would have to spin some sort of plausible story about his demise. Then there were all of the thoughts about the Bond women. “Who is he waking up with today?” she wondered. A horrifying thought came to her. “What if he just married me so he could sleep with me? What if I’m just a conquest and he had to marry me to get the proverbial mark on his gun?” Their confrontation in Brighton had made him so angry. He didn’t like being denied her body over her morals. Had they ever had a real relationship? She heard Amalia whimper in the other room. That drew her thoughts to the time James said he didn’t want children. Would he be irate if he knew he had a daughter? She wondered if perhaps he knew about the baby and would not come home because of it. The thought of him being angry in front of her precious baby set her in protective mode. “The truth is, I don’t want him to come back,” she thought with regret. She began to formulate her next trip around a very depressing goal….divorce. She went to her room and pulled a little wooden box off her dresser. She began to rifle through the papers and trinkets it held. Near the bottom was a small card with a woman’s name and phone number. She also found the envelope with all of their documents. She put the card and envelope in her purse and went to talk to Gisella. “Do you have papers to travel? I want to go to London for a visit and I need you to come and help me with Amalia,” she said. Gisella answered that she did and would love a trip to London. Carlo came the week as she was preparing for her trip to London. He asked as many questions as a jealous boyfriend, “Where are you going? How long will you be gone? Why are you going to London? Are you sure you are ready to travel?” She sat him down and tried to calmly answer his questions. “I am going to London to handle some personal business. We will return in two or three weeks.” He thought that was just way too long. She hurried his visit along so she could continue to get things in order for her trip. She had to get an ID card for Amalia to travel with her. She bought Gisella some new clothes and travel gear for Amalia.
Finally, they were all ready for the trip. They flew directly from Trieste to London this time. Anna did not care about spy protocol at this point. He had been gone so long that no one could connect him with Trieste anyway. Amalia did well on the flight and Anna thought that was a good sign that her daughter had been born with her travel bug. Anna checked into her favorite hotel in London where she had reserved a suite. Gisella and the baby shared a room and Anna had a large room with a desk and a huge tub. She knew she would need both the desk and the tub with what she was about to go through. The next morning, she found the small card and called the number. “Bertha Tulip. That is obviously a fake name. Who do they think they are fooling?” she thought as the phone on the other end rang. “Anna?” the voice on the other end said. “Yes, I need to talk to you,” Anna replied. The woman arranged for them to meet at an inconspicuous place that afternoon. She still had the morning to waste so she decided to go see her publisher. She had noticed that her bank account in London was growing quite substantial and she wanted to know what was going on. She nursed Amalia and then headed out to see Bob.
Bob was thrilled to see her. A little more thrilled than usual, she was thinking. Once seated in his office, he explained the extent of their success. “Anna, Pseumish has become extremely popular. It reaches a wide range of people. We’ve sold thousands of copies of each book here in England. Last month, we contracted with a publisher in the US and they are going to distribute over there. There was a sizeable advance for signing with them and I think you’ll be happy with the returns from the increase in sales.” Anna was stunned, “I hadn’t really thought of my books going to America. You have been very good to me, Bob. Thank you.” They talked for awhile. He wanted to know if they could count on her for more books. “Of course, my head is still full of ideas for the Pseumish series,” she told him. He seemed satisfied and asked if they could go to lunch while she was in London. She was unsure of how this afternoon’s conversation would affect her schedule; so she told him she would give him a call. She left his office feeling confident that she could take care of Gisella, Amalia, and herself for a very long time. “Thank you, God,” she breathed as she hailed a cab.
Back at the hotel, she nursed Amalia again and they ordered lunch in their room. She put on a pretty light blue dress and matching heels. She pulled her hair back in a clip on the back of her head and put on understated makeup. She grabbed her purse and went outside to get a cab. The cab ride seemed to take forever. She felt the envelope in her purse and realized she was extremely nervous. “Bertha” was waiting at a quiet outdoor café. Anna sat across from her and mustered the nerve to begin. “I—I don’t know how to say this except to just be blunt. I want a divorce from James. He is always gone and I cannot handle being married, but living alone. I think abandonment is grounds for divorce; at least that is what you see on tv. I thought I would need to tell you first since all our documents come from the agency anyway. He’s been gone for nearly seven months. I assume you know we have a baby. I don’t know if you’ve told him or not, but I really don’t want him to know. He made it quite clear that he didn’t want children. And, I don’t want him to feel pressure to come home just because he is a father. It’s obvious he loves his job and I think he should be free to have that one love in his life. I’ve brought all our documents with me in case you need them.” She swallowed hard and took a sip of the coffee in front of her. It was way too sweet, but she had to do something to calm her nerves. The woman answered in a very businesslike tone, “If you are sure, I will start on the paperwork today. As you have said, your papers are handled within the agency and you were right to talk to me first. We should have this resolved by the end of the week. You are a good woman, Anna. You have realized the importance of his job. I must ask you, though, not to speak of his occupation even after your divorce is finalized. I will call you when it is done.” She stood, shook Anna’s hand, and without taking the envelope of documents was gone before Anna could think about standing up. “Well, I guess that ball is rolling,” she thought.
She decided they would enjoy London for the next several days. She wanted Gisella to enjoy herself and took her sightseeing and shopping. Anna had professional portraits made of Amalia. If anyone saw a picture of the baby alone, they would never know she was James Grant’s child.
Back at the hotel, she wrestled with how much information to tell her family. She knew she could in no way allude to James’ job or location, but what about the baby or herself? She sat down at her computer and opened an email draft. She addressed it to her mother and then sat back and stared at the screen for few minutes. At length, she began typing,
Mom, I know I have been so vague with you the past year and a half. I’m so sorry. There are many things you deserve to know, but that I could not tell you. Let me start with this week and go backwards. I am getting a divorce. My husband has a job, which I can’t tell you about, that keeps him away from home almost constantly. Two months ago I gave birth to a beautiful daughter. My husband does not even know he has a child. So, you are a grandmother! Surprise! There were lots of complications with my birth and suffice it to say, I will never have any more children. Is this what happened to you? Is that why I’m an only child? Anyway, Amalia Kate and I live in Italy. I absolutely love it there. I have already published two books and am financially independent. I wish you could come see the baby and my lovely home. I know you would love them both. I would pay for you to fly there. I am in London right now getting the divorce paperwork done. Not fun. I have a nanny with me. She lives with us in Italy and I can’t do without her. Mom, I must ask you not to share any of this with Aunt Beth. Since her husband is related to my soon to be ex-husband, they cannot know anything about him. Please, don’t tell them anything. Give my love to Dad. Love, Anna.
She figured it was safe to tell her that much in an email since she did not use James’ name. In minutes she received a reply from her mother.
“Dearest Anna, I am so very happy to hear from you. I am greatly disappointed that you must get a divorce. You know how they look on that around here. Oh well, I know you are doing what you feel is best. I am a grandmother! That makes me so happy. Yes, dear, I had problems with childbirth, too. So sorry you inherited that. Amalia is a beautiful name. I would love to come see you; if I could ever get your father to consent. You know how attached he is to this little part of Tennessee. I will keep quiet about your husband with Beth. She is constantly asking me if I’ve heard from you. I don’t guess your husband stays in touch. Well, I need to go make your father’s lunch. I love you dearest, and hope you will continue to write me. Love, Mom.”
Anna was crying when she finished her mother’s email. She missed her so much. The one person in the world who was a kindred spirit had been cut off from her by distance and obligation. She determined that at a later date she would call her dad and convince him to let her mom come visit.
The next order of business was to write James a letter. She pushed aside her computer and got out some stationary and a pen. At first she wrote haltingly; then, the depth of her grief came flowing out onto the page.
“Dear James, I do not know how to write this letter to you. I have such deep feelings of pain about our marriage and the deception I have been under. I don’t know if you are with a new woman every week as a part of your job. I thought I was married to you, not your job. I feel as though I was a victim of your lust; that you only married me because I wouldn’t have sex with you. I am so very hurt I cannot express it. I feel the only way for me to find peace is to divorce you. I am sorry. I loved you so deeply. The man who played with his cousin’s children and helped to wash dishes….I still love that man. I cannot wait at home for you anymore. I must go on with life. I am asking you with this letter; do not contest the divorce and do not come to my home in Trieste. I have been paying the mortgage for nearly a year; thus it is my home. I do not want to see you again. I wish you luck in your job and appreciate your dedication to it for the sake of your country. Sincerely, Anna”
She folded the letter carefully and put it in an envelope. She sighed and wondered again if she was doing the right thing. How could it be right to divorce him simply for being absent? She tried to assuage her guilt by convincing herself that she was doing it for England. However, her heart knew that wasn’t entirely true. She felt abandoned for the second time in her life. She couldn’t deal with the pain and anger of not knowing where James was or when, if ever, he was coming home.
At the end of the week, Anna’s phone rang. It was “Bertha” on the line. “Anna, your divorce is complete. I just need to meet with you to sign some papers and give you some documents.” She set up another meeting at a park. Anna showed up at the designated time and searched with her eyes for the mysterious woman. She found her on a secluded park bench and sat down near her. “Here are the papers you need to sign,” the woman began directly, “this one is for the divorce and this one states that he will not have to pay you any alimony or child support; since you didn’t want him to know about the child. We have not told him that he has a daughter, just so you know. These others are saying that you have promised not to disclose James’ occupation or location.” Anna signed them all without hesitation. She then produced the documents of divorce and various other things for Anna. Anna took the tan envelope out of her purse. “Would you please get this to James? I’m assuming someone has to tell him about the divorce and get his signature? Anyway, I would appreciate it if you would give it to him.” The woman nodded and executed her swift getaway as she had done before. Anna sat on the park bench for awhile to contemplate her new freedom. She could travel. She could call people just to chat. She could write all hours of day or night. A smile grew on her face. Part of her still wished she’d had a normal marriage with James. She felt regret for going through with the divorce. She had loved him and still loved him, but she could not be attached to a ghost. She rose from her seat and walked to the edge of the park. It was time to go back to Italy.
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