“Simon!” Handsome, smiling, alive and waiting for her. All resolve melted as she flew into his arms. Feeling him, holding him, hearing him was all that mattered. She couldn’t help herself. She was hopelessly, irretrievably in love. It was wonderful, it was horrible, it was powerful and inescapable. She would make this work. There was no alternative.
“You’re going to Nova Scotia, right?” Mattie said. They were at one of the many Starbucks in the terminal. After two months, all she wanted was Simon’s company and a French Roast, though maybe not in that order. The euphoria of being with him was quickly being replaced by the pain of knowing in an hour and a half he’d be gone. Anger was ascending, reason descending. Control it.
“You figured it out.”
“It sounds like a war.”
“The Mi’kmaq First Nation launched a lobster fishery about two months ahead of the scheduled start of the season regulated by the federal government and outside the federal licence system. The band has the constitutionally protected treaty right to fish but not according to the members of the local fisherman’s association. They say the Indigenous fishers traps are illegal, destroying the spawning ground and will devastate the lobster population and have cut the lines of Mi'kmaq fishermen, removed their traps and have harassed them on and off the water. The harassment has escalated to violent confrontations, to the torching of band members’ vehicles, to shots fired.”
It seemed like a small, localized issue. What was all the fuss about? Mattie stifled a yawn, but not quite
“Jet lag,” she said, by way of an apology. “What do you think you can do?”
“Hopefully, I can cool things down before someone gets killed.”
“Isn’t that the job of the RCMP?”
“That’s their job, but when it involves Indigenous people, they carry it out somewhat differently or not at all.”
Even though Mattie was brought up in the foster care system, she was still a product of white privilege as a result of the colour of her skin. She’d been taught the policeman was her friend and for the most part, he had been. She had yet to attain the level of cynicism Simon had for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the country’s federal law enforcement agency.
There was so much to say she didn’t know where to begin and Simon wasn’t helping. He didn’t appear to be the least bit concerned about how she felt. She took a long drink of the bitter, smoky brew. She had to stop overthinking, which would lead to overreacting.
“How long?” she said.
“I don’t know, but I’ll get back as soon as I can.” He reached across the table and took her hand. “I missed you, Mattie.”
She pulled her hand away. “I’d have thought having Wendy Walters, the first Indigenous Prime Minister in history might have put an end to these kinds of confrontations.”
“Maybe you could ask her to intervene?” Mattie said. “All that time you spent on her campaign. You must have accompanied her everywhere except the washroom?”
Let it go, Mattie thought, but she couldn’t. “What good is having the PM as a personal friend if you can’t pull down a favour or two?”
“It doesn’t work that way and you know it.” Simon rubbed his forehead like he was getting a headache–like she was giving him a headache.
“Well, then sweet-talk her. The entire country knows she’s got the hots for you. I’d rather you promise to fuck her brains out than go to Nova Scotia and get killed by an enraged lobster fisherman.”
“Honestly, Mattie. You’re getting worse if that’s possible.” Simon got up, tossed his empty cup in the waste receptacle and picked up his carry-on bag.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” What was wrong with her?
“I’m tired, I’m worried about you.” Mattie was desperate. “I was so looking forward to getting back, to spending time…”
Simon returned to his chair but didn’t settle in. He looked at his watch.
“Before you worked behind the scenes, now you’re well known internationally,” Mattie said. “The media’s going to be all over you.”
“Maybe that’s what it will take,” Simon said. “Besides you won’t have to worry about me getting killed. They can’t murder me in front of the cameras.”
“I wouldn’t be so sure.” Mattie didn’t want to ask, but she felt compelled to. “Forget what I said a minute ago,” as if he could, “but really, how does Wendy feel about you getting involved?”
“We’ll find out.”
“You haven’t talked to her?”
“She’s been calling, but I haven’t talked to her.”
Now Mattie reached for Simon’s hand. She was feeling a lot better knowing Simon wasn’t responding to whatever Walters had to say. Was she so insecure she’d rather see people kill one another than have Simon and Wendy work together to find a resolution?
“You’ve got a plan?”
“Do what I always do. Advocate peacefully for the legitimate rights of First Nations people and try to prevent anyone from getting killed.”
“Who’s paying for this?”
“I’ll be staying with friends so there won’t be any living expenses.”
“Do you need money, Simon?”
“Use the credit card. The one you’re buying materials for the house with if you need to.”
“What about the house, Simon? The lease where we’re living has expired, they only have to give us two months' notice to vacate.”
“It’s a good time to go. I’m waiting for site inspections and permit approvals before I can finish it off.”
Air Canada flight one-oh-six is now boarding at gate C51
“That’s me.” Simon was on his feet.
Mattie noticed he was dressed for action; cargo pants, hoodie under a Gore-Tex anorak, hiking boots. His small bag probably only had room for a couple of changes of underwear and socks. This was how the country would see him when he was on the national news which inevitably, he would be. He looked handsome, smart and confident, but more than that, he looked righteous.
At the boarding gate, Mattie hugged him and held on. She’d blown it. Simon probably couldn’t wait to get on the plane preferring to fly across the country and confront gun-toting fisherman to being with her. The homecoming hadn’t been the joyous new beginning she planned on and now the realization Pickles wouldn’t be there scolding her for being away so long filled her with despair. Leo would be happy to see her but despite how much she loved him there was no way you could cuddle a thirty-pound Leopard tortoise. Even as she clung tighter to Simon burying her face in his warm neck, inhaling his scent, she wondered how she’d get through the next few days, weeks, months–she didn’t know how long she’d have to endure this suffering? Preparing for the upcoming interview for the position as head of the biology department would fill her days especially since there’d be no research presentation on The Black Solitary Eagle, but finding a distraction for those long, anxious nights would be daunting.
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