Of Time: Chapter
After the viewing, the funeral seemed a letdown. Paul sat in the church of his childhood, fighting the urge to squirm in the pew as the minister droned the eulogy. It seemed as if he were talking about someone else; certainly no one Paul ever knew. He looked over at Moira and Adam, who both radiated serenity about them. They sat, looking at the minister with interested expressions on their faces. Paul wondered what they were really thinking -- or were they having a telepathic conversation he was excluded from? Paul looked at his sister and mother. Susan's tear-streaked face contorted in grief, but his mother stared at the minister half-smiling, her eyes a million miles away. In the pew behind them Stephen nodded off, while Ron expended all his energy keeping his crew quiet. The twins repressed snickers while Livvy looked monumentally bored. Only Chuck looked like he was trying to keep up with what the minister was saying, even if he didn't comprehend a word.
Afterwards, a million people came up to Paul to offer their heartfelt condolences. Many were long time friends of his father's who had grown children that Paul had gone to school with. He didn't remember any of them, nor their kids. He spent the afternoon with a frozen smile, at the same time keeping a serious and sad look in his eye, so that he could appear to be both sociable and in mourning at the same time. By the end of the day he had a headache so intense he was ready to pass out.
When the last of the friends and acquaintances left, Paul retreated to the men's room. Fortunately, there was a chair inside, into which he immediately collapsed and put his head between his knees. The ring of pain and pressure went all the way around his head, from the back lobes of his brain to across his forehead. Just as nausea started to build up, Adam walked in.
"Found him, Mom," Adam called as he closed the door behind him. He went over and knelt by Paul.
"Resisting all those people in your head, eh?" he said, and gently placed a hand on Paul's shoulder.
"I don't know what it is," groaned Paul. "I can barely see – my head is throbbing!"
Adam put his other hand near Paul's forehead, but not touching it. That familiar feeling of gravity came upon him, as Adam touched his shoulder. The pain started to drain away. Paul's sight cleared and he could see Adam's other hand beside his head, slightly moving back and forth. With each wave of his hand, a layer of pain was released. Soon, Paul was able to sit up and breathe deeply.
"Thanks." Paul said, not knowing what else to say.
"Don't mention it." Adam said, simply, and stood up. "Come. They're waiting for you."
They left the men's room to find Moira and Olivia talking to the minister. Susan and her clan had already gone home. Stephen was standing to one side, waiting for Paul.
"I'm off to the airport. Call me when you get back to Seattle and we'll put together that new job of yours," Stephen said to him. "Beautiful service, Reverend," he called to the minister. "You take care, Olivia. Call me if you need anything, I mean it. Don't hesitate to call." Then Stephen pointed at Adam. “And you,” he said. “Take the job!” He waved, and then headed out the door.
Shortly afterwards Paul steered his mother away from the minister, who seemed to like talking simply because he enjoyed the sound of his own voice. They all thanked him, and left.
Back at the family home, things were chaotic as Ron and the children prepared to drive back to Michigan. Susan had managed another week of leave and planned to stay with her mother a while longer. Paul called to reserve a flight back to Seattle for the following day.
"What about you, Adam? Do you want to fly with us?" Paul asked, while on hold to the airline.
"No thanks." Adam said.
"Oh, do you already have a flight back?" Paul asked. "Do you need a ride to the airport?"
Adam looked uncomfortable. They were in the study off the living room. He glanced out the door to see if anyone was within hearing distance. Then he looked directly at Paul.
"I'm not flying back," he said.
At that moment a reservation agent came on the line, so a startled Paul had to give her the booking information and wasn't able to respond to Adam right away. Adam could have left the room, but patiently waited for his father to finish instead.
As soon as he hung up the phone Paul asked, "Why aren't you flying back? Are you being assigned somewhere else?" He could just see Adam disappearing to some other time just as he and Moira prepared to leave Seattle together.
"No. I'm going back to my original assignment." Adam answered.
Paul could see he was going to have to ask specific questions in order to get any answers. "How are you getting back, then?"
"The same way I got here." Adam shifted from one foot to the other and stuffed both hands into his pockets.
"And how did you get here?" Paul asked, getting frustrated with the 'twenty questions' game.
"Uh, I transported." Adam said softly.
"What? You mean, like, beamed here?" Paul exclaimed, trying to keep his voice down.
"Well, that's a pretty accurate image, although we don't use transporter machines." Adam grinned.
Paul was about to ask for more details when Susan walked in.
"Listen, Paul, I want you to walk through the house with me and Mom and see if there's anything of Dad's you'd like. We'll put your name on it and then it can go to you if Mom ever moves." Susan was fully recovered from the funeral and back to her businesslike self.
"Susan, I don't really care about any of Dad's things. Besides, with my new job I won't be staying anywhere long enough to enjoy them," Paul said.
"Well, you can stick them in the Colvos house. That place could use a little more furniture. And anyway, you probably won't get any of this stuff for years, you know." Susan said impatiently.
Reluctantly, Paul went with Susan and his mother to tour the house and place his name on favored items. He was extremely uncomfortable doing this in front of his mother; it felt crass, even greedy, and also it seemed in anticipation of her demise. His mother didn't seem to care. She had always been a passive personality, but since his father's death she was positively withdrawn. And always a distant look in her eyes… where was she?
The moment he asked that question, Moira appeared. He stood with his mother in his parent's bedroom as Susan rummaged through their dad's dresser drawer. Moira came in very quietly, giving Susan every indication that she was simply there as an observer and had no intention of interfering in family business.
"You're remembering, aren't you?" Moira asked Olivia in a whisper.
Olivia smiled and nodded. "That's all I have left now." She whispered back.
Seeing her daughter engrossed in her father's old cuff link, she motioned to Moira to come out into the hallway. Paul wanted to follow, but knew that if he left, Susan would notice. So he positioned himself near the door so he could hear what was going on.
"You see this wallpaper? Charles hung it when I was pregnant with Paul. All by himself. I was in no condition to help him. So I'd lie in the bedroom there and hear him cursing out here in the hallway, getting that sticky stuff all over him and tearing sheets down that had bumps or weren't straight. Learned a lot of words I'd never known before." Olivia giggled.
"And that dresser that Susan is rummaging about in? That came from Charles' mother. Oh, she was a grand lady -- quite intimidating, very self-possessed. I always stuttered around her, I'm afraid. Charles was devastated when she died. It was a good thing Susan was already born, because otherwise we would have had to call her Eugenia, to honor his mother's memory. I promised Charles that we'd name our next child Eugenia if it were a girl, and Eugene if it was a boy. But I was nearly thirty then, too old, so I knew we wouldn't have any more."
Paul listened to his mother relate to Moira tiny little things that each triggered another memory about his father. Her voice was wistful as she talked. Each recollection was about some mundane event or another, but his mother told it as if it were the happiest time in the world. All she wanted to do was talk about the man she had been married to for half a century. To keep him real to herself by talking. All the other details she left to Susan; they weren't important to her. Furniture, finances, even staying in the house. Nothing was important any more except the memories.
Moira made a willing listener, an easy person to tell her stories to because they were falling on new ears. Susan would have interrupted with her version of the events, and Paul's eyes would have glazed over. Paul saw Susan lifting her head up out of the drawer and he stepped forward to distract her.
"So, do you care about Dad's cuff links?" he asked, returning her attention to the drawer.
"Well, Ron has a tuxedo that these would look perfect on," Susan murmured.
"Then they're his. None of my shirts have cuff link holes anyway." Paul said. "What about these?" He picked up a small case of tie clasps.
"Do you like them?" Susan asked.
Paul tried not to wear ties as often as possible, and those he had were too wide and wild for such conservative clasps.
"Not really." he confessed. "Ron should have them; some go with the cuff links."
Susan looked her brother in the eye. "You think this is stupid, don't you?"
Paul adopted an innocent look. "Why no, I don't. What ever gave you that impression?"
Susan's eyes became slits. "I don't want Mom putting all this stuff into boxes and giving it to Goodwill or having a garage sale. These are our only connection to Dad now he's gone."
Except for our memories, thought Paul, but wisely didn't say it.
"I'd rather have a photo album than his personal effects." Paul said gently.
Susan looked down at the box she was holding. She ran her fingers across the tie clasps. "But Daddy wore these." She put them down and picked up a folded woolen scarf that was sitting on top of the dresser. She pressed it to her face. "He wore this. It smells like him."
Paul couldn't think of anything he'd rather not have than something that smelled like his father. Mentally he wrote off all of his father's clothes, and was grateful that he was a head taller and more broad-shouldered than his old man.
"Then you should keep it. It means a lot to you." Paul said as neutrally as possible. He didn't want his sister misunderstanding him.
"I'm going to check on Adam," Moira suddenly announced, and turned to go.
"Wait, I'll come, too," Paul turned to his sister. "Put your name on anything you want. I'll have whatever's left over. I really don't care." He walked past his mother and followed Moira.
"I'm just going to see if Adam is still here." Moira whispered as they went down the stairs.
"Still here? Where's he going?" Paul asked, thinking Adam was going out for Chinese food or something.
"His assignment is over." Moira said.
They got to the living room and Adam was sitting in a chair with his eyes closed.
"Oh, good, you're still here." Moira said.
"I'm going soon, but I'll wait until everyone is asleep." Adam's eyes looked even darker than usual, because his skin had gone quite pale.
"Are you going back to Seattle?" Paul asked; confused about what Adam did when he transitioned.
"Yes, but it will take me about three days. I get debriefed, you see." Adam yawned, and bent over and touched the floor.
"And tuned up?" Paul said, catching on.
"Yes. I'm looking forward to that." Adam smiled.
"Well, when you're back in Seattle , think about whether you want to move to Colvos," Paul said.
"To your house?" Adam asked, frowning.
"Well, I'm thinking of selling both houses, since Moira and I won't ever be staying there..." Paul said, "but if you moved to Colvos, maybe we'd keep that one. It's the best long-term investment, you see."
"Don't sell your Colvos house." Adam and Moira both exclaimed.
"We need a home base." Moira said. "We can come back for short visits."
"I'd rather stay in Ballard." Adam said. "For now."
"Well, it's just a thought." Paul heard his sister and mother coming down the stairs.
“...one less thing for you to worry about.” Susan was saying as she came into view.
“Whatever you think is best, dear.” her mother replied patiently.
“I'll get this list to Bill tomorrow morning.” Susan said, as she put the yellow legal pad she was holding by her purse. “I'm going into the study to write thank-you notes to everyone who came today.” She walked by Paul without looking at him.
“Don't mind Susan, dear.” Their mother said, patting him on the arm. “She just wants to make sure everything is organized before she leaves.”
“Will you be okay, once we all go? Adam's leaving tonight, and we're on an early flight tomorrow morning.” Paul asked her.
“Oh, I'll be fine, just fine.” His mother smiled reassuringly. It was no longer the eerie, detached smile of the previous days, but a tired, real, expression. “I have my friends, and my church, and I'll be well taken care of.”
Paul gave her a hug. “I'm glad to hear it,” he said, and he was.
“Now, if everyone will excuse me, I'm going to lie down; it's been a very long day.” Olivia smiled at Adam and Moira, and gave Paul a little kiss on the cheek. Then she went back upstairs.
“She's doing very well, considering.” Moira said to Paul after his mother had gone. “I don't get the feeling that she'll fall apart when Susan goes. I noticed that she had a great many close friends at the funeral, and the minister told me they have a bereavement committee that looks in on people for quite a while after a loved one dies. She'll be okay.”
Paul sighed deeply. “I know.” He said, and left his other thoughts unspoken. Here he was letting go of the responsibility of the Seattle office and leaving his house and possessions and now his mother behind, all to be with the woman he loved. He thought he was letting someone down, or not fulfilling some obligation. He couldn't figure out who or what it was. It just seemed ... irresponsible ... to put love first in one's life.
Moira grinned. “Duty before love?” she asked.
“I don't see either Susan or Olivia having any expectations of you taking care of your mother or the estate,” Adam said, his brow wrinkling.
“Oh, they probably don't. It's just an eldest son thing.” he said to them both. “My father always considered me irresponsible, not living up to the role of the eldest son of an eldest son. So I think I tend to overcompensate by taking on more responsibility, emotional or otherwise, than I need to.”
Adam glanced at his mother. “Sounds like a major past life to me.”
Moira nodded. “Mongol Empire? Ogadai Khan?” she suggested, wryly.
“Cut it out, you two.” Paul said, feeling they were only partly kidding.
Then Adam gave an enormous yawn. “Excuse me.” He covered his mouth. “I really should be going.” He looked over at the study, which had been his bedroom during his stay, but Susan was still in there on the phone.
“You can use our room to transition, Adam.” Moira said.
“Thanks, Mom, I will.” He gave his mother a kiss on the cheek.
“We will probably be gone by the time you transition back to Seattle .” Moira told him.
“I understand. But it'll be easier for you to keep in touch this time.” Adam smiled at his mother.
“That's true! I hadn't thought of that!” Moira turned to Paul and explained. “I can usually contact Adam telepathically whenever I need to, except that during some assignments it's a little more difficult than others. But staying within the same time period, it should be a breeze! And I can see you more often, too!” Moira beamed and gave Adam a hug.
“Well, not too often.” Adam said to her. “I'd rather you stay out of the Puget Sound area as much as possible. You should avoid the West Coast and the Pacific Rim in general.”
“That won't be easy,” Paul stepped in. “I'm going to have to do quite a bit of business with the Japanese, now that the Nishikawa account has taken off.”
Adam rolled his eyes. “Great! Just what Japan needs is my mother shaking things up.”
“Adam, we won't be sent there if I'm not supposed to be there.” Moira told her son. “Anyway, I have a feeling that we're going to Europe.”
Paul's eyebrows rose. He'd heard nothing from Uncle Stephen regarding any European contacts.
Adam reached out and shook Paul's hand. “Well, Dad, have a good time with your new job. I'll see you when I see you.” Then he headed upstairs to transition.
Moira walked into the kitchen and turned on the light. “I wonder what we should fix for dinner?” she said, as she looked in the refrigerator.
“How did you do that?” Paul asked, following her into the kitchen.
“How did I do what?” Moira said, as she nosed about in the cupboards, pulling out various cans and boxes.
“Turn on the light. I've been wondering how you and Adam can do that. If you can't drive a car without the battery dying, how can you turn on light switches, or handle electrical appliances?”
“In general, I don't.” Moira said. “Your mother has a gas range, for instance. So do you, on Colvos.''
“I wondered why Adam got rid of a perfectly good electric oven and bought himself a gas one.” Paul said. “But what about turning on lights?”
“I do this.” Moira walked over to the wall and brushed her hand near the light switch. The lights went off. Then they went on again.
“I didn't see that.” Paul said, going over to her. “Do it again.”
Moira obliged. Paul watched as her hand came within centimeters of the light switch, but didn't touch it, or the switch plate. But the switch moved to the off position. She moved her hand again and the lights turned on. “Telekinesis.” She explained.
“Amazing.” Paul stared at the light switch.
“It was so hard to teach Adam when he was little. He kept touching the switch and blowing out all the fuses wherever we lived. It wasn't that he couldn't use his telekinesis, it's just that he'd forget.” Moira smiled nostalgically. “I remember picking him up from kindergarten one day, and he had this really glum look on his face.” Moira chuckled at the memory. “‘What's the matter, sweetie?' I asked him. ‘The teacher told me to turn the lights off in the classroom when we went out to recess,' he said. The whole block lost power. Fortunately, it was at the end of the day, and it was sunny out, so they were able to continue school until the final bell -- oh, which they couldn't ring because it was electronic!” More memories came flooding to the surface as Moira continued. “Then, in first grade everything was computerized, you know, the kids took their spelling tests on PCs, and --”
“Where was this?” Paul interrupted. He knew that schools were starting to have computers in the classroom, but he wasn't sure of any that gave each first grader their own PC.
A look of consternation crossed Moira's face. “I can't tell you. It hasn't happened yet,” she said, hesitating before going on. She continued with her story, carefully choosing her words. “I taught Adam to use an eraser to peck out the letters, since the rubber protected the computer from Adam's energy. That was only part of the year, of course. When we were in the fifties it wasn't a problem...” Moira's voice trailed off. “I think I can whip up a casserole with these things,” she said, looking at the food on the counter.
“Was it hard on Adam and you, moving so much?” Paul asked, gently.
“Well, I was used to it. Adam only had difficulty when he made friends. A lot of places he didn't connect to anybody. But once in a while he really bonded with someone, and then we would have to leave.” Moira shook her head sadly. “I think that's why, more than anything, he avoids personal relationships.” She filled a pot of water to boil noodles in.
Paul nodded. “I noticed that. It seems like the only person he's close to in the entire company is… well… me.”
Moira smiled. “Before he knew who you were, he used to contact me and talk about you. I knew who you were instantly, since we often communicate through images rather than words ... if we're in different time periods pictures come through more clearerly than words ... but I couldn't tell him who you were. Orders from Higher up, if you get my drift.”
Paul thought he understood. “Adam had to figure it out on his own?”
“Exactly.” Moira was sautéing some vegetables to mix into the casserole. “He felt drawn to you, but he couldn't figure out why. I was so happy to see you two develop a friendship entirely on your own. I think if either of you had started out knowing who the other was, that may not have happened.”
“Well, if I'd known he was my son from the start, I certainly would have tried to get to know him sooner.” Paul thought of the months Adam had been with the company before they'd met.
“Adam may not have been so eager. He probably would have found another, similar job in the area so he could continue his assignment without meeting you.” Moira said softly.
“Why?” Paul was slightly hurt thinking that Adam would have avoided him if he'd known Paul was his father.
“He felt a lot of ... stigma ... in various places we lived because he was without a father. And yet in our organization, he always felt slightly out of place for having a father. He got it coming and going.” Moira poured the vegetables out of the pan into a big bowl. Then she drained the noodles and added them to the vegetables. She stirred in some seasonings and spooned the mixture into a casserole dish. “Cheese or bread crumbs?” She asked Paul.
“Bread crumbs and parmesan.” Paul said, nibbling on a piece of broccoli.
Moira sprinkled the toppings onto the casserole and popped it in the oven to bake. “That should be ready by the time your mother wakes from her nap.” She picked up the dirty pans and utensils and put them in the sink.
“I'll wash those.” Paul said, turning on the water and adding soap.
“How domestic of you, darling.” Moira said, slipping her arms around him as he began to wash the dishes.
“Ursus domesticus.” Paul quipped.
“God, Paul, no wonder you flunked Latin!” Susan's voice came from the doorway.
She came into the kitchen and sniffed the air. “Something smells good,” she said, and peeked in the oven.
“Moira made a casserole.” Paul said, putting the pans in the dish rack. Moira grabbed a towel and began to dry them.
“Thank you, Moira. I'm starving, but cooking is the last thing I want to do right now,” Susan said gratefully. “Is Mom still asleep?”
“Yes, but she only went down a little while ago, so perhaps we should eat without her. I don't think she'd mind,” Paul replied as he finished the last pot.
“Where's Adam?” Susan asked, looking around.
Paul looked at Moira, who had a little frown on her face. Then, as if she'd gotten an answer to a problem, her face eased. “He just left,” she said.
“ Left? Like to the airport? We could have driven him!” Susan exclaimed.
Moira looked her directly in the eye. “He has some friends from out of town who came and picked him up. He'll be staying at their place for a day or so.”
Susan bought the slight alteration of the truth. “Well, I guess I'll be seeing him in a week or so anyway, so not saying good-bye isn't such a big deal.” Susan said. “And you folks are leaving tomorrow morning?”
“First thing.” Paul dried his hands on the dishtowel by the sink. “It's been some week, hasn't it?”
Susan gave her brother a tired smile. “It sure has.” She gave him a small hug as she prepared to leave the kitchen. “I'm going to check on Mom; if she's not sleeping, she may want to eat with us.” She went upstairs.
“He's gone?” Paul whispered, watching his sister go.
“Yes. I checked.” Moira spoke softly.
“Think of all the frequent flyer miles he's missing out on.” Paul remarked. Then he looked at Moira. “Want to get married when we get home?”
Moira smiled. “I'd love to. Adam won't be there, unfortunately.”
“We could wait.” Paul said, hoping they wouldn't have to. He would have preferred his son to witness the event that would legitimize him as a Marbanks, but he had wanted to be married a week ago.
Moira shook her head. “Adam really wouldn't mind. Part of him will know what's going on anyway. Let's just have Coral and Michael witness it. Short, sweet and to the point.”
Paul put his arms around Moira, and gave her a giant bear hug. He felt on top of the world. He couldn't have been happier. Everything was perfect. Tomorrow they would fly home, and they could be married the day after. After that… who knows?
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