Étienne wakes to the feel of Ginny starting under his arm a moment before he hears the strident peal of the phone from the kitchen. She squints into the darkness while he blearily rubs his eyes with the heel of his hand. "Who the hell," Ginny says, voice raw with sleep, "is calling at this time of night?"
"I'll get it," Étienne says. He slaps a hand around for his glasses on the windowledge; they are dripping with rain from the half-raised window. He gives them a half-hearted swipe against his shirt and rolls out from under the blankets, adding, "It's probably just my mother. Go back to sleep."
"Well, tell your bloody mother to call at a reasonable hour, will you?" Ginny says, voice swallowed up in down as she huddles down into the pillows and buries her head in the quilt. "She should have figured out the time difference from Canada by now."
Étienne stumbles across the bedroom, closing the door behind him. Their flat is so tiny and cramped he only has to half-turn outside the bedroom door to snatch up the phone from the kitchen alcove; he bangs into a box of Ginny's papers in the process, nearly sending them spilling to the floor. He cradles the phone against his shoulder, bracing the teetering stack of boxes with both hands, and says, "Allo, Desjardins."
He listens, then sucks in a breath. "Minsk?" he says, shifting so the phone cord trapped round his neck is less constricting. "Already? Damn. I thought we might get her at Calais. Well, thanks for passing it along."
Étienne disentangles himself from the cord and hangs up, giving the boxes one final shove against the wall to make sure they stay upright. He sighs and ruffles a hand through his hair before going back into the bedroom; he catches his hip on their one chair as he goes and groans a little in his throat, rubbing the spot as he pads barefooted back across the bedroom as softly as possible.
"What did she want?" Ginny murmurs, not opening her eyes. Her hair looks ghost-pale across the dark patterned quilt; he watches her a moment before he hooks his glasses around the bedframe and slides in beside her, curling an arm around her.
"Just somebody from the office," he says. "It was nothing."
Étienne can see her wrinkle her nose. "Rude."
"Ouais," he agrees, burying his face in her neck.
Ginny is asleep again in seconds, but Étienne is awake till dawn.
15:55 central european time/14:55 gmt.
Étienne doesn't even pretend to go into the office in the morning but spends several hours perched in the kitchen twiddling a pen between his fingers as though he isn't waiting by the phone. Ginny, working with the second draft of her dissertation spread out around her as she sits cross-legged in bed, it being the largest uninterrupted surface in the flat, spends the afternoon getting progressively more irritated by him. Finally, she stands up in a huff, papers crinkling beneath her feet as she steps across the mattress, and announces that they're going to go for a walk.
Étienne thinks to protest, and looks back at the phone as if to plead off, but Ginny is already swinging on her coat and giving him a pointed look; he sighs, and slides off his stool.
They make their way up the cobbled rue d'Orsel hand-in-hand. The sun is out and has burned off most of last night's rain by now, but the air is still cool and damp. Étienne breathes in deep, trying to quell his fraying nerves. He slips his arm around Ginny's waist, and she lays her head on his shoulder and settles into him, head ducked beneath his chin. "You're in a mood today," she says.
Étienne considers this. "No more than usual, I think," he says. His fingers tighten into her side, the solidity of her an anchor against the tide.
"Mm-hm," Ginny says sceptically, but she curls her fingers around his and holds on tight.
They pick up a belated lunch at the boulangerie and eat it on the steps of Sacré Coeur. Étienne leans back on his elbows and stares at the clouds in the dimming blue sky while tourists mill about them. Ginny brushes down her skirt and skips down the stairs to admire a nearby artist's work as he sketches the scene and Étienne sits up straighter, extracting his carton of cigarettes from the breast of his coat.
Someone walks onto his step and stands there next to him silently. Étienne waits a moment and then blinks and looks up, exhaling a stream of smoke that disappears into the rising breeze. The man at his side doesn't look down at Étienne, staring straight ahead into Montmartre instead with his arms clasped behind his back. He is dressed in a sober dark suit, hat pulled low over his eyes.
"Yes?" Étienne says.
The man wordlessly drops a slip of paper into Étienne's lap from the left cuff of his jacket and moves off down into the crowd. Étienne watches him go, stubbing out his cigarette, and then palms the piece of paper and reads it:
f.b. arrived; baines brothers moving; london shuffled as expected.
Étienne nods to himself, satisfied, and then starts to tear the paper idly. Ginny is climbing back up to him, face flushed with windburn, hair whipping around her, and he opens his hand and lets the tiny shreds of white scatter into the breeze. "It's freezing," she calls. "Let's go home."
Étienne stands, settles his collar, and goes down to her.
23:46 central european time/22:46 gmt.
When Ginny disappears to take a bath before bed Étienne grits his teeth and calls Faith under cover of the sound of water thundering onto porcelain.
She answers brusquely. "You've been following today's developments, have you?"
"Yep," he says. "Everything's in motion, then?"
"Looks like," Faith says. "The American widow, she's headed overseas, as well. Should put a spoke in the wheel for the Russian team."
She pauses; Étienne cocks his head and listens to Ginny turning off the water and stepping into the bath. Faith adds, measured and careful, "What are the Canadians planning on doing about it?"
Étienne laughs, but quietly. "Cute," he says. "No comment. You know that."
"Well, it seemed worth a shot," Faith says. He can hear the clink of ice in her glass as she drinks on the other end of the line before she clears her throat and says, "And off the record?"
He shrugs helplessly against the wall at his back. "Well, it's too precarious to move yet. And besides—we don't know how things are going to shake out. It might come to nothing." He considers, and clarifies, "I suppose we're sitting on things for now."
"Likewise," she says. She inhales. "Well. Let me know if anything changes."
"I won't," Étienne says. "I just wanted to check in."
"Nice talking to you too," Faith says drily, and she hangs up.
Étienne sits and watches the flowers Ginny picked up this afternoon waving softly in their vase in the draught from the open window over the sink. He doesn't notice it when Ginny opens the bathroom door, not until she is standing before him, hair in a wet tangle down her back, white towel clutched to her chest as she leans her hip against the counter.
"Who were you talking to?" she says. Her voice is casual. "The office again?"
"Yes," Étienne lies smoothly. He rubs his eyes, feeling suddenly exhausted. "They need me in early tomorrow. There's a problem with one of our contracts."
Ginny smiles. "Right," she says. She shakes her head a little, lips pursed, and pushes herself away from the counter, heading for the bedroom.
She turns back. Étienne looks at her helplessly, and she smiles again. "It's all right," she says. "One day you'll tell me. Won't you?"
"If I can," he says honestly, hating himself for it.
She nods; he doesn't notice how tense she'd been holding herself until she lets out a breath, white-knuckled grasp on her towel loosening slightly. "You should get some sleep, Étienne," she says, tucking a wet lock of hair behind her ear.
"I'll come in a minute," he says. "I just need to make one more phone call."
Ginny disappears into the bedroom, and Étienne picks up the phone to make the call to Ottawa.