Of Time: Chapter 6
In January of 1995 things were finally settling down at Marbanks Architects. It had been a frenzied two years since the Northridge earthquake. Adding to the activity of expanded international relations, the decision had come from High Command at "Star Fleet" to open a branch in Portland.
"Would have done it long ago, Paul, but I didn't have another nephew," Stephen joked. He had no sons and none of his daughters were speaking to him since his divorce from their mother.
There had been a lot of heated discussions over who would take the helm of the new Portland office. Paul pushed for Michael, but he didn't want to leave Seattle and, more importantly, didn't want to move into the administrative side of the business.
"Dammit, Paul, I'm an architect, not an administrator,” said Michael in his best imitation of Star Trek’s ‘Bones” McCoy, “So were you, if you recall. Don't you miss the creative aspect?"
Paul had to admit he didn't enjoy the paper pushing, but there was creativity in getting an organization of individuals to work together as a productive and harmonious unit. Setting up a balance of structure to get things done and space so things could develop was very creative.
Paul and Stephen together worked on the evolution of the Portland branch. It became a real family enterprise when Stephen hired Paul's sister Susan to help with the legal aspects. She practiced corporate law but intended to transition into teaching. With her growing family (she had four children now) she wanted the stability and manageable hours of a professor's schedule. However, it looked more like Stephen would offer her the position of administrator, and hire a head architect from within the company. Stephen had his eye on Adam Paulson.
"If we can't hire another Marbanks as head architect, we can at least hire someone who looks like one," Stephen cracked.
"What do you mean?" Paul asked.
"He's the spitting image of your dad at that age," Stephen replied. Then he eyed Paul and nudged him with his elbow. "Had any little mistakes when you were in high school, Paul?"
Paul, who had not lost his virginity until his twenty-first birthday (although not for lack of trying), shook his head. "Not that I know of," he grinned.
One afternoon a month later Paul and his sister were sitting in the Portland office surrounded by crates and new furniture, the table in front of them covered with resumes and legal forms. Stephen had gone to the airport to pick up Adam, whom he had lured down from Seattle on the pretense of assisting with hiring for the new branch. In truth, he intended to spring the job offer on him that night. Paul preferred a more direct and open approach, but it was Stephen's call.
"So, does this guy really look like Dad when he was young?" Susan asked, taking a swig of raspberry Talking Rain. Younger than Paul by three years, she resembled their mother’s side of the family. She had wavy black hair, blue eyes with green flecks, and a face full of freckles. Even now, she looked like his teenage kid sister in braces, except for the laugh lines and a few gray hairs.
"Well, I wasn't born when dad was thirty, so I couldn't say," Paul smiled.
"Don't you remember mom and dad's wedding photo on the mantle in the living room? He was about thirty then."
Paul hadn't been home in several years, and had no recollection of any photo. His lack of regular attendance at family gatherings was a bone of contention between him and his sister so he didn't say anything. He just shrugged his shoulders instead.
"Uncle Stephen says you probably fooled around when you were in high school," his sister grinned.
Paul looked up sharply, "Well, Adam was born in Alaska, so I guess it could have been Uncle Stephen who fooled around. At least he was on the West Coast; we were in Connecticut." They both looked knowingly at each other. Paul wondered if that possibly could be true, but dismissed it instantly.
They started sorting the papers on the desk into organized piles before getting ready to meet Stephen and Adam and go to the restaurant. A question popped out of Paul’s mouth before he thought of it.
"What are those purple lines on a woman's stomach?" he asked.
Susan stared at her big brother. "Paul, you are such a bachelor. You mean you don't know?"
Paul shook his head sheepishly.
"Well, you get stretch marks anywhere you gain weight. On a woman's stomach it's usually because of pregnancy. Took me years to get rid of mine." She retrieved a file off the floor.
"So they go away?" he asked.
"No, not completely. They shrink and become thin silver lines, if you exercise and lose weight. Why are you so interested? Are you dating a single mother?" she eyed him inquisitively.
Paul ignored the question as he was trying to figure something out. "So they're silver after they're purple and they don't go away?" Just then the intercom buzzed.
Stephen's voice came clearly across the speaker, "Chow time, boys and girls. Come and get it."
Susan gave an exasperated hiss. "Goodness, he sounds like Dad calling my kids in for dinner. How old does he think we are?"
Paul chuckled at Stephen's unique ability to annoy practically everybody. They pulled on their raincoats and went downstairs. Stephen stood on the sidewalk with Adam, try to regal him with some story while Adam intently listened. In Seattle, Adam had earned the nickname "Mr. Spock" for his talent at hiding his feelings. He probably thought Stephen was a boring old fool, but no one would be able to read it on his face.
"Ah, Susan, meet one of the bright young stars of our company, Adam Paulson." Stephen introduced them. "Paul has been hiding him from me in Seattle. I wouldn't have discovered him if I hadn't been working up here in Portland these past few months."
That wasn't entirely accurate. Adam had a tendency to stay in the background. He let his work speak for itself, without having his signature splashed all over the place. Paul doubted that Adam would accept Stephen's offer tonight; Adam clearly shunned leadership positions, not because he wasn't qualified but because he disliked the spotlight that accompanied it.
Susan stepped forward and shook Adam's hand. She looked him up and down with amazement. "My goodness, Uncle Stephen, you're absolutely right!" she exclaimed. "Adam, you're the spitting image of my father Charles. You don't by any chance have relatives in Connecticut?"
Adam's eyes shifted from her to Paul and back again. "I'm not sure," he said hesitantly. "Pleased to meet you, by the way."
"Oh, forgive my rudeness, I'm very pleased to meet you, too." She shook her head, "I just can't get over it; you look just like Dad."
Paul decided to step in and help his friend. "Well, we could be related to any number of people, you know," he said to his sister, and Stephen, too. "Who knows what our last name was before Great-Grandpapa came through Ellis Island." The Marbanks were 3/4 Scots Irish, but the surname Marbanks came from Stephen and Charles's grandfather when he emigrated from Wales in the early 1900's. He had never bothered to tell his only son their real surname before dying in the flu epidemic in New York at the end of World War I. He had told his bride, but their grandmother wasn't able to faithfully reproduce it in her own broad Scots accent.
Susan accepted the answer and dropped the subject in favor of deciding on which restaurant to go to for dinner. They chose McCormick and Schmick’s, which was nearby. When they all sat down, Stephen insisted on ordering wine and making sure everyone had a full cup. Paul struggled to keep a straight face. He could just imagine the outcome if Adam took a sip of the wine. It would certainly help him avoid turning down Stephen's offer.
"A toast!" proclaimed Stephen, holding his glass high. "To the success of the Portland office!"
Everyone obediently raised their glasses and took sips. That is, Susan took a sip, Paul a swallow, Stephen downed his glass, and Adam looked like he sipped his wine, but the level in his glass remained unchanged when it returned to the table. Paul noted this with interest, curious to see how the rest of the evening would turn out.
Adam surprised Paul by initiating the conversation at the beginning of the dinner. It was quite unlike him. Normally he would have simply listened and responded to questions.
"So, Susan, I hear your family is in Ann Arbor. How has it been for you putting in the time here getting the Portland office started?" Adam inquired politely.
This started Susan off. Neither Stephen, estranged from his family, nor Paul who had none, even considered that Susan might miss her husband and four children. She told Adam everything. Apparently she called them every night. Her eldest had received acceptance letters from several universities and couldn't decide which college to choose. Her fifteen-year-old daughter Olivia dated a boy her parents didn't like, and their twelve-year-old twins hated school. Her husband was managing very capably, but Susan was guilt-ridden that she wasn't home fixing everything. On the other hand, she loved Portland, and its rain versus the snow in Michigan, and thought that many of the family's difficulties might be solved if they relocated here. One of their eldest's possible schools was the University of Washington in Seattle. Also, Olivia would have to break up with the boyfriend from Hell, and the twins could go to a local private school with far more reasonable tuition than the one they attended in Ann Arbor.
Amazing, thought Paul. This is why Adam still had a parade of people, especially women, come through his office each day. Besides being able to draw his sister's life story out of her with one question, Adam had also effectively redirected the spotlight off himself
Suddenly Stephen offered Susan the administrative position. Susan was flabbergasted, which Paul found hard to believe, and told Stephen she'd have to talk it over with her husband. This caused Stephen to go on for the next half hour selling the job to her, trying to get her to agree on the spot. He would have made a great salesperson; he followed the cardinal rule of not letting the customer leave the store without having made the decision to buy. Paul glanced at Adam out of the corner of his eye, quietly enjoying his dinner.
"So, Mr. Spock, how's the Enterprise been without me?" Paul asked sotto voce so as not to attract Stephen's attention.
"Fine, Captain. Although we've been considering calling ourselves Deep Space Nine." Adam grinned. The younger architects weren't into the Next Generation as Paul and Michael were. "Only the women call me Mr. Spock. The guys call me Odo."
"I've always thought of you as Data, myself." Paul said, affectionately.
Adam chuckled. "My mom used to call me Pinocchio, because she could always tell if I lied."
Paul was again surprised. Adam had never talked of his family. Paul wanted to ask him about his father, when Stephen interjected.
"So, Adam, I've heard good things about you from my nephew. You've been with our company for nearly six years now, in fact you're a little older than Paul was when he took over Seattle. How do you feel about taking the reigns of your own branch office?" Stephen took a swig of wine. "Portland needs a head architect."
"What about Michael? He's far more qualified than me," Adam countered.
"Michael's not interested," Stephen said bluntly. "Wants to stay in Seattle. What about you?" Their desserts were in front of them and Stephen didn't want to waste any time. Susan had used all her skills as a lawyer to avoid giving an answer to Stephen before talking to her husband. If her family hadn't been attending the twin’s basketball game, Stephen would have made Susan call him during dinner. She didn't tell Stephen that her husband always carried a cell phone.
Adam stared at Stephen intently with an unreadable expression on his face.
Finally Stephen blurted out, "Well, what is it, man? Do you have to call your husband, too? Or your wife, or your mother?" That broke the tension and everybody laughed, even Susan.
"No, I'm not married. But I do need time to think about it," Adam said, sincerely. "I will seriously consider your offer. Give me a week, unless you have someone else on your list you'd rather talk to."
Stephen almost continued persuading, but for some reason thought better of it. He finished his fifth glass of wine. "I'm disappointed in you young people. I had hoped this would be a celebration dinner."
"Ah, well, you can think of this as a pre-celebration dinner, Uncle," Paul said to mollify him. "And when we do celebrate, we can order champagne."
This seemed to placate the old man and they were able to finish their dessert. Too drunk to make it back on his own, Susan drove their uncle to his hotel. Paul took Adam to the Susan's rented condo. Paul stayed with her during the week, saving the three-hour commute to Colvos for the weekends.
"Quite an amazing performance tonight, Adam," Paul said on the drive there.
Adam looked at Paul questioningly.
"I mean, how you managed to keep my uncle off your back for almost the entire evening, and then were able to get him to wait a week for your answer. That's pretty unheard of."
Adam smiled, "I probably could come up with an answer in twenty-four hours, but I said a week in case he tried to talk me down."
Laughing, Paul went on, "so, what do you think of his offer? Even though I like you in Seattle, this is a great career opportunity."
Adam sighed. "I don't know. Up to now I've been pretty sure about where I'm at, and why I'm here. I have to check out whether it's time to move or not."
"Check out," echoed Paul, "how do you mean?"
Adam hesitated before answering. "By meditating on it.”
Usually Paul would have let the subject drop right there, but he found himself pushing it. "So, kind of checking out your own gut feelings?" Something Paul did frequently.
"There's a little more to it than that." Adam chose his words carefully, as if trying to put a complicated idea into simple sentences. "I believe that everyone has a purpose here, both something to learn and something to fulfill. Everything I do is directed towards my purpose, and I view everything as a learning experience. I'm very clear about my purpose in Seattle. I just don't know if I can fulfill the same thing in Portland or not." He ran his hand through his hair and continued, more to himself than to Paul, "Maybe I can ... it's close enough. Then maybe not ... it's too . I’ve got to ask..." his voice trailed off.
Paul interrupted his thoughts, "Ask who?"
"God," Adam said.
The answer stunned Paul. He thought he knew Adam pretty well, but had no inkling that Adam had any religious inclinations.
"Not religious, spiritual." Adam said, in that eerie way he had of speaking to Paul's thoughts.
"What do you mean, spiritual?" Paul felt way out of his league in following this topic.
Adam seemed to feel the same way. In a patient tone, as if explaining the facts of life to a three year old too, he said. "I believe we are spirit, we have bodies. These bodies are our vehicles for a lifetime. We use it to manifest Spirit, our spiritual creativity, and to learn lessons we could not otherwise learn without a physical body."
"Manifest spirit, what do you mean? What sort of lessons?" Paul reluctantly asked, overwhelmingly curious, in spite of himself.
Adam grew silent. Then he said, "It's different for different people. People manifest in different ways, and people have different lessons to learn. For me, I manifest by doing what I do, and I learn from interacting with others."
This only added to Paul's curiosity, but he decided to try a different tack. "So what have you been doing and learning in Seattle?"
Adam exhaled loudly out his nose, not wanting to discuss it. Clenching his jaw a little, he answered, "I've been contributing to the stability around me, while assisting with change, and I've been learning about..." he paused, "feelings."
Paul could clearly see the accuracy of Adam's assessment, except for the last part. "Feelings, Mr. Spock?" hoping humor would draw more out of him.
It worked, and Adam gave a little laugh. "It's not that I don't have feelings, or don't understand them, but it is a challenge accepting them." Then he said, more to himself, "being human is very difficult, with all these emotions."
He sounded so like Spock that Paul had to laugh. "I agree, being human is very difficult. I think it's especially hard on men, if you grew up in my generation, and somewhat your generation, too. We were raised not to have feelings, or at least not strong ones. And now we're supposed to be sensitive males of the '90's."
Adam seemed relieved. "Yeah, sensitive males of the '90's," he echoed.
By that time they were at Susan’s small, two-bedroom condo near Washington Park, so the topic ended there. Paul used the second bedroom, and Adam planned to crash on the sofabed. Adam would spend the next couple days helping them out, and then ride back to Seattle with Paul. They usually left the office early on Fridays so Paul could beat the rush hour traffic and Susan could catch the afternoon flight back to Michigan for the weekend.
While Paul waited for Susan to return, Adam pulled a chair into the corner and sat down to meditate. Paul fixed himself a cup of coffee in the kitchen, remembering how it felt to have Moira in the other room meditating while at the house they had shared. It had been a comforting feeling, and he felt that way now, with Adam in the other room. A stab of pain replaced the pleasant memory as he recalled the last time he saw Moira: the recurring vision of the building collapsing with Moira possibly in it. He looked into the blackness of his cup, being drawn into the mire of what-ifs and what could have been, when Adam's voice pulled him out of it.
"Paul?" Adam said, still sitting in the corner with his eyes closed.
Paul smiled sadly, Moira used to do that -- talk to him with her eyes closed, still meditating. "Yes, Adam?"
"I forgot to tell you, but I have to go out of town the end of this week. Could you feed Percy for me? I have Alice doing it now, but she and her boyfriend are going skiing this weekend."
"Sure, Adam, I'd be glad to." Paul took a sip of his coffee. Adam had this habit of working practically nonstop for six months and then suddenly taking time off. Sometimes for simply a long weekend, sometimes for a couple weeks. He never said where he went, Paul assumed he hiked or camped by himself. He always left looking like death warmed over and returned looking rejuvenated and alive. Not a schedule Paul would have adopted -- he preferred his forty- or fifty-hour weeks and solid weekends to recover. Maybe he'd just learned to pace himself more sensibly than the younger man.
Just then the door opened and Susan stormed in.
"Heyzeus God, Uncle Stephen can be the most pompous ass-" She stopped when she saw Adam in the corner with his eyes closed. "Oh, excuse me, I didn't see -- "she whispered.
"It's okay." Adam stretched and bent over to touch the floor. He stood up. "I'm done. Where's the bathroom?"
Paul pointed the way and Adam disappeared. "What about Uncle Stephen?" grinned Paul, pouring his sister a cup of coffee.
"Oh, he kept bombarding me in the car on the way to the hotel. He just wanted someone to say yes to him tonight. Then he propositioned the front desk receptionist at the hotel. I was so embarrassed! Oh, thanks." She gratefully accepted the offered cup. "I had too much wine tonight myself, I should have done what Adam did. He's a really clever guy." She took a sip of coffee and sighed.
"What did Adam do?" said Paul, puzzled.
"Oh, didn't you notice? He pretended to drink and didn't! And then Uncle Stephen would keep refilling everyone's wine glass, and when he started to notice Adam wasn't drinking his, Adam started switching glasses with Stephen. Every time our dear sweet uncle finished a glass, Adam would lift his own up, pretend to drink it, then put it down right by him, and move Uncle Stephen's glass to near his own plate. Uncle Stephen drank out of two wine glasses all night long!"
They both looked in the direction of the bathroom door and at each other. His sister went on.
"He sure has Uncle Stephen's number. The way he handled him tonight was brilliant. I hope he considers the offer, it would be fun to work with him."
Paul looked at his sister. "So you're probably going to accept?"
Susan turned serious. "Probably. But there is a lot more to consider besides Ron and the kids. I mean, Ron would have to relocate his practice and the kids would need new schools. I probably will continue to commute between here and Michigan until the school year’s over. But ... well there's Mom and Dad to consider, and you."
"Go on." Paul said.
"Well, I think Dad would forgive me for working with Uncle Stephen, they’ve come to a grudging reconciliation over the years. But ...Dad isn't doing very well, Paul. You should go see him. I don't think he's going to last another year. If Dad goes, what about Mom? Michigan is a lot closer to Connecticut than Oregon, I don't know if this is the right time to move so far away." She gazed off into the distance.
"Well, we'd both be out here, maybe Mom could move to be near with us," Paul said.
Susan looked at Paul, "Well, now, that's another thing. Do you want me to be so near to you? I mean, you've been out here isolating yourself from the family for quite a while now. Would you be comfortable having us so near by? And me working in the same business?"
"Susan! How could you even wonder such a thing!" Paul protested. "I'd love to have you guys near by. I've wanted to have you and the kids up to my place on Colvos ever since I bought it. It's a great place for kids, right on the beach. I just haven't offered because every time I talk to you, it sounds like you have the next two years booked with activities and trips to Europe. And what's this about isolating?"
"When you came back from L.A., you didn't answer any of my phone calls or letters for almost six months, and when you did, you were very... short." Susan's face clouded, and then Adam appeared, so she masked it with a cheery smile. "I just thought you probably were so busy with your business and your life that you didn't have time for your family."
"Susan, I'm sorry, I --" Paul took a deep breath, "I lost someone in L.A. ... I think she may have died in the earthquake, but I haven't been able to find out for sure."
Susan stared blankly at him and then glanced at Adam.
"It's okay, Adam knows, in fact he's the one who got me on my feet again. But I was pretty non-functioning for those six months, and barely functioning until, well, just a little while ago, when we started working on this Portland opening." Paul nodded at Adam, who took a seat at the kitchen counter with. Adam just watched Paul with his intense brown eyes.
Susan put her hand on her brother's arm. "Oh, Paul, I'm so sorry, why didn't you tell me?" she said softly.
Paul put his hand over hers, "I'll tell you now, if you'd like to know." She nodded, so he went on. "I've known her off and on for ... a long time. Her name was, is, Moira," he corrected himself. "I met her in D.C. when I finished school. We were only together a weekend back then, but I could never get her out of my mind. Then, about nine years later, I ran into her in Seattle and we ... we lived together for about three weeks. But those three weeks were the happiest in my entire life. I almost asked her to marry me when she, ah, disappeared without a trace."
Susan gasped, "Without a trace?"
"I don't think I had her correct last name, because the place she had worked for when I met her had no record of her. Anyway, I did my best to forget her, and that's why I married Maggie. She was as unlike Moira as night and day. Unfortunately, that's why Maggie and I didn't work out." Paul paused for a moment, looking down. "I just couldn't love her, the way I love Moira." he murmured. Then he straightened up and continued, "I met Moira again, when I went to India for Uncle Stephen in '89."
"Did she explain to you why she left?" Susan demanded.
"No, uh, not really," Paul stuttered. "But she did explain that there were things she couldn't tell me at the time, that she may be able to tell me later. More importantly, I could accept the relationship as it is, was, whatever. I mean, I know I love Moira, and that she's the only woman I will ever love, and that circumstances beyond our control keep us from being together the way I'd like us to be together. So I had to let go of what I'd like and accept what I can have. I, we, made a commitment to fully be together whenever we were, are, able to be together, and to be as honest with each other as we are able to be. We were together five days and then I had to leave to get back to the company." Paul shrugged his shoulders.
Susan stared, as if seeing her brother in a new light. Pieces of a puzzle finally fitted, and she could understand the whole picture.
"I always wondered why you never settled down and had a family. Now I can see why, because this woman you love would never stay put long enough to settle down with you." Susan said.
Adam looked at Paul for a response.
"Through no fault of her own. I feel like she has some other job, that whatever she's doing is just a cover." Paul said, defensively.
"Like she's a spy or something? Come on, Paul. This isn't the cold war!" exclaimed Susan.
"No, but every time I see her she's doing something completely different and unrelated from the last time. For instance, in Los Angeles, she translated for a Japanese group Uncle Stephen worked with." Paul explained.
"That's how you met her the last time?" Susan asked.
"Yes. We were together only one night." Paul looked out the window, his voice deepening. "I asked her to come back to Seattle, to live with me on Colvos. She - she said she'd sleep on it." Paul stopped, his throat tightening.
"Oh, God, Paul, and then the earthquake! What happened?" Susan gripped her coffee cup so hard her knuckles were white.
Paul spoke slowly. "There's something I haven't mentioned yet. This time she had a child with her, a little boy. I barely saw him but, "he took a deep breath and looked at the ceiling, "I just know I could have loved him as if he were my own, simply because he was Moira's son. That's why I asked her, not just because I couldn't stand the thought of being apart from her, I'd accepted that in India. I couldn't accept that that little boy wouldn't have a father, and would have to grow up moving from one place to another. I wanted to give him, and Moira, a sense of permanence, that someone would be there for him. I just ... really wanted them to be in my life."
Susan had tears in her eyes. "Oh, Paul, did the little boy die, too?"
"I don't know. The strangest thing happened to me that night. I dreamed they both embraced me when the earthquake happened and lifted me out of the collapsing building to the road outside. The firefighters found me standing on the street, with the building flattened in front of me."
Susan patted Paul's arm.
Paul squeezed her hand. "They never found the bodies, Susan. Moira and her son disappeared without a trace. Again." He reached over to his sister and hugged her. "So there's hope," he told her, comfortingly. "There's hope I might meet them again, and maybe this time..." he heard a sniff from the other side of the counter and looked up.
Adam sat there, his face downturned, with tears running down his cheeks. His shoulders were motionless. He gave no other indication that he was crying, which stunned Paul. He'd seen Adam show such strong feelings only once before.
"Sorry, Paul" sniffled Adam, "I didn't mean to interrupt ... I just never heard the whole story before."
“That’s all right,” said Paul, “I didn’t really want to talk about it before. It was too painful.” With that, Paul put his arms around Adam and held him tight.
“Being human is difficult, isn't it?" Paul chuckled. "So much to learn about feelings. So much to learn about love."
Paul could feel the tension in Adam, so he concentrated on helping Adam release the way Paul had been able to release, the one time he and Adam had hugged, and the way he always could release when Moira held him. He sensed the tenseness drain off of Adam's shoulders and down his legs and into the floor. Adam let go and stepped back, looking at Paul in surprise.
"You grounded me. How did you learn to do that?" he asked.
"From you." Paul said. And Moira, he thought. He hoped he could introduce them the next time he saw her. Adam and Moira were so similar in many ways; they would really like each other.
The next few days flew by, with Susan agreeing to become the administrator of the new Portland office, and Adam accepting the head architect position, beginning the following month, after he returned from his trip. Paul, finished with his part in the project, gave his heartiest congratulations to his sister and his best friend, and went back to Seattle.
Adam took off the last weekend in January. Paul kept his promise to feed Percy in Ballard as Adam hadn't made arrangements to move to Portland yet. He returned home to Colvos early that evening after his first day of cat sitting. Paul had just sat down in the living room when a big woompf moved through the house, like someone had slammed all the doors at once. His heart froze. Then a smaller woompf sent him out the door to the deck. Surrounded by tall trees, a beach at high tide in front of him and a steep hill behind him, he didn't know what to do. He turned around and went back in the house. A few minutes later, the phone rang.
"Did you feel that?" Michael's excited voice came over the line. "Did you feel that? I haven't felt that since I was a kid, in '64. Did you feel that?"
"Yes," Paul said, his own voice surprising him by its calmness. "An earthquake."
The next day Paul got all the details. The Seattle area had indeed experienced an earthquake. Only a magnitude 5 on the Richter scale, small by Californian standards, but the largest the Northwest had felt since 1964. The epicenter had been at Point Robinson, on the tip of Maury Island, near Colvos.
At work on Monday the entire city buzzed about the quake, including Marbanks Architects. Like other Seattle companies, the office went through the paces on earthquake preparedness. Although the Point Robinson tremor didn't come close to the quake in ‘64, it awakened the entire area to the probability that a much larger quake might happen in the near future. Paul called a staff meeting to brainstorm how to handle the situation if the “big one” actually occurred. Emergency supplies and additional first aid kits were ordered. The building manager notified the firm that a maintenance team would be making the rounds to secure standing bookshelves to the walls and make other minor adjustments. When the meeting broke up Michael and Paul remained behind talking.
“The manager didn’t mention if his maintenance team had inspected for damage from this earthquake, did he?” Michael asked Paul.
"This building is fine," Adam's voice said.
The two looked up to see Adam standing in the doorway.
"Adam!" Paul exclaimed, "you weren't due back until Tuesday. Did you cut your trip short because of the 'quake? You didn’t have to; it wasn’t serious."
"I never should have left." Adam brushed the comment aside. "I have too much work to do here."
With that, Adam went into his office and buried himself in his work. At the end of the day, he called Stephen and declined the promotion. He told Stephen that he wasn't ready for such a big step, but not to rule him out completely in the future. Both Paul and Michael tried to talk to him about it, and Susan called him up to get him to reconsider, but to no avail. An architect from one of the California offices landed the job.
April came, and with it relief from the gray and rainy Seattle winter. The sun began to shine again; the trees began to flower. People started strapping on their roller blades and hitting the streets in helmets and knee pads. The atmosphere around the office became festive, as if goodweather outside changed the atmosphere inside into a company picnic.
Paul, however, found himself battling depression. Something about April, not just the weather but also the month, triggered him. The three weeks he and Moira had lived together were in April, so the time brought up many memories. He had to work extra hard to keep his mind on his job and to keep his thoughts positive. After one grueling day, his mood getting the better of him, he did what the rest of the office did: he went to see Adam.
"Is the doctor in?" Paul asked, sticking his head in the door.
"Depends on what kind of doctor," Adam answered. "Or who. Is it Bones, Dr. Beverly Crusher, Dr. Julian Bashir, or am I a holographic Doctor?"
"Wasn't there another one?" Paul frowned to remember.
"Oh, yeah, what's her name? But she was only on Next Generation for one season -- she doesn't count," Adam said. "What's up, Doc?"
Paul came in and sat down. "I have the blues. You want to blow this joint and grab a bite to eat?"
"Don't you want to talk to the Doctor about it?" Adam said, doing an amazing imitation of Voyager's holographic physician. Paul didn't get it, as he'd yet to catch the newest Star Trek series that had only started mid-season.
"No, not really. I want to get past it. I'm in the mood for Mexican," Paul said.
They settled on the Guadalajara Restaurant in West Seattle, because Paul knew the owners and thought they served the largest portions in town. Once there and settled into the brightly colored, overstuffed booths, Paul ordered a Margarita Grande. Adam ordered a coke.
"So it's a Margarita Grande kind of blues?" Adam gently probed.
"Oh, it's just springtime. I hate springtime." Paul downed his drink and ordered another.
Adam watched, and waited.
"Oh, no, don't do that." Paul pointed at Adam's face. "I said I don't want to talk about it. Don't pull it out of me." He gulped his next drink. "But let's not talk about work, either. Let's talk about you. I still don't understand; why didn't you go for that Portland job?"
"I like my house in Ballard and it's too far to commute by bicycle?" Adam joked.
"Not into a daily or weekly STP, eh?" said Paul, referring to the Seattle to Portland bicycle marathon. "Why did your mother used to call you Pinocchio?"
Adam raised his eyebrows. "Good memory, Captain. I believe I've only mentioned that once."
"Well, that's all I know about your childhood. What was your family like? Where did you grow up and go to school, who was your best friend as a kid?" Paul enjoyed finally getting the questions out.
Adam examined his fajita burrito, and toyed with his rice before answering. "I moved a lot when I was a kid. It was mostly my mother and me... but when I grew older ... there were other people. I had a couple of Big Brothers. My best friend, well, I didn't really have any -- I was a weird kid. Oh, except in nursery school. I used to hang out with this kid who lived next door. We liked to peek into his baby sister's diapers to see whether she had a wiener or not."
Paul started coughing hysterically, and Adam patted him hard on the back. When his came voice back, he said, "Good God, I thought I was the only kid who used to do that to his sister."
Adam eyed him knowingly. "Well, it wasn't my sister, it was the kid next door. And, I never peeked at her in the shower when she was a teenager."
Paul stared at Adam through blurry eyes. "How the heck do you do that? Read my mind?" He had finished his third Margarita Grande, and he wasn't much of a drinker to start with.
Adam reached over and touched his hand. "Paul, haven't you had enough? You're going to have to drive home, unless you want a lift on the back of my bike."
Paul propped his head up with his hand. "S'okay, boss."
They finished as much of the meal as they were able, and the rest went into Styrofoam containers. When it came time to stand up to leave, Adam saw that Paul clearly couldn't drive. Adam paid for both of them and helped Paul out to his car.
"Can't do it, man. You've gotta." Paul leaned against the hood of his car.
"Christ, Paul, I can't drive. We'd better leave the car here and get you a cab." Adam started to look up and down California Avenue.
"No, no, nope, nope nope." Paul said, flopping his hand towards Adam. "You can do it. It's an automatic. Try it, you'll like it."
Adam took the key and looked at it. Then looked at Paul's brand new, green and tan Ford Explorer 'Eddie Bauer Edition'. Then looked at Paul. Then looked at the sky.
"Okay, I'll try it. Get in." He helped Paul into the passenger seat and fumbled with the belt.
Adam hopped into the driver's seat and stared at the console.
"Key goes in here." Paul pointed to the ignition.
"Oh, okay." Adam stuck the key in the ignition. Nothing happened.
"You have to turn it." Paul coached.
Adam closed his eyes and pursed his lips. Then he relaxed and appeared to be meditating.
"Gonna levitate us there?" asked Paul. "What time's the next ferry? Or don't we need one?" He dissolved into helpless giggles.
Adam opened his eyes and started the car. Like an automaton, he turned on the signal and edged into traffic. He made his way down California Avenue going ten miles an hour. When he reached Fauntleroy Way, he found the signals no longer worked, so he stuck his hand out the window. He went down Fauntleroy way at seven miles an hour, cars honking behind him. By the time he arrived at the line of cars waiting for the ferry, the headlights no longer worked.
"Paul, we're in trouble," Adam said. But Paul was fast asleep.
The ferry line moved just slowly enough for Adam not to have to stop. The ferry was loading by the time he got onto the dock, so he reached into Paul's glove compartment and pulled out the commuter books, one car-and-driver ticket, one passenger. He handed it to the ticket taker and coasted onto the ferry before turning off the car.
"That's not going to start again by itself," muttered Adam, to himself as Paul snored. He closed his eyes and meditated for most of the 15-minute ride over. Just as the ferry engines cut so the boat could maneuver into the dock, Adam hopped out and found a ferry worker.
"My car won't start. The engine is dead. Can I get a jump?" Adam asked.
The ferry worker was a tad disgruntled, but couldn't do anything about it -- the car had to be unloaded from the ferry somehow. When the boat docked, they unloaded everyone and then drove a little tractor with a large tire in front of it onto the ferry. It pushed Paul's car off the boat and over to the side of the dock, where they used another machine to charge the battery. It took a while, but the car did get started.
As Adam drove off the dock, topping maybe 15 miles an hour, a dockworker yelled after him, "You'll never get it charged if you don't go faster!" but Adam couldn't hear him.
The ten-minute drive to Paul's house took a half an hour. The winding road off the main highway presented Adam's greatest challenge. A bicycle is a completely different width than a Ford Explorer, and somehow the roads looked a lot narrower to Adam.
After parking the vehicle in the carport at the road, Adam unloaded Paul and propped his snoring frame against the hood of the Explorer. He looked at the fifty steps down to Paul's house.
"Oh, fuck this," Adam spat, and then looked up and down the road. Not a soul in sight. He lifted Paul up in his arms, as if he were as light as a feather. Then, instead of gingerly stepping down to the wooden stairway, he stepped out -- into thin air. He and Paul gently floated to the bottom of the stairway. Adam propped Paul against the door to open it. "That wasn't so bad, was it?" he said to Paul, who was drooling.
Up the hill, Aggie Nelson fell off the stool by her kitchen window.
Paul awoke about noon the next day with a headache the size of the Titanic. Face down in his bed and still fully clothed from the night before, he felt like a sack of dirty laundry.
"Shoot me, shoot me now," he said, paraphrasing Daffy Duck.
"How about a shot of espresso, instead?" Adam asked, sitting in a chair by the window. Paul turned a bloodshot, bleary eye at him.
"Thanks for taking off my shoes," he croaked.
"Don't mention it." Adam cracked a smile. "Least I could do."
Paul tried raising himself up on shaking arms. He felt every one of his nearly forty-seven years, plus a couple of decades more. He had to make it to the bathroom; he was going to be sick. Adam swiftly picked him up with a strong, sure grip. He practically swung Paul off the bed and the few yards into the bathroom, depositing him in front of the toilet. Then Adam left to go downstairs to the kitchen, while Paul tried to recall the remains of a Mexican dinner from his stomach.
Paul crawled back to bed and Adam reappeared, offering a small glass.
"What is this?" said Paul, expecting coffee.
"It's a beverage made from the finest Floridian fruit. I believe it's known in the regional vernacular as 'orange juice'," Adam said wryly, and then his tone became more paternal. "I thought you could use some vitamin C instead of caffeine."
Paul sipped the juice. Adam was right; his body responded favorably to the nutrients. “Thanks, Adam. You're a good daddy."
Adam's face went blank, and then he got it. He sat on the edge of the bed and patted Paul's knee.
"Well, you're a good boy, Paul," he replied in kind. "Oh, I thought I'd let you know that I called the office for you and told them you were under the weather."
"What?" Paul sat up, and then looked at the clock. "Jeez, it's almost one o'clock in the afternoon. Oh, God. I was out for fourteen hours!" He ran his hand over his face. "Guess I can't handle drink any more than you can," he groaned. "Wait a minute! How did I get here? Where's the Explorer?" He tried getting out of bed and then sat down again.
"It's in the carport. I drove you here."
Paul's jaw dropped to the floor. "You drove? Is my car okay?"
"Well, the battery is dead, or maybe it needs fuses. I have a guy looking at it right now. Aggie Nelson's nephew. Told you I was bad on car's electrical systems." Adam grinned.
In fact, Adam had spent the morning talking to old Aggie Nelson, convincing her that she had not seen what she had seen. She turned out to be quite easy to convince -- she had been worried she'd be carted off to the Island Nursing Home and heavily medicated. She'd volunteered her nephew, a well-known backyard mechanic on the island, to perform the delicate surgery required to resuscitate Paul's Explorer.
Paul attempted getting up again, and succeeded on the second try. He shuffled to the chest of drawers and stared at it. Then he shook his head, and shuffled towards the shower and stared at it. Adam, who'd been watching all this in silent amusement, stood up and handed him the towel hanging over the bathroom door.
"Do you need any help?" He hid a smile.
"No, no, no." Paul shook his head vigorously, more to clear it than to indicate a negative response. He took the proffered towel.
"Well, then, I'll be downstairs." Adam turned to go. "Don't forget to take off your clothes before you shower," he called over his shoulder as he left the room.
Paul managed to have most of his clothes off when he got in the shower. It took a few minutes under the current of steaming water for him to realize he still had his socks on.
"Damn!" He tried to pull them off. Finally he gave up and concentrated on trying to open the shampoo. Since he had hair all over his body, he decided to use shampoo everywhere instead of soap. By the time he rinsed off, he'd run out of hot water. He leaped out not quite fast enough to avoid being blasted by the icy flow as he reached for the faucet to turn it off. That woke him up.
Adam's face reappeared around the door as Paul, wrapped in a towel, tried to peel off his wet, clinging socks. His face contorted into a grin.
"I thought I told you to take off your clothes before you got in that shower!"
"I remembered most of them." Paul said, struggling with the last sock. He took it off and threw it at Adam.
Adam ducked. "Hey, is that any way to treat your Good Samaritan? And I had your car fixed, too."
"It's fixed? That was fast." Paul went past him to the chest of drawers.
"Just a couple of fuses and the battery needed charging. He has some gismo hooked to it to keep it charged. He said to put it in Aggie's mailbox when we're done." Adam started heading back to the kitchen. "Lunch is ready, if you want it."
A few minutes later, Paul came trotting downstairs, freshly shaved and looking like a regular human being in jeans and a denim shirt and bare feet. Adam had set the dining room table with two place settings; each had a plate with a turkey sandwich on whole wheat and a tall glass of milk.
"No peanut butter and jelly?" asked Paul facetiously, as the scene reminded him of his childhood. He never sat at the dining room table except for dinner parties. He ate lunch either on the couch in front of the TV or standing by the kitchen counter. And he rarely drank milk, except on cereal.
"Do you want soup?" Adam asked from the kitchen.
"No, Mom, this is fine." Paul sat down and dug in. His appetite had returned with a vengeance.
Adam brought in a bag of tortilla chips and joined him at lunch. Both men were quiet as they concentrated on their food. When they were down to the chips, Paul looked up and noticed Adam lost in thought.
"What?" Paul asked, munching on a chip.
Adam played with a tortilla chip, breaking it into a little pile of pieces before answering.
"I have to pick up my mother from the airport." He glanced at the clock on the wall.
"On your bike?" Paul envisioned an old lady clutching a suitcase on the back of Adam's 18-speed bicycle.
"No, no, I'll get a cab, or take an airport shuttle. I just forgot it was today." He picked up the pieces of the chip and nibbled them.
"Oh, Adam, don't do that, I'll be happy to drive you," Paul offered, "What time is she due in?"
Adam shifted uncomfortably in his seat. "I knew you were going to say that. I'm not sure if I want you to." He stared down at his plate. Then he seemed to make up his mind. "Okay. Thanks. It'll save me time."
"Why wouldn't you want me to? Do you want to protect me from her?" joked Paul, imagining some overbearing Auntie Mame character storming off the airplane.
"No, that's not it," Adam said, "It's an awful lot of trouble, the ferry and all, and your hangover."
"Nonsense, you're my friend and I feel fine." Paul stood up and took the dishes to the sink. "When do we leave?"
"She gets in at 4:30 PM, so we'd better make the 2:45 ferry; the 3:35 is too late." Adam said.
"Good God, man, you sure wait until the last minute. It's nearly 2:30 right now!" Paul looked at the microwave's clock. He raced back upstairs for his wallet and shoes.
Adam stood by the front door with Paul's jacket and keys as he came back down.
"Thanks, I appreciate this," Adam said as he handed Paul the keys. But his eyes were wary as he said it.
Paul didn't notice as he grabbed the keys and they raced up to the car. Precious minutes were wasted, as they tried to figure out how to remove the charger on the battery without getting electrocuted. They made the ferry in the nick of time; they were the last ones on.
On the ferry they stayed in the car. Adam stared out the window at the bright sunny day, with cotton ball clouds dotting the sky. Sailboats were out in full force; their colorful sails made a patchwork quilt over the Puget Sound's dark blue water. A freighter from Tacoma lumbered by. Adam's sharp eyes spotted a group of Hansen's porpoises, looking like small Orcas, off of Blake Island to the north. The ferry headed east and the hills of West Seattle loomed before them, with the tip of a black skyscraper (known locally as the 'box the Space Needle came in') peeking over from downtown. Paul gazed at Adam, wondering about his mother, and his enigmatic past. Would she be like Adam, quiet and offering few clues about herself, or would she be the opposite -- gregarious to the point of being overbearing? Paul guessed the latter. He could almost see Adam as a child becoming quiet and withdrawn to balance an outgoing and overly social mother. Then it occurred to him that perhaps Adam wanted him to meet her. After all, he had stayed overnight with him when he really didn't have to; Paul had recovered from the only two other hangovers in his life just fine by himself. And he waited until the last minute to ask, without lining up any alternate transportation. Paul wondered if it were true that Adam had forgotten. The closer he felt to Adam, the more he realized how much he didn't know about him. They hadn't spoken a word to each other by the time they'd reached the mainland.
Adam grew more and more withdrawn as they neared the airport. Paul wanted to ask questions, but each one he ventured received a monosyllabic answer. Sea-Tac airport was a mercifully short ride from West Seattle.
"Which airline?" asked Paul as they came to the parking lot, "Where is she coming in from?"
"Southwest. Oh, uh, she was helping out in a daycare in Oklahoma ... she's coming out from Oklahoma." Adam replied as they crossed the sky bridge.
"Is that where she lives?" Paul asked as they got on the escalator.
Adam shook his head. "No, she travels a lot."
"So you don't get to see her very often." Paul noted, knowing this must be true. In the years he'd been with the firm, Paul had never heard of Adam's mother visiting before.
"We like to get together whenever we're in the same time period -- I mean, zone ... part of the country. Um, sometimes I see her, but she hasn't been to Seattle since I've been here." They went through the security x-rays and waited for the subway shuttle. Adam began to look visibly nervous, and he stuck his hands in his pocket.
Paul wondered if Adam's nervousness had to do with his relationship with his mother, or with Paul's presence. Adam, being so very private, perhaps felt uncomfortable with Paul there.
"Adam, is it okay for me to be here, or should I meet you back at the car?" Paul asked as the subway approached.
Adam looked directly at him. "If you weren't supposed to be here, you wouldn't be here," he said. The doors opened and a mass of people unloaded, separating the two men. An equal mass of people streamed onto the train so Paul and Adam ended up at different sides of the compartment. They made eye contact once, and then Adam turned away, staring out the front of the train at the track ahead. The female voice on the speaker read off the stops in several languages. No one got off at the second stop, but the entire crowd unloaded at the third, with Adam in the front.
"I'll meet you at the gate," he called to Paul, and headed up the escalator.
Paul followed the herd up the escalator and they dispersed to their various gates. He walked down the hall to the gate Adam had mentioned. The plane had arrived early and was already unloading. He saw Adam towards the front of the waiting crowd as the passengers came out of the gate. Still several yards away, he saw Adam wave. Paul looked at the deplaning passengers and saw a whitish-blonde head appear. Before his brain could register his feelings, his heartbeat accelerated. He moved faster through the swarm of people to get a better view. It was Moira, walking towards someone with her arms outstretched. There were too many people were in the way to see who she was reaching for; then through a break in the crowd Paul saw Moira walk straight up to Adam and throw her arms around him! Paul came to a stop next to a pillar ten feet away, shaking and dizzy. Blood rushed into his head and his temples pounded. He grabbed the pillar to keep himself from falling over.
Moira and Adam stood there, holding each other and talking, their faces close together. Moira smiled and stroked his hair. She looked the same as ever from where he stood, dressed in a teal raincoat and boots. Paul sensed a surge of jealousy erupting through him. Was she seeing Adam now? Then, just as suddenly, total shock replaced the jealousy. She had silver hair, with just a few golden strands. They held each other affectionately, but not as lovers. The truth hit him like a baseball to the head. Moira was Adam's mother.
Adam said something to Moira and her expression turned to one of surprise. She looked over in Paul's direction, and saw him there against the pillar. She stared at him, still holding Adam. Adam, with one arm around her waist, and the other carrying her baggage, steered her towards Paul.
"Paul, this is my mother, Moira." Adam said, aware the introduction was unnecessary.
Moira's eyes shone brightly, as she released Adam and went to Paul. She put her hands to his face and looked into his eyes.
"Oh, Paul, it is so good to see you again!" she exclaimed with delight.
Paul tentatively put his hands out to touch her, uncertain that she was really there. He felt her arm, and then looked at her hair. It was so unreal; it was so impossible. It had only been two years, yet she seemed at least ten or fifteen years older. Where was her little boy? He could only be about seven. Was Adam his older brother? Paul looked over at Adam for answers, but only saw the man watching both of them with those dark brown eyes, his face unreadable. He turned back to Moira, slipped his arms around her, bent his head into her shoulder, and began to weep. She held him and rocked him, saying soothing words into his ears. Finally, puffy eyed and nose dripping, he came up for air.
"Moira, I am so confused. What's happened to you? What's happening here?" Paul's voice quavered.
Moira motioned him to an empty area of seats and they sat down. She began to say something but Adam interrupted.
"Mom, don't," he said, his tone urgent.
"Adam, I have to. What else can I do? This wouldn't be happening if he weren't supposed to know," Moira said to her son as she held Paul's hands.
"It's not supposed to be happening." Adam hissed, looking around as if someone were watching. "I manipulated it."
Moira smiled, "That may be, Adam, but it's still happening. Even though you manipulated it, he still wouldn't be here without free will, and these entire circumstances would never have occurred if they weren't supposed to. Haven't you learned anything during your time here?"
"Then what's the point of the rules?" demanded Adam. "Why have any guidelines at all?"
Moira looked compassionate and accepting. "Our teachers would not agree with me, but they haven't spent as much time in the field as I have. Maybe this is unique to the human experience. I believe there are guidelines to help us keep our focus, but everyone who takes a human body has free will. And even with free will, even with all these billions of souls in bodies operating from their choices, everything happens in complete agreement with the Universe. This is all supposed to happen."
Paul lost it. "Excuse me. Would someone please explain to me, in English, just what in God's name is going on?" His head felt ready to explode.
Moira and Adam immediately turned their attention to him. Adam sat down on the chair behind him with Moira in front holding both his hands. Paul sensed an immediate stability when Adam sat down. Between the two of them, there seemed a vortex of sanity, where all the chaos came to a stop, and Paul could see things clearly. All the facts were in front of him. It still didn't make any sense, but he didn't feel like he was falling apart anymore.
"There, does that feel better?" Moira asked. Paul nodded, so she went on. "I am going to have to explain things to you a little at a time. You will need time to understand this. I will explain to you only what you ask me, because in your asking you will be indicating to me what you are ready to know. Are you following me?" She spoke clearly and simply, and kept her focus steadily on his face. Paul nodded again. Then she looked around her, as if assessing the situation. "All right. What is it you want to know first?"
Paul stared at her. He wanted to know everything. Everything from beginning to end, right now. Instead, he asked, "What happened to your hair?" He touched the tresses cascading over her shoulders.
She smiled and looked down at his hand on her hair. "I went gray. It happens, you know."
"But two years ago, your hair was completely golden. Was it the trauma of the earthquake?"
Her eyes changed and became serious. She shook her head. Very slowly, choosing each word carefully, she answered him. "Two years ago to me, my hair was still this color."
"To me," he echoed. A wave of apprehension grew in him as he asked, "How many years ago, to you, did the building collapse on you?"
She saw he'd started getting it. She looked at Adam as if he held the answer, and looked back at Paul. "I think that was about twenty-five or twenty-six years ago, to me."
The wave crashed in Paul's head and his vision went white. He felt Adam's hands on his shoulders and Moira squeezing his arm and holding his face.
"Paul, Paul," she called to him. "Okay, that's enough. Adam, let's get him walking to clear his head." They stood Paul up. "I'm sorry, Paul, I'll try to answer things more slowly from now on."
Adam muttered, "I told you so," as he held onto Paul's arm and hoisted his mother's bag onto his other shoulder.
They walked him past the escalators to the elevator. Paul leaned against a wall, took a deep breath and asked,” How can it be that I saw you only two years ago in Los Angeles, and you are telling me it was twenty-five years ago to you? I don't get it."
"Oh, shit," said Adam.
"Quiet!" snapped his mother. The elevator doors closed. Moira held Paul gently by the arm, and Paul felt comforted by her touch. Instead of answering him, Moira asked, "Paul, are you going to be able to drive? Because you know Adam and I can't, so you're either going to have to drive us, or leave your car here and take a cab."
"I can drive," piped up Adam. His mother shot him a look. "I did it last night," Adam said, defensively.
"And what happened to the car?" she asked.
"Oh, the battery died and it needed some new fuses. But it got him home." Adam nodded to Paul. Moira looked at her son questioningly. "I think he was getting ready for this growth period." Adam explained. "He just didn't know it yet."
They stepped out of the elevator. Moira looked back at Paul.
Paul felt somewhat steadier, and he realized he didn't want the answer to his last question just yet. "I can drive. Where are we going?"
Moira and Adam looked at each other. They seemed to be having a conversation without using words. The shuttle arrived and they boarded it.
"Ballard," Moira said.
Of course, she would stay with her son at his place in Ballard. Perfectly logical, she'd come to visit Adam. But Paul still felt a twinge in his heart as if he were somehow being rejected. Didn't she always immediately go with him each time they met? Wasn't he always her first priority, as she was always his?
She smiled at him and patted his arm, "Paul, don't be so silly. We have to get Adam back to Ballard; he hasn't had a change of clothes since yesterday morning. Besides, I'd like to see the old place again." A flurry of eye contact and non-verbal communication occurred between her and Adam. "Then I can go home with you."
While Paul's heart soared at this, his thoughts were racing ahead of him. Why was he letting this happen? Why didn't he just start running in the opposite direction? She'll spend a wonderful weekend with him, get all his hopes up, and then she'll vanish, leaving behind more questions than she answered. Somewhere in the back of his mind a little voice started chanting, 'acceptance, acceptance' and gave him an inner calmness and the strength to go forward when his body wanted to bolt and run.
At his car in the parking lot, Moira touched Paul's hand and said, "Let me sit in the back with Adam on the way there. Since I'm going home with you, I'll have plenty of time to chat with you, but less time to catch up with Adam."
In the car driving to Ballard, Paul felt he was in some weird foreign film where the sound went dead and there were no subtitles. Adam and Moira sat in the back staring at each other, every once in a while saying a word, such as "yes," or "I see," but mostly communicating in silence. Sometimes Paul could feel what they were talking about, like when it was about him, but many times he had no clue. They had some language all their own that he was no part of. It was a lot like being in a car with hearing-impaired people, except with no observable signing. He glanced in the mirror at them. Adam looked nothing like his usual self. Animated and smiling, his eyes danced in reflection of his mother's. He looked more like her than Paul could ever have guessed. So many things started making sense. All their similarities. And then their differences. Adam had consistently been in Seattle for over five years now. Moira seemed to stay nowhere longer than three weeks. She had gold hair and white skin -- even in India, she'd remained translucently pale. Adam had dark brown hair but never seemed to tan or freckle (but then Seattleites don't tan, they rust, Paul remembered with a chuckle). Moira gazed lovingly into Adam's eyes, an expression Paul had only seen before directed at himself. Still slender-waisted and long-legged, still with that mane of hair, but now shimmering with silver. Her face had barely aged, save for the laugh lines at the eyes. She seemed to be listening to Adam tell her all about himself and his life here, although Adam hadn't uttered a word. Then it seemed as if the mute conversation shifted to what Moira had been doing, and she gripped Adam's hands, her face contorted first in anguish and then in resignation. Adam's gaze remained steady on her, strong and comforting at the same time. Something disturbing had happened to her, and Adam seemed to be consoling her.
Paul kept his eyes on the road for the remainder of the drive to Ballard, feeling a strong need to respect their privacy. When they arrived at the old place, he got out and opened the car door for Moira, and suddenly felt awkward. A mother visiting her son's home, yet this was the home they had shared, albeit briefly. Moira stood by Paul for a moment, looking at the place nostalgically. Adam walked up and unlocked the door.
"Oh, Adam, the azaleas are doing beautifully," Moira's exclaimed.
Paul realized with a start that he'd never noticed that the old azaleas that were once half dead in pots on the porch were now gigantic flowering bushes on either side of the steps. Adam must have planted them there five years ago. Even so, their growth rate astounded him. Could azaleas grow to that size in five years?
Adam opened the door and an elderly Siamese came running out.
"Percy!" Moira cried, and the cat leapt into her arms. "How's my baby?" she purred. "Oh, Adam, you're taking good care of him." Her eyes beamed at her son.
Adam shrugged, "He's been taking good care of me."
They walked inside, and Moira looked around. Far more spartan than when Paul had lived there, it had the same furniture, for Paul had purchased everything new for the Colvos house. Adam never seemed to buy anything, certainly not a car nor furniture. Paul wondered what he did with his salary, and guessed he probably had a massive investment portfolio. It startled Paul when Moira walked straight into Adam's bedroom, and Adam, too, as he hurried in after her.
"Mom, I haven't picked up in there," he said as he went in. Silence followed, then a little giggle from Moira, and an astonished "What?!?" from Adam. They both came out, Moira with a huge grin on her face and Adam looking down, avoiding Paul's puzzled stare.
Paul began to wonder when the next ferry left and Moira turned to Adam.
"Honey, we should go now if we're going to make the next ferry," she said. How did she know what time it's due? "I'll call you tomorrow and we can have lunch together."
"Fine, Mom. You and -- Paul take care." He hugged his mother. Then he leveled his brown eyes on Paul with mock severity, "and you, stay away from Margarita Grande."
Moira frowned. "He's been hanging out with some woman named Big Margarita?"
Both Paul and Adam laughed, breaking up much of the tension that had hung between them for most of the day. Paul gave Adam a bear hug, and as he did an odd thought struck him, I'm in love with my best friend's mother! Everything he knew about Adam suddenly seemed slightly off, as if seen through broken glasses.
"It's all right, Paul." Adam said, in the same tone his mother used earlier. "Everything will make sense eventually. It will just take time to get used to it."
Paul looked at Adam, almost the same height as himself, same coloring; and he felt a strong bond of kinship. They both loved the same woman, just in different ways. It added to the already special feeling Paul had for Adam… it somehow validated it. He smiled. "Thanks for letting me drive you to the airport."
"Ah, it was nothing." Adam grinned.
Moira kissed Adam good-bye and walked out to the car with Paul. He held the door for her as she got in. The whole scene seemed absurdly natural, as if she had never left, and had spent the last two decades solidly with him. She sat in the front passenger seat of the Explorer, and it felt like she had always been there. Driving towards West Seattle, Paul couldn't think of one question to ask her. Since it felt like she had always been with him, he couldn't bring himself to ask where she actually had been. A little edge of insanity started creeping in.
She sensed it. "No, Paul, don't ask any questions on the freeway," Moira said calmly but firmly. Then she began chatting about Adam, a loving mother proud her son's accomplishments, happy that he had such a nice place to live and to work and that he had such good friends. She seemed surprisingly up to date on the goings on in Adam's life.
Paul interrupted. "Moira, did you know Adam worked for me all along?"
She hesitated, "That's a difficult question to answer, and it can be answered in so many ways." She stopped herself from explaining further. "Yes," she answered simply.
"Why haven't you come to see him sooner?" He meant, why haven't you come to see me before now?
"I've been on assignment. Adam has only been able see me two or three times over these past five years. He's had to come to where I was," she said, matter-of-factly.
So that's where Adam had gone when he left every six months. Paul's heart lurched -- why hadn't Adam told him? Why hadn't Adam taken him along?
Moira reached over and touched Paul's shoulder. "You know, Adam didn't know who you were at first. He didn't know that we knew each other."
"When did he find out?" Paul asked, as he pulled into the ferry line.
"When you talked to him on the phone from Los Angeles."
Paul felt a stab of queasiness in his stomach. Moira squeezed his shoulder.
"Be careful about asking too much when you're driving," she told him.
Ignoring the queasiness, Paul forced himself to ask, "You said that was twenty-five years ago to you. What does that mean?" Piercing pain filled his head.
"Too much, Paul, too much." Moira chided. "Let's wait until we get on the ferry and have a cup of tea." Instantly, the pain subsided and Paul breathed a sigh of relief.
"Tell me all about your place on Colvos." Moira very deliberately changed the subject.
So Paul told her about house-hunting with Adam, and his neighbor Aggie Nelson, and the house itself, and the improvements he intended. He went on about the simple pleasures of living on the island, where nobody locked their doors or cars, where there were no stoplights, only a few blinking four-way stops. The one movie theater played a new picture every week and closed on Mondays. The bank tellers and grocery checkers all knew him by name, and the florist remembered his mother lived in Connecticut as soon as he mentioned his last name.
"It's like living in small-town America fifty years ago." Paul ended his recitation.
"Very much so," Moira agreed. "What a wonderful, stress-free place to live."
"Well, the ferries can be a hassle, but it depends on your attitude." Paul said, "When I first came out here, Adam compared this to the commute from the Eastside, and how you can't read a book or get out for a cup of coffee on the floating bridge. So I see the wait for the ferry, and the ride over, as a time for contemplation or to decompress from the day."
Moira looked at him, picking something up in his comments that he hadn't meant to reveal. "Did you used to commute from the Eastside?"
Paul felt extremely uncomfortable. He did not want Maggie to exist between them. He didn't want to keep any secrets from Moira, but he didn't want to spoil this reunion with a very bad memory either. He finally decided he should tell her, if only to release the discomfort that had risen between them when she asked the question.
"I used to live in Medina on Lake Washington. My -- my ex-wife still lives there, she kept the house." And everything else, thought Paul.
"Oh." A little shiver of shock ran through Moira's eyes, which she quickly covered up. She said nothing else.
Paul felt obliged to fill the silence with explanation. "Moira, I have never loved anyone else but you," he began, and she put her hand to his face to stop him, but he took it away, holding it on his lap. "No, I need to tell you. When you disappeared from our house in Seattle," (it had actually been his house, but had seemed like their house at the time) "I was devastated. You left with no trace, no clue to what had happened. You also left nothing behind to prove you existed. Do you realize you never met any of my friends at that time, and we have had no photographs taken together – none -- never? My God, we were in India for five days, even at the Taj Mahal, and not one photograph! Anyway, back then I thought I had to face reality, that you were gone and that I'd probably never see you again. Moira, I was neurotic. I used to follow women around town simply because they were blonde. I used to ask women out because they somewhat resembled you. I knew my behavior was not healthy. I finally went out with Maggie and asked her to marry me because she was absolutely nothing like you. I thought that the right thing to do was to do the opposite of what I felt compelled to do, which was to find you again." Paul looked out the window away from Moira. "But Maggie desperately wanted children, and I wanted a family, too." Moira squeezed his hand. "We tried for five years, a horrible, awful five years. I finally had to confess to her that I really didn't love her, and let her go, to give her the opportunity to find someone who truly did love her. God, I feel like such a shit." Paul closed his eyes and leaned back against the headrest. Moira reached out and stroked his head.
"Paul, I am so very, very sorry that things worked out the way they did," she said, softly. "I am so sorry that circumstances have kept us apart."
"Yeah. Well. I guess it's not so bad. I've been married to someone else, and so have you." Paul said. "That doesn't have to change our relationship to each other, does it?"
"What?" Moira said abruptly. Then she shook her head in bewilderment. "I've never been married, whatever gave you that idea?"
Paul opened his eyes and looked at Moira. "Oh, I'm sorry. I just assumed that you were married. I mean, you have children," Paul felt the queasiness start again.
The ferry line started moving, and the ticket taker motioned them to board the boat. Their conversation paused while he maneuvered the car to the spot the ferry workers pointed out for him.
Moira patted his hand. "Let's get a cup of tea, " she suggested.
"They serve lattes on the ferries now," Paul said, smiling at the memories the idea awakened.
She shook her head. "I think you really should have herbal tea; something soothing."
In the galley, with Paul drinking Chamomile tea and Moira drinking Earl Gray ("Earl Gray, hot." Paul murmured to himself, automatically repeating Captain Picard's standard request of the Enterprise's replicators), Paul struggled to remember what questions he'd been asking that she had postponed answering. He decided to try a different tack.
"When was the last time you saw me?"
"India," she said, promptly.
He felt lightheaded, but pushed on. "What about L.A.?"
"What about it?" she responded.
"Oh, God, I don't know. All right, all right. When was the first time you saw me?" Paul had no idea why he asked that.
"Seattle," she answered.
He stared at her. "What about D.C.?" She started to echo him, but he held up his hands, "I know, I know." Then he wiped his face with his hands and looked at her. Very slowly, he said, "I first met you in D.C. when I was twenty-three. I next met you in Seattle nine years later. I was thirty-two. I next met you on the plane to India, nine and a half years after that. I was forty-two. Then, Los Angeles in 1993 -- I was forty-five. Now I'm forty-seven. Your turn."
She gazed at him. "Paul, are you sure you want me to answer that now? The ferry hasn't even docked yet, you have to be able to drive home."
He grabbed her hand and glared at her fiercely, "Tell me!" he said through gritted teeth.
She swallowed. Then took a deep breath. "I first met you in Seattle when I was eighteen years old. I next saw you in Los Angeles when I was almost twenty-three." She paused, her lip quivering. "I didn't get to see you again until I was thirty-eight, and that was in D.C., and then, in India I was forty." She smiled. "Now I'm forty nine."
The galley began to swim about, and Moira turned blurry and Paul started to faint. Moira grabbed him with both hands and pulled him upright. He sensed that magnetic pull to the earth as she did so.
"This doesn't make sense," Paul stammered. "This absolutely makes no sense at all."
Moira looked him directly in the eye. "Don't try to figure it out," she ordered, "until we get off the ferry and you drive us home."
Paul meekly obeyed. The ferry cut its engines and coasted into the dock. They both got up and followed the other passengers down to the car deck. Paul climbed into the Explorer and drove home as if on automatic pilot. He found himself parking in the carport and didn't recall how he got there. Moira helped him down the fifty steps through the madrona and fir trees to his house, and led him in the door.
Reality came back to him as he saw Moira walking through the house, taking in all the details of the different rooms and their furnishings. She had never been here before. This was new. This was in the present. His body started to feel a little comfortable again. Moira took off her raincoat and hung it on the coat rack by the door. She wandered into the kitchen and opened the refrigerator door. There were the cartons of Mexican food from the night before.
"Ooh! Leftovers!" she cried with delight. "I'm famished." She peeked in one container. "Fajita burrito! Yum!"
Paul laughed, "That was Adam's. I'm sure he won't mind."
They zapped the leftovers in the microwave and took them into the living room with glasses of lemonade. Moira sat on one end of the sofa, her feet tucked under her. Paul sat on the other end, his feet solidly on the floor. He needed all the stability he could get. The food in his stomach added to his body's comfort and his sense of being grounded, so he felt able to ask the next question.
"How can you do that, Moira? Move around through time?" He waited for the nausea and pain to over take him, but it didn't. Sitting at home, in his living room, with a full stomach, he felt safe and comfortable. He was ready to hear and accept what she was about to tell him.
She sensed his readiness. "I have a human body. I chose a human body," she began. "It ages linearly. It started at infancy when it was created, and will continue to age until it dies. It's my body, designed and blueprinted for my vibrational level." She watched to see if he were following this. Satisfied, she continued. "I move through time – oh, how do I explain this? I'm given assignments, and I go where I'm sent."
"Who gives you assignments, who sends you?" Paul asked, feeling lightheaded again.
Moira touched his arm, which settled him.
"I belong to an organization of beings which is beyond time and space. We choose different bodies, not always human, and live through each body for its lifetime. We are sent through time to create change wherever we are. It's not active change; it's change made simply by our presence. We actually try not to do anything. When our assignment is finished, we move on to our next assignment. That's all." She stopped and watched Paul for his reaction.
He drank some of his lemonade. "So you move through time and create change. That's your job? Sort of like the Red Cross," he said ironically, yet not unkindly.
She smiled, "Well, sort of. I mean the Red Cross goes to wherever there are people in need and helps them. I go where I'm needed, and I'm helping people; they just don't know it at the time."
"What were you doing in D.C.?" he asked.
"God knows," she said. "That one threw me. I was between assignments, and I found myself killing time in D.C.. That's never happened before, or since, by the way. It really was time for me to transition, but I knew I wasn't going to right away."
"So you let me pick you up? A fun way to kill time?" Paul asked, frustrated that he didn't understand this completely.
"Paul, you have to understand that I already knew you. In fact, it was the third time I'd met you. I was already deeply, deeply in love with you. You'd just never met me before. Oh, and it had been fifteen years! You know how you felt seeing me after missing me for a long time? Well that's how I felt towards you." She looked down at her plate. "That was a big judgment call on my part. One of the cardinal rules is to never get involved with people. You can have friends as long as they don't know the truth about you, but not romantic entanglements. It's too hard on the person involved with you… you know that." Paul nodded. "So here I was, with you as a gorgeous young hunk coming on to me, a woman nearing forty," she grinned, and Paul looked sheepishly at her, the memory coming into a totally new perspective. She reached out and caressed his cheek; he caught her hand and kissed her palm. "That's when I realized that linear humans all have free will. You were choosing me then out of your own free will. And that I was there with you because I was supposed to be there. Probably simply because I was supposed to meet you." She moved closer to him on the couch. "Adam doesn't understand that yet, because no woman has ever come up to him on the streets of Seattle and kissed him the way you first kissed me."
Suddenly Paul saw Moira sitting in his Prelude after being kissed by him, only eighteen, never having seen him before. And this thirty-two year old man had taken her into his arms and into his home. A shock wave went through him.
"Moira -- were you a virgin in Seattle?" he asked, a billion tiny bits of information coming together in his brain.
She smiled, and gently nodded.
He rubbed his forehead, as if trying to massage the information into it. "But what were you doing in Seattle?"
Moira looked at him, her eyes serious. "I'm not supposed to tell you. It's another cardinal rule not to reveal what we're doing. Actually, we're only given a vague outline of the time we're in, and then sent about to go with the flow, that is, respond to whatever comes our way. It's our job, well my job, to create a ripple effect by my mere existence. It's not my job to make waves. However, if I stay someplace too long, I do create waves, because my vibrational frequency is too high. I try to stay long enough to help change to happen, but leave before my presence becomes disruptive."
"Mount Saint Helens," Paul said.
"That was supposed to happen. But I don't think it would have happened with such force or so suddenly without enough warning if I hadn't stubbornly remained with you. My preoccupation with you kept me from hearing them call me back."
"Did you get into trouble?" Paul asked gently.
Moira looked at him sharply.
"With your bosses, or whoever assigns you," Paul said.
Her features relaxed. "Oh, they're very neutral about whatever you do. It's all seen as a learning experience. And I learned some very hard lessons because of that. I received more static from my friends, whom I had trained with, but none of them had chosen human bodies, so they couldn't possibly have understood." Paul gaped at her. "Well, my good friend, ****" she made a sound he heard in his head, but hadn't come out of her throat, "has a Xynethian body, it's gaseous. There's nothing to feel, no emotions. So love doesn't have quite the strong magnification that it has through a human body."
Paul decided he didn't want to understand more about that part of her life, at least at the moment.
"India," he said.
"I had to go to India to balance San Francisco. That was part of my assignment. I had been in San Francisco -- well, you don't need to know about that -- but anyway, I had to be on the opposite side of the world for a specific span of time to help ground the earthquake. Please don't ask me to explain it in more detail. I couldn't have come back with you at the time, it would have been very detrimental." Moira leaned her head on her hand and smiled. "India was so delightful. We were finally about the same age, and close in experiences with each other. And I had only seen you less than three years before, so it hadn't been so hard. Oh, and I'd seen you in Los Angeles, where you told me that we would meet in D.C. and India, so I knew it was coming. Maybe the nicest thing about it was that you left me."
"What? What could possibly be nice about my leaving you?" Paul sputtered.
"Well, it was of your own free will. And all those other times, it had just happened to you. In India, you were able to have a sense of power in the relationship, by being able to let me go for a change. I felt so good for you, when I saw you get on that plane," she smiled, and touched his upper lip. "No more mustache," she whispered.
Paul pulled his head back. "So you felt powerful leaving me those other times?" A knot of anger twisted in his stomach.
Her hand fell to her lap. "Powerful? Quite the opposite. I have never voluntarily left you. Ever. Each time I have been pulled away, once even kicking and screaming. Well, perhaps in India, I, too, had free will. I suppose I could have returned with you and California be damned." She looked away. "I've never had a choice in anything, except to love you and be with you. But I never get to choose when or where or for how long."
Paul reached out and held her face with his hand. She leaned her cheek against his palm and he stroked it with his thumb.
"Los Angeles," he said.
She closed her eyes. "Los Angeles. I was there doing this job and it just wouldn't end. I kept wondering when they would call me back, but the call never came. I was really worried, because I had never stayed corporeal for so long." Paul made a mental note to ask her about this. "Then you appeared, and the last time I'd seen you was in Seattle. It felt like -- no, it was a gift from God. God gave me a chance to see you again. Before a really long dry spell." She laughed, but without amusement.
"Corporeal," said Paul, his hand sliding from her cheek to her neck. She moved her head around like a cat being stroked.
"Mmm, that feels good. Corporeal. Oh. Well, just like you need to take your car in for a tuneup, I need to take my body to ... where I come from, where it gets recharged and cleaned out from all the energy it picks up. I sort of dematerialize, but that's not it. My molecules adjust themselves, that's it. And I leave to prepare for my next assignment." She looked over to see if he comprehended. He looked a little distracted but she continued anyway. "I'm given a briefing on the time period and the geographical area I'm going to and that's it. Then I rematerialize in body at the place I'm supposed to be, interact with whomever comes my way and then, when I'm done, I leave and start over."
Paul withdrew his hand at 'interact with whomever'. He thought of Adam's father. He was reluctant to ask her, because he hadn't liked talking about Maggie and certainly didn't want to go into any details about his marriage, so didn't want to put Moira through the same kind of discomfort. He was curious about Adam, but wondered if he should ask him directly. Suddenly a new thought occurred to him.
"Who was the little boy in L.A.?" he asked.
"Adam," she said.
He gawked at her. "But I talked to him on my cell phone that night. How could he be a five-year old in Los Angeles and an adult in Seattle at the same time?"
She grinned and said in a perfect Indian accent, "Really my dear, you should read Deepak Chopra. You would know that the human body is a totally different physical body every seven years. Every seven years every cell in the human body is totally replaced." Then she went on in her normal voice, "little Adam's body was a different body than the adult in Seattle."
"But the same person," Paul persisted.
"Well, the same being. But there's no time or space as spirit, it's all happening at once." She hurried on, "His personality develops linearly along with his body, so the adult Adam personality was also different than little Adam who was still with me. But don't ask me any more about Adam. That really is for you and him to talk about."
Tomorrow will be one interesting day at the office, thought Paul.
"Okay. Now. What are you doing now?" Paul asked, hoping for a clue as to how long they could be together. He wondered how he could shift his work schedule so he could spend as much time with her as possible.
Moira stiffened. "I had a short assignment in Oklahoma. I came to visit Adam because I hardly ever get to see him nowadays. But the oddest thing happened," she said, "On the plane I received another assignment in this time period. The original plan was for three days and then transition on. But something else has come up, and I don't know what it is." She looked up, perplexed.
Paul's heart leapt for joy. "In Seattle?" Would he get a whole three weeks with her again?
"Well, I guess so. Unless this is another gift from God, getting to see you. But I get the feeling that you're part of the assignment." She stopped herself. "I shouldn't say anymore. I really don't know any more than that, I'd just be guessing. I have to stick around and see what's up."
"And respond to what ever comes your way," Paul said.
"That's right," Moira nodded.
Paul's heart beat hard in his chest. Now. Now was the moment, not wait until she's about to vanish. Respond to this, he thought. Moira's eyes turned wary as she began to pick up on his thoughts. He took both her hands in his.
"Marry me," Paul said, not a question so much as a statement.
"What?" Moira's jaw dropped to the floor.
"Washington State has a three-day waiting period; I can get a license tomorrow. Or if you can't wait, we'll fly to Reno. Tonight. There has to be a red-eye there." Paul nearly leapt off the couch to call the airlines.
"Paul, Paul, do we need to get married? Is it appropriate? Isn't marriage for people who want to live together and raise a family? We can't do that, we haven't been able to do that." Said Moira in a steady voice, but her hands shook.
"Marriage is a commitment between two people. With that in mind, we were already spiritually married in India. But you are physically here with me now, and I want to be married to you. For the rest of my life. Whenever and wherever I meet you again, I want you to be my wife. Wait, are there any times you've met me that you haven't told me about?"
Moira laughed but shook her head. "Nope, we're even on this round. But, seriously, Paul. A wedding license. How can I fill that out? I haven't a birth date. I haven't parents for goodness sake."
"Make something up," Paul snapped. "Who cares what the county records say? I just want to stand before God and someone official and tell them ‘I do’ with the woman I love. And I want a piece of paper to remember it by. Do you show up in photographs?" he demanded.
"Paul, I'm not a vampire. Of course I photograph." Moira laughed so hard, tears rolled down her cheeks.
"I want a wedding picture, too," Paul said stubbornly.
Moira stopped laughing, and looked at him. She inhaled deeply, and let it out for a long time.
"Yes," she said. "I'll marry you."
Paul leaned over and kissed Moira, and held her to him. He had meant to begin making love to her, but his head felt like a beehive and he had a stomach full of butterflies. He knew he was having difficulty assimilating all the information he had just received. She slipped her arms around him and began to stroke his back. Each stroke seemed to smooth away some of the butterflies, but his head still buzzed. He closed his eyes, and images of all their past meetings flashed across his eyelids. More questions started to surface, but he pushed them down. When his stomach settled, she moved her hands up to his head and began to massage his scalp. He felt the bees dispersing and a sense of deep calm began to flow over him. He started to nod off, but stopped himself. His first time alone with Moira in three years -- he couldn't fall asleep!
"Hush," she whispered in his ear, "it's all right, just relax."
Her hands massaged his forehead and his face, and then the back of his head and neck. They gently kneaded their way across his shoulders and down his back. He leaned forward on her, his chin resting on her shoulders. His weight started to push her backwards on the sofa, and the motion awakened something within Paul. Still half asleep he started kissing her neck. She giggled and squirmed under him. This succeeded in arousing him more, so he kissed his way down to the hollow of her throat, and down into the crevice between her breasts. She gasped and arched her back as he nuzzled, and his hands crept up her shirt and began to fondle the nipples. Her hands gripped the back of his shirt and began to pull it out of his trousers. Then he realized they were lying on the couch with all the lights blazing and no shades drawn. Aggie Nelson could probably see the whole show from her kitchen window up the hill. Paul abruptly sat up.
"Let's go upstairs." He looked down at her inviting body.
"Race you," she said.
They flew up the stairs to the bedroom. Paul won, simply because he'd gotten to the stairs first and they were too narrow for Moira to pass him. At the bedroom door he paused long enough for her to catch up, and grabbed her. He picked her up and threw her, shrieking with laughter, on the bed. Standing over her, he made a Tarzan yell while pounding his chest, then pulled his shirt off over his head. She giggled hysterically as he fumbled with her buttons, and clumsily pulled off her shirt. Her breasts jiggled with laughter. Her laughing slowed down as he unzipped her jeans and pulled them off, and stopped completely as he pulled off his own. Still in her bra and panties, he slowly slid his hands up the insides of her legs and slipped his fingers under the elastic, and pulled his hands down again, the panties with them. He slid his hands up the insides of her legs again, making her gasp as he lightly rubbed over her and up to her bra. He deftly unhooked the front of it, and it fell away from her breasts. Paul placed a hand over each breast and gently squeezed. He put his face down into her belly and kissed it as she slid her feet up the sides of his naked body and wrapped her legs around his shoulders. He kissed his way down to her curly hair, and gently probed his tongue inside the lower lips, to the little mound. She began to writhe as his tongue lapped it, and probed still deeper. He remembered his hands and started to gently fondle her nipples, causing her to push her pelvis insistently into his face. As much as he enjoyed this, he was distracted by his own member aching below. Moira unwrapped her legs and pushed herself down towards him, kissing his face, his mouth, his chin, his neck, then nuzzling his chest. She took one of his nipples between her teeth and softly bit it, causing him to groan out loud. Then she actually began to suck it, creating little electrical shocks throughout his body. She kissed her way down his torso, and settled her face into his lower belly. He could almost feel her smiling as she reached his cock, like finding an old, good friend. She nuzzled it at first, making him want to push her head onto it, but he gripped her shoulders instead. Ever so lightly, she began little cat licks around it, and around his balls. She took his balls into her mouth and squeezed and sucked, squeezed and sucked until he could stand no more. Then she released them and focused on his cock. First she kissed the shaft from base to head, and back down again. Then she licked it with those little, hard, cat licks up to the head. Unexpectedly, she pressed her lips over the head and pushed the entire thing into her mouth. No! He stopped her. He didn't want to come just yet. She looked up questioningly, and he pulled her up to him; they lay, their bodies pressed together, and kissed deep kisses. He wrapped his arms around her and fondled her buttocks. She lifted up one of her legs and gently motioned for him to enter her. He obliged. Side by side, they pressed into each other, slowly, slowly, then more deeply, deeply, then she more urgently, wrapping her arms around him, her fingers entwined in his hair. A low groan started in her throat and rose up into a full, aching cry. Paul could feel it pulse through his own body, seismic waves rippling through him. His own groan joined hers as he rolled her onto her back and drove his final plunges into her.
They lay there, shivering in the aftermath. She pressed her face against his neck and gave him little kisses. He pressed his face into her hair and inhaled deeply of her scent. She began to giggle and he looked down on her.
"Happy to see me?" she asked, a big smile on her face.
"Always,” he replied, and kissed her full on the mouth.
ASSIGNMENT 437 OKLAHOMA CITY/SEATTLE, 1995
Short check-in, as I see I have an additional assignment beginning. You already know that this assignment was extremely difficult for this body. I recognize that the challenges are increasing as I approach my 500th assignment. It was a great lesson in responding and reacting, and also in self-control. I am grateful for my out-of-body colleagues whose presence reminded me of the physical limitations I have chosen. And, again, thank you for the gift of Seattle. I recall your suggestion of awareness of time and space. That has always been helpful in my communications with Adam, and now I am able use that awareness in my communications with Paul.
For your new assignment remember, remember, remember: respond and react. You are embarking upon your greatest challenge ever, and you are the only one who can decide your best course of action. You will find that your students will become your teachers. Remain open, aware, and neutral. Remember also what your main life's lesson is, this will assist you with your choices.