The opening notes of the old Queen song “We Are the Champions” rang out of Amy’s desk. Pushing the project funding graph forward, Amy opened the desk’s bottom drawer to get her cell phone. Her favorite photo of Ryan lit the screen.
“Hi, Honey,” she said. “Make it quick, please. It’s only a few minutes before my presentation.”
“Yes, ma’am. I’ll make the mucho important short, Babe. Remember the Sales for the Ice House contest?”
“Of course.” Why did he treat everything as a fresh fact, each time he mentioned it? Couldn’t he just get on with it?
“Amy, you might be surprised, but I won.”
“Congratulations, Ryan, but that’s no big surprise to me.” She leafed through her desk papers, looking for the org chart. “People love you. Your teammates love you. Businesses love you. That’s great news, but I always knew you had it in you.” She frowned at the project reporting structure. Quickly, she said, “How about we talk all about it tonight?”
“There’s more. I got to tell you now. As winner, as champion, remember there’s two tickets for a weekend in Jamaica, away from this winter’s deep freeze.”
“Uh, huh.” She vaguely recalled a slide show they watched last year of his brother’s sun-drenched honeymoon in Montego Bay.
Amy arranged four pages of the project org chart into a square. Kenneth Okala was going to have a problem reporting to her. She knew that. That was one of her tasks. Handle him.
“Babe,” Ryan had continued talking, while her attention wandered, “tonight’s the end of the season. When you get home, pack your bags. We leave tomorrow at 5 a.m. for Jamaica.”
She shook her head even though he couldn’t see it. “No way,” she said flatly. “That’s impossible. The Splinter project launches Tuesday morning. I’ve got the whole team working all weekend.”
“Good. That makes it easy,” he said. “They’re a team. You’re the manager. Make them learn their roles, uninterrupted by your presence. That’ll train them best.”
“But, Ryan, I have to be with them.”
“No, buts. Get your team ready. I’m going arrange a scuba dive and see what else the resort has. See you tonight. Love you.”
With that remark, he hung up!
Amy wanted to tell him all the reasons leaving made things harder for her, but Ryan was already acting as if everything was decided. Had he even listened to what she had said?
And yet, she knew she would go to Montego Bay with him, no matter what she said. She always gave into him.
Her local project team sat on one side of the video room table. Two large monitors panned the Indian and European teams in their respective meeting rooms. A command meeting, no matter the local time.
Amy gave directions to the team and finished, “This will make you all happy. No long meeting. Pick a spokesperson. One for each group. I had planned to work this weekend, but a personal situation came up which I can’t ignore. I have faith that your teamwork will be improved by a weekend when me not looking over your shoulder. Have a wonderfulâ€¦a productive weekend. Status reports first thing, 8 a.m. East Coast time Monday.”
The Caribbean evening breeze warmed Amy’s cheek. She smiled at Ryan, determined to enjoy this surprise mini-vacation.
Ryan gulped his second margarita, a glitter growing in his eyes. “My brother will be eating his heart out. Him freezing in the north lands and us toasting in the Caribbean sun. Right, Babe?”
The restaurant veranda overlooked the quiet waters with the orange ball of the sun sinking slipping below the horizon. “Yes, the setting and the bouillabaisse are amazing,” she said, “but I can’t stop wondering how—”
“Babe, there’s nothing to worry about. You bragged about how their different strengths made them an effective team. Let them do their job.” Ryan spread his arms to encompass the beauty of the setting. “My season is over. Your job is great. Just look around. Enjoy.”
She swallowed and took a deep, slow breath. She knew he got upset if her ideas were too detailed and if she talked too fast. “My job is going great and I want to keep it that way.”
“What could go wrong?” He paused, finished his drink, caught the waiter’s attention, ordered another drink with a small motion, then continued. “You always worry about the negative, don’t you?” Ryan shook his head. “Why can’t you just enjoy the present?”
She tried to push down her irritation at his simplistic philosophy. Sure, he had athletic talent, but her tutoring was what allowed him to graduate. Fate had made her his tutor. When he wanted to spend more time with her, a girl more at home in the library than the stadium, she was surprised. He had praised her ability to accomplish things although she couldn’t remember the last time he said that. From the beginning, she found his spontaneous enjoyment of life very attractive, yet now, sometimes it irritated her.
“I do enjoy the present,” she agreed, “but I want to accomplish things too. Things that take concerted effort. Things that sometimes requires skipping an immediate good time for an accomplishment that lasts. It’s beautiful here, yes, but that’s not all I want. I need more. I want to be productive.”
“Me, too,” he said, placing his hand atop hers. “I love that you feel that way, too.”
She smiled, happy with his support.
“A productive life means children. My little brother called last week. They’re expecting. They’re starting a family. I want that too. Let’s go back to the hut and get started now that we’re established.”
Amy laughed, but shook her head. “I’m not saying throw that thought away, honey, but let’s think it through. I’m just getting established as the go-to person on an important project. If I take off maternity leave anytime soon, I’ll lose my place.”
Seeing a furrow begin on Ryan’s brow prompted her to add, “I have time and we haven’t talked through all the issues. We’re just living together. I need someone to share…What about religion?”
“Amy,” Ryan cut her off, “you wear me out with your thinking about things that will work themselves out. Makes me feel like I’m back in school. I don’t see why we should wait.”
She moved her hand up his arm and stroked his bicep. “You’re still got some good years left on the ice. Do you want to give up winter hockey and your off-season sports?”
Ryan pulled back in the wicker chair. His eyes widen with surprise, white surrounded his blue irises. “Of course not. I can still play. Why would I give that up?”
Finally, she had an issue that he could understand. “You’re going to let me and a nanny enjoy all the great moments with our child? Remember our agreement. I don’t have to do it all on my own.”
“I did say that, didn’t I?” His jaw muscle twitched.
Three years later, home with her newborn, Amy leafed through the mail while George, her husband of a year-and-a-half, brought in the groceries. Surprise and a tinge of pleasure reddened her cheeks when she noticed the return address of a hand-written envelope in their mail. Ice House, Home of Three Consecutive League Championships.
With a hesitant nostalgia she opened it. Ryan had seen the birth announcement and sent a store-bought congratulations. He included a hand-written note.
Hey, Babe. We’re both champions. Mucho congrats on the success of your intricate plan.
Amy tore up his self-congratulatory note, her eyes twinkling.