Jennifer woke up, flipped the blankets off, put one leg over the edge of the bed, reached down with her foot until it reached the floor, sat up, put her other foot on the floor, stood, and shrieked. Piercing pain in both soles. She sat down and lifted her feet. She heard a light tinkling sound.
Robert next to her in bed jerked up to a sitting position. “What? What's wrong?” Clearly, Jennifer's scream had woken him out of a sound sleep – his voice sounded kind of furry.
“I don't know, wait a minute.” She looked down and saw glass splinters all over the floor. She looked up. The window on the backyard was shattered.
She lifted her feet. There were cuts on both soles. Not too much blood, but there was a little bit easing out.
“Yikes.” Robert, peering over her shoulder, saw the cuts on her feet. “I'll take of that, hon.”
“Thanks, babe.” It didn't hurt much, but it would probably start hurting pretty soon. She lifted her feet back onto the bed and lay there above the covers until Robert came back with a basin of soapy water, a towel, and some cotton bandages.
He tucked the towel under her feet, washed her cuts gently, dried her, and taped bandages onto her soles. “Can you stand up, dear?” he said. “Or do you want me to bring you some breakfast?”
She grinned. “What, you're going to cook?”
He winked at her. “I'm going to heat up some breakfast sandwiches in the microwave, you little tease, and I'm going to make some coffee. You think I can handle that?”
“I guess so.” Jennifer looked at the broken window and felt heavier. Pity. “Think you can find out what happened over there?”
“Yeah, there's a rock on the floor, see?”
Jennifer sat up. Her feet still throbbed. “Someone threw a rock through the window? What the hell?”
“Looks that way.” Robert walked over and picked it up. It wasn't much more than a pebble. “I can't think why we didn't hear the window break.”
“Me either.” Jennifer sighed. “Well, why don't you get breakfast and I'll call the Company.”
Robert's head whipped around and he stared at her. “You really want to involve them?”
“Policy, babe. We have to report any attacks on us personally.”
Robert sighed and headed for the bedroom door. “All right, we'd better eat, this could turn into a long day.”
After breakfast, Robert went back to the kitchen to start the housework, and Jennifer dialed her superior in the Company hierarchy, Alex Muir. He picked up right away, which was a surprise – he usually had meetings at least until noon.
“Hi, Alex, it's Jen,” she said. “Someone threw a rock through my window this morning.”
“Ho-leee!” She could hear him swallow hard. “Are you okay?”
“Not bad, except for some cuts on the bottom of my feet.”
“And you didn't hear the glass break?”
“No, and neither did Robert. We can't figure it out either.”
“Well then, how do you know someone threw a – never mind.” Alex sounded pretty annoyed, but he got himself under control pretty fast. “Can you send Robert out for a while? We'll have to send a team out there.”
Jennifer sighed. “Yeah. He won't like it, but he'll go. When will they get here?”
“Uh...about an hour.”
“Got it.” Jennifer hung up. “Robert, can you come in here a sec?”
The conversation proceeded in the expected way – Robert's knit eyebrows and difficulty speaking told Jennifer that he wasn't pleased, but he restricted himself to asking how long he'd have to be gone in a calm tone of voice, so his upset was pretty mild. That was one of the things Jennifer loved about him. He controlled his temper. She imagined that she'd hear more about how the whole incident struck him when he got home, after some time spent calming himself. Could be worse. A lot worse.
The team arrived on time and came in the front door – either Robert left the door unlocked for them or they had a key, which wouldn't be surprising. Jennifer, feet burning, was still in bed, although she had put on the clothes that Robert had brought over, so it wasn't too embarrassing. Alex was with them. Now, that was kind of a shock. “What are you doing here?” Jennifer asked.
Alex stared at her. “A Company employee, a member of my team, gets attacked, where should I be, hm?”
Jen just smiled, lay back, and let the team medic work on her feet while the rest of them worked on the floor, the pile of glass, all of it.
Less than an hour later, Jennifer had her feet on the floor, testing them for pain. Almost none. The medic had taken every sliver out with a magnifying glass and a pair of tweezers, coated her soles with disinfectant, then with a numbing solution, then with a kind of flesh glue – the latest thing – to close up the cuts, then with new antiseptic pads. It felt wonderful to stand up and realize that the pressure didn't hurt a bit. Then Alex walked over. Very solemn.
“Okay, Jen,” he said, “we're done.”
“Yep. Wasn't very hard. Now, can you get Robert back here? You both need to hear this.”
After all the secrecy, the Company wanted to involve her civilian husband. Jennifer's stomach flipped over. This was serious. “Uh...sure.”
When she called and Robert picked up, the background noise showed that he was at the local mall. Probably at the bookstore. Good – he usually spent Saturdays there, so he'd be in a good mood. “They're done already?” He sounded delighted.
“Yeah, didn't take long. Can you come on back? They want to talk to both of us.”
His voice went suddenly cold. “Um, okay, see you in about a half hour.”
That was weird. It got weirder while they waited for him. Alex and his team didn't say one word.
Then it got weirder when Jennifer heard Robert walk in the door. Then she heard two agents meet him up there and hustle him into the bedroom. When they walked into the room, Robert's face looked so passive. His expression didn't change when the agents pushed him into an armchair.
Alex stood over him. “Hi, Robert,” he said, in a cheerful tone of voice that did not match his serious expression at all. “I'm Alex. I run Jennifer's team.”
Robert didn't even bother to look up. “Hi.”
Alex leaned over and looked Robert in the face. “Why did you break your window?”
Jennifer went cold. Robert?
Now Robert looked up at her. “So she'd leave the Company.” He looked up at Alex and his face twisted with rage. “What do you think?”
Alex chuckled a bit. “I think next time you pull a stunt like this, you should be more careful about the pattern of glass shards and about leaving your very clear fingerprints on the broken windowpane.”
“Yeah,” snarled Robert, “I suppose you're right. Now either get out of here so I can clean up, or take me away to wherever you take people like me.”
Alex beckoned, and the two agents pulled Robert out of the chair. As they began to haul him out of the room, Jennifer said “Wait.” She walked over to Robert. At least he had the decency to look her in the eye instead of trying to avoid her glance.
Jennifer stared at him. “You wanted me to leave the Company?”
She swallowed. She wouldn't let herself cry in front of Alex, or Alex's team, certainly not in front of Robert. “Why?”
Robert's mouth twisted, like it always did when he was considering what to say. “It's...it's not good for you.”
Jennifer's heart throbbed. She gave him a peck on the lips. “See you, hon.”
He smiled just the littlest bit. Then he was gone.
Jennifer turned to Alex. “Now what?”
He, unlike Robert, could not seem to meet her eyes. “Now we go to the office and to make out your resignation.”
She couldn't help laughing. “Because I missed him trying to trick me into resigning, right?”
“Right.” Alex was twisting around like he was floating in a pot of boiling water. “The Company can't use anyone who's that unobservant.”
She laughed harder. “What about you? You didn't notice it either.”
“Spare me.” He stopped twitching and glared at her. “I'm in enough trouble as it is.”
She felt surprisingly calm. Because she didn't care about his problems anymore. “Well, when do I get to see my husband?”
“We'll let you know.” He held out his hand. “Turn over your Company phone. We'll let you keep the car.”
“Gee, thanks.” She put as much sarcasm into it as she could. Alex glared hotter, but he didn't say anything.
It took almost a year, but Robert eventually came home, and they started living a new kind of life.