TIME: Part 1
School had already started in late summer in London . Hyde Park swarmed with little uniforms, flashes of navy blue over there, hunter green over here, and in one corner, royal purple. One little girl had discarded her jacket in a crumpled heap on the ground and was running after butterflies in only her uniform summer frock, mauve stripes on white with a starched white collar. Auburn ringlets bounced and glistened as she bobbed and weaved. One particularly large monarch swooped right near her; she grabbed at it and missed. Her momentum plunged her headfirst into the hedge.
"Ow!" she said loudly, and began to cry.
A tall young man with dark brown hair and eyes appeared from behind the bush. "Are you all right?" he asked with concern, as he bent down to examine her face.
"I can't see, my eye hurts," she sobbed. A large, gaping cut was over one eye, bleeding profusely down her cheek.
"Let me see if I can stop the bleeding." he gently cupped her face with his hand and pressed his thumb on the wound. He held it there as her sobs lessened.
"You feel good," she sniffed, innocently.
"Why, thank you," he smiled.
Her form mistress was hurrying up, concerned about the large male stranger crouching over one of her charges.
"I say, what's going on here? Has there been an accident?" she called out.
From around the same hedge, a woman with white blonde hair appeared. "It's all right," she said to the teacher, "he's my son, he's a doctor. The child seems to have scratched her eye."
"Oh, what a silly little girl you are!" the form mistress scolded, more from fear than anger. "And look at your uniform! The jacket is dirty and your frock is stained!"
"Sorry," the little girl mumbled.
The man removed his thumb. A bruise remained where the cut had been. "She's quite lucky, you know," he said to the mistress. "She could have cut her eye."
The little girl looked down at her dress. Instead of blood, there were grass stains. She gingerly felt the bruise. Her hazel eyes looked up into his brown ones. "How did you do that?" she asked in wonder.
"Ann! How rude! Simply thank the good doctor, and we shall be on our way!" Her teacher took her by the arm and began to return to the class.
The little girl looked over her shoulder at the man and the woman. "Thank you!" she called politely. "Whoever you are!" Her teacher pulled her back to their group.
The man and woman disappeared behind the hedge from whence they came.
SWEDEN , CHRISTMAS, 1978
It snowed quite heavily even for Stockholm that year. The narrow sidewalks of Gamla Stan were piled high with snow and people had to walk in the streets. There were no cars, and the old buildings and shops looked much like they had two hundred years ago. Except for people running about in Levi's and clogs, it would have been hard to guess what century it was.
The young man shuffled across the street, his breath visible from his nostrils. He noticed some people standing on the corner by the street lamp and went toward them.
They appeared to be a trio of college students standing around joking. Two were definitely women, so he went up to the third one. At first he had thought it was a man, about 5' 10" in leather boots with curled toes, Laplander boots, he thought they were, and a navy pea jacket, with a beret. The face turned at the sound of him and he saw it was a young woman, late teens or early twenties. She had frizzy red hair stuffed into her hat. Her eyes hardened as he neared. If he'd been a mugger, he would have turned away or been in for a fight.
"Hej, hej. Urshakta mig, det tunnelbana ar" he began.
She interrupted him. "Tala inte Svenska. Tala Engelska."
“Oh. You're an American. Excuse me." The man began again. "I'm looking for the Tunnelbana." His accent was indiscernible.
"I don't think the subway run under Gamla Stan," she frowned. "Let me check my map." She pulled one out of her jacket pocket and began unfolding it.
"Are you a tourist?" the man asked.
"Sort of. My dad's stationed here. I'm just visiting from school. There is a Gamla Stan T-bana stop. Look, here we are, and there's the stop," she poked at the map. "You've a bit of a walk."
He looked down, memorizing the route. Then he looked up and smiled at her, his brown eyes looking suddenly warm. "Tak su mycket," he said, taking his leave.
"You're welcome," she grinned back. "Don't freeze."
"I'll try not to," he called, as he disappeared into the darkness. He could hear the group speaking English as he walked away.
"Your new perm makes you look like Little Orphan Annie," one said to the girl in boots.
"Shut up," she said. "Let's go eat. What about the Pizzeria Piraten?"
"Fine with me," someone else said.
One of them started humming 'The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow' but Adam had rounded the corner and didn't hear the girl's reaction.
Adam found himself walking home in a torrential downpour. He always hated transitioning back to his starting point. When it was his own home, that was fine; but this time it had been his office, and he hadn't ridden his bike the day he left. He hadn't wanted to leave it in the office for people to wonder about when he was gone. So he had to use the bus to get home. Fortunately, the bus stop was only five blocks away, but with it raining so heavily he was soaked to the skin by the time he got to his front door.
There was a soggy note thumb-tacked to his door. He gingerly removed it without it tearing too much and took it inside. He left it on the kitchen table while he went to peel out of his clothes and find dry ones. It was cold in the house, and Percy was nowhere in sight. Adam wasn't worried; Percy was smart. That old cat probably got himself adopted next door for the week. Dressed, with warmth returning to his chilled bones, he went to look at the note.
" Adam -- sorry we couldn't paint your house last week like you asked us to. It was monsoon season in Seattle . The weatherman said next week would be dry. Would you like us to do it then? Let us know. -- Jam
PS we got your cat. Neela says get yourself another one, she ain't giving it up."
Adam grinned. He had liked Neela and Jam Johnson from the first day they moved in. Adam remembered sitting by his front window, meditating, when he heard their van pull up. Not bothering to open his eyes, he monitored their progress by their voices and sounds. Three voices, two female, one male, all joking and laughing as they struggled with unwieldy furniture and cardboard boxes. Then he heard a slight scream, a yell, and then one of the female voices unleashed a surprising vocabulary of curses. He opened his eyes to see them struggling with an oak bed frame, an African-American couple on one end, and a Caucasian woman under the other end. That was when Adam had leaped up and gone out to help them.
He remembered lifting the bed frame off the woman, and being impressed she had attempted to take one end by herself; it was quite heavy.
"Thanks, neighbor," the man said. "Neela, I told you we should have taken this thing apart before we moved it." He was tall and lanky, in a tee shirt and sweats. He had a little diamond stud in one ear.
"Jamal, I was not going to let you take your screwdriver to my grandmother's treasured oak bed frame. It has stayed together and in good shape for fifty years, and you are not going to mess it up!" She was short and well rounded, in a patterned jump suit. Her black eyes flashed at him.
"Great, so you let us mess up our friend," Jam responded.
"Guys, guys, cool it. I'm fine. Just a few minor war wounds," the woman stood up. She was tall, fair, and was wearing painter's overalls and had a white painter's hat covering her head. She also had paint spattered on her arms. She turned to Adam and smiled. "My hero. Thanks."
Adam shrugged. "No problemo. I just happened to be in the neighborhood. You guys need some help?"
"Please," Neela said. "We just have a few more things, but this is definitely the heaviest."
"You said it, mama," Jam commented.
"Your mama," Neela retorted, still a little ticked off at him.
The white woman took the opposite corner of the bed frame from Adam. She introduced herself. "I'm Annie, and these are my friends Neela and Jam, your new neighbors."
"Hi, I'm Adam," he nodded at them, adjusting his grip on the bed frame.
They carried the cumbersome object down the walkway, and had an interesting challenge getting it in the front door, with Neela squealing not to scratch it all the way into the house. Jam and Adam finally turned it sideways, and managed to angle it in between themselves. The women stood out on the front steps and watched the men take it into the bedroom by themselves.
Adam helped with the rest of the boxes and stayed for pizza, but Annie left because she was finishing a job. She was doing the trim on a house in Wallingford . It turned out the three worked together; their business was called 'The Three Housepainteers'.
Adam suggested them when his parents decided the Ballard house needed painting. They were the only painters he knew, but he also liked them; so he felt comfortable having them swarming all over his house. Of course, he would have preferred to have them do the work while he wasn't home, but it looked like that would be impossible now. He wondered if he could stay at his folks' place on Colvos next week.
The phone rang, pulling Adam back to the present.
"Adam, it's Jam. Neela asked me to call to make sure you weren't a burglar or nothing." Jam sounded tolerantly amused. "Did you get my note?"
"Yes, I did. Next week is fine," Adam said.
"Great," Jam responded. "Now ask for your cat back."
"Nah, you can keep it," Adam joked. He heard Neela in the background. "Did he say we could keep it, Jam?"
"No he did not," Jam said to his wife. "He's coming to get it right now, aren't you Adam?"
"You can just send him home," Adam teased.
"He'll be right over," Jam told his wife, and hung up the phone.
Adam knocked on their door and Neela answered. She threw her arms around Adam, which always caught him a little off guard. Although he'd spent most of his life on the West Coast, he didn't get into the hugging thing. Neela, originally from Virginia , hugged everyone. She was the epitome of an earth mother; everyone, no matter how old, was her child.
"Adam, how was your trip?" she ushered him into the house. "Where did you go?"
Adam answered; relieved he could be truthful this time. "To Connecticut . My grandfather died."
"Oh, that's too bad, I'm so sorry. Were you close?" she sat him down at their kitchen table and pulled some pecan pie out of the 'fridge. She never asked if he was hungry; she simply fed him whenever he came over. She thought he was too thin. Jam had been thinner, when they first moved in, but now even his 6' 6" frame was showing some extra meat.
"Never met him before, actually." Adam gratefully took the slice. He was starved.
"You want milk with that?" she asked. Adam nodded, his mouth full, so she poured him a glass.
An old Siamese cat leapt up on the table and began to go after Adam's plate.
"Oh, shoo, Percy, you pig, you," Neela said. "You're a piggy wiggy, yes you are. Here, you can have this." She put one of their finished plates on the floor, and Percy got to go after the remaining crust.
Adam looked around the room. It was laid out the same way as his house. The front door opened directly into the main room. There was a sitting room off the main room divided by glass doors. One bedroom and a bathroom were off a small hallway in the far corner, and a kitchen leading to the back yard. Only theirs had a laundry room/garden shed in the back.
Jam watched Adam studying the place. "So, architect, what would you do to this place to fix it up?"
Adam smiled. He constantly remodeling his own home in his mind, but never acted upon it. For one, his parents owned it; for another, he didn't really care. It was just an interesting mental exercise.
"Well, depends on how much I'd want to spend. All the money in the world? Put a second floor on this place and attach the laundry area to the house." Jam and Neela shook their heads at him. "Well, do you need an extra bedroom?"
"Bingo," said Jam.
Adam got the feeling that Neela was pregnant, but didn't say anything. She was sensitive about her weight. "Simplest thing would be to wall off part of the sitting room, leaving space for one regular door. Of course, I don't like the idea of the bedroom having a door right there by the entrance. I'd probably wall the whole thing off and put a door opening into the hallway part, by the bathroom. Now, that would make this whole living area darker, because you won't have advantage of the light from the window in the sitting area, but there are things you can do about that."
"Such as?" Jam stroked his chin thoughtfully.
"Well, a skylight is expensive, but one right over the entrance would help. Or, simply a long mirror going the length of the new wall would give the impression of depth and reflect any light from the window right here." Adam pointed at the window where, in his house, he liked to sit. At their house, there was a ficus tree instead of a chair.
"Well, we'll think about it," Neela had a small smile on her lips. "Who knows, we may need a second bedroom some day."
With that, Adam took his feline companion, thanked them for their care and hospitality, and returned home.
His house was so different from theirs. Their place was crammed full of furniture and books and plants. They'd painted the inside in bright colors - sky blue for the living room, orange for the sitting room, yellow for the kitchen, and the bathroom was a light purple. He didn't know what color their bedroom was. His house was as sparse as a monk's cell, and still had the white interior latex that was there when he'd moved in, some five years ago. He did have plants. A Christmas cactus hung near the chair by the window, where he meditated. He had a couch along one wall, opposite a television, with a very healthy, large begonia on a stand beside it. A Formica table and chairs graced the kitchen and there was a giant, sprawling spider plant on top of the refrigerator. An African violet lived in his bathroom above the toilet. In his bedroom, by the king-sized futon on the floor, was a sturdy rubber tree whose pot held the clamp for his bedside lamp.
Adam deposited Percy on the floor and made himself a cup of tea. He took it to his chair and sat down to meditate. He turned inward, grounded and centered, and began to run energy through his body. He worked on releasing the remnants of his trip, the relatives he'd met, his grandfather's funeral, and then he released concerns about work and his upcoming projects. Then he slowed down, focused within, and did some more intense energy work.
The next week, the Three Housepainteers took over his home. The first two days they patched, spackled and scraped away old paint. The next two days they taped the windows and doors and sprayed the house robin's egg blue. The final day, they removed the tape and painted the trim white.
Adam tried to be home as little as possible, but often they began before he left for work and were still there when he returned. He suspected them, not entirely seriously, of taking three hour lunch breaks and being there early and late just to show they were working. One of the things he liked to do when he got home from work was to sit and meditate by the window. He had been avoiding doing so all week, he'd put a chair in his bedroom for the purpose, but on Friday he sat down by the window out of habit.
He had been meditating for nearly thirty minutes, when he heard Jam come from around the back, where he and Neela had been working, and start talking to Annie. He hadn't realized she'd been painting the trim around the front door and the window he'd been sitting behind. This surprised him, because he usually felt people near him even if he couldn't hear them. He felt Neela and Jam through their house into his, often. But this person kept her aura close about her. Interesting.
"We're almost done in back, how's it going here?" Jam asked her in a loud voice.
"Shh. He's meditating." Annie whispered.
"Heck, he can't hear us then, he's in the ozone," Jam drawled.
Exasperated hiss. "You don't know a whole lot about meditating, do you?"
"Well, ex-cuuuuse me, Ann my man." Low laugh.
"Ex-cuuuse you, Strawberry Jam." Higher laugh.
"What are you two doing? Are you done yet? I want to get these brushes washed and get me some supper." Neela entered into the conversation.
"Hm. Neela, have you noticed how much you've been eating lately?" Annie asked.
"What's it to you?" Neela retorted.
"Nothing to me, but you may want to talk to Adam about that second bedroom soon." Ann said smugly.
"Jam, she's doing it again. She's using 'the eye' on me. Make her stop!" Neela said, joking.
"You watch yourself, girl, you gonna get yourself into a mess of trouble you running around readin' people's auras and shit like that," Jam teased.
"Oh, Strawberry, quitcherbitchin'. There, I'm done. Let's go bug Adam, as if we haven't been already," Annie said.
Adam took this as a cue, so he opened his eyes, stretched, and bent over and touched the floor. Then he stood up and opened the door on the trio, Annie in front with her hand raised up to knock.
She turned and stuck her tongue out at Jam. "Told you we were bothering him."
"You weren't bothering me," Adam said, "You were actually quite entertaining. So it's done then?" He stepped out on the porch to survey the work. Immediately, he sensed the porch area had been grounded, and the front of the building looked clearer. Now he understood something that had been perplexing him since they'd begun the job. Most of the time, after they'd left for the day, he'd had to spend time removing their energy from his home. He'd sit down, go into a meditative state and visualize releasing their energy back to them. But he'd find these - bare patches. Parts of the outer walls that had been painted, but with no one's energy on them, like they'd been cleared of the painter's energy. Looking at the front porch after Annie had been working on it, he was able to see that it was Annie who had been doing it. Neela and Jam obviously had no awareness of energy. They were good people, and Adam liked them, but they were like everyone he knew -- not energetically aware. Annie knew something. Adam wasn't sure exactly what or how much, but she obviously could ground, and had techniques for cleansing energy. It was too bad that he couldn't talk to her about it.
Annie was watching Adam look at the house. "What don't you like about it?".
"What do you mean?" Adam asked. "I think you did a great job."
"Well, thanks so much for telling me. I mean, you're staring at it like it's the wrong color or something," Annie folded her arms across her chest. Normally she didn't talk to customers so bluntly, but Adam was more of their friend. It was his parents who had hired them.
"Listen, let me write you out an invoice and you can send it to the folks," Jam headed next door to get his invoice book.
"Oh, I'm authorized to pay you," Adam said. "They'll ... be gone for a while; I don't know when they'll be back, so they're going to reimburse me."
"I thought your dad worked with you," Neela said. "Oh, that's right, they just got married, didn't they?"
Adam chuckled, mostly because Annie's jaw dropped to the floor and her expression looked
"I work for Marbanks Architects, and my dad is Paul Marbanks," he explained.
"But I thought your name was Adam Paulson," Annie looked more confused.
"That's the name my mother put on my birth certificate," this is where Adam had to start hedging the truth. "My dad didn't know about me until recently. I mean, I started working there five years ago, but it wasn't until my mother visited two weeks ago that he met her again and then he found out who I was, am, I mean."
"And they got married on the spot? After, what, thirty some odd years?" Annie still was having a hard time absorbing all the conflicting pictures.
"Well, they've seen each other at different times throughout the past three decades, she just never told him about me. Because they never spent enough time together for her to bring up the subject," Adam said.
"So they're not on their honeymoon?" Neela asked.
Adam smiled, "Well, yes they are. Dad made a career change -- he's become a kind of international representative for our firm. We've been branching out into all sorts of international contacts, and someone was needed to go to all these overseas meetings. Stephen -- the CEO and, well, I guess he's my great uncle, was getting too old for all the travel that was required. Dad and my mother basically want to keep moving, and this was far more attractive than buying a Winnebago and going to Arizona every winter."
"Oooh. So where is he now?" Neela was raptly interested.
Adam squinted, "I can't quite say. Somewhere in Europe , I think. Although they were planning a stop in the Canary Islands , but I can't remember if that was on the way there or on the way back."
"Cool," Annie said. "I'd love to do that, when I'm older and richer. Travel everywhere."
Adam nodded. "It seems exciting, that's for sure. But I kind of like being rooted somewhere."
"Oh, but the earth is our home and we can be rooted anywhere on it," Annie quipped.
"I'm hungry," Neela interrupted. "Anyone want pizza? I can call Domino's."
"I'm game," said Annie.
"Adam, you want pizza with us?" Neela asked. This had become a regular thing since they moved in. About three times a month he had pizza at their place.
Adam wanted to say no, because he wanted to meditate for a few more hours, but found himself saying yes, instead. He figured there was something he was supposed to learn from interacting with them that evening, or else he was tired and blown out from his trip and so didn't own his space around them.
Sitting in Neela and Jam's living room, Jam and Adam were having the vegetarian special, while Neela and Annie were eating canadian bacon and pineapple.
"Take your hat off, Annie," Neela said.
"Please, Neela, we're eating." Annie made a disgusted face. "I've been painting and sweating all week. I desperately need a shampoo."
Jam brought out two beers from the kitchen. "I know you don't drink, Adam, and Annie, honey I know you don't drink, but Neela and I deserve these after this week."
Annie raised her eyebrows. "Neela shouldn't drink in her condition."
Neela shook her finger at Annie. "You cut that out. No way could I be PG right now. We haven't even started trying yet."
Annie practically leapt off the couch. "YET. You said yet! So you're trying?"
Jam shook his head. "We're about to start trying."
Neela agreed with Jam. "These things take time, you know. Nobody gets pregnant right off the bat."
"Well, when they're trying to, anyway," Annie said. "I think it's a Murphy's Law. If you try not to, you get pregnant, if you try to, it won't happen. Something like that." She glanced at Adam. "So you don't drink, eh? Why, are you in recovery?"
Adam shook his head. "Only from my grandfather's funeral," he joked. "I just can't handle it. Knocks me out for half a day."
"He came over to our place for dinner and we served him this Ethiopian honey wine, which he thought was some kind of juice. He took like one sip," Jam started.
Neela finished. "He was out, totally out, before I'd even served dinner. And we couldn't wake him up. We considered carrying him back to his place, but he was too heavy. We had to drag him to the couch!"
"Honest to God, he didn't wake up until nine the next morning. Fourteen hours later." Jam laughed.
Annie looked at Adam reflectively. "I don't drink because I come from an alcoholic home."
Adam had a flood of images come towards him. "Oh," he managed to say as he tried to sort everything out.
"And your husband, Annie," Neela said.
"Neela!" Annie said. "I do not have to let the entire world know my personal history."
"You're married?" Adam found himself asking, although he was inclined to say nothing.
"He was ... killed by a drunk driver," Annie said shortly.
"Annie's a widow," Neela stated.
"White widow," Annie quipped.
"Merry widow," Jam added.
"Tired widow," Annie rejoined. "I've gotta go now, or I'll not make it home. Wish my Geo had auto pilot. Wouldn't that be great? Get in, program where you're going, take off."
"They'll have that someday," Adam said, and then quickly added, "I've read they're researching it."
"Rats, and I was going to patent the idea," Annie said sarcastically. "Well, ‘night, all. Sweet dreams." She looked at Neela. "Baby, baby, baby."
"Shut up," Neela said. "Go home."
"Bye." Annie was out the door.
Adam left soon after. He meditated for a short while -- only forty five minutes -- and went to bed. He lay staring at the ceiling, thinking. He learned so much from his friends next door. More than they could possibly know. A lot about human relationships, a lot about intimate relationships, something he chose not to have. Neela and Jam were like Mutt and Jeff, they had become parts of one whole, instead of two wholes each interdependent on the other. They probably didn't even know whose thought was whose inside their heads. But they were happy, and thinking another's thoughts didn't cause them any apparent confusion. He thought about his parents, how each of them had given up everything they'd worked for in their respective vocations to be together. He liked his parents as separate individuals, and didn't know quite what to make of them as a couple. He yawned and rolled over on his side. Adam liked his futon and his quilt. And he liked his solitude. So nice to be alone after such a long time with so many people ...
When he woke up -- or rather, came into awareness -- his eyes were closed and he was having the most amazing sensations. He'd never felt them before. Warmth, heat, intensity. Someone was sitting on him. He was -- inside – someone who was rhythmically moving on top of him. He felt their excitement raise, and little electric shocks ran through him. He grabbed their hips and opened his eyes, trying to focus. All he could see were a pair of large white breasts over his face, undulating up and down. Then the person climaxed, and this mane of red hair flipped back and forth, back and forth. As their movement slowed, Adam felt overcome by his own urgency. He gripped her hips tighter and began thrusting into her. His heart was in his throat, he could hardly breathe. He couldn't stop, he had to keep going. He felt the veins in his face stand out, and just when he thought he was going to explode, he did -- only inside her. The most intense and curious feeling of enormous relief, as wave after ecstatic wave washed through him. He looked up at this woman, and all he could see was white breasts and red hair. He opened his mouth to ask, "Who are you?" When...
Adam sat up in bed. He was alone. Obviously he'd been dreaming, although his body hadn't known the difference. On his top sheet there was a warm, wet stain spreading. He was panting, and sweat stood out in beads on his forehead. He'd never had such a vivid dream. Ever. He'd had a few half-fantasies as a teen-ager, until he'd begun to actively curb his thoughts and his bodily desires. He'd not allowed himself to view anything graphic in the media, and had no images in his head that matched what he'd just experienced.
Adam was a virgin. In body, that is, on the physical plane. But obviously not any more on the astral plane. Who was that woman? Any why? He lurched out of bed and, shaking, went to the shower. Steaming water poured over his head and body, but he couldn't get the dream out of his mind. He kept seeing those breasts moving up and down over him, and that hair.
"Shit!” He turned off the hot water. He stood there under the now freezing deluge until his body was an icicle. There. He turned off the shower and got out. As he was drying himself off, physical memories of being inside the woman returned. He could get the image out of his head, but not out of his body. Who? Who was that woman?
The question nagged at him throughout the morning. On his bike on the way to work he had a couple of near accidents. He'd suddenly catch sight of a redhead in some Honda and he'd veer into the path of a bus or car. This really annoyed him. He was used to having clarity, concentration and focus. He did not like his mind being preoccupied.
At work, waiting for the elevators, a woman with only medium length auburn hair was beside him. He found himself becoming uncharacteristically distracted and agitated. The elevator doors opened and the woman and others got on.
"Go ahead," Adam said to them. "My bike will take up too much space. I'll take the next one." As the doors closed, he hiked his bicycle over his shoulders and headed towards the stairs. His office was only on the tenth floor, it wouldn't be that hard a climb.
At Marbanks Architects, Adam went straight to his office without saying hello to his secretary and shuts the door. His closed door was a signal to not be disturbed. He sat down and meditated for a half hour, trying to erase the recurring image of breasts and hair, and the recurring sensations of warmth and pleasure.
A little knock at the door interrupted his work. "What is it?" He tried to hide his irritation.
"So sorry to disturb you, Mr. Paulson, er, Marbanks. I thought you might like to know the staff meeting is starting," his secretary's voice replied.
"Oh, thanks, Pat. I'll be right there," Adam grabbed his calendar and some papers off his desk and went to the conference room.
Michael Takatsuka, the head architect, was already there. "Hey, Adam, how are you doing? We missed you, man."
Adam grinned, "Glad to be back. Connecticut was a trip."
"I can imagine. Hey, what about Paul? Have you heard from him. How's he holding up?" Michael and Paul had been friends since college.
"Surprisingly well. Mom and he are still on their wedding honeymoon," Adam explained.
Michael nodded. "I just got off the phone from Stephen. He told me about Paul's proposal. That totally blows my mind." Michael had a tendency, when talking to Paul or about Paul, to slip into vernacular from their college days. "But, I guess if Coral and I had no kid at home, we'd probably jump at the chance to travel the world." Actually, their daughter was nineteen and living at home while attending the University of Washington .
"That's right. I forgot Michelle was home," Adam said. "What happened to Julliard?"
"Oh, the city was too big, she didn't like being alone and far from home. Usual stuff. So we said come home, finish your undergrad stuff, and you can go to the Big Apple or anywhere for your graduate work," Michael said. "Anyway, Coral loves having her home. She wants to postpone the empty nest thing for as long as possible."
By this time the room was full and the meeting was about to start. It was one of the quirks of the office to refer to things in Star Trek terms, and today was no exception. Francis, the administrative assistant, had downloaded some images off the Internet and their meeting minutes were decorated with photos of the various Enterprises and other Star Trek vessels.
"All right, Francis. Good job on the artwork!" someone said, and everyone applauded.
Francis, more of a PBS fan herself, smiled and acknowledged the acclaim.
Michael started the meeting.
"Okay. As probably not everyone knows, Paul is transitioning in his position with the firm." This arose murmurs in the group. "Paul has decided to accept a new position with Marbanks Architects to operate as its representative in international affairs overseas. That means he won't be coming into the office very much, if at all." He looked over at Adam.
"Oh, he'll stop in from time to time," Adam reassured the group. "He's not gone forever."
"Well, I just got off the horn from the Admiral at Star Fleet headquarters," Michael continued. He was referring to the CEO Stephen Marbanks in their San Francisco Office. "And I was worried he'd try to push me into the administrative thing again. But he told me someone already had the job.” Michael gestured towards Adam. "Mr. Spock." A general round of affirmative noises arose.
Adam was stunned. He looked at Michael. "Me?" He had told Stephen at the funeral in Connecticut that he'd consider the job. He hadn't actually agreed to it.
"Sorry I didn't have a chance to break it to you before the meeting, Adam, but Pat said you were 'in conference'." Michael smiled. Usually, Adam's office door was open to everyone, and usually everyone stopped by to see him at least once during the day. But even Adam got overloaded occasionally, so when his door was closed, people had learned to leave him alone. “I assume you'll be taking on the responsibilities immediately?”
"Well, I was hoping for some time to adjust." Adam wasn't certain if it would be appropriate for him to be in a position of such responsibility. He wasn't certain if this assignment would be going on indefinitely, as it had so far.
"Well, let me know, soon. I'm anxious to let go of all this paperwork stuff as soon as possible." Michael pointed to the stack in front of him.
The meeting continued with various people reporting on their projects and brainstorming future projects, but Adam didn't hear much of what was going on. He would have to rely on Francis' minutes to tell him later the details he was missing. Should he take the administrative position? If he did, would he be free to leave at a moment's notice and be gone for as long as two weeks? It didn't happen very often, but every six months to a year he was required to be gone, sometimes only for a long weekend, sometimes for a week or more. He couldn't very well carry a cell-phone with him as he was usually in a different time period. By the time the meeting ended he had pretty much decided he'd have to turn the job down, but needed to confirm it with a higher authority.
When the meeting was over, Michael stopped Adam as he was leaving the conference room.
"You okay, buddy? You didn't seem quite with it during the meeting." Michael sounded concerned.
"Jet lag," Adam said.
"Oh, yeah, it's what time for you now?" Michael appeared relieved.
" Two thirty in the afternoon, but realize that nine am there is six am here, so I've been up for a while." Adam didn't say that jet lag wasn't the reason he'd been up so long.
"Well, if you need to leave early or anything, just let me know," Michael told him.
"Yeah? Thanks, but I think I'll be okay. I'm gonna go back to my office and be 'in conference' with myself for a while." Adam headed back to his space.
Back in his office with the door closed, he meditated again, this time on whether or not to agree to the new position. He kept getting an affirmative, and then having difficulty accepting the answer as it conflicted with all his pre-conceived notions about it interfering with his 'real' work. He decided to put off answering Michael until the next day.
Twenty four hours later, he was still getting an okay to accept the new position, so he did. He concluded that maybe there was a reason for him doing so that he didn't know of yet. Perhaps it had to do with his work on stabilizing Mount Rainier . He would still be able to do that with regularity while managing the administrative position. So he met with Michael and accepted. Everyone was ecstatic. They threw him a big party at the end of the week, complete with balloons and a belly-gram. Adam was relieved that the dancer had black hair.
Then began a period of intense work activity while Adam took over the reigns of the Seattle branch of Marbanks Architects. Adam quite enjoyed working overtime so he was as happy as a clam.
Some four months into the new job, he got a phone call.
"Adam? It's Paul."
"Dad! You guys are on Colvos?" Adam asked.
"I don't know why I bothered phoning; you and Moira are always communicating telepathically. You probably already know everywhere we've been and everything we've done." Paul sounded a tad wounded, but he still had a sense of humor. Paul was the only one of the three that aged along linear time; that is, he was not a time traveler. Moira and Adam had bodies that aged linearly, but moved throughout time during a hundred year period, wherever the Universe sent them. Because Adam was Paul's son, through Moira, his vibration was lower than his mother's, who was created, not born. Moira could stay no place longer than three weeks, without there being dire consequences. Adam had the ability to stay in one place for increasingly longer periods of time, with only occasional 'tune-ups' and assignments else where.
"Well, I haven't heard it from your point of view," Adam chuckled. Paul had let go of everything to travel with Moira. Unfortunately, he was limited to this time period. Adam was curious to see what had happened since April with his parents. Moira could not have stayed corporeal for that entire period of time. "What say I come out for dinner?"
"Excellent. We'll see you when you get here," Paul sounded pleased.
"Should I tell anyone else you're here?" Adam asked before hanging up.
"Er, no, not just yet," Paul said. There was something to his tone of voice, but for some reason, Adam was unable to read it.
Odd, thought Adam. "Well, okay then, I'll see you soon," he said, and rang off.
At the end of the workday, Adam strapped on his bike helmet and headed for the Fauntleroy Ferry Dock in West Seattle . He made good time and, being a cyclist instead of a car, whizzed past the line and got on the 6:35 boat. It was shortly after seven when he got to his folks' place. He hoisted his bike over his shoulder and jogged down the fifty steps to the house on the beach. Paul was sitting out on the deck.
"Hey, Paul, where's Mom?" Adam tended to call Paul 'Dad' and 'Paul' interchangeably, as he had only recently been introduced as his son, and had already established a relationship with him as a friend.
Paul looked up at Adam, "I don't know." His voice held a quiet anguish. "She went out for a walk on the beach shortly before I called you. She hasn't been back since."
Adam looked at the beach. It was high tide, and the water came up to the edge of the property. "She could be stranded on somebody's lawn right now," Adam suggested, knowing that was unlikely. There were paths through the woods she could have taken to have at least reached the road.
Paul nodded, and stared back out at the water. His forehead was furrowed and his eyes looked older than his forty six years. He had the same thick head of brown hair and dark eyes as Adam, but their features were slightly different. Their builds were similar, both were tall and broad-shouldered, although Paul showed a little padding around the waist. Adam sat beside his father. He understood his unspoken anxiety. Their earlier relationship had been characterized by Moira disappearing at the end of three days to three weeks. It had taken Paul time to overcome the fear that she would do so again, and that he might not see her again for many years.
"Have you guys been consistently together since April?" Adam asked.
Paul shook his head. "I had a scare two months ago. We were in Norway in a little cottage on the rocks by Sandefjord. She was looking very pale, and I asked if she needed a doctor. She said, no, she just had to get some help. Then she sat down to meditate, let her head drop to her chest and --” Paul drew in a deep, shuddering breath, "disappeared. Right before my eyes."
Adam, who had grown up with Moira and had transitioned with her numerous times, had never actually seen her leave because they usually left together. But he could understand that, to Paul, it would have been terrifying.
"How long was she gone?" Adam was curious. She had never transitioned back into the same place; unlike Adam, who always came back to Seattle at the same linear time period he'd left.
Paul dropped his head. "Three days. I was frantic. I almost called you, but the cottage had no phone and the cell phone wouldn't work. I didn't want to go down to the town to use the public phone because I didn't want to leave the cottage. Finally, the day before we were due to leave, I'm sitting on the edge of the bed and -- she reappears in the same chair."
"Really?" Adam said, curious to find out Moira's version of events.
"And, Adam, get this. Her hair is gold again." Paul said.
"Oh, was it her from an earlier time?" Adam asked.
"No, no, she remembered everything. It's just that, when she went wherever you guys go, her body got a tune-up or an adjustment or whatever you call it --"
"Tune-up is fine -” Adam interjected.
"Well, anyway, " Paul continued, eyeing Adam a little suspiciously, like Adam held some secrets Paul was not in on, "she said she'd learnt some astral techniques so that she could stay corporeal longer. It seems to have worked, until now; she's been with me constantly since that time."
“Since June? No kidding? Two months! No wonder she's gone now.” Adam found it amazing. More amazing still, there had been no natural disaster associated with her remaining corporeal. But then, that used to happen when they stayed in one place, and Paul had made sure they moved every week or two.
"She's gone? You can feel it?" Paul almost wailed
Adam looked up the hill. "Well, she's not dead, I'd feel that. Have you talked to Aggie? Maybe she's seen her. She has a better view of the beach than you do."
"I already thought of that. Aggie's not home. I did stand out on her deck and look for quite a while." Paul turned to Adam. "I don't know if I can take this anymore. Every time I'm with your mother it's a roller coaster ride. In between times, I get my life stabilized and everything's predictable and then she comes into it again. Now I do everything in my power to ensure us staying together and she still disappears on me."
Adam nodded, understanding but without sympathy. "It's been your choice every time, Paul. You must like riding roller coasters."
Paul stared at him like Adam was nuts. And then he laughed, a short, sad, guffaw. "You must be right. Or else I wouldn't keep doing it."
"You look like you could use a cup of tea or something." Adam said. "Let's go inside."
Paul followed Adam into the house and sat on the couch while Adam went into the kitchen to boil some water. As he was walking back out to the living room, he noticed a pair of women's sandals by the stairs. They were covered with sand.
"Dad, while you were waiting for Mom, did you happen to check inside the house?" Adam asked.
Paul turned around. "No; I mean, she's outside. What? Are you saying she beamed herself back here or something?"
Adam stared at him, "Paul, we don't do that sort of stuff. All I'm saying is, did you check upstairs?"
In a flash, Paul was up the stairs and on the landing looking into the bedroom. He dropped to his knees and began to laugh. Adam slowly climbed the stairs and stood behind him. There was Moira, curled up in their bed fast asleep. She woke up at the sound of Paul's laughter. Adam was surprised by her appearance. Her hair had returned to its golden color, but she looked much thinner and paler than the last time she'd seen him.
"Hi, Mom!" he called in to her.
"Oh, Adam, is that you? What time is it? I must have been asleep all afternoon." Moira stretched, cat-like, and rolled out of bed.
Paul stood up. " All afternoon? When did you come in?"
"Oh, you were on the phone to Adam and I didn't want to disturb you, but I was just exhausted. I mean, really trembling with exhaustion. I realized I needed to check out for a little while to renew myself. I thought I'd be up in an hour." She went to Paul. "I'm sorry, honey, were you worried?"
Paul put his arms around her and buried his face in her shoulder. She held him tight, patting his back. "Maybe I should wear a beeper or something." She smiled at Adam.
Adam grinned back, "Only if you want Dad to retain his sanity."
The three of them worked together in the kitchen making dinner. Paul wanted to show off some of the culinary skills he'd picked up on his travels. He whipped up an authentic Swiss fondue, minus the wine of course, while Adam sliced French bread and Moira made a salad.
At dinner, Adam listened to Paul -- restored to his jovial self and looking about ten years younger -- regale him with stories of their travels. Adam had never seen Paul so happy and so content. His mother looked happy, too, but strained. He could see how difficult it was for her to maintain the same existence day after day. She was used to transitioning every three days to three weeks, getting a break from her body as it received a tune-up while she was briefed on her next assignment. She no longer received such briefings. Everything she was doing now was along linear lines with no clues to the future. At one point Paul had to use the rest room, and Adam took the opportunity to directly communicate with his mother.
How are you really doing? He thought.
Oh, I'm okay. It's very difficult, though. How do you do it? She asked in her mind.
Well, I meditate a lot, and I avoid intimate relationships. Adam chuckled aloud.
I guess I understand now. But I'll tell you, Adam, what I'm experiencing right now may be difficult but it would be hell without your father. With all the aches and pains and energies a body has to deal with, thank God there's sex! Moira smiled broadly at him.
At that point, Paul returned. "Have you two been talking about me? Telepathically, that is?"
Adam almost choked on his bread and Moira just gave Paul a Cheshire cat smile.
"So, Paul, why don't you want the office to know about your visit?" Adam asked when he could talk again.
"Well, I'm not going to be here long enough, for one thing. We should be gone in a few days. We have to stop in San Francisco to meet with Stephen and then we're off to New Zealand ." Paul said.
"With stops in Tahiti and Fiji ." Moira added.
"You've taken over the reigns at the office, anyway, Adam. They don't need me anymore," Paul said without regret.
"That's not the point. I think Michael would like to see you, for one thing." Adam said. "You have friends there."
Paul and Moira looked at each other. "I don't think it would do any harm. We could call them and see them outside of the office, if you'd like." Moira said.
Paul nodded. Adam suddenly got the picture that Paul had the idea that the people at the office thought he'd abandoned them to go gallivanting the world with his new bride. In reality, they thought no such thing.
"You know, the office only thinks you're working as the Marbanks' International Agent." Adam said.
Paul looked relieved. "Good. But I still don't want to take the time to go in. I'm here for such a short time."
The conversation turned to other matters. His parents were thinking of selling the Ballard house and wanted to see if Adam would like to live on Colvos. Adam asked for time to think about it. They talked about property improvements, and Adam mentioned the Ballard house needed painting, and that his neighbors were painters. Before dinner was over, Paul decided to call Michael and suggest dinner the following night. While he was in the kitchen on the phone, it was Moira's turn to inquire about Adam's well being.
Who is she, Adam? Moira thought.
Who is who? Adam said, fighting the image from his mind.
The one you keep trying not to think of, his mother teased.
I don't know. I had ... an astral experience. Adam tried to keep the image from his thoughts but from his mother's expression he could tell she saw everything.
"My, my, my, we are precocious, aren't we? If we can call a thirty one -- are you thirty-one or thirty-two now? -- year-old precocious." Moira was smiling. "It looks like it was fun."
FUN? I wouldn't call it fun. It was disturbing. It wasn't my choice. It isn't my choice. I don't know why it happened, or who the person is. Adam was clenching his fork.
Of course it was your choice, Adam, or at least your agreement. Nothing happens to us without our agreement. Perhaps you're doing on the astral plane what you won't permit yourself to do in the physical. Perhaps you are supposed to learn the lessons that one learns when one is in an intimate relationship, and the only way you're letting yourself find out is on the astral. Maybe you're resisting yourself. Moira was gazing at Adam with her Pacific-blue eyes.
Adam frowned at her. Maybe I need to learn to control myself better on the astral.
"Maybe you should let the Universe be in control," Moira smiled.