Of Time: Chapter 6-A
Paul got in line for the ferry at seven a.m., hoping to catch the eight a.m. boat. Moira slept beside him, her head resting against his shoulder. It was a comforting feeling, her weight and her warmth pressing against him. He still had a hard time believing she was really there.
He awkwardly sipped his coffee out of the blue and gray commuter mug with the picture of a ferry on it using his left hand, as Moira leaned on his right shoulder. They were going to the King County Records and Licensing office to get a marriage license before he went to work. He wished he could take the day off, but being out sick the day before meant he really needed to go to the office. If the traffic wasn't bad he could make it there by 8:30 and still get to work by 9:00. They would have been in line earlier but ... they were a little delayed in getting out of bed that morning.
Paul smiled at how some things change with age, and how some things stay the same. He didn't have the stamina he’d had at twenty-three, but he had more staying power. A newspaper vendor walked by hawking the Seattle paper and the Island Weekly News. Paul hid his smile and gestured out the window to buy the local paper. He'd noticed a classified ad in it for a minister who performed weddings, and planned to call her. He stashed it on the dashboard to read later as he couldn’t manage the paper with only one hand free. He turned his face and softly kissed Moira's head. She stirred.
"Are we there yet?" she whispered sleepily.
Paul softly laughed. "No, we haven't even gotten on the ferry."
"Oh," she cuddled closer to him. "Wake me when we get there."
Paul put his arm around her and drew her into him. It was one of those forever moments, as he'd come to think of them. One of those times with her that he felt so happy and contented, he wanted to stay in it forever. His heart was full, and he felt very relaxed. In the past everything had been tinged with anxiety, because he thought at any minute he might lose her. Here with her now, that feeling was missing.
Perhaps too relaxed; his mind started to mull over what she had told him yesterday. How could it possibly be true? She felt so real next to him. All this stuff about moving through time, her materializing and dematerializing... science fiction, that's what it was -- or was it quantum physics? Paul leaned his head against the car window, feeling the cold glass against his temple. The queer thing was, some of what she said made sense, or at least filled in the pieces of the puzzle that was Moira. It explained why she’d disappeared in the way she had. It explained why, in Seattle, she hadn't known him, and also why, in Los Angeles, she hadn't known about India. Those little lines on her tummy ... so the first time he'd been with her, she'd already had a child, and was fifteen years older than him! God, if he'd known that at the time ... it would have blown his mind. But in Seattle, she'd been a virgin. He looked down at her. How difficult it must have been, to have to 'go with the flow' with a man who claimed to have known her nine years before, without having met him. He thought about their first time together in Seattle, and understood now why she had cried. If only he had known at the time he would have been gentler, more understanding; he would have talked more with her.
Adam. What was he going to say to Adam when he met him at the office this morning? Paul was uncomfortable at the thought of facing Adam after a night of luxurious and passionate lovemaking with his mother. Adam was a time traveler as well. That explained why he had to leave every six months and why, although he had friendships, he had avoided relationships. What about Adam's father? Had he known about Moira, who or what she was? Or was he merely a weekend in some other time period? Paul felt the jealousy rising again, and gritted his teeth. He pushed back the thought of some other man bedding the woman who was about to become his wife.
Adam. He had been able to be with Moira all his childhood. And, as an adult, to go where ever she was to see her. To travel with her. Suddenly Paul flashed back to Los Angeles. Adam as the little boy in the Armadillo pajamas, crawling into bed next to his mom, waking her and telling her it was time to go. Both of them holding him, and -- partially dematerializing him? How else was he able to move through a collapsing building, even through its walls, without harm? He looked down at Moira in awe.
The ferry line started moving, and he slowly coasted the Explorer down the hill without turning on the engine. He stopped at the bottom of the hill by the restaurant next to the ferry dock. The 7:20am boat left through the mist, its mournful foghorn calling out to other sea-going traffic. Moira woke up at the sound. She sat up and stretched, covering her mouth as she yawned deeply. Paul instantly wanted her.
"A little impractical in bucket seats, don't you think?" Moira laughed. Then her eyes widened. "Ooo! An espresso stand. Want one?"
Paul laughed at her childlike excitement. "No," he said, lifting his mug, "the coffee vendor filled me up when we were back up the hill. You go, though."
She hopped out and scampered to the little booth, hugging herself against the morning chill. Paul could see the steam rising from her breath. She started talking with the person in front of her in line, and he could see her teeth chattering. The woman said something. Moira laughed and that lilting sound floated over to him, lifting his heart. He began to pick up snatches of the conversation. Moira said something about "King County" and the woman said "Oh, so who's the lucky?" and Moira pointed towards him. The twenty-something woman turned and looked at Paul, who smiled and waved. She nodded and turned back to Moira and the word "gorgeous" floated across to him. Paul picked up the Island Weekly and buried himself in the classifieds.
'WEDDINGS performed by ordained woman minister. Choose one of my ceremonies or create your own. Have the wedding you want, anywhere you want on or around Puget Sound. Rev. B. J. Andrews 555-3285.
He wondered if she was available on such short notice. And he wondered how brief her ceremonies could be.
"Hiya, gorgeous." Moira's voice was right by his ear. Paul dropped the paper and looked over. She had her forehead pressed to the side of the car and had a steaming latte in her hand. He rolled down the window.
"What did you say to that woman?" Paul asked.
"Oh, that we were going to get a wedding license, and that you were the man of my dreams." She grinned, went around to the other side of the car and got in. "Mr. Gorgeous. I like that name."
"Well, please don't call me that at the office." Paul was embarrassed.
"Mr. Hunky Gorgeous," Moira teased, enjoying his discomfort.
He decided to turn it back on her. "Mrs. Hunky Gorgeous. No, Mrs. Gorgeous-Babe." But it didn't sound the same, and instead of embarrassing her, it made her laugh. She kissed his cheek.
"Mr. and Mrs. Gorgeous," she said. "Hunky and Babe. Sound like good movie titles."
"Or dreadful movie titles." Paul slipped his arm around her and kissed her back. The car behind them beeped and Paul saw that the line of cars had started moving. He quickly started the car and caught up with the van ahead of him to board the ferry.
The ride took twice as long because of the fog, and the traffic in town was anything but light. By the time they arrived at the King County office down town, it was already 9:00 am. Paul had to call his office.
"Francis? I'm going to be a little late this morning. Ferry trouble," Paul said into his cell phone as they stood in line at the King County Licensing Department.
"Should I cancel your nine o'clock?" Francis asked, a little testily.
"Oh, God, I forgot. Who is it?" Paul asked, his calendar blank in his memory.
"Oh, just Michael and Adam. But I want to remind you that your sister and Mr. Sanchez are driving up from Portland this morning for your monthly luncheon meeting." Francis was a great administrative assistant. He should have promoted her years ago but he couldn't do without her, so kept raising her salary instead. The actual figure was one of the big company secrets; otherwise half of the architects would have quit.
"Thanks for reminding me, Francis. I completely forgot about Susan and Bob." Paul said. When Susan began running the Portland office, Bob Sanchez came up from San Francisco to take the position Adam turned down. Susan, Bob, and Michael and Paul had lunch together once a month, alternating between Portland and Seattle. It was a good thing this one was in Seattle, or it would have really messed up Paul's timing for the day.
He turned off the phone and looked at Moira. "You'll be able to meet my sister," he said, happily. "She's coming up from Portland." Even more happily, he realized that other people would be able to meet Moira. Michael, for one, who had heard so much about her over the years. Except after Los Angeles. Paul only talked to Adam after Los Angeles; Michael had been too busy handling the deal with the Japanese and running the Seattle office while Paul recovered. Paul had never really told Michael what had happened in L.A., and Michael hadn't pried. He probably assumed that Paul's depression resulted from escaping from a collapsing building and the trauma of surviving an earthquake. Michael had just been a good friend, stepping in and taking over when needed, and then slowly letting go as Paul grew able to handle the workload again. Michael and Coral had also made sure to invite him to dinner at least once a week, to ensure he had at least one home-cooked meal. Adam was the one who'd nursed him out of his grief, in a million unspoken ways.
"That'll be nice. We can invite her to the wedding." Moira said, as they moved forward in line.
The wedding! What would his sister think? She hadn't indicated a high opinion of Moira when he told Susan about her in Portland the night Stephen offered her and Adam the job of running the new branch. She'd formed the opinion that Moira was some kind of flake. Well, she'd only have to meet her to know that wasn't true. Moira was one of the most grounded people he knew, except for Adam.
"Please fill out this form, sign here and take your $35.00 to the line over there." The clerk behind the counter told them.
Paul and Moira looked at the form.
"Paul, how do I do this?" Moira asked in dismay.
It was a simple form from the Department of Health. It asked for the same information from the bride and groom: name, birthdate, birth state, both parent's names and where they were born.
Paul wrote: Paul Alexander Marbanks, b. 4/19/48, Hartford, CT, Olivia Johnson Marbanks, Vermont, Charles Adam Marbanks, New York. Then he signed it and handed the clipboard to Moira.
Moira hesitated, looking at the form. "Paul, yesterday was your birthday."
Paul was stunned. It had totally slipped his mind. Usually his mother sent him a card, but he hadn't gone to his Post Office box to check the mail for several days.
"What a great birthday present you are, Moira." He kissed her.
"Happy Birthday, Mr. Gorgeous." She took the pen from his hand.
She sighed, and began to write. "Moira Gottsdotter, born: " She looked up, "What's a good birth date?"
"What's it say on your driver's license?" he asked before he realized she didn't have one. "Your passport?"
Inspiration hit her, "b. 4/23/46 -- we can get married on my birthday!" She said. Then she proceeded "Let's say I was born in D.C., where you first met me. Mother: Gaia Terre, Louisiana, Father: Dieu Gottsdotter, Minnesota. How's that?" she said, very pleased with herself.
Paul stared at the form. "Where'd you get those names? And how did you pick those states?" he whispered.
"Earth and God. It's just Gaia Terre sounds French, so I thought of New Orleans. Gottsdotter sounded Scandinavian, so I thought of Minnesota," she whispered back.
The person in front of them caught part of their conversation and tried to look back at them without being obvious about it. The clerk started speaking to him and drew his attention away from them.
"How are you going to prove who you are without identification?" asked Paul, reaching into his pocket for his.
The person in front stepped aside and they were at the counter facing the clerk.
"$35 dollars and your identification, please," she said.
Paul put his down on the counter and stared as Moira pulled a passport from her pocket. Had it been in there all along? He tried to peek at it while the clerk inspected it.
"Quite a few VISA stamps you must travel a lot," she remarked.
"I like to travel." Moira responded demurely.
The clerk gave them a receipt and handed them a manila envelope. "This license is good starting three days from now and expires in sixty days. Have a nice day."
"Thank you." Paul took the envelope. As they walked away from the counter, Paul asked Moira, "Let me see that passport."
"Let me see the license," she said, and they traded.
Paul opened the little blue book with a gold eagle embossed on it. Inside was a picture of Moira, looking very tired and pale, with a wan smile. All the details she had written on the King County form were in the passport. Paul felt a little queasy. This looked so real. Had she been making up all that stuff about time travel?
"Sometimes I use a black one. It's diplomatic. I can get through customs faster," she said. "Oooh, look at the pretty certificate."
She showed Paul the contents of the envelope. It held the form they had first filled out, two blank forms and a marriage license with the dates 4/23/95 to 6/22/95 on it. One form was a certificate in fancy lettering.
"That's the one we get to keep," Moira said.
They went back to the car and Paul headed to the office. He wanted to ask her about the passport, but decided to wait. Then he wondered if his passport was still good, or had it expired? Where would they go on their honeymoon? Could he get time off for a honeymoon -- what was his work schedule like? He wished he hadn't left his calendar at work on Tuesday when he went out to dinner with Adam. Francis would probably have a fit trying to reschedule next week.
"You sure do an awful lot of thinking." Moira said as they weaved through traffic.
Paul glanced at her. "Just how much of my thoughts do you pick up?"
She grinned. "I'll never tell."
"Do you pick up everyone's thoughts, or just mine?" He decided to try the question from a different angle.
“Everyone’s, everything’s.” Moira brushed the hair away from her face with her hand. "It takes a lot for me to block all the telepathic input I receive. That's why I need to meditate so often, because I constantly have to clear out from everyone's thoughts and feelings. It's even harder around you because we're so connected. With people I don't know, it's quite easy."
Paul let that sink in. It explained her discomfort with the crowds in India. It also explained why she responded to his thoughts more than his words. He remembered all the lascivious thoughts he tended to have around her and was suddenly embarrassed.
Moira started laughing,” You can imagine what it was like for me the first time I met you in Seattle, and you had all these memories of our weekend together in D.C. I had never even kissed anyone before, and here were all these, these pictures from you filling my head of us doing all kinds of amazing gymnastics." She covered her eyes, chortling at the memory. "It certainly aroused my curiosity." She grinned at him.
He wanted to put his arms around her, but he had to keep both hands on the wheel to navigate the hills of downtown Seattle. He kept his eyes on the traffic, and tried to keep his thoughts focused, except they kept straying to 'all those amazing gymnastics.' Moira leaned against the passenger door, watching him, grinning from ear to ear.
"God, Paul, it's like watching the Playboy channel," she teased.
"Stop it." Paul said, "I'm driving." Then suddenly he saw thoughts in his head. He could tell they were hers -- because they were about him. Pictures of him as a twenty-three year old, naked and soapy in the shower. Pictures of the top of his head resting on Moira's breasts, he couldn't tell where. Lying naked across the bed at the Ashoka Hotel in New Delhi, snoring. Pictures of him walking around the Ballard house in his jockey shorts.
"Moira!" He cried, "Are these your thoughts?"
"Well, they're my memories, my pictures. That's what it feels like, to have someone else's stuff in your head. Except usually it's not so pleasant." Moira said.
She hadn't meant to, but suddenly Paul saw a huge explosion and saw a building collapse. Then the image vanished, like a slide being pulled from a projector.
"Wait, I know that -- I saw that on the news this morning when we were getting ready to leave." Paul recalled the headlines were all about a bombing in Oklahoma City. He reached for Moira's arm.
"That was the Federal Building! Moira, you just came from Oklahoma, were you there?" He tried to calculate the time she must have left Oklahoma and the timing of the explosion. Then another thought hit him. "Adam said you were working in a daycare center ... was it the one in the Federal Building?" He looked over at Moira.
She closed her eyes and tears trickled down her cheeks. "Please don't ask me."
He tried to search his mind for details, but there weren't very many. That was because the news hadn't much to tell, the explosion had just happened the day before; people were still being pulled from the wreckage. There had been a lot about the children there. A strange calmness came over Paul.
"Moira, do you help people die? Are you an Angel?"
Moira shook her head. "No, not really. I focus on helping people to live. Those of us who help the dying usually don't manifest bodies. They meet them as they're passing over."
Paul started to feel lightheaded. "I'd better not ask any more right now." As much as he wanted to know everything about her, he knew he could only handle a little information at a time.
They arrived at Marbanks Architects shortly before ten o'clock. Paul's lightheadedness was replaced by lightheartedness. He wanted to show Moira off, not really to the whole office, but at least to Michael. They took the elevator up to the office and as each floor passed, his excitement grew. He practically skipped to the receptionist.
"Alice, good morning. Any messages for me?"
The receptionist, with shaggy, slick black hair and a nose ring shook her head. "Sorry, Mr. Marbanks, I just gave 'em all to the Ms. Cook." She nodded her head in the direction of Francis' desk.
"Thanks anyway. Oh, Alice, this is my fiancée, Moira." He placed the emphasis on fiancée. It pleased him to see Alice's eyes fall out of her head. Paul was known as a confirmed bachelor around the office..
Moira graciously offered her hand. "So pleased to meet you." The receptionist's gum nearly fell out of her mouth.
He placed his hand protectively -- or was it possessively? -- on the small of Moira's back and guided her through the office, nodding at the heads popping out of cubicles and from behind computer screens. He steered her towards Michael's office; Francis could wait.
"Number One?" Paul said, as he approached his friend's door.
Michael was meeting with someone, and he turned his chair towards the door. He stared at Moira, which increased Paul's already puffed up chest.
"Michael, I'd like you to meet M-" Paul started to say.
"Mom?" Adam interrupted. He was sitting in the chair across from Michael's desk.
"Adam, sweetie, how are you doing?" Moira said.
Paul was extremely disappointed, as Michael turned to Adam.
"Oh, this is your mother?" he said, and then to Moira, "Pleased to meet you, Mrs. Paulson. Adam mentioned you were having lunch together today."
She smiled and took Michael's outstretched hand.
"Please, call me Moira. I'm very pleased to meet you. I've heard a lot about you, from Adam and from Paul." She took his hand in both of hers.
Michael's jaw dropped open. "Moira? Moira? This is -- Paul, this is her?" Michael kept shaking Moira's hands without letting go.
Paul grinned broadly. "Yes it is." See, I told you she was real, he thought.
"You're Adam's mother? Is that possible?" Michael looked from Adam to Moira, to Paul. "I'm sorry, I expected this little blue-haired lady ... Paul, you scoundrel, why didn't you tell me? Adam, why didn't you tell us? Coral, I have to tell Coral. You have to come to dinner tonight. Coral has to meet you!" He finally released Moira's hand. "This is great! Just great!"
"Sure, Michael, we'd be happy to." Paul said. He'd been looking forward to having dinner as a couple with Michael and Coral for years.
"You too, Adam, of course." Michael said.
Adam looked glum, but nodded. Moira went over and gave him a little hug.
"Sweetheart, you look tired. Did you get enough sleep?" She brushed his hair from his eyes.
Adam pulled his head back. "Mom, not here!" he said sharply.
"Yes, you're Adam's mom, all right." Michael laughed. "My mother does that stuff to me all the time, and I'm in my forties. Paul, you remember when she kept coming to the office with Bento for my lunch when I first started working here. She was concerned I wouldn't be eating well. The last place I worked I was able to go home for lunch. She trusts Coral's cooking but nobody else's. 'Oh -- Miko, Miko you getting too thin, all bones,' she'd say. And I'd say, 'Mom -- not in front of the guys at the office!" Michael and Paul both laughed.
"I remember." Paul said. "And you were so sick of Bento, you'd give it to me as soon as she left and go downstairs to the deli for a ham on rye. I got the better deal, that teriyaki chicken and rice was delicious." Then he looked over at Adam, who wasn't laughing, and Moira, who was. He felt that stab of jealousy towards Adam again, for having Moira beside him, caring about him.
"Oh, Mr. Marbanks, I'm so glad you're finally in. You have reservations in an hour and a half, and there's a stack of messages for you." Francis was at the door.
"Francis! Here's somebody I'd like you to meet." Paul went to Moira and took her arm. "Francis, this is Moira, my fiancée."
As he said that, he sensed ripples of shock from the two men behind him.
"Oh, oh, Mrs., uh, Moira, I'm so pleased to meet you." Francis' face twisted into a confused smile.
"I'm getting married on Monday, so we'll have to reschedule next week." Paul told her.
Francis looked like she was having a stroke, but she managed to continue smiling "Oh my, well, that will take some doing. I'll go work on it right away."
"You do that, Francis. I'll be right with you, just as soon as I'm done here." Paul gave her a little wave, and she gave a simpering smile and waved back.
He turned back to the men in the office. Michael looked like he could be knocked over with a feather. Adam scowled fiercely.
"Mom, you can't be serious!"
"We are serious." Paul said firmly.
Adam ignored him and spoke directly to Moira. "Mother -- you can't, you know we can't -- how can you?"
"Adam, Adam. I can and I'm going to. Why don't I explain it all to you over lunch?" Moira soothed her son. "What time is it?"
"Ten-thirty," glowered Adam.
She patted Adam on the arm, and Paul got the distinct impression that they were continuing the conversation telepathically.
Michael recovered from his shock. "Paul, this is unbelievable! What great news!" He shook Paul's hand vigorously.
"Of course, I'm hoping you can be the witnesses. Or maybe you and Adam." Paul found himself saying. He had just assumed Michael and Coral would be the witnesses, but this strong thought had popped in his head to include Adam. He looked at Moira. Her eyes twinkled.
"I'd be honored, old buddy." Michael enthused. "I gotta call Coral."
"You do that, pal. I have to go see Francis. I'll meet you in an hour to get ready for our lunch with Susan and Bob." He looked over at Moira. He wanted her to stay with him for the whole morning, but he had work to do.
"Don't worry about me, I'll just hang out and bug Adam." Moira squeezed Adam's arm.
"I have work to do, too, Mom. I wasn't here yesterday either, you know." Adam protested.
"Well then, I'll make myself scarce and come back at twelve. How's that?" Moira said, cheerily ignoring her son's discomfort, the way a mother can.
Adam smiled for the first time since she came in the room. "Great, Mom."
"See you later, then." She gave him a little kiss on the cheek, and went over to Paul. She slipped her arms around his waist and gave him a squeeze. "I'll see you later this afternoon, Hunky." She smiled teasingly.
Paul hugged her back, and kissed her forehead. "This afternoon," he echoed, and then added in the same teasing tone, "Babe."
"I look forward to meeting your wife tonight at dinner," she said to Michael as she turned to go.
"Dinner tonight. See you then," Michael said.
The three men stood and watched her leave the office, each experiencing a different emotion. Michael was in awe, feeling like he'd met a celebrity. Paul felt a mixture of pride and joy, and an ache at watching her leave.
Adam scowled, "I better get back to work," he muttered, and went to his office.
"What's eating him?" asked Michael, "You'd think he'd be happy for his mom and you. I mean, you're his best friend, maybe his only friend around here, and well, his mom, you know."
"He's probably miffed because we hadn't told him. We only decided last night," Paul said.
"Ah." Michael nodded. "Maybe so. I've never seen Adam grouchy before. Mr. Spock has feelings!"
"I'll stick my head in his office after I'm done with Francis;" Paul said, "to make sure he's okay with all this. Catch you later, bud."
"In an hour," Michael said, and picked up the phone to call Coral.
Meeting with Francis took longer than Paul expected, and it was almost time to go with Michael to meet Susan and Bob by the time Paul stopped at Adam's door.
"Knock, knock," he said, stepping in.
Adam sat at his desk with his eyes closed, meditating. The air seemed heavy and serious. He didn't say anything.
"Are you all right?" Paul sat down opposite him.
Adam opened his eyes, "Why?"
"Well, you seemed a little upset at the news about Moira and me." Paul said.
Adam sighed, and then bent over to the floor, disappearing behind his desk. His head popped back up, and he ran his hand through his hair. He no longer looked gloomy, but worried and a little sad. Then he looked at Paul.
"So, I'm not sure how much Mom told you ... " his eyes narrowed as he looked at Paul. Paul had the distinct impression that Adam was reading him, finding out what Moira had told him.
"Well, she wouldn't tell me anything about you. She said I'd have to find that out from you directly," Paul said, shifting in his seat. He hoped Adam was selective in whatever he was looking for; Paul would like to keep certain parts of last night between Moira and himself. The moment Paul thought that, Adam turned his gaze away, looking a little embarrassed.
"Uh, yeah," he said, regaining his composure, "We're not supposed to have personal relationships. And I'd call getting married a definite act of having a personal relationship." Adam said.
"But Adam, your mother and I have had a personal relationship for years, this is just ... announcing the obvious to the world. To the universe." Paul explained.
"The Universe already knows," Adam retorted. "Sorry, it's just ... oh, maybe it's just my stuff. Listen, let me have lunch with my mother and let her talk to me. She's really good at helping me get past an issue and see things clearly." Paul sensed that Adam wanted to tell him more, but wouldn't.
"Am I going to have to ask specific questions of you, to find out more about you?" Paul asked.
Adam nodded. "But not right now. I think we're both on overload." Adam looked away.
Paul felt something between them, and wished he could interpret what it was. He wanted to go over to him, like Moira would, and give him a little hug. But that wasn't the way he and Adam interacted. He would have stayed there longer, but Michael stuck his head in the office.
"Okay, boss-man. Let's do the lunch thing. Let's boldly go where we've always gone before." Michael said, referring to the fact that Francis always reserved the same restaurant. "Gotta get Francis to try someplace else. I'm getting really sick of that food." Michael turned a mischievous grin on Adam. "Hey, Adam, why don't you and Paul go have lunch with his sister and Bob, and I go have lunch with your mom at some other restaurant?" He nodded his head animatedly. "Bet she'd like Thai."
"Well, if Coral wouldn't kill you, I would," Paul said, jokingly. Then, to Adam, "It's too bad it's a business lunch, or I'd invite you and Moira along. I want Susan to meet her. I'll see if she can come back to the office after lunch. Usually they hit the road." To Michael, "I'm hoping she can come back up to Colvos on Monday for the wedding."
Standing by the door, Paul felt two arms slip around his waist and tickle his ribs.
"Moira!" he exclaimed.
"Who's Moira?" his sister said, playfully punching him in the arm.
"Susan, I nearly had a heart attack!" Paul clutched his chest melodramatically.
"Well, cut the cholesterol and fat," his sister shot back. "Bob and I got here early, so we decided to use the company parking here instead of trying to find a spot near the restaurant." She lowered her voice, "Do we really have to eat there again? The food's not that good." Her voice returned to its normal level. "Who's Moira? That name's familiar..."
Adam piped in before anyone else. "Moira's my mother. She's ... visiting." Causing Michael to shoot him a look of curiosity.
"Oh, hi, Adam." Susan gave him a friendly smile. "Your Mom's here, eh? I hope you've cleaned your office," she said adopting a maternal tone.
Adam wrinkled his nose. "You sound just like her."
"Well, I have four of my own. I know how to do it." Susan turned to Michael. "Hey, Michael, how's it going?"
"Same old same old. Michelle aced her solo performance at Cornish last week, and Coral entered us into the Garden Tour this year." Michael could to relate with Susan on a family level where Paul could not.
"You should talk with Bob. His wife did the same thing last year and he said it was unbelievable the amount of people that showed up for the tour. Bob, how many people did you say came on the Garden Tour in Portland?" Paul's sister called to her coworker.
A tall, dark man came striding through the office. He had a pleasant face and calm eyes. "Don’t ask. Our neighbors didn’t speak to us for a month because of the amount of traffic it caused on our street. Hello, everyone." Bob greeted everyone.
Then Michael said, "Have you told your sister the good news?"
Paul hesitated. He had wanted to tell her alone, not in front of everyone. She'd probably kill him for springing news like this on her. Susan stared up at him.
"Um. I'm getting married," he stated.
She almost fell over. "You're getting WHAT?"
"Married. You know, it's that ring thing, that 'I do' thing." Paul said, hoping to muffle the shock with humor.
"Paul!" Susan said through clenched teeth. "Why didn't you tell me you were seeing somebody?"
"She's just come back into my life." Paul said gently, his eyes softening.
"That's where I've heard that name before." Susan said, frowning. "Her, huh?"
"My mother." Adam stepped in.
This totally confused Susan. "You're MOTHER is marrying my BROTHER?" She obviously envisioned someone their own mother's age with Paul.
"Moira, I'm marrying Moira," Paul explained gently. "Moira turned out to be Adam's mother. I discovered that fact when I gave Adam a lift to the airport yesterday."
His sister was quick. "YESTERDAY? You ran into her yesterday, and you're getting married today?"
"Well, on Monday, actually. Washington has a three-day waiting period." Paul felt uncomfortable being interrogated in front of the others. "Hadn't we better get to the restaurant?" he changed subject.
"Not so fast, buddy boy," his sister said. "Where is she, or has she disappeared again?"
This was a signal for Bob and Michael to step out of the room. Susan and Paul were like this often. She was a deadly combination of corporate lawyer and kid sister. Paul couldn't get away with even the most casual remark without cross-examination. The others knew the sparring wouldn’t last long -- they always made up before the end of their meetings.
She'd struck a nerve in Paul. He looked up at Adam with a touch of panic in his eyes. Adam shook his head reassuringly.
"She's downstairs. She's coming up right now," Adam said. How he could have known that, having spent the last ten minutes standing here with them? Paul wondered.
Everyone looked expectantly across the office to the glass doors looking into the lobby. The elevator dinged and Moira stepped off, packages in hand.
"Hmm." Bob hummed appreciatively. "Lucky guy."
"Thank you," said Paul.
His sister stiffened in his arms.
"Don't give her a hard time." Paul whispered under his breath to her.
"Moi? Never." Susan said, getting ready.
Adam broke the ice by walking past everybody and reaching her first. He took her packages and gave her a peck on the cheek. She gave him a hug, and slipped her hand through his arm. Visually, this established an affectionate, maternal image calculated by Adam to throw a curve ball at Susan's preconceived notion of Moira. Paul was grateful for the save.
Adam escorted her to the group and made the introductions.
"Susan, Bob, this is my mother Moira. Moira, this is Susan and Bob from the Portland office. Susan is --" he began.
"Paul's sister. Oh, I'm so glad to meet you." Moira went to shake her hand.
Susan had to unhook her arm from around Paul in order to return the gesture. She looked Moira up and down appraisingly. "Nice to meet you, too," she said, not quite convinced. "Uh, congratulations, I suppose. I just heard the good news." She looked up at Paul. She was dying to say something else, but wasn't sure quite what.
"Oh, yes." Moira beamed adoringly at Paul. Her smile spread a sunny warmth through the group, and almost melted Susan. Almost.
Paul cut in. "Darling, we have to go, we're late for our reservations. Perhaps Susan can come back after our meeting and spare a few minutes with you before hitting the road back." He stepped away from Susan to Moira and gave her a short kiss on the lips. He stifled the urge to give a longer one to her. "Susan, Bob, Michael -- shall we?"
"Okay," his sister said reluctantly as Paul began to steer her out of the office. "I'll see you later, we can chat then." Susan smiled the smile of a lawyer getting a chance to question the defense's witness.
"See you later." Chimed in Moira, and the group left.
Adam and Moira remained in Adam's office. Adam glanced down at the packages she was carrying. He lifted one eyebrow.
"You went shopping?" he asked, incredulously.
"Oh, these." Moira looked down at them. "No, in the elevator I realized I might have to make an excuse for what I've been doing this morning, so I manifested these."
"What's in them?" Adam asked.
"Oh, nothing. Well, you know. I'd probably react to the questioner's expectation. So whatever they expected would be in there. No need for them now, though. Nobody saw them." She put them down behind Adam's desk. "Where are we going for lunch?"
"The Market. Let's walk." Adam said, and they headed towards the elevators themselves. The bags by the desk slowly faded away.
The morning fog had burned away and it had become a clear, sunny day. As they walked downhill towards the Pike Street Market, they had a clear view of Elliott Bay. Ferries headed out towards Bremerton and Bainbridge Island. A little passenger ferry was coming around Alki point. A huge freighter lumbered past an aircraft carrier towards Harbor Island. Beyond the Sound, you could see the Olympics, majestically snow-dusted against the sky.
"What a beautiful place to live." Moira remarked, slipping her arm into her sons' arm.
"Mm." Adam agreed.
"Talk, talk, talk, talk. That's all you ever do is talk," Moira teased at her son's comment.
"I do talk. Just not as much as you." Adam protested.
Moira looked down at her shoes while they walked. "So, what do you think about Paul and me? I mean, really. There's something you're blocking me from knowing."
Adam squinted outwards towards the mountains. "It's only because I haven't figured it out for myself yet, and I don't want you telling me about it before I have."
"Oh, I never do that." Moira laughed facetiously.
"Oh, you always do that." Adam said. "But in answer to your question: I'm really uncomfortable about you and Paul. You know the cardinal rule. And yet it seems every time you completely ignore it."
"Not every time. Only when I'm with Paul." Moira said, softly.
"Why, Mom?" asked Adam.
"Because I love him." Moira responded. "And I think it must be correct to do so. I mean, why would I keep running into him? That's never happened with anyone else. We don't choose our assignments; we're sent. So I'm not choosing to run into him every time; I'm being given the opportunity."
"Don't you think that maybe you're being given the chance to say no? To avoid a temptation of the body? To learn to keep your focus off the physical and on the job at hand?" Adam lectured.
"Adam, I didn't realize that stint in Catholic school rubbed off on you so well." Moira teased. "Temptation of the body," she snorted. "You make it sound like I respond to every pass I've received on every assignment. You know I keep my focus on the job at hand. But I believe that my relationship with Paul is a very important learning experience for me, as well as for him. Can you understand that?" Adam was silent, so Moira went on.
"Adam, you have never experienced love like this, in physical form..." she began.
"I certainly have experienced love. I know what love feels like. I feel love for all living things, and I know my unique love for you and Paul. I just choose not to experience lust. It's too distracting." Adam interjected.
Moira grinned. "Well, lust can be an expression of love, you know. And I'll tell ya, there's nothing quite like experiencing lust on this physical plane. It's like the ecstasy we feel when we're out of body, but magnified." She kept going, ignoring Adam's discomfort. "The last time I talked to **** I tried to explain it, but you know, **** can't comprehend. No second chakra, no nerve endings. Like describing colors to a blind person."
"But you really lose your space when you become involved with someone." Adam pointed out. "Look at you and Paul. You're like Siamese twins."
His mother chuckled. "And that's a fatal disease?"
"Well, you lose your effectiveness, I think." Adam opined.
"Bosh. Have you noticed me losing my effectiveness here? Anywhere?" Moira challenged.
Adam thought. "Well, I've only been around when you were together twice. In Los Angeles and here. I would say that your timing was off in Los Angeles, but not by much. I don't know about here; I'm not sure what you're here for."
"Neither am I. I'm just watching and waiting." Moira mused. "But you're right. My timing has been off a couple of times when I've been with Paul, but he wasn't the reason in Los Angeles -- well, okay, we should have transitioned about six hours earlier. I would have preferred to have transitioned six days earlier, or sixteen. But that was the Universe at work, not me. I believe the Universe gave me that opportunity to be with Paul then, to have that incident with him occur so that we would be together here, now and I would have reason to be fully truthful with him."
"Humph." Adam grunted, not entirely in agreement. "How about your timing the last time you were in Seattle?"
"Adam, it was my first assignment unchaperoned. Did you perform your first unchaperoned assignment perfectly?" his mother asked.
"I certainly didn't go jumping into bed with somebody for three weeks and cause volcanoes to explode prematurely. Speaking of volcanoes, are you planning to stay here long? Because I really don't want you to affect my project with Mount Rainier." They came to the far end of Pike Market, and wove through the crowds around the stalls towards its center. On either side of them, vendors sold tee shirts and jewelry, carvings and paintings. Fiddle music wafted past their ears.
"I intend to keep moving this time," his mother replied. "However, you are the last person to be critical about my jumping into bed for three weeks. Have you ever meditated on why you chose a gestated body, rather than one like mine?"
Adam's head jerked slightly with shock. Obviously, he had not. They passed stalls overflowing with fresh broccoli, tomatoes, apples and spinach now. The fish and seafood stalls were up ahead.
"Look at your abilities, Adam. You can stay somewhere for six months at a time. You have remarkable grounding, and you can ground this entire area. I can't do that, none of us can." Moira said. "At least, not the way you are able to. When I ground this area, it shakes things up. When you ground this area, it settles and stabilizes. Why is that?"
Adam didn't respond to the last question. "I always thought being gestated was a liability. I don't get to go on as many assignments anymore. My body is denser than yours and the others. I have to work harder to keep my focus."
They stopped by the door of the restaurant. Moira pulled him close to her and gave his arm a squeeze.
"Adam, you are unique. There hasn't been a mingling like this in eons. Whatever you are contributing to this time period, this area, is special and unique. You may not feel it now, but then I never know what I'm giving during each of my assignments until it's over and I look back on it." She gazed at him with complete and total love. "You are not less advanced or less capable because your body is gestated. Paul is not a lesser being because he had parents and is learning through linear time."
That struck a chord in Adam. He looked at her, working hard to mask the feelings welling up in him.
Moira chuckled. "Let's get a table and I'll talk to you a little about resistance and non-resistance."
They started lunch in silence, Adam pondering over the previous conversation and Moira waiting for the right time to start talking again. She looked around the restaurant, at all the people bustling about, waiters carrying trays of steamer clams and garlic bread, friends having lunch, tourists staring at glossy brochures.
"What you resist you get stuck with," Moira said.
Adam looked up from his bouillabaisse, his mouth full. His response was telepathic.
"I know you know that." Moira continued. "But are you looking at how resistant you are in your life? The whole Mr. Spock thing -- you're resisting your emotions. What happens when you resist?"
"You attract what you're resisting." Adam sighed. "So you're saying my creation in this situation with you and Paul is to help me deal with my emotions?"
Moira nodded. "Furthermore, have you ever considered that your creation in having a human body in general is to learn about dealing with emotions and the other unique aspects of having a physical body?"
Adam sipped his soup, deep in thought.
Moira continued, "Paul tells me that you have a parade of people through your office every day, telling you their problems."
Adam nodded. "That's really no different from strangers walking up to you on the street and telling you their life story," he noted. "I just happen to stay in one spot for a period of time, so the people who seek me out are the people I know."
"What are you learning by listening to them?" Moira asked.
"Well, I try not to fully listen. I'd never get any work done," Adam said, wryly. "I try to provide a safe place for them to dump, without taking it on." His mother opened her mouth to speak, but Adam raised his hand. "No, I know what you were asking. I've learned a lot from hearing how others deal, or don't deal, with their problems. It's helped me a lot in my interactions with others." He took a deep breath. "I've certainly learned not to get involved in an intimate relationship. That seems to be the one thing that causes people the most pain."
"What's wrong with pain?" His mother poked her salad fork towards him. "Do you have an expectation that pain is bad?"
Adam shook his head, backing away from the topic. "Pain is a valid learning experience. I just choose not to inflict it on others. Which would happen if I were to get involved with someone. Mother, you haven't been here with Paul all this time. I saw him after Los Angeles; he was devastated. You influenced his whole life. Is that appropriate? Is that right? We are not meant to directly touch lives in that way. We are supposed to assist with gradual change."
Moira furrowed her brow. "You sound just like our teachers." She tapped her index finger on the table. "Perfect pictures! Assumptions! Expectations! Paul has free will, the same as all of us with human bodies. He chose me as much or more than I chose him. I did not manipulate any of our encounters. And neither you nor I are in a position to say whether it is appropriate or right. And you can hardly say that either of us have consistently assisted with gradual change." She reached out and placed her hand on Adam's. "Adam, maybe you're Paul's purpose for being here."
Adam leveled his intense brown eyes on his mother. He did not speak, verbally, at any rate. They simply looked at each other, the communication flowing between them faster than words could convey.
"That's up to you, Adam. I respect that. You and Paul have your own timing." She released his arm. The waiter approached them at that moment.
"How's everyone doing here? Ready for some dessert? Espresso?" he asked them.
Adam and Moira looked at each other, grinned, and said in perfect unison, "Lattes!"
Across town, Paul, Michael, Susan and Bob drove to the restaurant, exchanging pleasantries and ignoring the tension between the siblings on the way. When they got to their table, Bob excused himself to go call his office. His cellphone's battery needed recharging so he had to call the old-fashioned way, at the pay phone in the waiting area. Susan used the opportunity to launch in on Paul.
"Why, Paul? Why are you setting yourself up like this?" she asked.
Michael leaned back to watch the fireworks with a certain amount of detachment. It reminded him of his relationship with his own sister.
"Setting myself up? What are you talking about?" Paul asked, walking right into it.
"This is the woman who's broken your heart several times over. This is the person who's vanished on you again and again. How much do you know about her? How do you know she's not going to deep-six you this time?" Susan's cheeks grew flushed.
Paul's flushed, also. "I know a heck of a lot more about her now than I did before. I understand her disappearances -- they were because of her work." Paul talked quickly so Susan couldn't interrupt. "I'm not at liberty to explain what she does. She is not going to deep-six me, as you put it. She may have to leave me from time to time, but I know she'll always come back. Why am I talking to you about this, why is it any of your business?"
"Because I'm your sister and I love you and I want the best for you," his sister said. "You told me about how you were after Los Angeles. Who's to say that's not going to happen again?"
Michael started at this; he'd suspected Moira had something to do with L.A., but Paul hadn't talked about it. His friend had been the worst he'd ever seen him after that time. He started to worry about Paul's impending marriage himself.
"What about the little boy, Paul?" Susan said, as if pulling out a trump card.
Paul was startled. "What little boy?"
"You said she had a young son with her. Where is he?" Susan demanded.
How was he going to explain this? Or how was he going to convincingly not explain it? A flash of inspiration hit him. "No, no, not with her. She had a, um, photograph of a young boy, so I assumed she had a young child. Er, it turned out to be a photo of Adam. I had misunderstood." Yeah, that's the ticket. He waited to see how Susan took this. She was great at seeing right through him. He waited for her to call him on it.
The truth that the boy was Adam struck a chord in Susan. You could almost see her measuring up the information he'd given her in Portland, trying to recall his exact words back then, with this new picture he'd given her. She bought it. What's more, she really liked Adam, so it started to sway her off her high horse.
Paul decided to press his advantage. "Take some time to talk to her, Susan, after lunch. Give her a chance. This is important to me." He put his hand on her shoulder, to enhance her softening.
"Oh, rats," she said, knowing she was capitulating. "Bob and I were hoping to make it back to Portland before the office closes."
Just then Bob returned from his phone call. "Hey, I don't mind hanging out a while. My secretary just reminded me that it's my anniversary. I was thinking I could run down to a store here before we hit the road, so I don't have to go home empty-handed."
"It's settled then," said Paul. "Susan, you can come back to the office with me while Bob saves his marriage, and you can take the time to get to know Moira. Now let's order and get down to business."
With that, four menus opened and four heads disappeared behind them.
Adam and Moira took less time at lunch than Paul and the others, so were already in the office when they returned. Moira sat in Adam's office as Paul and Susan approached. Adam made some remark and Moira laughed at it. Her laughter lilted out the door towards them as they walked in.
"Hello, hello," Paul greeted them. "How was lunch?" He walked over to Moira.
Moira stood and gave him a little kiss. "Delicious. How was yours?"
"Profitable," Paul replied. "Portland and Seattle are going to cooperate on a project that neither branch could handle on its own. We're going to make out quite nicely."
"Paul, don't you and Adam have a meeting or something?" Susan said, characteristically blunt. She didn't want to waste a lot of time.
"Oh yes, um, Adam, I wanted to show you these plans in my office, er -- get your opinion on them." Paul nodded his head out the door.
Adam hesitated, seriously considering whether to throw a monkey wrench into this set-up. His mother looked at him reassuringly, so he shrugged, "Sure, I'd be happy to," and left with Paul.
Susan folded her arms across her waist and leaned against the doorway. Moira sat back in her seat and smiled.
"So. Why are you marrying my brother?" Susan fired the first shot.
"Because I love him." Moira responded gently. "I've always loved him."
"If you've always loved him, why have you treated him so badly? Why do you keep leaving him without a word?" Susan walked into the room and sat on the stool beside Adam's drawing table. She wanted to stay a head taller than Moira.
"I've discussed those circumstances with Paul," Moira said firmly. "He understands they were beyond my control. I never intended to, and would never intentionally do anything to hurt him. His happiness is one of my highest priorities."
Susan looked her up and down. She resisted melting to Moira's warmth. "I'm concerned about my brother's happiness also. I'm concerned that you'll marry him and poof! Disappear."
Moira looked down at her hands. "Well, I will have to go away from time to time, but I think it will be different now." She looked up directly at Susan, "Paul is willing to make a commitment to me, even though he knows we won't be consistently together. And I definitely am willing to make a commitment to him, for the rest of my life, whether we're consistently together or not."
Susan had heard what she wanted, and reluctantly smiled. "Well, it's hard not to like you," she admitted. "You're definitely as charming as Adam." She glanced over towards Paul's office where Adam and Paul were standing over a table with large blueprints on it. "If you don't mind my asking, I'm curious about Adam's father..."
Moira stood up, effectively making her a head taller that Susan. "What about him?"
Susan looked up at her. "I know it's not possible, but ... "
Moira smiled down at her. "Anything is possible, Susan. But it's not for me to talk about."
"Oh." She frowned and looked back towards her brother's office.
"Let's put it this way, I can neither confirm nor deny what you're thinking." Moira said, with humor.
"But Adam can?" Susan asked.
"Yes." Moira nodded.
"Good," Susan rubbed her hands together. "I'll work on him. Maybe not right now, though." She noticed Bob getting off the elevator. "Well, it looks like I'll be coming back up here on Monday, then. I'll see you and Paul and Adam then."
"Well, it was nice that we had this little talk." Moira grasped Susan's hands. "And, really, you have nothing to worry about with Paul. I'll take good care of him." She smiled.
"I’m glad to hear that." Susan said. With that, she walked over to Bob at Paul's office, said good-bye to Paul and the pair left to go back to Portland.
Coral's garden had not changed much in the past fifteen years to the untrained eye. To one who knows gardens, however, they would notice a thousand different things. The well-pruned and well-trained weeping plum tree had aged gracefully. Different shrubs had come and gone, but their replacements blended in so skillfully they looked like they had been there for years. Again, a non-gardener's glance would see only a neat and tidy garden, but someone with a true green thumb would be amazed at the exotic and delicate plants that thrived there, side by side with hardier Northwest varieties.
Paul walked with Moira up the path, only noticing that Adam's bicycle was already there. Moira lingered behind him, taking in the beauty of nature surrounding her. He rang the buzzer and the door opened as she joined him on the doorstep.
"Paul, it's great to see you. And you must be Moira, I've really been looking forward to this!" Coral gave them both a big hug, and stood back, appraising her. It was a humorous contrast, the petite Asian woman with short black hair, and the tall female Viking with the silver-gold mane. Moira smiled warmly.
"Coral, your garden is amazing." she complimented her hostess.
Coral, delighted, asked, "Would you like a tour?" Moira nodded, so Coral turned to Paul, "Adam and Michael are in the kitchen. Could you ask Michael to check the vegetables? I want to show Moira my garden."
Coral slipped past Paul and took Moira by the arm, pointing out each living green thing as if it were a favorite child. Paul chuckled and showed himself in. Moira and Adam sure knew how to ask the right questions.
Michael was already stirring the vegetables when Paul came to the kitchen. Adam leaned against the counter drinking a bottle of Tahoma water.
"And with that, Susan shut right up." Michael was saying, "Oh, hi, Paul. I was just giving Adam the highlights of our meeting with the Voyager crew."
"Sounds more like you were giving the pre-game sparring between my sister and myself." Paul observed, and the two men smiled at him.
"Yeah, she sure knows how to bust your chops." Michael laughed. "Reminds me of my sister. I'm sure glad she lives in Japan. Adam, you don't know how lucky you are to be an only child. You are an only child, right?" Michael asked, with a subtle undertone, checking out Paul's story from lunch.
Adam nodded. Then he adopted his Spock voice, "Although I find familial relationships fascinating, I am grateful that my mother stopped at one." Then he broke the image by grinning. Michael grinned back.
Paul didn't. He felt another twinge of regret, wishing that he and Moira had had a child together. He still couldn't let go of the image of Adam as a little boy in Los Angeles, and all that he could have given them at the time. He straightened up and contributed to the conversation. "You stopped at one, Michael. I always wondered about that."
Michael shook his head as he added tamari to the steaming pot. "That was Coral's call, but I don't blame her. She's real small, you might have noticed," he smiled. "Anyway, she had a difficult time with Michelle, so we decided not to try again. We're happy, but our parents aren't."
Paul could understand their disappointment. Michael was the only son of an only son, having no son of his own. He could see Michael's parents giving that a lot of weight. Then he heard Moira's lilting laugh mingling with Coral's bird-like one. The two women entered the house as if they were old friends.
"I see Moira's hit it off with Coral," Michael observed. "That's good."
The women came into the kitchen. Moira went over to Adam and gave him a hug, before standing by Paul. Coral walked over and took over Michael's position at the stove.
"Oh, Michael, the heat is too high on these vegetables. They are cooking too fast. Is the rice done?" Coral worked with the grace of an orchestra conductor, managing all the pots of food at once. "I think it's done. Dinner is almost ready, people."
The others moved out of the kitchen to the dining area, to give Coral room for the command performance. It was Thai shrimp sate in peanut sauce, with vegetables and rice. A simple meal for Coral, but then she'd only heard about the dinner that morning.
"So, Moira, I gather you have known Paul for a pretty long time?" Coral asked as she and Michael passed around the plates of food.
"It seems like forever." Moira smiled at Paul.
"How come you two never tied the knot before?" She poured ice water for everyone.
Moira looked at Paul blankly, so Paul answered.
"I've been about to ask her several times, but Fate always stepped in. This time, Fate was on my side." Paul reached for Moira's hand under the tablecloth and squeezed. Moira squeezed back, tightly.
"It's too bad, but it's so romantic! You meeting over and over again, in all these different places!" Coral said. "And now you get to be together for good." She smiled brightly.
Moira and Paul glanced at each other. Michael looked at them, expectantly, and Adam looked at his food. “Well, we don't know. I mean, we're together now. But my work ... I won't always be able to stay with Paul, but I'll be able to come back to him." Moira hesitated.
"Oh, what do you do?" Coral asked.
Moira paused. Adam looked up. How are you going to handle this one, Mom?
"I work for an international organization," she began slowly. "It requires me to travel for odd lengths of time. I'm afraid that's all I can tell you."
"Is it with the government?" Michael asked.
Moira looked at him. "Yes," she said. Just not an earth-based one.
With that the dinner conversation turned to a variety of other topics. When the guys started hashing out their work, Moira and Coral discussed plants. When dinner ended, they moved to the living room for coffee. Moira excused herself to use the powder room down the hall. She came out to find Michael standing there.
"Moira, I know Susan has already talked to you about this..." Michael paused, uncertain how to proceed.
"That's all right, Michael, I'm sure you're concerned also." Moira encouraged him.
"Well, I suspected that you might be the reason for Paul's depression after L.A., but I didn't know for sure until today. I guess that's what I'm concerned about -- I've been here with him all this time and I've watched what he's gone through when you leave him. I just don't want to see it happen again." There, he'd said it as best he could.
Moira touched Michael's arm lightly. "I know. I don't think he will; because now he knows I'm coming back. I really don't have control over my assignments, but I do have it over coming to see my family." What she really meant was Adam, but if he was near Paul she could manage to be with both of them. "He and I made a commitment to each other a long time ago. This is just acknowledging it to the world."
Michael nodded. He wasn't entirely convinced, but he was convinced enough. He would have been happier if he'd known what kind of work she did. But if Paul could accept it, he guessed he could, too. They walked down the hallway to the living room together. "Well, we look forward to Monday. It is Monday isn't it?"
Paul, sitting on the couch, looked up. "It's Monday. I called a minister today and she's free on Monday. Oh, she'll be coming out on Saturday to talk to us," he said to Moira as she joined him on the couch. She slid close to him and he draped his arm around her shoulders. Adam observed them from the easy chair opposite them, his face unreadable.
Coral turned to Adam. "So what do you think, Adam? Isn't it great, your mom and Paul?"
"Oh, great, yes. Well, it'll take some getting used to," he said, diplomatically.
Paul looked over at Adam and wondered if his mother had talked with him at lunch, and helped him with his 'stuck stuff' as he said she would. Adam looked back at Paul and nodded at him. Paul had a reaction at that. It felt quite odd to have someone responding to his thoughts so directly. But then, with Adam and Moira, he should be used to it by now. Or get used to it, he thought, wryly. He looked down at Moira, who was leaning against him and smiling at Adam.
Michael joined in the conversation. "After Monday, you can call Paul 'Dad'," he joked.
He comment didn't get quite the reaction he anticipated. Adam stared at him, a look of shock on his face. Paul glanced at Moira and saw her smile freeze. Anger burned in the pit of his stomach. Obviously, they still felt loyalty towards Adam's real father, whoever he was.
"Come on, guys, Michael was just joking." Paul said, testily.
Adam shifted in his seat, searching for something to say.
Moira saved the day. "Actually, Michael, I think Adam wants to call Paul 'Pa'," she said, and looked up at Paul, "and you can call him 'Opie'." Everybody laughed -- even Adam, who didn't know who Opie was.
Paul, feeling more at ease, chimed in, "Wa'll, Opie, y'all have ta go fishin' with me some day. We'll have a right good time, yup," he said, doing his best imitation of Andy Griffith.
After the laughter died down, Coral asked, "Where are you two going on your honeymoon?"
Paul and Moira looked at each other. "We haven't even talked about it. Where do you want to go, darling?" Paul asked.
"Not Hawaii’s Big Island." Moira quipped, and Adam started laughing, but Coral and Michael looked puzzled. "I have a thing about volcanoes," she explained.
Paul hadn't gotten it at first either, and when he did, he didn't feel like laughing. He was beginning to see that there would be a lot of limitations to his and Moira being together.
"How about Europe?" he suggested. "Some place without active volcanoes?"
Moira asked, "Where in Europe?"
"Paris is a wonderful honeymoon spot." Coral offered. "Michael and I went there for our tenth anniversary."
Moira looked at the group, "I think we'll need to take a day or so to discuss this, we haven't even planned the wedding yet," she stifled a yawn.
Paul saw that it was getting late, and made noises about catching a ferry. Adam piped up that he'd better head home, also. Their hosts saw them to the door. Paul stood chatting with Michael for a few minutes while Moira went to Adam as he strapped his helmet on by his bicycle.
"I'm going to stay home tomorrow, so I won't be coming into Seattle with Paul," she said to him.
"Home, huh?" Adam said at his mother referring to Paul's house as 'home'.
Moira smiled patiently. "Would you like to come out to Colvos for dinner tomorrow night?"
"Hm, two home-cooked meals in a row, can I stand it?" Adam asked rhetorically.
Moira laughed and hugged him. "Oh, it's so hard. I want to spend time with you, but I want to be with Paul, too."
"It's okay, Mom. I understand." Adam hugged her back and got on his bike. "Listen, I'll be glad to come to dinner. I'll just hitch a ride back with Paul tomorrow night."
"Bring a change of clothes, you can stay over," his mother suggested.
Adam hesitated. He had stayed over at Paul's before, but this was different. He didn't know how comfortable he'd be crashing on the couch with Paul and his mother upstairs.
She grinned at him. "We'll be quiet, I promise," she snickered.
"God, Mom, what a picture! Keep it to yourself. Sheesh," said Adam, clearly embarrassed. "I can barely sleep in my own bedroom in Ballard now, since you told me."
"Told you what?" Paul asked coming up to them, his conversation with Michael having ended.
"Oh, she, well… nothing. Listen, I'd better be going. See you tomorrow, boss," Adam said. "See you tomorrow night, Mom," he kissed her cheek, and took off.
Paul glanced at Moira. "Did you actually tell him that you lost your virginity in that bedroom in Ballard?" he asked incredulously.
"Oh, no, but that would have been good, too." She smiled a Cheshire cat grin. "I invited him for dinner tomorrow. I hope that's okay." They started to walk towards the car.
"Oh, sure. We've had to answer to my sister and now to Michael, might as well deal with Adam." Paul sighed, and they drove back to the ferry and Colvos.
Moira stayed on Colvos that Friday, while Paul went into work. He had the feeling that she was going to meditate all day, as she was sitting in a chair when he woke up that morning, and was still there when he left for work. He, on the other hand, had his slate full that day. He had to prepare for taking the next week off, as well as rush around to jewelers at lunchtime. He wondered whether Moira should be with him when picking out wedding rings, but he decided that, as unattached to material possessions as she seemed to be, she would be happy with the unassuming gold bands he chose. The jeweler's assured him they could adjust the size. Paul thought regretfully about the engagement ring he’d returned to this same jewelry store so many years before.
He went non-stop right up until quitting time, and had almost forgotten that Adam was coming home with him until Adam stuck his head in Paul's office.
"Knock, knock," Adam imitated Paul. "Ready to go? Or do you want another couple of hours?"
The joking felt good to Paul. It was the first time since Wednesday that he'd gotten any humor from Adam. "No, I think we can go home," he replied. "Opie," he added, hoping to continue the humorous vein.
Adam glanced at him. He swallowed. "Well, Pa, you want to get on the boat with me?" he said, but his tone was strained.
All right, he'd pressed it a little too far. They stepped into the elevator, Paul with his small attaché case, Adam with his bike in between them.
"Adam, why don't you move as often as your mother?" Paul suddenly found himself asking.
"When I was younger, I used to. But when I hit twelve or so, my energy started changing, so I started staying places longer," Adam said.
"Longer than Moira? Who took care of you?" Paul was curious.
"Oh, well, at about that age I started getting a variety of chaperons, but that's not unusual. I mean, everybody else has a different chaperon per assignment, from infancy through adolescence. I just was able to be with my mother until I started changing." His voice trailed off.
Paul started to get that queasy feeling, but he wanted to keep talking, since Adam seemed to be in a receptive mood.
Answering the unspoken question, Adam continued. "I'm gestated, unlike the others. So my energy is ... denser ... the rest of us have to move through time, although each one is assigned a hundred-year period. We don't move beyond that, because it wouldn't match our vibrational levels. As linear time progresses, the vibrational frequency increases. Fifty years ago things were much slower than they are now, and fifty years from now things will be a lot, er, quicker. Our bodies are made to fit within this vibrational span. Or any vibrational span. Well, other people's bodies. Mine is... different," he paused and looked at how Paul was taking this. Most of it soared over his head, so Adam kept going. "When I reached puberty my energy changed. Unlike the others, who have to keep moving, it became apparent that I do my best work by staying put. I still leave every six months or so, for a tune-up, so to speak, and once in a while I have another assignment, but mostly, well, I'm here." They were at Paul's Explorer by now, and Adam put his bike in the back.
"Adam, about Los Angeles ... " Paul began, and then hesitated as they got in the vehicle. How to put this? "That little boy was you, and you called me on the phone?"
Adam shrugged his shoulders. "That was a surprise. We don't run into ourselves on assignment, the same way we're not supposed to run into the same people throughout time. I didn't realize who you were, as an adult, because I was operating off that belief. I simply didn't put together that you were the same person I'd seen those times before."
"Times," Paul exclaimed. "You've seen me more than twice?"
Adam clearly had made a slip. He struggled to find a way to backtrack. Then decided to level with him. Since Paul had asked, he must be ready to hear the answer.
"I've seen you other times, not just with Mom," Adam said.
Paul’s heart began beating hard. What did this mean? "What other times?" Paul asked.
"Well, actually, you know the other times. I've noticed you thinking about them… I mean I have since I figured out who you are," he said, shifting in his seat uncomfortably.
Flashes of insight began to come to Paul. "Was I your Big Brother?"
"Uh-huh." Adam nodded.
"Twice?" Paul asked, and when Adam nodded again, he went on, "Were there any other times?"
Adam paused, assessing how much Paul could take. Then he shrugged his shoulder and said, "Just one other time."
"Oh, my God, Adam. Was it in Connecticut?" Paul felt the beehive start up in his head.
Adam began to sing the little jingle they had learned in nursery school.
"Adam, we must have been four years old!" Paul exclaimed. "Was Moira with you?"
Adam grinned. "Yeah. You loved her even then. You kept hanging out at our house, and wanting to sit on her lap when she read us stories. I got really pissed off once, and pushed you off. Mom made me sit in the corner while she read only to you. Oh, I was sore about that." Adam was laughing at the memory.
An eerie feeling crept over Paul. He remembered the beautiful lady next door. He wanted her to adopt him. But he couldn't remember the father, or if there was a father. Oh, hell, it was time to ask the question.
"Was your father with you then?" Paul asked, dreading the answer.
Adam was shocked. "What on earth do you mean?"
"I'm sorry, Adam, I don't mean to pry. I just mean, well..." Paul sought for the right words to say. "Listen, you don't have to tell me about him if you don't want to. I can see it's a private thing between you and your mother..."
Paul was stunned by what happened next. Adam pounded on the side of the car.
"Good God, Paul, you are unbelievably dense. Do you think my mother has a man in every time period or something?" Adam seethed.
"Why, no, I mean, I just --" Paul stammered.
"Don't you comprehend? It is absolutely, completely, forbidden to have personal relationships. And my mother had one with you. And she kept having one with you, over all this time. Do you think she would do this with any one else?" Adam's face flushed beet red and the veins stood out at his temple.
Slowly the truth began to dawn on Paul. He was the only man Moira had ever been with. He pulled the Explorer over to the side of the road and looked at Adam. The truth was right there in front of him. The family resemblance really was a family resemblance.
"Adam," Paul said simply, and didn't know what else to say.
Adam looked away from Paul. The anger was subsiding, but there were tears in his eyes. Paul reached over and touched his friend's shoulder.
"Adam," he said again, and Adam gave out a sob. Paul's heart welled up in his throat and he pulled Adam to him. Adam was stiff at first, but Paul wrapped his arms around the younger man, and soon they were both sobbing. The emotions were the same. Paul's longing for a son, realized in the man he loved almost as much as he loved Moira. Adam's longing for a father, something he'd not realized until just then. After a moment, Adam sat up, groping for a handkerchief in his pocket. He noisily blew his nose.
"Wow. I didn't realize how deep that was," he said. "I mean, I always enjoyed hanging out with you when I was a kid, and I was sad when I had to move on. But I never realized the connection. God, I really understand my mother now, and what she went through." He sounded amazed.
"Was it hard for both of you?" Paul gently asked, wiping his eyes.
"Not hard, like financially or anything. We're always taken care of. But I was a constant reminder of you to her. She'd look at me sometimes and get so sad, and then she'd give me these big, big hugs. I always knew she loved me, but sometimes I could tell… well, that I wasn't enough. No, that doesn't sound right. I never felt inadequate. I just knew she was missing something. Someone. You." Adam shook his head. "Now I realize I was missing you, too."
Paul patted Adam's shoulder. "Well, now you have me," he smiled. "This is great! I can hardly wait to tell everyone," he was overjoyed by the news.
"Uh, Paul, are you sure that's a good idea?" Adam asked.
"Why not?" Paul said, feeling giddy.
"Paul, I'm thirty one years old. How old are you?"
Paul stopped. "Forty-seven."
"You want to go around telling people you fathered me when you were sixteen?" Adam smiled ironically. "With an older woman? Mom was eighteen, you know."
Paul smiled at Adam. He wished he'd been with Moira when he was sixteen and she was eighteen and any adolescent’s dream. But Adam was right. Paul took a moment to consider the ramifications. What would his family think? Heck. He didn't care.
"Yes, I do. I'd be proud to tell people that I'm your dad." Paul said.
Adam took in a deep breath. "It will be interesting around here for a while. Can I be there when you tell your sister?" He chuckled.
"Sure, you can hold the first aid kit." Paul joked. "I'll need it."
Both men continued their ride to Colvos with a newly relaxed atmosphere between them. After the tension of last the few days, it felt like the air after a thunderstorm. They chatted about unimportant stuff, aware that Paul had received all he could handle for the day. The ferry docked and they drove off to Paul's place. Paul noticed a difference the moment he got out of the Explorer.
"It must be the time of year, but look at all the wildflowers blooming," he said to Adam, looking at the myriad of little flowers all through the woods down to the house. "I don't remember so many last year."
They descended the fifty steps down to the house. Paul stopped. The rhododendrons growing alongside the house, the ones that never bloomed because of the soil or shade or something, were full of color. They hadn't even had buds that morning.
"What's going on here?" Paul asked, and he walked around to the front of the house. The deck was fringed in full-bloomed wisteria. There were flowers and plants growing everywhere, most of them looking fully established, even if they hadn't been there before. Already established plants looked like they had gone through years of fertilizing, pruning and weeding -- something Paul never had time for. Paul stood on the deck and looked down the stairway. There was a green lawn growing between the bottom steps and the beach where before had been only mud and leaves and twigs. Adam joined him and Paul could feel his quiet amusement.
"Mom's been busy," he said.
"How could she do all this in just one day, without any transportation? She must have had the nursery deliver all this stuff." Paul turned to go inside. The most delicious aroma hit his nose before his hand touched the door.
Adam sniffed. "Oh, yes, Mom is home."
Paul opened the door warily, wondering what the inside of his home would be like. To his relief, all the furniture was the same and in the same place. It did look like someone had vacuumed, and actually dusted for the first time since Paul had moved in.
"Hi, honey, we're home." Paul called out.
"Is Little Ricky with you?" Moira's voice called from the kitchen.
"No, but little Paul Jr. is." Paul said, noticing Adam's reaction with glee.
There was silence from the kitchen. Moira came out. She looked at Adam, and looked at Paul. Then she opened her arms wide to both of them. "Oh, my guys," she said, as both men embraced her at once.
"You finally know, you finally know," she said, tearfully. She stroked both men's hair.
"I pried it out of him." Paul joked.
"The man thought you'd been with someone else!" Adam said, hotly.
Moira laughed through her tears. "You guys are so cute." Then she broke away, and dabbed her tears on the edge of Paul's 'quiche the cook' apron. "Well, I hope you're hungry. I've been having fun in here."
They sat down to spaghetti da Vinci, with fresh baked garlic bread, spinach salad, but no wine, of course. Paul looked at his plate and breathed in deeply.
"What is that spice I'm smelling? I'm not used to it in spaghetti sauce," he tasted a bite.
"Betcha it's cinnamon. Mom's secret ingredient." Adam slurped up a noodle.
"That's it. How interesting. This is really good." Paul said, twirling his fork.
Moira smiled. "Mama Tressa's recipe. You remember Mama Tressa, Adam?"
Adam nodded. "Big woman. I thought I had to be good or she'd sit on me. You always hired big women to watch me. I wonder why?"
Moira looked at her son sternly, "Now Adam, Mama Tressa wasn't that big. But you were pretty little at the time. Maybe she just had a big aura."
"Yeah, the size of Chicago." Adam muttered.
Paul nearly choked on his spaghetti, laughing at the comment. He wanted to ask where and when they'd known Mama Tressa, but Adam kept talking.
"Remember Daniel's mother? She was just the same." Adam said.
"Oh, Daniel. You guys were such nuts. You used to hydro-ski all day long, I was worried the sun would fry the skin off your back. And that time you were doing the jumps and the ski shot out from under you? I thought I'd die, when you slowed your fall." Moira's shoulders were shaking with mirth. "Someone came up to me afterwards and said that they thought they'd seen an optical illusion. That the speed of the hydro ski going forward made it look just like you were falling slowly backwards." She shook an admonishing finger. "You have to watch yourself in public."
Paul watched the two interact. What was a hydro ski? What was this about slowing a fall? They were speaking out loud, but Paul still felt totally left out of the conversation.
"I was a kid then, Mom. I don't do stuff like that any more." Adam protested.
Moira leveled her deep blue eyes on her son. "Aggie Nelson told me about the other day. You were pretty convincing in your explanation to her, but not enough, or else she wouldn't have talked to me about it."
Paul had to interrupt. "What happened the other day?"
Both faces turned to him. It wasn't as if they'd forgotten he was there, it was just that they were so at ease in his presence that they had forgotten he wasn't one of them. Adam looked down at his plate, stone-faced.
"Aggie thought she saw Adam carrying you in his arms down the stairs on Tuesday night." Moira said.
Paul gave a short laugh. "He might have dragged me down them. I don't remember how I got from the restaurant to the house. You're pretty strong Adam, but I doubt if you could do that. Or can you?"
Adam toyed with his food. "Nah, it was dark, she couldn't see so good."
There was a short silence, so Paul filled it. "What's a hydro-ski?" he asked.
Mother and son looked at each other. Moira started to speak and Adam shot her a glance. She put her hand on his and nodded her head firmly.
"It hasn't been invented yet, Paul," she said.
Paul let that sink in. He thought he should be getting used to these little shock waves. Every time he started to relax and feel like things were normal, something like this would happen to remind him that they weren't.
"You and Adam were in the future together?" he asked slowly, checking his stomach and his head.
"Mom, you're going to have to teach him some techniques if he's going to handle this stuff," Adam said.
"He's been doing pretty well matching you so far, but you're right. I'll talk to him after dinner," she replied.
"Excuse me, I'm sitting right here!" Paul interjected angrily. "Will you answer my question, please?"
Moira looked at him with compassion. "Paul, Adam and I are assigned anywhere within a hundred-year period. Of course that includes your future," she hadn't meant to emphasize the word your, but it stood out.
"How far into the future?" Paul asked bluntly. He wasn't hungry anymore; in fact, he felt slightly nauseated.
Adam shook his head, but Moira said, "I can go anywhere from about 1945 to 2045. Adam goes from 1964 to 2064. We think. He was gestated, so we're not sure. He doesn't go that far anymore."
The beehive started up, along with a fierce headache. Adam touched his shoulder, which helped. "Paul, don't ask any more for a while." Then he stood and walked behind Paul's chair. He put a hand on Paul's shoulder and his index finger on Paul's forehead. Paul felt himself being pulled magnetically towards the earth, and it was as if the nausea and the beehive were dissolving and flowing out of him. The pain dissipated and his head became clear. His appetite even returned. Adam removed his hands and returned to his seat.
Paul wanted to ask ‘What did you just do?’ but decided to eat his spaghetti instead.
Adam started talking about his new next-door neighbors who were house painters, and then Moira suggested Paul hire them to paint the Ballard house and the rest of the evening passed without any more surprises.
Adam did not stay the night; he was more accepting of Moira and Paul, but still uncomfortable. Besides, Percy hadn't been fed since that morning. He chose to cycle home around nine pm, with the promise to return sometime that weekend.
After he left, Paul began clearing the dinner dishes and Moira filled the dishwasher and soaked the pots and pans. As they worked together in silence, Paul remembered their time together in Ballard and how much pleasure he received from doing these little things with her. Tonight, however, there was unfinished business lingering in the air.
"Tell me more about the jet ski, I mean hydro ski incident." Paul asked, grabbing a dishtowel to dry the pot Moira had finished scrubbing.
"Oh, it was one of the last times Adam and I were together on an assignment. He was eleven or twelve, I forget. It was Florida. And he had this friend, Danny, whose dad was a hydro-ski dealer, and they got to play on them. I felt it was a little dangerous, but their Dad said it was safe if they wore, um, life jackets." Moira kept her voice steady and even.
"You make it sound so normal," Paul said with annoyance.
"It was normal," Moira replied.
"But it hasn't happened yet!" Paul exclaimed. "That's not normal!" He started to feel dizzy.
Moira wiped her hands on the dishtowel. "Paul, come into the living room with me," she ordered.
Paul followed her into the living room and sat on the couch.
"Now, place your feet flat on the floor and rest your hands on your knees," Moira instructed.
"Are you going to teach me to meditate?" Paul wondered if this was just a ruse to avoid the conversation they'd been having.
"Yes. Close your eyes." Moira said. Paul obeyed reluctantly. "Now be aware of an energy center near the base of your spine. It's called your first chakra."
Paul wasn't sure what she was talking about, so he just pretended.
"Now imagine a stream of energy flowing from that spot down through the floor into the earth and into the center of the earth," she continued.
Immediately, Paul started feeling the sensation he had every time Moira or Adam touched him. That magnetic pull, as if the earth's gravity had increased. What was this?
"This is grounding." Moira replied to his thought. "It's an energy connection between you and the planet. Now take a deep breath and imagine releasing it down your grounding."
Paul did so, and he felt the tension draining out of his body. "Ahhh," he said.
"Yes," said Moira. "Use this technique whenever you feel dizzy, or before you ask me or Adam any questions, okay? It will help stabilize you, keep you from feeling so spacy. Also, you can use it to release any energy or tension that comes up when you hear the answers to your questions."
Paul nodded. "But what about the finger to my forehead?" He referred to Adam's touching him at dinner.
"Try it: touch your forehead the same way." Moira suggested. Paul did so. "Now pull your focus and your awareness into the center of your head, behind your eyes."
It was an odd sensation for Paul. Like refocusing a camera. He realized that he had a lot of tension in his forehead, so he breathed and released. Suddenly he found his whole awareness focused in his head. What was this?
"This is the center of your head." Moira said with some amusement. "This is where you can center as spirit in the body."
"As what in the body?" Paul wasn't sure if he heard correctly.
"You. Spirit. In your body." Moira said. "You'll find it easier to accept what I tell you from this neutral space, the center of your head. It'll be easier to see the forest from the trees in this space. You won't need to figure it out, as you like to do. You'll be able to just accept and know."
As she spoke, Paul understood. Accept and know. He was both aware of his body and detached from it.
"If you view your body as your vehicle for this lifetime, your car, then the center of your head is your driver's seat." Moira said.
Paul instantly had the picture of windshield wipers. He chuckled, but the image also helped release tension from his forehead.
"Yes, you like to analyze things a lot. Figure them out. But there are some things your body cannot comprehend. Like most of what I've been telling you these past three days." Moira said, sitting down beside him. "How do you feel now?" she asked.
Paul opened his eyes and looked at her. "Relaxed."
"Good. Let's finish the dishes." Moira said, standing up.
"Wait, do I do that little thing you and Adam do?" Paul said, and bent over and touched the floor, and sat back up.
"Very good." Moira said. "See, I knew you'd been learning by watching Adam. Yes, it helps to do that if you've been meditating for a while, it releases energy off your head and shoulders."
Paul stood up. "Is that all you do, or is there more?" he asked, following her into the kitchen.
"That's all for tonight." Moira said.
Saturday morning, Moira and Paul lay naked in bed, the sheets torn off by earlier activities. Moira's head rested on Paul's stomach. He gazed at her outstretched body, always amazed at how translucently pale it was. He could see the little blue veins in her breasts. Her hand idly rested on his thigh, playing with the dark brown hair on it. She started to move her hand subtly up his leg, but Paul shook his head.
"Let it rest, Moira. It has to conserve its energy for our honeymoon." His chuckling made her head bob up and down.
She turned her head and looked up at him. Paul felt his chest go warm with emotion. It was one of those forever moments.
"Where do you want to go on our honeymoon?" she asked him.
Anywhere but the Caribbean, he thought, before he could stop himself.
She opened her mouth to ask why, but saw the answer. Her mouth popped shut. She didn't say anything for a while.
"I'm sorry." Paul said softly, feeling the familiar sting of guilt.
"Why?" Moira rolled over and looked at him, propped up on her elbows. Her breasts hung down and gently grazed the bed.
"Oh, I don't know. Yes, I do know." Paul corrected himself. "I feel really shitty about the way I treated Maggie. I feel badly that I ever married her. And when I'm with you, I just want to pretend that whole period of my life didn't exist."
Moira sat up, and put her hand on his chest. "You were honest with her as soon as you were able to be honest with her. That was very difficult. But what if you'd continued lying to yourself and to her? You could still be married."
Paul shuddered. If he'd still been married to Maggie when he drove Adam to the airport ... the thought chilled him.
"We all make mistakes, Paul. It's what we learn from them that's important," Moira said.
He looked up at her. "Have you ever made a mistake?" He found it hard to believe.
Moira nodded. "Of course," she looked down at her hands. "I stayed with you too long, once, I disappeared without telling you, twice. And now. Oh, and Adam. They could all be looked on as mistakes," she shrugged.
"How is now a mistake?" Paul asked. "And what do you mean about Adam being a mistake?"
Moira smiled down at Paul, who was still lying on the bed. She reached out and touched his face, and smoothed her hand down his chest. She lay down next to him, with her head cradled on his shoulder, cuddling close before answering.
"Telling you all these things. Things you're not supposed to know. Things so difficult to comprehend. It's hard on your system. I may be causing you more anxiety than I'm trying to alleviate," she pressed her face into the side of his chest. "And Adam wasn't planned, of course. So that could be considered a mistake. I've always wondered about that."
Paul kissed the top of her head. "He was definitely no mistake. He was definitely meant to be." She nodded, her face rubbing against his chest hair. He found it mildly stimulating. So much for conserving energy. He asked a final question. "When was he ... I mean I guess it wasn't D.C.?"
Moira looked up. "He was conceived in our bedroom in Ballard. That's what I told him when I went in there on Wednesday."
Paul could just imagine Adam's face in reaction to that news. No wonder he'd avoided looking at him. No wonder he'd declined to stay overnight. He curled Moira's head up in his arm and started laughing.
"Moira! What a thing for a mother to tell her son!" He kissed her.
"Oh, he needs the education," she said, and kissed him back. A long deep kiss. Paul wrapped his arms around Moira, and Adam's education was the last thing on his mind.
They managed to be dressed and decent before the minister came for their appointment. A tall woman with auburn hair, in her early forties, she had a bright smile and a broad sense of humor. Paul was quite nervous, but her air of amusement put him right at ease. They all sat on the picnic table on the front deck. She brought an overstuffed file out of her briefcase and started handing them sample ceremonies.
"Now, you don't have to memorize these; they're your copies," she said as she leafed through her pile. "You can take one of my generic ones and put your name on it, or you can cut and paste parts from several ceremonies together. Here are some examples of what other couples have created so you can get an idea of how different everyone's wedding can be."
"Well, we don't have a lot of time to figure this out if it's going to happen on Monday," said Moira, scanning them all. "Something short, sweet and to the point is my vote."
Paul looked at them all but he was having trouble focusing. Ground. He heard in his head. So he tried it. Instantly, his body felt calmer. Center of your head. He tried that too. He could see the words on the sample ceremonies.
"How about one of these two? They seem short." Paul pointed out.
"Those are both very nice, they say some good things about marriage," the minister said. "I especially like this one's vows." She pulled her calendar out of her briefcase and flipped it open to the month of April. "What time on Monday?"
Moira shrugged, so Paul said, "How about one o'clock?"
"Great. Let me know tomorrow what ceremony you want, or fax me what you've created. I'll get here, oh, about twenty minutes early and we can do the paperwork and everything before we get started," she scribbled the time in her calendar, and started putting things back in her briefcase. "Now, do you have any other questions?" Moira and Paul looked blank, so she continued. "Have you thought about music?"
"Oh." Paul said. Then he flashed on Michelle, in her senior year at Cornish. "My friend's daughter is a musician, I'll ask her."
"You don't have to use the traditional wedding march," the minister said. "Anything that you like and that sets the mood you'd like to set. And you can end with anything that's celebratory. You can have musical interludes, but that makes the ceremony longer. My ceremonies, if there are no musical interludes and if you're not having anyone else speak, take about 10 to 15 minutes," she smiled. "But it's really nice if you have someone you know say something during the ceremony. After all, they know you and I don't."
Paul considered asking Adam but realized he’d be uncomfortable in the spotlight.
Moira broke in on Paul's thoughts. "You know, there's only going to be a few of us here. We could have everyone say a word or two."
The minister nodded. "That's a good idea. I've done ceremonies where everyone has been able to say how they met the couple, and ones where everyone was able to give the couple their blessings or good wishes."
Moira turned to Paul. "What do you think?"
Paul shrugged. "If it doesn't take too long." He realized that didn't sound right. "I mean, I just don't want an hour and a half ceremony. Fifteen minutes sounds just right to me."
The minister gave a knowing smile. "Yes, it can be hard standing up there with your life passing before your eyes. Even fifteen minutes is a long time to hold your breath," she chuckled. "If you have any questions, you have my number. Just let me know by this time tomorrow what you've come up with, and I look forward to seeing you on Monday."
The minister left, and Paul and Moira sat back down at the picnic table and stared at the ceremonies.
"She seems like a woman after your own heart," Paul commented.
"She certainly is. I like her a lot." Moira said. "How about this one? But with this one's vows?" She pushed two ceremonies over to him.
Paul scanned the two. "But this one says 'repeat after me.' I don't know if I'll be able to manage more than an 'I do'," he said honestly.
"Oh, Paul. Just use your grounding. You'll be fine." Moira said.
Just then the phone rang, Paul went into the house to answer it, leaving Moira studying the ceremonies. He picked up the receiver and was startled to hear someone crying.
"Hello?" he asked with some trepidation.
"Paul. It's Susan. You have to come home quick. Dad is dying," his sister sobbed.
Paul went numb. "Susan? Where are you?"
"I'm home. I mean, I'm in Connecticut. I flew home to Michigan last night -- you know we aren't moving to Portland until the end of the school year -- and Ron met me at the airport with the news, so I took the redeye directly to New York and drove here to Hartford. I've been with Mom at the hospital all day. Oh Paul," her voice trembled. "He looks so awful."
"We'll be on the next plane." Paul said.
"We? Oh, God, I forgot totally about Moira. Yes, yes bring Moira. I think the whole family should be here. Ron's driving the kids, and I'm calling Uncle Stephen next. And we should ask Adam," his sister babbled, distraught. She couldn't possibly want all those people in the house while their father was dying. "Can you ask Adam?" She started sobbing again.
"Yes, Susan." He repeated her name to get her attention. "Susan, we'll be right there." Susan mumbled her thanks and hung up.
Moira came into the house, aware that something was wrong as Paul hung up the phone on his end. He looked up at her.
"My father is dying. We need to go," he said, feeling shaky inside.
Moira went to him and held him. He didn't feel like crying, but his whole body started to shake. His teeth started to chatter. "Th- th- the oh-oh-oddest thing," he stammered.
"What?" Moira held him as he shook.
"Sh-sh-she wants A-Adam to be there. N-now why would she want that?" Paul said.
"She knows." Moira said, simply.
"Huh-how?" Paul put his arms around her held her, hoping to steady himself.
Moira looked at him and smiled. "She's a mother. She just knows."
They tried phoning Adam, but no answer. The guy didn't even have voice mail. Moira said he was on his way to Colvos, as he'd mentioned he would do. They left a note for him on the door after calling the airlines, threw some clothes in a couple of suitcases, and drove to the airport...
[editor's note: the balance of the chapter is on its way...]