The rain fell, even and light, as they waited underneath the hotel’s broad awning. Every so often the wind would take a sharp shift and Charlie and Tess would get a sprayed slap of the rain, but they didn’t flinch or turn away. You didn’t even think about the rain anymore after living in England. They waited for the car to be brought around, watching the people pass by them, working people, tourists, children in school uniforms, some with umbrellas, some just walking steadily, heads down, avoiding puddles.

Tess glanced over at Charlie as he scowled, facing the street. He looked tired and irritated. He looked that way so often, she thought. She shifted her feet, the tall heel of one of her boots catching on a crack on the concrete, and she wavered a bit. Charlie didn’t notice. It was hard to tell what he was looking at, or thinking. The weekend had not gone well, Tess thought to herself. Nor had the month, months before that, or the year, really.

A man in a tan trenchcoat, his thinning hair plastered to his head, recognized Charlie, smiled broadly and gave a thumbs-up while walking past. Charlie nodded, grinned quickly, returned the thumbs-up, and then returned his hand into the pocket of his black peacoat. He never did anything to call attention to himself, but he was one of those people that other people were drawn to. Familiar to the public awhile now, he was charming and smart and everyone loved him. There was so much good to him, Tess thought sadly.

It would have been obvious to the woman in the wet jeans standing at the bus stop across the busy street, if she had been paying any attention to Charlie and Tess for a few minutes, that the space between them was hard, charged, distant. Instead she watched the black taxis come and go at the front of the hotel, taking important-looking people in and out with their clean matched bags and briefcases, and she wondered who they were and what they did and wished she could take a taxi. Charlie in his dark coat and scarf and black jeans and the tiny woman next to him with messy long dark hair and an expensive purse and boots that went over her knees got only a flick of her interest. She didn’t realize who he was until she had boarded the bus and was 10 blocks away. Her first impulse was to tell someone, but there were only strangers around, of course.

Tess listened to the hearty laugh of a big ruddy-faced Scot as he began to tell a story about his plane trip to a bellman hauling his bags onto a shiny brass cart. When she turned to look at them, she saw a young woman taking a cell phone picture of Charlie, giggling to her girlfriend next to her.

“Listen.” Charlie’s voice, quiet but insistent, jarred Tess. He took a moment to flash his eyes into hers, then turned away to face the street again as she watched him. He waited for a moment, swallowed, his mouth set tightly, going somewhere he had been before, but not ever with her.

“I can’t be everything. I can’t do it. Do you understand?”

The valet pulled Charlie’s silver Mercedes in front of them. Charlie looked at Tess’s face once more. She thought she saw tears in his eyes, but it could have been the rain. She thought she saw a lot of things, but there would be no way to ever know for sure. He stepped out and away, giving a small smile as the valet opened a huge black umbrella for Charlie to walk under for the few feet to the car, and another valet came with an umbrella to shelter Tess.

“Thank you, Mr. Kelly. I hope you enjoyed your stay. Come see us again!” The valet smiled the extra little bit, Tess noticed, with that little extra sparkle to his eyes that she often saw when people spoke to Charlie.

“Yeah man, thanks a lot.” Charlie clapped the valet on the back once, tipped him, and slid into the car and lit a cigarette. Tess watched him in the car, the smoke swirling around him as his cigarette hung from his lips and he adjusted his car seat.

“Miss?” The valet next to her under the big umbrella smiled softly and motioned towards the Mercedes. She looked again at Charlie, then at the valet, then at Charlie, who ducked his head towards her and held up an open palm, questioning, irritated again.

Yes, she understood.

Tess put her hand on the smooth burled wood handle of the umbrella, gently taking it from the valet, and she walked down the street towards where she thought the Tube station would be. The Mercedes engine became more distant, the city sounds and the drum of the rain on the umbrella swirling around her, as she walked steadily, head down, avoiding puddles.