“You got the message to me.” Harry says later on, when it’s all calmed down. Ruth looks up from her desk and nods. She wasn’t concentrating anyway.
“We wouldn’t have had a chance without you there. It would have been a bloodbath.” He smiles, but doesn’t quite meet her eyes.
“How did you get it past them?” Ruth pauses; she thought he’d already know.
“I told the nurse I was in love with you.” Her smile doesn’t falter, and she might be imagining it, but he pauses just a second too long.
“You must be a very good actress.”
“So, this...thing,’ Zoe said, not taking her eyes off it. Bits kept moving. ‘Is it going to be standard issue anytime soon?” Malcolm gave her a withering look.
“It’s a prototype.” He said, as if that explained everything. She nodded, because it seemed safe.
“Right. Okay.” There didn’t seem to be much else to say. Maybe if they somehow attached a camera…
“Oh, wow, is that what I think it is?” Sam said, coming up silently behind her, and Zoe jumped just as she did every. Single. Time. Malcolm looked even more annoyed at her.
“It’s not a toy.”
“Oh.” Sam said, sounding deflated. Zoe had to admit that it did look a lot like a toy.
“It could be very important for national security.’ Zoe said hopefully, though she couldn’t quite figure out how. ‘It’s a prototype.”
“But it’s a robot dog.”
“Yes, well, obviously it needs some modifications.”
Zoe closed the door behind her, grateful that the noise of the guests faded away. She took a deep breath and opened her eyes, only to find that she wasn’t as alone as she thought. Danny.
“Well, you did it.” He says, raising his glass to her. There’s a pause.
“I certainly did.” Zoe says, laughing shakily, clinking her glass with his and wondering why he’s in here.
“You’re missing the party.”
“So are you.”
“It’s my party and I’ll hide if I want to. I wanted to get a bit of quiet.”
“Snap.’ He goes quiet, and she just has the time to think oh God, maudlin Danny before he speaks again. ‘Are you happy? I mean, is it what you want?” He looks like a puppy, she thinks, like he’s waiting for someone to come along and give him a new home. She doesn’t wonder if she should have done, because that’s not the kind of thing you think about four hours after your wedding.
“Yes, I’m happy. It’s definitely what I want.” And it is, she wants something totally separate from work, some little bolthole that no-one else can touch, and that’s what she’s got. She never wanted to do a Tom or an Adam, have a partner who knows exactly what you’re going through. She doesn’t want someone who knows her inside out.
“It is.’ Danny agrees. ‘You’ve got that little smile on your face. I‘m glad.” She doesn’t need to say that it never would have worked between them, because they’ve had that conversation. She wishes she could think of something else to say, though, because sooner or later she’s going to have to fill this silence and –
“The earrings.” He says, interrupting her train of thought. Her hand automatically goes up to touch one.
“What about them?”
“They’re new, right?” Zoe nods. Mother’s old ring, garter with blue ribbon, necklace borrowed from Ruth, and new earrings.
“I bought them.”
“You bought them?” He nods.
“I wasn’t going to tell you. I wanted you to…I wanted to…I just wanted to give you something.”
“Oh. Right. Thank…thank you. They’re lovely.” And that’s as close as they’re going to get. There’s a silence where they both try and think of something to say. Zoë looks around the room, everywhere but at him.
“This is ridiculous.’ He says suddenly, and she looks at him, wondering what he means and what he’s going to say. ‘It’s your wedding day and we’re sitting in some small room away from all the action. You’ve got a husband out there you should get back to. And if I don’t get back out there, what are all those women going to do?” He says it with a grin, and offers her his arm.
“Can’t disappoint your adoring public, can we?” She says lightly, answering his grin with a smile of her own and they walk out arm in arm.