Awaken: A Spiral of Bliss Novel (Book Three)
Author:Lane, Nina

“For how much longer?”

 

“Ben Stafford has to make a recommendation to the university board of trustees soon,” she explains. “If he brings your case to them, they’ll have to further investigate and possibly hold a public hearing.”

 

“When’s the next board meeting?”

 

“End of May.”

 

“That’s almost three months.”

 

“They can convene earlier, if needed.”

 

“I’m not staying here another three months, Frances. No way. It’s been over two weeks already. I miss—”

 

I stop. The sun disappears behind a cloud.

 

My wife. I miss my wife.

 

“Work,” I finally say.

 

“You are working,” Frances replies. “And it’s good for your career. When you come back, you’ll go right from the dig into the conference. It’s an excellent move, Dean, but you need to stay there and finish the work.”

 

After a few more comments about the job, I end the call and walk toward the trenches. I grab a notebook and camera and start recording the features of the monastery located between the church and the cloister.

 

I haven’t worked on a dig since grad school, and I’d forgotten how much I like the work. Being outside, hunting for treasures, wearing jeans and old sweatshirts, not needing to shave. Digging in the dirt reminds me of being a kid, back when Archer and I would hunt for bugs and rocks in the garden. I like figuring out what an object is, what it could have been used for, when a structure was built.

 

Even missing Liv as much as I do, even wanting to be home again, it’s good here. I know what I’m doing. Thinking and talking about sediment samples, structural planning, building stages… this, at least, all makes sense.

 

Unlike the miscarriage.

 

Unlike the threat to my career.

 

Unlike the trouble in my marriage.

 

None of that makes any sense. It never will.

 

I take pictures of the perimeter wall, then go to assist on the other areas of the site. There’s a solid routine to my days here. Wake early, breakfast, shower. Talk to Liv, then get to work. Digging, cataloging, consulting, studying, recording, photographing. Sometimes a trip to Florence or Lucca. Soccer games. Dinner with my colleagues, followed by a campfire, drinking, music, or a movie.

 

Liv is always there, always in the back of my mind, my girl five thousand miles away shelving books, organizing a display of photographs, cooking dinner in our apartment that she’s made a home with all her houseplants and decorating touches.

 

I don’t want to be away from her, but being here, I’ve figured one thing out—I need to do the same thing with my marriage that I’ve done my entire career as a historian.

 

Study the data and figure it out.

 

I can do that. I’ve done it countless times before. I’ll do it again.

 

After consulting with the site architect about the drawings of the monastery, I return to my room and spend an hour reviewing site data sheets and writing up a report about yesterday’s finds.

 

I pick up the phone and dial my father’s number for my weekly check-in to see how he’s doing after his heart attack.

 

After he and I talk about his health, he asks about work.

 

“It’s good,” I tell him. “Still on-site.”

 

“Helen told us she’ll be attending your conference,” he says.

 

Though the thought of seeing my ex-wife doesn’t bother me the way it once did, my chest constricts at the mention of the Words and Images conference. I’m acutely aware that I could be relieved of my duties as conference chairperson if this harassment allegation isn’t resolved soon.

 

“When are you going back to King’s?” my father asks.

 

For a second, I’m tempted to tell him everything. Confess all that’s happened. Though my father and I aren’t close, he’s always supported whatever I’ve wanted to do. He’s always been proud of me, though at the expense of my younger brother.

 

“I’ll be back soon,” I finally say. “How’s Mom?”

 

After a few more minutes of talking, my mother gets on the line. She chats about her charity work and local events, then asks me to ship her some painted terracotta from a showroom in Florence.

 

I promise her I’ll look into it. After we hang up, I check my email. There’s a message from Liv along with a scanned drawing:

 

 

 

 

 

I print out the picture and tack it to the wall above my desk alongside a photo I took of her a couple of years ago. I could stare at the photo for hours—the faint freckles across Liv’s nose, her high cheekbones and dark brown eyes fringed with thick lashes. The top few buttons of her shirt are undone to reveal a V of pale skin and the swell of her breasts. Her straight, brown hair is loose around her shoulders, her lips curved with a smile.