“Rosalind; her name, it’s Rosalind.”
Tim waited for more; it was so unlike Tony to keep his conquests quiet, he couldn’t wait to hear about this mystery woman, unfortunately they were interrupted.
“Gear up, dead Marine at Fort Myer.” Gibbs put down his phone, threw the truck keys to Tony and they all headed for the elevator.
The case such as it was proved to be as open and shut as they could wish for. An argument over gambling debts spiralled into a fist fight that resulted in Marine Corporal Nick Barrs hitting his head on the hard asphalt, a blow which proved fatal. Although there had been no witnesses to the actual fight enough people knew about the simmering argument between Barrs and PFC Westin to lead them right to the guilty party; Westin was sleeping off a night on the booze when they found him. Within minutes he was in tears, he’d left Barrs on the ground, but he wasn’t aware how hard he’d hit him, or that his former buddy had died so needlessly.
The team was in subdued mood as they drove the short distance back to the Navy Yard; such a waste of a life was never to be taken lightly; for a man who’d served his country with distinction to die over $100 was tragic both for Barrs and Westin.
As they worked on their case reports Tim got an email alert, clicking on the icon he was surprised to see the message was from Tony.
If you’re free tonight, how about an early dinner and I’ll tell you more about Rosalind?
Now that was an offer Tim could not refuse, he quickly typed his reply, and hit send. He saw a brief smile appear on Tony’s face, and quick as a flash came another message.
Gordon Biersch do good Bistro Steak Medallions, we could go right after work.
He typed his reply, Can’t wait! then got back to work, the sooner their reports were done, the sooner their eagle-eyed team leader would let them go.
They’d ordered their food, and were enjoying a cold beer, Tim was extremely curious about Tony’s latest girlfriend, and was keen to know why he hadn’t heard mention of her until today when, judging by the way he’d been behaving recently Tony had been seeing her for a few weeks.
“Guess you want to know why I haven’t talked about Rosalind before today.”
Tim swallowed quickly before he choked on his drink, how did Tony know...? “You could say that Tony, were you going to say anything, if I hadn’t asked, would we be having this conversation right now?”
“Maybe not...Tim, this...she...I think this could be special, and...I was going to tell you a couple of weeks ago, and then Delilah left for Dubai, and seeing you alone...didn’t seem the right time.”
Tim put down his glass and stared at Tony. “You seriously think I wouldn’t be happy for you? Delilah needs time to prove to herself she’s as good as she ever was, do I wish she could have done that in DC? Of course I do, but if she has to spread her wings...I couldn’t hold her back, not after everything she’s been through.”
“She took your key Tim, she’ll come home.” Tony took a sip of beer and sat quietly as their waiter returned with their meals.
“Hope so; enough about my long-distance relationship Tony, tell me about Rosalind.”
Tony took a few moments to cut his steak into bite-sized pieces and tried to collect his thoughts, he was rarely short of things to say, only this time he wanted to do justice to a rare woman.
“Right from the start it felt different with Rosalind, but I...guess I was scared if I told anyone, even you, I’d screw it up. I first saw her five weeks ago, when I went to my men’s group, not in the group, outside in the parking lot. , She had a flat tyre; I helped her change it, she thanked me, and when she smiled…it was like the sun came out.” He glanced at Tim. “Corny huh?”
Tim shook his head. “No; sounds like she made a big impression.”
“You could say that…she wanted to buy me coffee, to say thanks; never even thought about the group, not sure I spoke, just followed her.” For a few minutes Tony concentrated on his dinner and Tim watched him eat, eager to hear more, but content to let Tony tell it in his own time. “We talked…not for long, she had to get back to her son.”
Tim couldn’t contain his gasp of surprise.
“Oh yeah, she told me right off about him, wait, I have a picture.” Tony pulled out his phone, selected an image and handed it to Tim, a proud smile on his face. “That’s Rosalind and Hal.”
Tim was smiling too, the three people in the picture looked so happy, so…together; Tony had a young boy on his shoulders and a woman had her arm round Tony’s waist, looking up into his eyes. “They’re beautiful Tony.”
“Inside and out.”
Tim couldn’t comment on internal beauty, but Rosalind was most definitely beautiful on the outside. She was about six inches shorter than Tony. Her black hair framed a face of classic beauty, her dark complexion bearing witness to her African heritage. As for her smile…Tim could understand why Tony seemed smitten, having someone look at you that way…he handed the phone back to Tony. “You look good together.”
“Feels good too, has done right from the get go. I never had that before. I’ve always been on my guard around women, looking for a good time before I waved them goodbye. With Rosalind, it was like she looked right into me and saw something good, someone she could care for.”
Anyone who could make Tony feel so good about himself was okay in Tim’s book, more than okay. “She sounds great, maybe you’ll let me meet her one of these days.”
Tony looked a little embarrassed. “The truth? I was going to suggest a double-date, you and Delilah, Rosalind and me; then Delilah left and it was…awkward. I still wanted you to meet her, wasn’t sure you’d be ready…guess I should have asked anyhow. Sorry man.”
“No need for apologies, I haven’t been much for socialising since Delilah went.” He smiled. “Could be it’s time I got out of the apartment again.”
“That’s great Tim, Rosalind’s been asking to meet you. I know you’re going to get on great, I just know it.” Tony grinned at his friend. “Hey, how about Saturday? Hal has a Pee Wee soccer game and we’re going for lunch after, you could come along.”
“You might want to ask first Tony, Rosalind may have other ideas.”
With a shake of his head Tony picked up his phone. “No way. Told you, she wants to meet you, but if it makes you feel better I’ll ask her right now.”
“He’s a great kid Rosalind, a credit to you and your parents.”
Tony had taken Hal to select the toppings for his ice-cream, leaving Tim and Rosalind to enjoy a quiet cup of coffee.
“Thanks Tim, I don’t think I’d have survived without Mom and Dad; after Gary died, I felt lost…”
“I can’t imagine how tough it was.” Tony had told him that Rosalind’s husband had died almost four years ago. He’d left out the details, and Tim had listened in awe as Rosalind described how she’d struggled through her pregnancy while Gary fought against pancreatic cancer, a struggle he lost just two days after their son was born.
“He lived long enough to hold his son in his arms, then…he’d fought so hard, he was so tired…he kissed Hal, told me he loved me; closed his eyes…he never regained consciousness.” Her eyes had been bright with tears, but the sadness was tempered by the joy of being here with her son, with Tony, the man who’d opened up a part of her heart she thought had died with Gary. She smiled at Tim, and he felt the full force of what Tony called ‘The Rosalind Effect’. “I’m so glad you could make it Tim, I’ve been wanting to meet ever since Tony told me about you, and not just because Mom now has an autographed copy of Deep Six.”
“I’m guessing your dad isn’t too impressed by your mom’s reading habits.” She’d already told him her dad was a high school English teacher with a deep-seated love of Shakespeare.
“He’s a great reader of pretty much anything Tim, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he’d read Mom’s copy of your book.”
Tim wasn’t so sure, but it was typical of what he’d learned about Rosalind today that she’d want him to feel good. She seemed like one of those very rare people who wanted to make the world a better place for others; it had come as no surprise to Tim that the night she’d met Tony she had been leading a self-help group for people bereaved by cancer. “You have a good heart Rosalind, I’m glad you found Tony, he’s a changed man since he met you.”
“Goes two ways Tim, I’d been closing myself off, living for Hal, for work, for the group…I was getting lost, with Tony, I’m a better person.”
“Seems to me you’re great together, and Hal, looks to me like he loves Tony too.”
She glanced over to the noisy line of children waiting at the ice-cream stand and a joyous smile transformed her face. “I never…not in my wildest dreams thought I’d meet someone who could love Hal the way Tony does, and Hal…you can see.”
Tim could, the youngster hadn’t stopped talking with Tony the whole time he was waiting, he held Tony’s hand, and it was so natural that the only reason you could tell their weren’t father and son was the colour of their skin. Tim gave a sudden smile and smacked his forehead with the palm of his hand. “I just realised, Hal…is it another Shakespearean name?”
With a wry smile Rosalind nodded. “I know, you’d think after Dad named us all after Shakespeare characters I’d have wanted to be different, I mean I have a sister named Cordelia and a brother Sebastian; but Gary and I talked before…he wanted us to carry on, said it could become a family tradition. We chose Henry, after Henry the Fifth, and he was known as Prince Hal so…”
“It suits him, I can see him growing into Henry, but right now, he’s a Hal.”
“I agree, and at least he’ll have a choice when he’s older. We almost had it much worse, Mom told me once Dad was seriously considering Desdemona or Perdita,.so I guess all things considered we got off light.”
“No argument here.”
They were laughing when Tony and Hal returned, Hal’s ice-cream almost buried under a mountain of brightly coloured M&Ms. “I think we might have a sugar rush to deal with later.” Tony was grinning broadly as he lifted Hal into his seat, and Tim tried to remember the last time he’d seen his friend so happy, no that was wrong, Tony was beyond happy; he was whole.