A cell phone rings on a coffee table, amid a large holiday gathering. The vibration isn't loud enough to be heard over the numbers of of people taking. The voice mail picks up.
"Hey, this is Julie. I'm not available right now, so leave a message. Bye!"
A tone beeps
"Jules, it's Mareth."
Lightfoot sat outside the tent, still smoking his cigar. A light snow began to fall with the eastward wind blowing into the back of his ball-capped head. "Listen, I'm sorry for leaving you alone on Christmas morning. I got a page about 3:30, and I didn't have the heart to wake you up. Tell your parents I said hello at the party. I'll make it up to you when I get back."
He pulled a draw from him cigar, and let it go, then followed up with, "I love you.", then disconnected the line.
"You know, you're gonna have to tell her at some point, man." Tsarg piped up, drinking a cup of coffee to keep warm. "Either you tell her, or she's gonna find out when they're sending you home in a pine box."
Lightfoot shook his head. "Yeah, I know. I've just been waiting for the right time to tell her. She kind of knows something's up. Erratic work schedules, getting up in the middle of the night to jet-set to exotic locale and NOT taking her, coming home with weird injuries I can't readily explain without telling her... yeah. Something's gonna give, soon."
"Look, man. I told my girl... and she's fine with it. As long as I get paid, she doesn't care. She knows I'm going to come home regardless. She also knows she's taken care of if I don't come home of my own two feet."
Lightfoot snickered. "Nah. Fuck that, bro... I'm not letting you getting carted off in a pine box. Who else is gonna cover my six and put up with my bullshit?"
Tsarg smiled. "Not many will, bro. Not many are willing to jump out the side of a perfectly good airplane."
"Pussies." Lightfoot quipped.
"Still, man. You gotta tell her." Tsarg continued. "Sooner rather than later."
"Yeah. I'm going to after this Op." Lightfoot replied. "I'm just gonna lay it all out and hope she buys into the idea that I'm not exactly a telecommunications contractor."
Mareth's phone rings, Julie's face pops up on the phone.
"Yeah, I gotta take this." Lightfoot said, answering the phone. "Hello?"
"You mister, have a LOT of explaining to do." A female voice came over the phone. "I had fully planned to make breakfast, and coffee, and we were going to have an awesome morning before going to my parents, and I got you something REALLY nice."
"Would it happen to be you in something very scantily clad?" Lightfoot retorted, smirking.
"Maybe..." Julie replied. "But you'll never know until you come home. I did get your message. Couldn't you have told your client that you would get to it tomorrow? It is Christmas, after all."
"Yeah, I wish... but not with this client. He's one of my bigger money-makers and I had to jump through so many hoops to get this contract. If I didn't show up to fix it, someone else would have... and gotten my contract."
"I guess." Julie answered.
"It's because of this contract, we have that nice apartment and you are able to have that nice, full closet of designer clothes that you love so much." Lightfoot replied.
"I would rather have no clothes at all and have you here." Julie retorted.
"Yeah, I would rather that, too." Lightfoot agreed. "But, I promise that I'm gonna make it up to you when I get back. We actually have quite a bit of stuff to discuss. I just wanted to wait after the holiday to do it."
"What kind of stuff?"
"Us, our future, long term plans. That kind of stuff." Lightfoot said.
"Like, getting married?"
"Fuck. She said the "M" word..." Lightfoot thought.
Lightfoot balked a bit. "Well, there's some stuff we need to talk about before we get into all of that. There's some stuff you need to know, but I don't want to discuss it over the phone."
"Oh..." Julie said.
"Don't worry, I'm not going anywhere." Lightfoot reassured.
"Okay... good. So, where are you?" Julie asked.
"Jules, you know I can't tell you..." Lightfoot responded.
"Are you in some exotic location that I couldn't go to... again?"
"And this is why I can't tell you. You get all upset because you couldn't pack a minimum of five bags and tag along. Listen, darlin'... we've been through all of this before. I'm working the ENTIRE time. Sometimes it's VERY dangerous work. I get these contracts because I'm willing to go places that most others won't... Not to mention, you would be very bored."
"Fine." Julie huffed. "So, I was watching the news this morning. Evidently, there's some form of pandemic in New York. Lots of people have died. You're not in New York, are you?"
"Shit. I can't lie to her. Well, I'm technically not IN New York, yet... That's not a lie, right?"
"No, babe. I'm not in New York."
"Okay, then. Just be careful, okay?" Julie responded.
"You bet, Jules." Lightfoot responded. "I should be home in a few days. A week, tops."
"You better be." Julie snipped. "I can't wait on you forever, you know."
"I know. I love you, Jules."
"And I love you." Jules answered. "Bye."
"Bye." Lightfoot said, ending the call.
"Fuck, what have I gotten myself into?"
To be Continued...