The initial shock is wearing off now and Rachel Sara Allen Walker says she is trying to force herself to figure out what she needs to do.
At 22, one week out of college, she has to find her footing amid a whirlwind of feelings and events that she says she "couldn't have imagined" if someone else was in her place.
Her husband of 18 months, Michael Lance Walker, 22, has been accused of supplying the Soviet Union with classified documents from the nuclear aircraft carrier USS Nimitz, where he has been stationed as a seaman since January 1984.
Her father-in-law, John A. Walker Jr., 47, a retired Navy communications officer, is accused of passing on top secret information for as long as 18 years.
Rachel Walker said she was stunned by the developments. She learned of her husband's arrest and confinement to the brig of the Nimitz from a television newscast Wednesday night, and for a few minutes her only words were "Oh my God."
"I just about passed out," the lab technician said yesterday in a telephone interview from the couple's rented bungalow in Virginia Beach.
Suddenly, she said, the familiar became distorted and unfamiliar. She said that since then, she's been fighting to realize that "this is me." Her days have been a battle between tears and resolve, despair and determination to see the situation through.
"Physically, I'm worn out and mentally, I don't know what I am," she said.
"I still feel like things are falling down around me," she added. "But I'm telling myself, 'Rachel, straighten up. You've got to figure out what's happening.' I think I'm putting away the feelings of shock right now and trying to get the ball rolling."
Where it will roll is a question she can't answer. What kind of future she and Michael Walker have now, or indeed, whether they have a future -- "I don't know that yet," she said.
As she tells it, nothing in their life together remotely suggested the possibility of the intricate spy schemes that authorities allege her husband and his father carried on.
Though they had had little time together during their marriage because of Walker's sea duty, she said "Michael was never secretive around me. He didn't close the door and say, 'Don't come in here,' or anything like that."
Nor did she see any of the added income suggested by authorities as the motive for betraying Navy secrets. "I took care of the finances," she said. "There was nothing."
Walker knew her husband as a beach lover who regretted his enlistment in the Navy but "tried to make the best of it."
The couple met in December 1982, the same month Walker enlisted for a four-year tour in the Navy. As their relationship developed, she said, Michael Walker lost his desire for a Navy career and tried without success to get out of his naval commitment. Despite his unenthusiastic start, she said, he turned into "a good sailor. His evaluations were good, all 4.0s."
His captain on the Nimitz even sent her a letter informing her that Michael had been named "Sailor of the Month" -- an honor that her husband seemed to mock in a letter to his father seized by the FBI.
She, meanwhile, was making progress on her own. On May 18, she graduated from Old Dominion University with a degree in biology. She has a job as a lab technician that she hopes will lead to an agriculture-related career.
To ease the loneliness of the long separations and help stretch the paychecks, she found a roommate to share the small green and white house that she and her husband rented near a popular strip of beach six months ago. The area was overwhelmed by out-of-towners seeking suntans and shouting "Where's the ocean?" from the windows of their black Trans Ams, but it was a few minutes walk from the ocean where Michael Walker loved to surf.
She said they had little contact with Michael's father, who had built a second career as a Norfolk private detective, after a 21-year-career in the Navy, where a "top secret crypto" clearance gave him special access to secret message codes and communication information. Though friends say Michael Walker admired his father greatly and maintained a relationship that one former schoolmate likened to a close friendship, Rachel Walker said she never got to know her father-in-law well.
Before last week's events, Rachel Walker had been looking forward to more time with her husband if, as they hoped, he was successful in negotiating shore duty.
Now Rachel Walker catches a few hours of sleep a night, and worries about whether she can carry on some semblance of a normal life. "I have to work and I have to see people," she said. Hopefully, she said "they haven't correlated my face" with the now well-known Walker name.
Friends deliberate over what they can say to give her support and provide her with some respite. "My friends try to get me to laugh and all, but it's always in the back of my mind," Walker said.
Today, she plans to attend her husband's appearance before a federal magistrate in Baltimore.
"I have a real busy day tomorrow," she said. "I think the next few months will be like that."