Groaning to himself, he pulled himself off his bunk, and dragged himself over to the small shower room, yet all he did was stare at his reflection in the shaving mirror above the small handbasin.
“There’s got to be more to life than this,” he moaned at the image of his own face.
Nevertheless, he went through the routine and shortly joined the others for their regular training session. His lacklustre performance wasn’t lost on Ken though, and the Eagle soon pulled him to one side.
“Look, I know what’s going on, and you’ll have to pull yourself together. We don’t want the team’s performance to suffer because of your disastrous marriage!”
“What’s the point though Ken? Galactor aren’t as strong as they used to be, you could beat the crap out of them without me.”
“I don’t want to take that chance. We’re a team of five, always have been, always will be. Now it’s pretty obvious to all of us that you want to get back together, so get your fucking arse down there and talk to her.”
“Is that an order, commander?”
“Damn right. The way I see it, the only thing stopping you from sorting your marriage out is your bloody stubbornness.”
“What the hell do you know about anything?” Joe detransmuted and prepared to walk out when Jun stopped him in his tracks.
“Wait a minute,” she called out, running across to him, “if it helps, I’ve been keeping track of her this past week for you. She hasn’t been seeing, or making calls to anyone except you, I think if you check your mobile, you’ll find so many attempts by her to contact you, your memory will be full.”
“That wasn’t necessary, Jun. I’m off to the track now, I’ve got to get some practice in.” Joe paused before he left the room, “But thanks anyway, it’s good to know my friends are looking out for me.”
“So what’s stopping you? It’s obvious you’re still in love with her.”
“I can’t get over what she did though. Whenever I think about her, all I see is that image of the both of them.... it just tears me up inside.”
“I think I can understand, but tell her that. I’m sure you can get past it, if you really want to.”
“Oh, by the way Ken, I think you ought to know, I kinda let slip who I was to Kathleen.”
“Oh for fuck sake, what the hell were you thinking?”
“Sorry, it just slipped out during an argument, I had to put her straight about what I was doing while she was fucking a stranger”
“Just get out of here will you, before I do something you’ll regret.”
“Yeah, I’d like to see you try!”
Twenty laps of the deserted track later, and Joe pulled into the pit lane. When it came to his car, he was meticulous about its maintenance, and although it was running perfectly, he still had to look at the engine. Still, he pottered about, making sure nothing could go wrong with it, then walked around the vehicle, checking each tire in turn. He noticed one was looking slightly worn, and as he crouched to examine it closer, a soft voice behind him made him jump.
“Joe? I thought I’d find you here eventually.”
“What do you want Kathleen?” he didn’t bother to turn around to look at her.
“To talk, I suppose. I need to know how things are between us.” He could hear the desperation in her voice, “You won’t take my calls, or answer my messages. I don’t know what to think.”
“You’ve brought it on yourself though.”
“Yes, ok, I know, and I regret it, both what I did, and how I’ve hurt you. I’ve learnt a big lesson now. I don’t want you to hate me for this though”
“Hate you?” suddenly Jun’s parting words rang through his ears. “I don’t hate you, but I hate what you did. Every day this past week, all I’ve been able to think about is the sight of the pair of you in our bed, and I get as mad as I did when I found you there.”
“I’ll never do it again Joe, will you believe me?”
“Do what? Sleep with another man, or let me catch you at it?”
“You know what I mean.”
“Do I?” Joe finally turned to look at her. “Before that day, I’d never have believed you’d even look at anyone else, never mind take them to bed. Now I wonder how many times have you got away with it in the past, and I think about getting called out and wonder if you’ll be calling up some anonymous lover to ease you through the troubled times. So no, maybe I don’t know what you mean. I love you Kathleen but I’m not sure I’ll be able to trust you again.”
“It might take a while, but you will, I know. You won’t have any reason to doubt me, I promise.” She tentatively took his hand, this time he let her hold on. “Besides, you left me with quite a bombshell of your own, remember.”
“How could I forget?” At last he smiled, “look, about that...”
“So Condor Joe, why didn’t you tell me before?”
“I shouldn’t have told you at all, but maybe that was wrong. A little piece of me always hoped that it wouldn’t be necessary.”
“Why though? Don’t you think I could be trusted with it?”
“Our identities are supposed to be kept secret, not just for our benefit, but for the safety of anyone we love. It’s not about trust, if I thought you couldn’t be trusted, I’d never have got involved with you in the first place.” Joe took her other hand gently. “I figured, if my rushing off like I do was such a big deal, then you’d have broken it off long before we got this far.”
“And I just kept thinking that you would stop disappearing once we were married.”
“I can’t though. It’s a lifelong commitment. Do you think you can live with that?”
“Well at least now I know, it might be a bit more tolerable. I’m prepared to try at least.”
“Then so am I.” To Kathleen’s delight, he dropped her hands and draped an arm casually around her shoulders, yet backed off when she moved in for a kiss. “Not so fast, eh, this isn’t going to be easy for me.”
She looked disappointed, but nodded in understanding. “Ok, one step at a time. Come on, let’s go home.”
“Home, yeah, that sounds good to me.” He stopped and thought for a moment, “How did you get here?”
“Well, actually, Ken brought me.”
“So you need a ride then.” When she nodded sheepishly, he gestured towards his car. “Get in.”
Two years later
Joe raced to Kathleen’s bedside, glad to see she was awake, but tired.
“I’m so sorry, I tried to get here as soon as I could.” He put the bouquet at the foot of the bed as he leant over to kiss her. “How are you, and how is he?”
“We’re fine, and I know you have work to do, I couldn’t expect you to abandon your duties.”
“But you know I would have been here if....”
“I know.” She smiled sleepily, “now do you want to meet your son or not?”