It was a Wednesday morning in June, and they were on their way back from a deposition in Hyde Park when Kalinda looked over at Alicia. She was leaning back in the passenger seat of Kalinda’s car, looking out the window at the sailboats on the lake. On the surface, she was the usual serene Alicia, calm and unruffled, but in two years Kalinda had learned to read the subtleties of Alicia’s public face.
“Do you think she killed him?” she asked.
“That’s not my call to make,” Alicia said, then blew out a short sharp breath. “Yes. Yeah, I do.” She looked over at Kalinda. “And you do too.”
“Of course,” Kalinda said.
Alicia closed her eyes, and her mask slipped a little farther. Kalinda turned her gaze back to the road, contemplating her route.
When she turned off Lake Shore Drive, Alicia sat up. “Are we stopping somewhere before we go back to the office?”
“Yep,” Kalinda said, pulling into a small utility drive and parking the car. She opened her door and looked over at Alicia, who was sitting confused with one hand on the seat belt buckle. “Come on.”
She was a few feet away before she heard the passenger door shut. She smiled to herself as she led the way through a small garden and across the gravel.
Alicia finally joined her at the fence. “We’re…at Buckingham Fountain,” she said.
Kalinda looked up at the hundred and fifty foot spray shooting into the air. “I noticed.”
“Why are we at Buckingham Fountain?”
“Because I felt like it, and nobody will notice if we’re gone an extra half hour."
Alica shook her head, but she sat down on a bench. Even here, playing hooky from work, she held herself in, crossing her legs and resting her folded hands in her lap. But she was gazing into the fountain and smiling. Kalinda would take her victories where she found them. She sat down beside her. “When’s the last time you were here?” she asked idly.
“Oh, I can’t even—we used to bring the kids here for Taste of Chicago every year, before it got to be too crowded and too much of a hassle.” Alicia looked around. “Peter had to fish Grace out of the fountain once, and then use all his authority to keep a cop on a Segway from yelling at her.”
Kalinda leaned over and peered into the water. “I wouldn’t go in there.”
“You would if you had to,” Alicia said.
“I’d do a lot of things if I had to. Doesn’t mean I want to ruin a pair of boots in whatever’s down there.”
Alicia laughed—no, giggled. Then she said, “Ice cream?”
“What about it?”
Alicia put her hand on Kalinda’s shoulder, turning her. “Ice cream.” She pointed at a little hut nearby, her other hand still on Kalinda’s shoulder.
“I’m game if you are,” Kalinda said.
As they were waiting for the tourists in front of them to order, Alicia said suddenly, “Are you allowed to park on that road there? I mean, we’re not going to get towed, are we? I can pay for ice cream, but both ice cream and a cab back to the office is pushing it.”
Kalinda raised both eyebrows at her. “I’m not going to get towed.”
Alicia laughed again.
Kalinda half-expected Alicia to order vanilla ice cream, but she ordered Rocky Road instead, and Kalinda pointedly didn’t comment on that. She ordered a peanut butter and chocolate combo for herself and they wandered back to one side of the fountain. It would have been a little too warm and a little too humid, out there in the noon sun, but there was a breeze blowing in off Lake Michigan, and Alicia faced it again, looking out as though something was going to come her way from the horizon.
Kalinda took slow, deliberate bites of her ice cream and watched the wind blow Alicia’s hair back from her face.
Alicia shifted her ice cream to catch an errant drip. “Do you remember telling me once that you didn’t like your life, so you changed it?”
“I do. And I remember you very tactfully not pursuing the issue.”
“That sounds like me,” Alicia said. “The proper thing to do.” She rolled the r on “proper” just a little. “But you’re not proper.”
“No. I jump into fountains, apparently.”
“Among other things.”
“Among other things,” Kalinda agreed. She kept a wary eye on Alicia, trying to gauge her mood and predict where this conversation was going.
“I don’t jump into anything.”
“You jumped into this job.”
Alicia made a frustrated gesture with the hand not holding the cone. “I was pushed into this job. My life pushes me here, my life pushes me there. And any time I try to slow down for five minutes to try and think about it, something else creeps up behind me to give me a shove, and is it me or am I mangling this metaphor to hell and gone?”
Kalinda shrugged. “I wouldn’t use it as a closing argument.”
Alicia’s laughter had a bit of an edge to it this time. “No, I guess not.”
Kalinda kept her eyes prudently on her ice cream.
There was a sigh, and then a slightly happier laugh. “Kalinda—I’ve thanked you, haven’t I?”
“For the ice cream? You paid.”
“For keeping me sane, and being on my side, and saving my job a couple dozen times. And—for Buckingham Fountain.”
“I am happy to give you Buckingham Fountain.” Kalinda made a show of eyeing it. “I could put it in your building courtyard if you like, but I might have to make a couple of phone calls.”
“The scary thing is, I almost believe you,” Alicia said. She tossed the rest of her ice cream neatly into the trash, and Kalinda followed suit; then Alicia put her arm through Kalinda’s in a gesture Kalinda had seen her use occasionally with Grace. “All right, shall we head back? I think I can face another few hours—or the rest of my life—dealing with work now.”
Kalinda awkwardly fell into step with Alicia. “Until the next thing you’re pushed into.”
“Or until I decide to jump,” Alicia said. She slowed to look into the fountain as they passed it. “You never know with me.”
“No,” Kalinda said. “But I look forward to finding out.”