Things progressed quickly after that. Being close to 40 already, having looked for somebody to share his life with, Tony was eager to impress his newfound love.
They met the next day in town.
“There have been… issues in my life as well”, Natalia told him. “But you have to reach for the stars, and never give up hope, and one day everything will just fall into place.”
“Do you want to move in with me”, Tony asked her after they watched a movie at the theatre.
Natalia didn’t really have a place of her own, just a tiny rented room. Everything would be better than that. And Tony had been treating her like a queen despite the mess she was calling her life. She didn’t have to think about an answer. It came naturally to her.
She was happy with her new life. And Tony was happy, too. There wasn’t much room in his home, but it was enough for the both of them.
Tony worked night shifts since he became second in command, and was coordinating most of the things happening at the Company. For him, it became honest work. He kept out of law’s way, and he didn’t see the jail from the inside for a long while now. He was too important to go and steal things now. He was getting closer to the center of the spiderweb, pulling the strings. Yet Rhoda was still his boss. She was getting into her years now, and Tony noticed how fast her previously black hair greyed out. Every time he thought about it, he found that he loved her still, but she was a dream, a pretty picture he couldn’t touch.
Everytime he came home, he didn’t think of Rhoda anymore. He had the real thing waiting for him.
Natalia didn’t work for the temp agency anymore. Tony didn’t have that much money, since he stayed behind in the office and only got a share of the profits, but it was enough. She stayed at home, thought Tony was doing all the cooking and cleaning when he came home.
Natalia re-discovered her love for chess and logic puzzles.
They played together whenever Tony’s work schedule allowed for it, leading quiet conversations about the things they wanted to do together, like travelling or having a bigger house.
One night, as Tony was preparing for a rare opportunity of actually going out with his team to relieve a travelling businessmen of a few choice properties, Natalia appeared in the doorway. Tony was discussing some finishing touches with Rhoda on the phone in the bathroom – because that was the point farthest away from the bedroom. He always went to great lengths not to wake Natalia up when he went to work.
She waited for him to finish the call. She didn’t know much about his work but she knew better than to disturb him.
“So”, she said. “I probably should have waited until you come back.”
Tony was a little bit alarmed. This conversation started in a weird way.
“I’m pregnant. I guess next time we’re buying shoes, two pairs aren’t gonna cut it.”
“Heard me the first time, Mr. Thief. Oh, we’re probably gonna need a bigger house real soon.”
Tony did not know what to answer. He hid behind his work as so often when he didn’t know how to deal with something.
“We can’t afford a bigger house”, was the only thing that came to his mind. And “I have to go to work”. Afterwards, he was sorry for his reaction. For just leaving when Natalia needed him.
But as he came back from work and slid into bed, she took him in her arms without waking up, as if everything was alright, and he fell asleep thinking about tiny baby shoes.
Soon, a rather antique looking crib took place in the living room – there wasn’t any space elsewhere. And who would put a crib in the bathroom?
Natalia watched it when she ate breakfast – mostly alone because Tony was still asleep after working through most of the night – and imagined how their child would turn out. Would it be a boy, or a girl? What kind of a person would it be? Would it follow its father to navigate the fringes of the law, would it be more like herself, wanting to help people and make the world a better place, or would it want something else entirely?
Everyday she spent time talking to her unborn child, wishing it to grow strong, to be everything it wanted to be. She had a medical degree, after all, she knew all the things that could go wrong during the early stages.
But day after day, everything was well, and eventually put her mind at ease. It was meant to be. Everything: coming to this town, accepting the job, meeting Tony, moving in with him. Everything was as it should be. Everything fell into place.
“I’m really worried about her”, Tony said to Rhoda as they met in the park. It wouldn’t be long now until the baby came. A few days, at most. “I have read that the risk is higher with age. And she’s 40 now.”
“It’s just books”, Rhoda said. “Everybody can write a book. Life turns out different all the time. How often did we rely on some book or the other only to be proven wrong? I believe in you. You’re my best man. When you start a thing, you see it through until the end. You will see this through.”
“Does that mean I will get a raise?” – Tony allowed himself a mischievous grin.
“I will think about it.” Rhoda smiled back. “After all, you have to think about your future now.”
“And what about the separate office you’ve been promising me for ages?”
“You’re like a shark.” Rhoda laughed. “I’ve given you a little finger and you bite off my entire arm. Yes, you’ll be getting your office, and your raise, and whatever else you desire, as long as you are doing your job being there when we need you, kid or no kid.”
Natalia knew that Tony had a special relationship with the older woman. She knew that she was his boss, but she also knew he had been in love with her for ages. She was still a little bit uncomfortable when she saw them together. The familiarity, the history they shared. Natalia was carrying Tony’s child, but she had only known him for one year, not for more than ten like Rhoda.
But as soon as Tony saw her, he excused himself from his conversation with his boss and hurried to her side. They went for a walk in the park until it got full dark.
“It’s getting late. We should get back home, what do you say?”
He bowed down to her swollen belly to listen to the baby’s answer, and Natalia knew she should let her fear of Rhoda go.
“No matter how small our home is, there will always be room for you.”
Their son’s name was Sean, Sean McGregor, after Tony’s grandfather. And it was true: no matter how little space they had in their trailer, it was enough for three.