TIME: Part 5
The week passed quickly, and suddenly it was Friday afternoon. Adam rode his bike from work to the Colvos ferry. Standing on the car deck during the voyage across he could see Mount Rainier , pink and blue from the reflection of the sunset. He could see the sun setting on the opposite side of the water, north of Colvos, towards Bremerton and the Olympic Mountains . He was surprised that the sight brought up such strong feelings in him, and realized he'd formed an attachment with the area. Having grown up moving every few weeks from time period to time period, Adam had never really become attached to a place. He'd always found his center in himself and with God. Even though his connection to his mother was fairly strong, there wasn't an attachment. It was more of knowing this being, and occasionally they would physically meet and then part. He'd lived in Seattle for seven years now, but this was the first time he'd noticed an attachment. Perhaps this was part of the change he was going through. He'd have to ask his mother for her insight.
He could smell dinner as he got off his bike at their mailbox. He hoisted the bike over one shoulder and trotted down the fifty steps, his mouth watering. Indian spices. Probably his mother was doing the cooking tonight. He opened the door without knocking.
"What, no sushi?" Adam joked as he walked in.
"Adam!" Paul spotted him first and gave him a big bear hug. "God no, no sushi. After two months in Japan if I have to eat another piece of raw fish or squid, I will puke. I even had a reaction to your mother cooking rice this evening, until she put turmeric in it and turned it yellow." He stepped back and looked his son in the eye. "So how's work?"
Adam shrugged. "Work's work." And then realized that he gave the wrong answer. In the past, he and Paul could have spent the entire evening talking about work, with Moira just smiling at the two of them. He hurriedly added, "I was gone for two weeks, so I've been pretty swamped since then making up for the lost time."
Paul raised his eyebrows. "Where did you go for two weeks?" Adam read Paul's thought that he'd been on some romantic getaway with Annie.
"I was on assignment," he said shortly.
Moira came out of the kitchen and put her arms around Adam. "Hello, sweetie, it's good to see you again.
Adam thought his mother felt different to him for some reason. Was it her that had changed, or him, he wondered. "How was Kobe ?" he asked.
"Really interesting." Moira said. "Lots of big growth periods. The area is very unstable; I had to keep making side trips to other places."
Paul joined in. "We found this lovely old resort in Singapore where we'd go for long weekends. Very peaceful." Moira had let go of Adam and stood back, so Paul slipped his arm around her.
Adam watched his parents together, and noticed his reaction was different to them this time. In the past he'd noticed his body feeling either jealous or protective of Moira, or uncomfortable by the sexuality that their bodies exuded when they stood close to each other. This time he wasn't uncomfortable, and he felt detached from Moira. But his body did feel something. It felt lonely. He decided not to figure out why and went into the kitchen instead. Moira followed him with a bemused smile. She probably knew why already, so Adam was determined to avoid talking to her by himself that evening.
"Smells good in here." Adam looked in the pots and pans on the stove.
"Potatoes, peas and cauliflower curry," Moira said, pointing to one pot, "dahl," she said, pointing to another, "curried lamb with raisins, oh, I made up a little mango chutney, also. Chapatis are in the oven."
As she talked, Adam got fleeting glimpses of India , mostly the Taj Mahal from various angles, but also a few market places. Moira's memories of the time she'd been there with Paul.
"When do we eat?" Adam discovered he was starving.
"Now. Grab a plate; we'll serve ourselves off the stove." His mother opened the refrigerator and brought out a two-liter bottle of mineral water.
They sat down at the table and dug in. Adam was busy taking in all the flavors and aromas, when Paul asked him a question.
"So, Michael says you've been a little distracted at work lately." Paul's remark sounded casual, but Adam knew it wasn't.
Adam took his time to finish his mouthful before answering. He decided to nip the questions in the bud.
"I've only had one date with Annie, and that was at least two weeks ago, I think. We're friends. Please stop asking me, or implying questions, okay?"
Moira propped her elbow on the table and rested her chin on her hand. Her eyes were sparkling. Adam saw a million questions behind her eyes, but she didn't ask them. It's her. He caught her thought, which was a statement, not a question. Adam decided not to respond to it, but turned to Paul instead.
"You know, it has been interesting taking over your job. Our styles are so vastly different; it's taken the office quite a while to adjust." It now had been a year since Paul had left, and he hadn't been in the office at all during that time.
Adam's tactic worked. Paul was completely sidetracked into discussing the office, and how he'd dealt with the politics and some of the things he'd considered implementing in the future before he'd left the job.
Moira smiled and watched the two men communicate. Paul and Adam's friendship had been based on doing things together, mutual interests and hobbies. Paul had also confided in Adam a great deal during his years without Moira, and Adam had been a willing and patient listener. But Adam had never talked with Paul about his own feelings, or things he was conflicted about. It was always Moira that he'd shared that part of himself with. It had always been Moira who had helped him understand himself.
Tonight she noticed a change in her son. He struggled to understand himself without her assistance, and avoided asking her for help. He had discovered an area that only he could navigate. Annie was quite extraordinary indeed.
Eventually Paul brought the topic around to selling the Ballard house. It had been on his mind since he left the Seattle office of Marbanks Architects. He wanted to sell the Colvos house, too, and just live out of a suitcase, traveling with Moira like a nomad, but Moira and Adam had both convinced him not to. Moira saw great changes in her husband these past months, also. There was a fearlessness about him she had never felt before. He was able to step out into the unknown in complete faith that the Universe was there to support him. However, Moira sensed that keeping at least the Colvos house was like having a foundation or a base to land on. Moira and Adam's base was not in the physical world, and so they had no need for a physical foundation.
"So, Adam, have you given any thought as to whether you'd like to buy the Ballard house?" Paul asked him. "I mean, a man your age and income ought to have some sort of investment capital. Where is all your money going, into a savings account?"
Adam looked at him blankly. "Oh, uh, yes, why?"
Paul looked astounded. "You mean you're paying taxes on everything you earn?" Paul was in the midst of preparing his income tax return.
Adam shrugged. "Well, you know, pay Caesar what is Caesar's ...
Paul looked at Moira for some support, but she simply smiled enigmatically back at him. In actuality, probably most of Adam's income was going as anonymous donations to charity. Neither Adam nor Moira paid income tax. Moira didn't because she didn't earn an income, wasn't a U.S. citizen, and didn't have a social security number -- or a birth date for that matter. Adam was born in the United States , but not in the correct year for his age. It wasn't that he was avoiding paying income tax, it was that he didn't really exist for the IRS; if he did, it would make his assignment difficult. As far as his income went, Paul assumed that Adam was earning the same wage Paul had been for the same job. In actual fact, Adam had arranged it so that his income had remained virtually unchanged since he started at Marbanks Architects. His social security income was being credited to an Adam Paulson who was living in a group home for mentally disabled adults outside of Sequim. When that Adam Paulson reached 65, he was going to receive some real nice checks from the government, long after Adam Paulson Marbanks had transitioned on to another time or dimension.
Paul let the subject drop. He looked at Moira instead. "Well, do you think we should keep the Ballard house? Is it worth it? I don't intend to evict you, Adam, I'm just trying to do what's practical from my point of view. Should I hold on to two houses when I only intend to come back here for brief weekends?" He munched on a chapati. "Maybe we should buy a condo in West Seattle , maybe on Alki Beach ?" he asked Moira.
Moira smiled radiantly at her beloved. "You know, I could live in a yurt outside of Ulan Bator with you and be perfectly happy. It is nice to have this place to come back to." Moira looked at her son. "Maybe you could live here?"
Adam frowned, reluctant to consider it. "Well, I could. There's the passenger ferry I could take to work, so it wouldn't be that hard of a commute."
Moira nodded and turned back to Paul. "Let's wait a little longer on this decision. Let's see what manifests over the next few months." She tried not to put out any mental image pictures when she said that, but Adam sensed she meant 'Let's see what Adam manifests over the next few months.'
It didn't make sense to Adam to own any property when he would have to disappear from this time span eventually. He could have easily lived on Colvos as he did in Ballard, perhaps even adjusted to sharing his living space with his parents for a weekend or so every six months. But at that moment he felt he was making so many changes internally he didn't want to consciously create any external changes.
It was getting quite late and he began to feel Moira wanting to persuade him to stay the night. He was exhausted, and so tempted, but more in need of solitude. He stood up from the table.
"I'd better get going if I'm going to catch the next ferry."
Paul stood up, also. "I hope I'm not chasing you away with all my stuff about houses and investments." He shook his head. "I'm sorry, Adam -- sometimes I sound like my own father, and I don't mean to."
Adam gave his father a hug. "Don't be sorry, it's just a Dad thing. It's the way guys communicate. I love you, too."
Paul laughed and slapped his son on the shoulders. "You're right. It is. It's just that you don't do the 'Son' thing."
Adam looked at Paul and mustered as much sincerity as he could. "Pop, could I borrow the keys to the Explorer?"
Paul threw his head back and guffawed. "Okay, maybe I'm lucky you don't do the Son thing. I couldn't afford what it would cost me in auto maintenance. I'd have to buy a new car battery every week if you drove the Explorer."
Moira had quietly come around the table and joined the two. She slipped one arm around Paul's waist and one around Adam's. She rested her head on Paul's shoulder and looked with shining eyes at her son.
"Well, I'll do the Wife thing." She hugged them close, "and I'm very lucky to have a husband and a son like you two. I love you both."
Paul kissed the top of Moira's head. Adam stood there and noticed he was no longer uncomfortable to be standing in such a strong aura of affinity. His heart opened and he accepted the feeling as it flowed in and through him. It energized the life force in every cell of his body. He looked at his mother. I finally understand.
Moira smiled and said, "I'm glad you do."
Paul and Moira saw Adam to the door. He picked up his bike and began trotting up the steps. Halfway up he turned back to them, still standing in the doorway.
"See you Sunday." He waved and went to catch his ferry.
Adam woke up late on Saturday. The ferry had been delayed the night before and hadn't gotten home until nearly two AM . He'd considered going back to his parents' house, but didn't want to end up spending the weekend there with one set of clothes or, worse yet, borrowing his father's. Paul and he were the same size (except maybe around the waist) but they definitely did not share the same sense of style.
His body was stiff and his head was achy, so he moved slowly to make some coffee. In the kitchen, willing the coffee pot to brew faster, he overheard voices coming from the kitchen porch next door.
"So what is it with you and Adam?" Neela's voice was saying. "Are you guys an item or not?"
"I'd hardly call one date an item, Neela," Annie replied. "Anyway, we shouldn't be talking about this, he's right next door and can hear everything."
"Oh, I bet that boy is fast asleep. He didn't get in until two AM . I know, because I was up with the baby. I figured he was with you." Neela eagerly wanted confirmation.
"Neela, what an imagination!" Annie had an edge to her voice. "No, he was not with me and even if he was that would be none of your business!"
"None of my business? Girl, you are my friend! Your business is my business, girlfriend!" Neela was only half kidding. "Anyway, I'm an old married woman now -- I've got to get my pleasures vicariously, if you know what I mean." She paused. "Wonder where he was until two o'clock in the morning. Wonder where he was last weekend."
"Last weekend he was out of town, he told me. And he can be anywhere he likes until two, who are you, his mother?" Annie said testily.
"You know, I used to date a guy who told me he had to go away on business. He was always 'in Virginia ' or 'in Carolina ' or 'in Georgia ' for the weekends. Turned out he really was in Virginia , Carolina and Georgia on those weekends -- but they all lived in Baltimore . Dropped him like a hot potato, honey." Neela drawled.
Annie laughed. "You think Adam likes to mount Rainier on the weekends?" She projected an outrageous picture.
Neela giggled hysterically. "Well, I don't know about that; isn't Rainier a guy's name? But who knows? You know I like Adam, but I wonder about that boy. Think he's not chasing you because he likes boys?"
Annie was quiet. "I think Adam needs his own time and space. I have no expectations about him whatsoever."
"Oh, bull, Annie. What is wrong with that guy, with a sugar as sweet as you? I've seen guys walk into trees when they pass the wall you're painting."
"They do not!" Annie's voice was shrill.
"Last time it got hot, and you were wearing those overalls and that tee shirt? This real cute guy went walking by your ladder and he was staring so hard he slammed right into the maple tree on the corner. I laughed so, I nearly dropped my brush!" Neela laughed. "And you won't believe how many guys ask Jam for your phone number."
"They do?" Annie asked, sarcastically. "I don't hear my phone ringing."
"Jam won't give it to them. He's very particular -- and protective. Adam's the only one I've ever seen him encourage about you."
"What?!? What's he told Adam? Geez, I could kill him!" Annie sounded flustered and embarrassed.
"Now, now, Annie." Neela tried to pacify her friend. "He just set him straight about when you're supposed to call a girl back, that's all."
"When was that?" Annie asked her.
"You know, after he disappeared for two weeks. Now, I wonder where he was for two weeks. He told us Sweden . Lot of pretty girls in Sweden , you know, Neela noted.
"God, I can't believe you!" Annie said with exasperation. "Well, tell Jam his talk didn't work. Adam told me that he'd call me last weekend, and I got a message on my answering machine on Sunday evening. I called him back, which is when he invited us to his parents' party tomorrow, and I haven't heard from him since. Oh, his parents' party! His parents are here. He was probably on Colvos until 2:00 AM . You are so suspicious, Neela!"
"He hasn't called you all week? Where is that boy's brain?" Neela exclaimed.
"Oh, Neela, I could call him, too. It's not entirely him. I could be chasing him, too, and I'm not."
"Why ever not? Maybe he's just a little dense; he sure seems to be sometimes. Maybe you've got to give him a little push, so he'll get a clue." Neela advised her friend. "This is one boy who you can't play hard to get with, 'cause he won't get it."
"Neela, Annie said, softly, "Neela, ever since Sam ... I haven't ... you know. For a long time after Sam, well, it was hard just living. I've really only just been alive again this past year. Do you know what that's like? I've really only breathed the air and felt the sunshine just these past few months. I'm not ready to do any chasing, or play any games. I just want to accept what is, take things one day at a time, and have no expectations. I have to focus on me. If I start focusing on Adam and start fantasizing some imaginary future, I'll go crazy. I can't do that. I won't do that. I've worked too hard to get where I am."
Neela listened to her friend. "Annie, I've never heard you talk that way. Jam and I have known you for three years now, ever since your husband died. You've never talked about him at all."
"There's a lot I've never talked about. A lot I haven't told anybody." Annie said.
Adam stood in his kitchen listening to the women, absorbing all their pictures. When Annie started talking about Sam, he'd stopped being able to see anything, except blackness. He only saw blackness and despair. When Annie said there was a lot she'd never told anybody, he felt only bottomless sorrow. She was protecting, or hiding something inside her. In his mind's eye he saw her curled around something, in the midst of all that sorrow. Whatever it was, it kept her from letting go of the darkness. He'd never seen that in her when he was around her. He'd only seen light.
He wanted to go out on the back porch, to see if he could detect what it was by looking at her directly. But considering their earlier topic, he decided not to. He poured himself a cup of coffee and headed to his chair by the living room window instead. While he meditated, he heard fragments of the women's voices, but couldn't make out the words. Eventually, he came to a clear stopping point, and went to take a shower.
It was after noon when he was finally ready for the day. He took another mug of coffee out to the kitchen porch, and discovered his neighbors were having a barbecue on their back porch. Jam was the only one who could see Adam easily over the six foot fence that divided their property.
"Well, speak of the devil. Adam, how's it hangin'?" Jam called over to him. "We're having a barbecue, want to come over?"
Adam went to the fence and stood on his toes. He was able to get his chin on the top of the fence. "Smells good." He saw Neela and Annie sitting in white plastic lawn chairs, on the other side of the grill. Annie was holding the baby, and Neela had her feet up on a third chair. He gave them a little wave. Neela nodded at Adam with a cheery smile, but Annie peered at him, trying to see if he'd heard anything of their conversation. Adam put out the picture that he hadn't.
"Sure, I'll come over. I haven't eaten anything since dinner at my parents' house last night." Adam caught the two women exchanging a knowing look. "Be there in a sec."
Adam went back through the house and out the front door. The Johnson's house was open, and he let himself in. He climbed over the piles of baby gear and diaper service diapers to get through the living room to the kitchen. Jam stuck his head in the door and called to him.
"Adam, can you grab me a beer out of the fridge? Get yourself anything you want while you're at it."
Adam obliged, and got himself a ginger ale. He joined his friends on the back porch.
"Kind of a lousy day for a barbecue." He squinted at the overcast sky.
"Well, as long as it ain't raining, I'm grillin'." Jam said.
Neela kept her feet up on the third chair, so Adam pulled a chair out from the kitchen and sat by Annie.
"How's it going, ladies?" He opened his ginger ale.
"Good, it's going good, isn't it Annie?" Neela said.
"Fine, just fine." Annie looked at Adam, "So how are your folks?"
Eager to meet you. Adam thought, but he said, "They're well. They're busy getting ready for tomorrow's party. You guys are coming, right?"
Jam nodded. "Your old man called me this morning, actually. Thanked me for the good job we did painting his place." He had on a large red padded oven mitt was turning chicken legs with metal tongs. "Wanted to make sure we knew we were invited tomorrow. All three of us." He said casually.
"Yeah, they're, um, eager to meet you," Adam said. "They just, you know, want to meet my friends."
Adam glanced over at Annie, holding the baby on her lap. She was wearing her usual non-working uniform of jeans and flannel shirt (today's was red plaid) and her oversized Mariner's cap, this time with the visor facing forward. A red ponytail of hair poked out the back. The baby looked up at Adam with big brown eyes and gave him a big, toothless and drooling smile.
"He looks just like his Uncle Adam, doesn't he?" cooed Annie, as she looked at Adam. "You want to hold him?"
Adam was about to shake his head -- he wasn't used to babies -- when Neela broke in.
"Go on and hold him, Adam. You are way too squeamish around babies. I bet you don't even know his name, do you?" she challenged.
Adam looked at Neela with wide eyes as Annie plunked the baby down on his lap. The infant wiggled and chortled with delight because he now had a better view of his mama.
"You hardly ever call him by his name, Neela. You may never have told him." Annie stood up now that her lap was free.
"Jam wanted to call him Shaquille, but I wouldn't let him." Neela said.
"He's going to be a big guy, Adam eyed Jam, "it would be a fortuitous name."
Neela glared at him a little. "His name is Darius Xavier Johnson. Darius means wealthy in Persian, and Xavier means brilliant in Arabic."
"Yeah, as long as kids don't call him Derriere Xavius," Jam muttered, not pleased with the choice.
"It's a beautiful name," Annie said, squeezing by Adam to go to the kitchen for a soda.
Adam looked solemnly at the little tyke on his lap. "Hello, Darius," he said.
The baby hiccupped.
Annie called from the kitchen. "You could call him DXJ. It's a great rapper's name. 'Hello my name is DXJ, and I'm jus' here to make your day, boom chaka boom chaka boom chaka boom.'"
"Girl, don't you rap, it hurts my ears!" Neela called back to her, but laughing all the same.
"Well, here's my baby. How's my fat little baby?" Annie's voice cooed in the kitchen. She emerged holding Percy and her soda.
Jam grinned. "Hey, Adam, maybe you should give Percy to Annie. She needs something to take care of."
"Jam!" Annie shot him a reproachful look.
"Well, you're here all the time googling at the baby, Jam teased.
Adam hadn't realized how often Annie came over. He usually left before she and the others went to work, and came home after his neighbors had turned out the lights for the night.
"You like de puddy tat?" Annie asked little DXJ, who reached out for it. Percy gave the infant a disdainful look.
"The vet said this cat is seventeen years old, Annie said.
"The vet?" Adam echoed. He'd never taken Percy to the vet. He'd healed all his ailments himself and hadn't bothered with shots.
"While you were gone he got sick, so I took him down to Ballard Veterinary Clinic. The vet looked up his records from before Paul had him. It turned out to just be hairballs." Annie murmured, stroking the Siamese. "The vet said he was in remarkable shape for his age, if a trifle fat."
Adam looked at Annie. "Thanks for taking him; you should tell me what the bill was so I can repay you."
"Don't worry about it, it wasn't much. De nada," she said. "It was nothing."
"Muchas gracias all the same," Adam said.
Jam started serving the barbecue with a flourish, so Neela got the baked beans from the kitchen. Rolls were placed on the table, and they all dug in.
"So, Adam, you never said much about Sweden . What were you doing there of all places?" Jam sat down in the chair vacated by Neela's feet and reached for a drumstick.
"Oh, I was on assignment." Adam was vague. It was a challenge trying to eat with a baby on your lap.
Annie looked up. "Where in Sweden ?"
"In the north, Uppsala , mostly, and sometimes down in Stockholm for a while," Adam said.
"Tala Svenska?" Annie asked.
"Tala en liten Svenska. Et du?" Adam said.
She grinned. "Tala inte Svenska, tala Engleska." As Annie said the phrase, her smile faltered. She looked at Adam oddly. "Did you go to Gamla Stan while you were in Stockholm ?"
"Annie!" Neela interrupted. "You never told me you spoke Swedish -- you lived there?"
"My dad was stationed there. I'm an army brat." Annie answered. "I never lived there, just visited from college." She looked at Adam and said pointedly, "In 1983."
"Was that picture of you with fuzzy hair and pointed boots taken there?" Adam asked, innocently.
"Oh, in the collage on my wall?" Annie said. "Yes. You know that one, Neela."
"Where you look like Little Orphan Annie in troll boots?" Neela said. "Girl, that was an ugly, I mean, ugly hair style on you."
"I thought it looked cute, Jam teased, patting his wife's own short Afro.
Annie was feeding pieces of her chicken to Percy with a pensive look on her face. "Did you ride the tunnelbana in Stockholm ?"
Adam looked directly at her. "Yes." Annie continued to stare. It's a long walk to the Gamla Stan stop from the Pizzeria Piraten. He hadn't meant to say that. Annie looked stunned.
"What the heck is Gamla Stan?" Jam said, munching on a roll.
Adam explained. "Gamla Stan is the old part of Stockholm -- the old town. It's an island."
" Stockholm is a city of islands." Annie chipped in, staring at Adam. "With lots of bridges."
"You sure have been to a lot of places, haven't you Annie?" Jam asked.
Annie shrugged. "Not as many as Adam, I bet." She looked at him oddly.
The party wore down when the baby got cranky and the food was gone. People took their dishes to the kitchen sink.
"Well, I have to go. I have a week's worth of laundry to do. See you guys tomorrow, Annie announced.
"I'd better go, too." Adam tried not to appear hurried. He followed Annie out to the front porch.
"So, I'll see you tomorrow on Colvos."
"Yep. What ferry are you going to take?" she asked.
"Well, the party is at one o'clock . I'm going out in the morning to help them set up."
"Ah. Then I'll be taking the same ferry as Neela and Jam. " Annie slowly stepped off the porch.
Adam tried to think of something else to say, to keep her from going.
"So you have to do laundry, huh?" He asked, lamely.
"Only if I want to wear clean clothes to work next week. I won't have time to do laundry tomorrow."
"Oh." Said Adam.
She looked directly at him. "Why, do you want to hang out a little longer?"
Adam gulped. "Uh, yes."
"Well, just say so!" Annie said. "But let's go to your house, it's starting to get chilly out here."
"Do you want some coffee?" Adam asked as they went in the front door.
"Absolutely!" Annie followed him into the kitchen.
They were standing in the kitchen, Adam making coffee, when they heard Neela and Jam next door. They were walking in and out of their kitchen to the back porch, cleaning up.
"Is the baby asleep?" Jam asked.
"Out like a light,' Neela said. "I see Annie's car is still out there."
"Neela, mind your business..."
"Well, finally, that boy showed some sense!"
"He's a little slow, that's all."
"Slow? Annie calls him Forrest Gump."
"Forrest Gump was no architect, Neela."
Their voices faded as they closed the back door and went elsewhere in their house.
Annie was staring at Adam in shock. "You can hear everything from here!" she said. "You heard us this morning!"
Adam couldn't stop himself from grinning, so he turned his head away from her.
Annie went over and grabbed his face. "You rat fink! I bet you've heard everything for months!"
Adam looked at her innocently. "You talk about me a lot?" He was enjoying her touch on his face.
Annie let her hand drop, but only to his chest. "No, Neela does. She's kind of an African-American yenta."
"She means well. I think she's happy with Jam and the baby, and wants everyone else to have the same kind of happiness," Adam said, thinking his parents were the same way.
Annie slipped her arms around Adam's waist and looked into his eyes, questioningly.
So, in answer, he kissed her.
That same hunger flowed up in him again. She tasted of lemon-lime and barbecue. This time she opened her mouth slightly and they kissed more deeply, arousing his hunger more intensely. She broke away from him.
"I can't do this standing up!" she gasped, and pulled him into the living room.
She sat down on the couch, and pulled him down to her. Adam leaned over and started to kiss her mouth again, but she put a finger to his lips.
"There's more to kiss than that," she whispered, and in response to Adam's confused look, she kissed under his chin, around to his ear, and down his neck. "You smell like apple-cinnamon," she murmured as she nuzzled the crook of his neck.
Adam had never experienced such a sensation of ticklish pleasure, and he laughed and gasped at the same time. Annie kissed around to the cleft of his throat and then back up to his lips. This time, he only briefly kissed her lips and then started to kiss under Annie's chin, following the same route she'd traced on his body. She tasted so good! He wanted to do more than just kiss her, he wanted to devour her! He made his way down to the cleft of her throat and kept going down until he met the buttons of her flannel shirt.
"Y-you don't have to stop there, Annie gulped.
Adam fumbled with the buttons of her shirt, his fingers feeling like sausages. He managed to undo them, and beneath was her milk-white skin. She had on a white cotton bra that fastened in front, and so followed more frustrating seconds of trying to unhook it. Finally it came free, and out flowed those large, round breasts. Adam was stunned for a few moments. In his first dream they had been above him, almost out of reach. Now they were inches away! He buried his face in them. Peaches. They were giant, ripe, juice-filled peaches. He began to kiss his way over the mounds and found a nipple in his mouth. It struck something primal deep within him, and he began to suck it, drawing it into his mouth and wrapping the tip of his tongue around it.
"God, oh, god, wait a minute, Adam," Annie stopped him with a hand to his head.
Adam looked up questioningly at her. The baseball hat had fallen off her head, and her ponytail had come loose. Her hair was a tangled, red mane around her face. She had a wild expression in her eyes.
"Adam, my nipples, uh, well, they're like a direct connection to ... um," she swallowed, "down there. Don't do what you're doing unless you want to go all the way."
Well, of course he wanted to go all the way, whatever that meant. Adam really wasn't thinking ahead or anticipating anything. Each step was brand new to him, he had no idea what was to come next. So he nodded at her.
Annie took that as a yes. "Well, then, let's go in there." She looked towards the bedroom. She wriggled out from under him and stood up, shirt open and breasts proudly displaying themselves. She took Adam by the hands and began to lead him into his bedroom.
At the bedroom door, Adam froze. He suddenly got a vision from the time Paul lived here and Moira had stayed with him. It was in 1981 and it was the second time Paul had been with Moira, but, as a time traveler and unbeknownst to Paul, it was her first time with him. Moira had told Adam that she'd lost her virginity in this room. And had conceived Adam there as well. Adam couldn't. He couldn't go in there with Annie.
Annie looked at him, puzzled, and was about to say something when the baby cried next door.
"Jam, could you go get the baby?" Neela's voice sounded like she was in the room with them, and not in their own living room.
Annie dropped Adam's hands and began to hook up her bra. "Uh, Adam, I really have to go do my laundry." She buttoned up her shirt, looking at his wall towards where the Johnson house was.
"Yes, yes, you do," Adam said, looking at his feet.
She was at his front door in a flash. "Uh, see you tomorrow!" she said, and she dashed towards her car.
Adam stared out the door as the blue Geo took off down the street. Again she'd left without taking her energy with her. And this time, Adam missed her with an ache that filled his whole body and his soul.
Easter Sunday, 1996 turned out to be record-breakingly warm. It was a perfect day to be on Colvos. Adam got to his parents' house early and found Aggie Nelson helping them get ready. The little old lady in a purple jumpsuit was on their front deck, picking out the dead flowers from all the barrel planters.
"Adam, you darling boy! How are you?" Aggie hallooed, seeing him come down the steps with his bike.
"Doing just fine, Aggie. You look well," he observed as he got near.
"Oh, fit as a fiddle! It'll be a long time before they cart me off to that Island Manor nursing home," Aggie sang as she did a little dance between the planters. She was probably nearing eighty, but didn't seem a day over sixty.
Moira came out, her hair gleaming gold in the sunshine. She was wearing a white cotton dress that came down to the ankles.
"And there's the Angel of Colvos, Aggie sang to Moira.
"Oh, you're the Angel of Colvos." Moira said to her. "The flower Angel." She went to Adam and kissed him on the cheek. "How are you, sweetie?"
Adam involuntarily stepped back, his mother's kiss reviving the memory of Annie's. A knowing look flickered in Moira's eyes but she managed to hide it from him.
"Good. Working too hard," he said.
"Well, try not to work today. With Michael and Susan coming, it will be hard for you and your father to avoid." Moira smoothed his hair. "I like your hair getting long."
Again, Adam involuntarily pulled back. It was odd; he was usually comfortable around his mother; she was the only one he was ever comfortable around, except maybe Paul. But her affection brought up different feelings today.
Moira hid a smile and turned back to the house. "Paul, your offspring has arrived."
Paul came out dressed to party. He was wearing baggy tan shorts and a loud Hawaiian shirt. "Adam! Come help me figure out how to do this." He dragged Adam back into the kitchen and they both struggled to roll up a sheet pan of filo dough filled with spinach and feta cheese.
"He's not letting me in the kitchen today, Moira said, watching the two. "I guess this is a men's only' area."
Paul ignored her but with good humor. "Now, we put this in the oven -- or do we slice it first?"
Moira clapped her hand over her mouth and went out to be with Aggie.
"I think you can do it either way," Adam said. "Is this a main dish or an appetizer?"
"Oh, appetizer!" said Paul, opening the refrigerator door to reveal chunks of lamb marinating in a large metal bowl. "We're having shish-kebab. I still have to chop some vegetables and get the charcoal going outside. It's a Greek theme today."
"Well, slice it first and it'll take less time to cook." Adam grabbed an onion and began to chop it into big hunks for the skewers.
The men worked together in the kitchen, Paul extolling his new wisdom on various culinary facts, sounding a little like the Galloping Gourmet. They were done with all the skewers of vegetables and meat when the first guests arrived. It was Susan and her family from Portland .
"How are my favorite brother and his family?" Susan embraced Paul.
"Your only brother and his family are great," Paul said. "How are my only, and favorite, sister and her brood doing?"
"Oh, I'm fine. The brood ... She rolled her eyes, and four hot, bored and hungry teenagers came tromping down the steps. Phil was the oldest, a freshman in college. He looked like a blend of Paul and Adam, with the same pale skin and dark brown eyes and hair. He was tall and lanky, like Adam, but his head was shaved close. Livvy, the high-schooler daughter, had magenta hair this time, and a diamond in her nose. She was a head taller than Susan but looked more like her dad. Ron was in the back behind the twins. His face was rounder than the Marbanks', and he was blond. The twins were chubby versions of their father.
Ron came forward and shook Paul's hand. "Hi, Paul, long time no see."
"Yes, how is Portland ? How's your practice?" Paul asked. Ron was a [dentist?]
"Growing. I've had to hire two more hygienists, Ron said. "Where's your lovely wife and strapping son?"
Paul looked around and saw that Adam and Moira weren't on the deck. Aggie was, and came out to greet the guests. Aggie knew Susan and her family from the times they'd come to use the Colvos property while Paul and Moira were gone.
Paul went inside to look for his family. He heard hushed tones coming from the laundry room.
"I do not want to talk about it, Adam was saying. "I need to figure it out for myself."
"Okay, okay, I was just curious, Moira responded with amusement.
"Well, please leave her alone when she comes today," Adam said.
Paul went down the hall towards them, "Oh family," he called, "Our guests are arriving."
He saw Moira and Adam standing by the dryer. "Having a little mother-and-son talk?"
"Not successfully," pouted Moira.
Paul chuckled. "Good." He smiled conspiratorially at Adam. "A man's got to have some things he can't tell his mother, right, Adam?"
"Or his dad, Adam responded, and slipped by him to go see his Aunt and cousins.
Moira went and gave Paul a squeeze. "Our baby's growing up."
"I should hope so. He's nearly thirty-two." Paul kissed his wife.
"Hey, hey, you two, no nooky in the laundry room!" Michael called in, his face pressed against the laundry room window. The steps from the road led past the window so he was able to look in without coming to their front door. Coral was behind him, and Michelle was several steps back. Michelle was the same age as Phil, but had started college two years earlier.
"I'll meet you guys at the door, Paul called, and he and Moira went out to greet them.
Outside, the twins had taken off to the beach; Livvy was sitting on the steps of the deck trying to appear bored, and Phil was shyly eyeing Michelle, who was trying not to notice. Susan had already cornered Michael in a discussion about work, and Ron was chatting with Coral. Aggie was showing Adam something in the planters.
"I see everyone's met each other." Paul said, coming out. "There's soda in the cooler by the grill, and the wine's in the refrigerator." He was about to join Michael and Susan when Moira tugged his arm. She directed him to look up the stairway towards the next set of arriving guests.
At the same moment, Adam turned away from Aggie in mid-sentence and looked up the stairs. Annie was coming down the stairs, holding DXJ, so that Neela, behind her, could hold on to the railing. Jam was behind them, laden with diaper bag and blanket.
Annie felt everyone's gaze and almost tripped on the stairs. She looked up with the same expression a deer has caught in headlights. Moira went out to greet her as she came down the final steps.
"Oh, look at the baby!" she cooed, taking DXJ from her. "Hello, Annie, I'm Moira." She gave Annie a warm, brilliant smile.
Annie smiled shyly back. "Hi, I'm Annie, oh, uh, you already know, I guess." Annie was wearing a very short cotton print dress. Her hair was in two pigtails down either side of her neck. She looked like a twelve year old Pippi Longstocking, except with very grown-up legs.
Paul came right up behind Moira and shook Annie's hand. "Welcome, Annie, very nice to meet you." Annie was startled by his resemblance to Adam -- the same piercing dark eyes and thick brown hair, Paul's lightly peppered with grey. She hadn't realized he didn't look that much older than Adam. Their physical age difference was fifteen years.
"Neela, Jam, you have a beautiful baby, Moira said, as the two came down the stairs.
"Well, thank you, Mrs. Marbanks, Neela said. "You want to keep him for a while? I could use a good night's sleep."
Moira laughed, melodic and deep. "No thanks. I paid my dues. Call me Moira. And you've talked to my husband, Paul on the phone."
Jam shook Paul's hand. "Pleased to meet you face to face."
"Great paint job, by the way," Paul said, "I'm amazed you were able to get to the trim on the roof."
Jam nodded towards Annie. "Only because of her. She's our resident monkey."
Adam had tried to get to them first, but his way was blocked by Michael and Coral and Susan and Ron, all trying to get a glimpse of Annie.
Annie turned around and started at seeing all the faces looking at her. She looked back to see Neela and Jam grinning, as well as Paul and Moira smiling at her. A slow red flush crept up her neck. Coral came forward and gave her a hug.
"Hello, Annie. I'm Coral, Michael's wife. I heard you painted the offices," she said, trying to put Annie at ease.
Michael came forward and shook her hand. "Pleased to see you again, Annie. I see you helped Adam over his flu in record time."
Annie found herself being moved slowly into the crowd of people. Susan was next. She looked Annie up and down.
"So you're a house painter?" Susan asked.
"Uh, yes, among other things. House painting pays the rent, Annie said.
"How long have you known Adam?" Susan was not one to be indirect.
"Uh, Adam?" Annie asked, overwhelmed. "I don't know. Neela, Jam, how long have we known Adam?" She looked back pleadingly at them.
Jam came to her rescue. Like a towering dark knight he stood beside her and looked down at Susan. "We all met Adam the day we moved in next door to him, that was March of last year." He looked over the others' heads and saw Adam behind everyone. "Adam, my man, how's it hangin'?" He parted the people like they were the Red Sea . Annie and Neela followed him to the main part of the deck where there was a lot more room.
Adam shook his hand. "Hey, Jam. Thanks for coming." He looked at Annie. "Sorry, I would have warned you if I'd known it would be like this."
Annie still hid behind Jam. "I feel like I won an Oscar for a movie I wasn't in," she said out of the side of her mouth.
Moira came out to the threesome with DXJ. "Well, I've had my baby fix for the day. Whose turn is it to change his diaper?" Neela had gone to the rest room.
"I will. Annie quickly snatched the baby, grabbed the diaper bag, and headed into the house.
"Fine with me," drawled Jam. "If y'all like changing him so much, I'll give you a call to come over at three AM ."
Adam glared at his mother. I asked you to leave Annie alone!
Moira's face was impassive. I simply greeted her and the others. I can't be responsible for everyone's collective reaction. Moira smiled at him . She is a beautiful being. I like her a lot. She turned her smile to Jam and spoke.
"It's so nice to meet Adam's friends," she said.
"Well, ma'am, it's nice to meet Adam's family, Jam replied. "But I must say, neither of you seem old enough to be his parents, if that's not too personal."
Moira laughed. "You could say we were childhood sweethearts. I was eighteen when Adam was born." Moira neglected to mention that Paul was thirty-one, Adam's age now, when Adam was conceived in 1981. She also neglected to mention that Adam was born in Alaska in 1963.
Neela came out of the house to join them. "Something smells good!"
"Paul's grilling the shish-kebab," Adam said.
Jam's eyebrows went up. "Yeah? I gotta go check that out." He walked off towards the grill.
Neela looked around the deck. "Where are Annie and Darius?"
"She's changing him. And probably hiding out in the house with him," Adam said.
"Well, I'm not surprised. It was like walking into a crowd of sharks or newspaper reporters or something, Neela said. "They've all scattered now, though."
Adam looked around and noticed that Michael, Susan and Paul were in a huddle in the corner. Jam was watching the grill with Ron. The kids were all down at the beach. Coral and Aggie were in a conversation over the planters, and then he realized his mother was nowhere in sight.
He was about to go into the house when Susan called him over. He came unwillingly. He didn't want to get into a long conversation about work; he wanted to go rescue Annie from Moira.
As he approached them Michael called out, "Looks like we're going to have your dad here for a while."
Adam looked questioningly at his father.
"That's right. It's something I discussed with Stephen, but I wanted to check it out with you Northwest folks before going ahead," Paul said.
"It's a wonderful idea, Paul," his sister said. "You'll love this, Adam. Sit right here and he'll explain it to you."
Adam reluctantly sat down, looking over at the house. The sunlight reflecting off the windows kept him from seeing anything inside as.
"Well, as you know, I've been working with Mr. Nishikawa on both repairing and rebuilding his properties in Kobe ," Paul said. "You know, Michael, he's turned out not to be as formidable as he seemed to me back in '93 in Los Angeles ."
"Nah, Nish is a softy at heart," Michael laughed. He'd been called upon to finish some negotiations they'd had with Nishikawa after the L.A. earthquake.
"Well, he'd been interested in extending his empire, so to speak, into the United States , but hasn't been happy with his department in Los Angeles . 'Too much clime there. Bad clime, lace liots.'" Paul imitated Mr. Nishikawa's accent.
"What?" Susan asked.
"Too much crime and race riots, Adam said, without humor.
"So, I convinced him to consider the Northwest as an expansion point. He loved it. He was really taken with you, Michael. Oh, Mikey, he leery fine fellow'." Paul said.
"Really fine fellow Adam translated for Susan.
"Yeah, I liked the old dude. Reminded me of my grandfather. Except my grandfather wasn't a self-made billionaire." Michael said. "Though he didn't do too badly after surviving World War II in an internment camp. Lost everything he'd built here, and he came back and started over. Put my dad and uncles through college and retired to Hawaii . Not too shabby."
"Gosh, I wish Bob was here." Susan meant Bob Sanchez, the head architect for the Portland Office. He was the only key figure missing in the group right then. Michael was Seattle 's head architect, Adam was the director, and Susan was Portland 's director. Paul was Seattle 's past director and Marbanks International's only international agent.
"Well, let's all get together next week," Paul said. "Are you guys still having weekly meetings?"
Susan shook her head. "We both got way too busy. We meet about once a month now. I think this month it's you guys' turn to come down to Portland . I promise you'll get to try a new restaurant." She was referring to Francis' tendency to always reserve the same restaurant for their luncheon meeting -- a restaurant nobody liked.
"Can't help it, Susan." Michael said, "They closed down the Dog House; there's no where else to eat."
Paul was the only one who laughed. He was the only one besides Michael who remembered the old diner on 7th Avenue that had remained virtually unchanged in menu and waitresses from the '40's all the way through to the late '80's when it closed. Not a place Susan would have appreciated. Then the group got into a discussion about next week's luncheon.
Meanwhile, Annie had been changing the baby in the upstairs bathroom when Moira found her. She was kneeling on the floor over DXJ, struggling with getting a cloth diaper inside a diaper cover.
"Sorry we overwhelmed you when you arrived, Moira said, sitting on the floor outside the bathroom.
Annie looked up at her. "What was that all about, anyway?"
"Well, you have to forgive our curiosity, Moira said. "It's just that we all know and love Adam, but we've never seen him interested in anyone."
"He says he's interested in me?" Annie was acting as neutral as she could, but Moira could see she was simply trying to find out how much Moira and the others knew.
"Oh, he won't talk about you, except he said he'd been on one date with you, and he wouldn't talk about that either." Moira grinned. "No, we found out from Michael."
Annie tilted her head to the side. "What does Michael know?" She was puzzled.
"Michael knows how Adam's behavior at work has changed. When he brought Adam home the day he was sick, he put two and two together." Moira leaned forward conspiratorially, "He said he was acting just like Paul when he first met me." Then she corrected herself, "I mean, in Seattle , not when he first met me, that was in D.C., no, we were together for three weeks in Seattle , fifteen years ago."
Annie watched Moira getting her facts straight. "You mean the first time you met Paul, don't you."
Moira's eyes widened slightly. Her deep blue eyes met Annie's hazel ones. "You know."
Annie nodded. "Yes. Adam told me."
Moira's hand went to her cheek. "My, my. You are special. Do you know that you are the only person on the planet to know this, besides Paul?"
Annie looked a little shocked. "Well, I mean, Adam said that Paul was the only other person who knew, but I hadn't thought of it that way." She put her hand out towards Moira, "But I wouldn't dream of telling anyone."
Moira smiled. "No, I believe you wouldn't. I trust Adam's judgment of character, and I know he wouldn't have told you unless he absolutely trusted you." Moira drew her knees up to her chest and adjusted her dress around her feet. "I've been curious to meet you. I mean, here is my thirty-one-year-old son, who's sworn never to get involved with anyone, going on a date and confiding his deepest secret in someone. I figured you must be a pretty extraordinary person."
Annie had figured out the diaper and was trying to put it on the wiggling infant. She was about to say something when little DXJ urinated. It went up like a fountain and down the front of Annie's dress as she was leaning over him.
"Argh!" screamed Annie, leaping back.
Moira grabbed an extra diaper and threw it over the little boy's pee-pee. She was laughing hysterically, and Annie, after the shock wore off, did too. Moira turned the boy around and swiftly put him in a fresh diaper, and then lay him in the hallway, secured next to the wall where he couldn't roll down the stairs. She stood up and went over to Annie.
"Let's see what we can do about your dress," she said, looking at it.
"Oh, I can just sponge it off with a wet washcloth or something. It's just cotton. But I need to get it dry again." Annie looked at the dark line of stain that ran down her front.
"Here's a wash cloth." Moira handed her a damp one. "And I have something in here you can use." As Annie was sponging her dress off, Moira reached in the vanity and pulled out a new hair dryer, still in the box.
"This is brand new." Annie said, opening the box.
"Well, Paul gave it to me a while ago, but I can't use anything electrical." Moira stepped back as Annie took the dryer out.
"Like you can't drive a car?" Annie said, plugging it in.
Moira nodded, with a smile. Annie was exceptional. She had taken everything in stride -- totally accepting Moira as a time traveler without a hint of shock. Paul had taken some time to adjust to the increased spiritual information he'd had to receive when Moira and Adam had told him. Annie seemed to have her own inner knowingness that made it easy for her to receive such information without it shattering her sense of reality. She watched Annie drying off her dress. On first impression, she had sensed a lightness about her. Both a brightness of spirit, and a sense of humor. As Moira watched her, she sensed that she was also someone who had overcome a lot of adversity. Her pigtails and short dress seemed to portray a person of youth and innocence, and Moira guessed that, with Annie's light hearted manner, people might dismiss her as naive. Moira could tell that Annie was anything but naive. She sensed a depth and a wisdom to her. Instead of satisfying her curiosity about the woman her son clearly loved, Moira found she had a desire to know more about her.
The dress dried quickly, and Annie handed the hair dryer back to Moira, who didn't take it.
"Er, could you unplug it and put it back in the box, please?" Moira said.
"Oops!" Annie laughed. "Glad you caught that one; we could have shorted out the whole house." She put the hair dryer back in the vanity, and went out to get DXJ, who was whimpering against the wall. "I better get this babaloo back to his mama," she said, as the infant tried to snuggle her breast. "That won't work; I ain't hooked up, little guy. You need your mama."
Moira saw something as Annie slung the diaper bag over her shoulder and started to carry the baby downstairs. It wasn't just her ease at carrying the baby; it was a picture Moira had seen when Annie was holding the baby and he rooted towards her breast. Annie had breast-fed an infant.
"Annie," Moira said, as she went down the stairs after her. Annie stopped and looked up expectantly at Moira.
Moira came down to the same step Annie was on and looked directly at her. They were nearly the same height, Moira a little taller.
"I would like to get to know you better. Not because of Adam. Because of you. Would you like to have lunch with me sometime this week?"
Annie shifted uncomfortably on the stair. "I don't think Adam would like that. He'd think we'd be talking about him, or that you'd be checking me out because of him."
Moira nodded. "At first, but I'll talk to him to assure him we wouldn't. Whatever you and Adam are developing, I'll stay clear away from. Honestly, I just want to get to know you."
"Well, if Adam thinks it's okay, I will. Not that I need his permission, I just don't want to say 'hey Adam, I'm gonna go eat lunch with your mother. But we won't talk about you.' You know what I mean?" Annie asked.
"I do," Moira said. "Why don't I call you this week, after we've both talked to him?"
"Good. Listen, I should give you my number before I go, then, because I think Adam still doesn't know it." Annie said, rolling her eyes.
Moira smiled, and then did something that surprised herself. "555-7142. It was totally unlike her, to reveal her abilities in any way.
Also to Moira's surprise, Annie took her instant knowledge of her phone number in stride. "Well, if you can do that, then Adam has absolutely no excuse for not knowing it," she quipped, and continued on downstairs.
People were eating by the time Moira and Annie came outside. They were scattered about the deck with plates of food. Annie took DXJ to Neela.
"Guess who wants his lunch, too." Annie handed the fussy baby to his mother.
Annie had intended to sit by Neela and Jam but found herself escorted away by Paul, who had turned the chef duties over to Ron, who was enjoying himself mightily at the grill.
"Come, I want to show you something." Paul led her down the steps of the deck.
"Look up there." He pointed to the top of a Douglas fir.
The sun was shining too brightly, and Annie couldn't see anything. Paul took her by the shoulders and steered her around to a different angle so the sun wasn't directly in her eyes. He pointed upwards again, his head by hers so he could see in the direction she was seeing. "There, on the top branch, see?"
"Ooh! I do see!" Annie said. At the top of the Douglas fir, there were two bald eagles, sitting side by side. It was a magical sight. The two majestic birds were motionless, staring out over the Puget Sound .
"Moira and I only noticed them the other day, Paul whispered, as if not to scare the birds away, even though they were a good fifty feet or more above them. "Aggie told us that this tree is one of their regular places to roost. So now on our daily walks we always stop by and watch for the eagles."
Adam had managed to break away from Susan when the food began to be served, and he had gone into the house to look for Annie. He's started in the laundry room, figuring that's where he would have gone to hide, and came out just in time to see her leaving with Moira through the living room door to the deck. By the time Adam made it to the door, all of the kids had lined up with their paper plates for shish kebab from the grill. He had to practically fight his way through them to get out to the deck. Annie was nowhere to be seen. He started to walk over towards Neela to ask her where she was, when he saw Paul leading Annie from the stairs down the pathway to the beach. He watched them stop, and Paul point up to something. He saw Annie looking up and squinting, and shaking her head. Then he watched Paul take her gently by the shoulders and turn her a little. Paul pointed again, and put his face by Annie's to tell her something.
Adam froze. He was surprised by his reaction, but he'd been surprised by his reactions all day. He felt this incredible anger surge up through his body, when Paul touched Annie's shoulders. When his father put his face near Annie's, Adam felt like his head would explode. It was the casualness of his touching her, the ease with which Paul moved close to her, that enraged him. He wanted to dash down there and push his father away from her, and push everyone away and tell them all to leave her alone, to leave them alone. Why was everyone being like this? Why was everyone so interested? Why was he, Adam, being like this? Why on earth was he overreacting so? He had never felt so irrational before. As suddenly as the anger came, it faded and was replaced by an overwhelming sense of powerlessness, of helplessness. Adam forced himself to look away. He hated this. He hated feeling all these feelings. He hated his own body not making sense to him. Adam wanted everything to return to normal, back to when he understood everything and knew how to handle anything.
A comforting arm slipped around his waist. "It's a difficult growth period, isn't it?" his mother said.
"Yes." Adam said, through clenched jaws. "I don't like it and I want it to stop."
His mother laughed, not at him, but in sympathy with him. "Well, we both know it doesn't work that way. The only way out is through." She gave him a little hug. "I kind of know what you're going through, I think."
Adam turned to his mother in weary despair. "Please, Mom, don't explain it to me. I really don't want to know."
Moira smiled at her son. "I was only going to share how it was for me."
Adam raised his eyebrows. He'd forgotten all the difficult times his mother had experienced because of her feelings for his father. He'd only been viewing her through his impression of her in the present, with everything resolved and her perfectly content and happy.
"It was very, very painful. And confusing," Moira said. "And I didn't like it a bit, either. All of our training prepares us to be in control of ourselves and to respond to our circumstances from a grounded and centered place. I had so much judgment of myself when I felt I'd lost emotional control, and my body would have these reactions I couldn't understand. So many years of training, right down the drain." She gave him a wry smile.
"So how did you handle it?" Adam asked.
"Not very well. Anyway, my information wouldn't work for you. Our bodies are different, we are different, and our circumstances are different." Moira said. "And they are different." She nodded towards Paul and Annie, who were now standing quite close to each other, having a heart to heart talk.
"Why did you fall in love with Paul?" Adam asked, looking down at the two on the beach.
"Oh, Adam, isn't it obvious?" She smiled towards Paul. "No, that's not a fair answer. I mean, I was young, just eighteen, my first unchaparoned assignment, and this handsome, thirty- one-year-old hunk swept me off my feet." She looked at Adam, emphasizing that Paul was the same age Adam was now when she first met him. "He was kind, he was caring. More than that. He made room for me in his life. Do you understand what I mean?" She could see that Adam didn't. "Here was someone with no awareness of space, totally engulfs me in his aura, totally overwhelms me, but in all of that, there was space for me to be. His focus was on me. It wasn't, Come fit into my life and be this particular person'. It was, You are this unique person, and be a part of my life'. Am I making any sense?"
"A little." Adam was totally confused.
"He didn't want me to change, and he wasn't really changing himself, his essence. He was opening himself to me, and completely accepting who I was." Moira looked at Adam. "I'm sorry, I've probably romanticized the memory. I'm using far too many words to describe what I experience from your father. It's unconditional love ."
Unconditional love. The vibration moved through him before he'd heard the words. It was the same energy he experienced from Moira. It was the same energy he experienced from the Universe. It was the same energy he was experiencing from Annie.
"So this is my lesson? Unconditional love?" Adam asked.
"I'm not going to tell you anything about your lesson, Adam," his mother replied. "If your lesson is unconditional love, that's up to you to figure out. However, I do have one question for you."
"What?" Asked Adam, relieved to see Paul coming back up the path, leaving Annie by the beach.
Moira patted her son on the back. "It's not so much to receive unconditional love. It's are you giving it?"
Paul had reached the stairs, and was coming up towards them.
"Did you see the eagles?" Moira called down to him.
"Yes!" Paul said, climbing the stairs. "Perfect, just perfect." He got to the top by Moira and Adam. "She is a lovely, lovely girl, Adam," he said to his son.
Adam stifled the sudden urge to deck his father.
"Paul, did you pull her away from lunch to show her those birds?" Moira asked, seeing Annie walking away on the beach. "She doesn't have a plate of food with her."
"Oh, she hadn't eaten?" Paul said.
"Well, no, neither of us had when we came out of the house. Then you whisked her away. Is there anything left, I wonder?" Moira looked over to see a couple of skewers remaining on the platter by the grill. "Adam, go get some food and bring it to Annie, she must be starving."
Adam grabbed a plateful of shish kebab and some spanekopeta slices, and a soda, and headed down the steps to the beach. He suddenly realized he'd been so preoccupied with finding Annie; he hadn't eaten himself, either. He spotted Annie sitting on a rock about a hundred yards up the shoreline, and went towards her.
"Annie, are you hungry?" he called. She gave no reaction. As he drew closer, he could see that she'd buried her face into her knees. Drawing closer still, he could hear little stifled sobs.
"Annie, what's the matter?" Adam said, as he got to her.
Annie looked up with puffy eyes and a dripping nose. "Oh, Adam, I didn't hear you."
Adam decided to try a different tact. "I brought you something to eat."
"Gosh, thanks, I'm ravenous." Annie started stuffing the spanekopeta into her mouth.
Adam leaned against her rock. "How can anyone so slender eat so much?" he softly teased.
Big, reddened, hazel eyes looked at him. "You think I'm slender?" She took a kebab and was popping pieces of lamb and vegetables into her mouth.
"Well, nicely rounded in the right places." Adam grinned.
The comment took her by surprise and Annie started to choke on a piece of food. Adam patted her hard on the back to help dislodge it.
"Thanks," croaked Annie. She held the plate up to Adam. "You want some? There's enough here to feed Philadelphia ."
"Don't mind if I do." Adam took a kebab for himself.
They sat, side by side, on the rock in silence while they ate. Annie took the soda from Adam and drank about half before handing it back.
"Good, she pronounced, looking a lot better.
"Why were you so upset, just now?" asked Adam. If he couldn't figure his own feelings out, maybe he could try to understand hers.
"Oh, it's silly." Annie dismissed it.
"Maybe not. Tell me," Adam asked, genuinely interested.
Annie rested her chin on her knees and looked out over the sound. It was as flat as a pane of glass, and was reflecting the clear sky. Out on the water you could see an occasional bird diving for fish. A sailboat glided by not far from shore.
"Your parents are really nice to me." Annie's voice quavered.
"They like you." Adam admitted.
"I'm ... just not used to it, that's all." Annie looked away.
"What?" Adam wasn't sure he'd heard correctly. "You're not used to people being nice to you?"
She was quiet for a while before answering. "Your parents and very nice and caring people. You can see how much they care for you. You can see how much they love each other. I'm not used to that." She turned her face towards Adam but did not look directly at him. "My parents acted like they were nice are caring people to the outside world. But they didn't behave the same way to their kids, or each other." She looked up at Adam. "They hated each other for forty years, and that was the atmosphere I grew up in. When I got married, I thought it was for love, but in reality I went directly into the same environment as my childhood. Maybe worse." She closed her eyes. "I'm not sure Sam was capable of love. I don't think I was. And his family hated me, for being a haole." She stopped herself from going on. "For some weird reason, they hated me more when he died, as if I was responsible for making him move to the mainland and get killed in an accident."
Adam listened. It was different than listening to people's problems at work. They usually showed up at his office to dump their woes, or to seek advice. Annie was simply putting things out, explaining things. She wasn't even seeking sympathy.
"It's kind of scary," she said, after a pause.
"What is?" Adam asked.
"Having your parents really like me." Annie answered. "Adam, I really like your parents, and that's scary, too."
Adam looked down at the empty soda can. "I can understand that."
"You can?" Annie said. "You're kidding."
"No. I mean, not my parents. I mean you." Adam said, his throat going dry.
"Me? What about me?" Annie said.
"Well, Adam said slowly, "I really like you. And that's scary."
"Oh, good!" Annie slid off the rock and came around in front of Adam. "I really like you, too." They both laughed.
Adam stood up and slipped his arms around Annie. He kissed her tear-stained cheek, noticing its slight saltiness. She moved her face up to his, and kissed him.
"GROSS!" Two voices exclaimed from behind the trees. "COUSIN ADAM IS KISSING HIS GIRLFRIEND!"
Adam and Annie looked over in time to see the twins disappear around the corner.
"Christ!" Adam swore. "Is there no privacy on this whole goddamn island?"
"Well, they went that way, maybe we should run this way. Eventually we'll reach the ferry dock," joked Annie, not quite as disconcerted as Adam was.
"Well, if the whole party wasn't in our space before, they will be now." Adam said.
"Next time, let's meet some place where there isn't anyone we know," Annie suggested.
Adam looked at her. "Do you want to go to Mount Rainier next weekend?"
Annie grinned. "Sure, if the weather's as nice as today. But we drive, not bike, okay?"
"We gotta get you a bike." Adam took her hand and led her back towards the house.
"Why are we going this way?" Annie asked, "I thought we were going to run away in the opposite direction."
"The only way out is through," Adam said.
Annie paused before speaking again. "You know, if we go to Mount Rainier next weekend, we can consider it a second date, so we can tell people we are dating."
Before he could answer, they'd arrived at the path from the beach, and were greeted by a round of applause.
"Sheesh. You'd think I'd lost my maidenhead on my wedding night and we're showing them the sheet." Annie muttered under her breath.
Adam turned bright red at the comment.
They reached the stairs, where Neela and Jam were still whooping and applauding, along with the older teens. Moira was sitting on one of the upper steps.
"Don't resist," she called to Adam.
Annie heard the comment and laughed. She joined in the spirit, by calling to the crowd as they ascended the stairs.
Thank you, thank you, please, no autographs. No interviews, you can read about it in my autobiography that's coming out next month."
At that, Adam found himself cajoled into grudging amusement. He accepted the guys' hearty slaps on the back, and found himself being swept away by them, as the women had swept Annie away into the house.
"God, you guys, Annie found herself saying to all the women. "It wasn't like he proposed or anything."
"Close enough." Neela looked at the other women knowingly.
"Oh, it's so romantic! Just like Paul and Moira!" Coral gushed.
"Well, let's hope not, Susan chipped in. "Annie, you are forbidden to disappear!"
Annie caught the flicker that passed through Moira's eyes at Susan's comment. She fought the urge to defend Moira, and decided to smooth it over with humor.
"I can't, he hid my bottle," Annie quipped.
"Oh, you're not a genie." Coral said. "Moira's a genie, you can see that. No, with that beautiful red hair, you're a mermaid!"
Annie laughed. "Mermaids are blonde."
"Not all of them, Neela said. "Ariel, the Little Mermaid, wasn't."
"What?" Annie hadn't quite heard.
"You know, the Little Mermaid. She had pretty red hair." Neela said.
Annie's face became overcast. It dampened the atmosphere in the entire room.
"Did I say something wrong?" Neela asked, bewildered.
Annie couldn't speak at first. "I--I'm sorry, you guys, and she walked out of the room.
"What did I say?" Neela looked at everyone else.
"I think you just triggered a painful memory." Moira said gently. "I'll go to her. You gals just go back out and enjoy the party.
Moira found Annie crumpled in the corner of the laundry room.
"You want to talk about it?" She sat beside her.
"No," Annie said forlornly. "It's just been a real overwhelming day."
Moira sat with her in silence for a while, just providing a calming presence beside her. After a few minutes, she ventured a question.
"Annie, have you talked to anyone?" she asked gently.
Annie looked at her. "About what?" she said, but knew what Moira met.
"Have you shared with anyone, anyone at all? Your family, a friend?" Moira softly prodded.
"My family's in Boston , I haven't seen them in ten years. They didn't even know I got married." Annie said, watching Moira as she talked. "I saw a therapist for a little while, just to get functional again."
"But nobody around you knows? You've been through this entire experience alone?" Moira asked her. "Annie, you could have told Neela, she would have understood."
Annie curled herself up into a tight little ball, hugging her own shoulders. "Now maybe she'd understand. Back then, before she had the baby ... Annie rested her chin on her knees. "A friend of Sam's came over, after the funeral, when I was packing to move. And he started to tell me about losing his dog. His dog!" Annie looked at Moira. "A baby isn't the same thing as a dog."
Moira slid close and slipped her arm around Annie's tight shoulders. "No, it isn't. Nobody can tell you anything about the loss you experienced. Only you know what it was like."
Annie turned her face into Moira's shoulders, and slowly uncurled herself. She didn't cry. She was beyond crying. She rested. She felt Moira's strong arms supporting her, and she completely relaxed. Like a little child, overtired and no longer fighting bedtime, releases her struggle into her mother's arms. Annie felt safe in a way she had never felt ever. She allowed herself to receive comfort from Moira, something she had never before experienced. It seemed like Moira held her for hours, and yet it was only a few minutes. When Annie raised her head up, she felt completely renewed.
"Wow," she said. "Thank you."
Moira chuckled. "You're welcome. Any time." Her blue eyes radiated. "I sincerely mean it."
They went back out to the party. Everyone had broken up into little groups again. Aggie Nelson had gone home for her afternoon nap. Susan and her family were checking the ferry schedule in consideration of their long drive home to Portland . Coral and Neela were having a heart-to-heart, while Jam was convincing Michael he should have his house painted. Adam and Paul were sitting by the grill, watching the embers die down.
"I think it was India , Paul said suddenly.
"What?" Adam asked. Paul's statement had come out of the blue, and Adam had been thinking of something else, so he missed the mental image picture that had preceded Paul's remark.
"I had a lot of revelations in India ." Paul said. "I don't know if it was the country or the timing, when I met Moira that third time. One of my revelations was acceptance; I had to accept whatever time I had with her and make the most of it. And the other was opportunity. That I could let no opportunity to be with her slip through my fingers."
"Haven't we had this little talk before?" asked Adam.
Paul raised his eye brows. "Really?"
"Sorry. Your point was?" Adam asked patiently.
"Acceptance and opportunity. Something I've learned with Moira. Accepting my time with her and taking advantage of every opportunity," Paul said.
"And you bring this up because ?" Adam asked. He sensed that Paul may have had more than one glass of wine. It was difficult to follow what he was saying.
"I don't remember," Paul said, frowning. "I think I was thinking about this Nishikawa thing, with you and Michael and the Portland crew. I'm a little worried about how long it's going to take."
"Ah, now I see. How long Mom will have to stay in one place. Is that it?" Adam finally got a clear picture.
"Is Mount Rainier particularly stable at this time?" Paul asked.
"Yes, actually. I've been noticing more activity towards the north, however. Makes me wonder if I should go check out Mount Baker ." Adam said.
"Then we'll keep her away from Bellingham ," joked Paul.
Susan came over to them. "Paul, dear brother, my family and I are hitting the road. Tomorrow's a school day. But we want to thank you for a delightful party! And I will see you this coming week."
Paul stood up and hugged his sister. "Thanks for coming. I look forward to this week's meeting."
"Adam." Susan looked over at him. "Sorry about giving you and your girl friend such a hard time." She reached out to hug him.
"Hmm." Adam reluctantly accepted the hug.
"I didn't realize how much we were getting to her until something Neela said made her cry. She seems to be over it now, though." Susan said, looking over at Moira and Annie, who had joined Neela and Coral.
Adam's ears pricked up at this, but did not ask his aunt for more details. He wanted her to leave as soon as possible.
Susan and her family headed up the stairs, with everyone waving good-bye.
Paul and Adam wandered over to the ladies' group. "Anyone seen Michael?" Paul asked.
"He's in the kitchen trying to read the ferry schedule. Is Susan trying to make the next boat to Seattle ?" Coral said.
"No, they go via Tacoma . I'll help him figure it out." Paul ducked into the house, leaving Adam with the ladies.
Moira and Annie were standing on the far side of the group, with Neela and Coral sitting on chairs in front of them. Adam wanted to go stand by Annie, but felt extremely uncomfortable about doing so in front of the other women.
"Hey, Adam, sorry about giving you guys such a hard time." Neela unknowingly echoed Susan.
"It wasn't me who was getting the brunt of it." Adam said with unsettling calmness.
"Oh, now Adam," Coral said, "Women just love romance, we can't help it." She smiled at Annie. Annie gave her a faint smile back.
"Well, I told you I was sorry already." Neela said to Annie. "But you are going to have to tell me how I set you off."
"Sometime I will." Annie said.
Adam noticed that when she said that, Moira slightly moved and touched her shoulder to Annie's, subtle body language indicating support. What had gone on that he'd missed?
"You know, we're going to have to take that next ferry, too." Neela said. "This little guy is out like a light and he feels like he weighs four million pounds."
"Looks like it, too, Annie teased, to show Neela that she held no hard feelings.
The women stood up and started moving into the house to collect purses and things left there. Annie moved slower than the rest, so Adam was able to have a few moments alone with her.
"How are you feeling?" Adam asked, quietly.
"I'm doing much better," Annie said truthfully. "How are you feeling?"
Adam considered the question. "I seem to be angry about everything. Other than that, I'm fine."
Annie laughed, and spontaneously kissed him on the cheek. "You goofus."
"What a term of endearment! Adam responded, yet feeling warm inside.
"Adam, your Mom asked me to lunch sometime this week." Annie said.
"You have to be kidding," Adam sputtered.
"Not to talk about you. I promise I won't. Just, she wants to get to know me." Annie said. "I said I'd only go if you said okay."
"It's not up to me to give you permission to have lunch with my mother." Adam said, indignantly.
"No, that's not what I mean. I just said I wouldn't go if it made you too uncomfortable. So, do you understand? Can I go?" Annie asked.
"What do you want to do?" Adam said, testily.
Annie sighed. "I really, really like your mother. She seems like an easy person to talk to. In fact, I'd like to get to know her probably as much as she'd like to get to know me. But if it's going to weird you out, I won't do it."
"Weird me out?" Adam echoed.
Annie moved close to him and rested her hand on his chest. His shirt was only slightly unbuttoned, and she felt the few chest hairs that were peeking out.
"You are more important than lunch with your mother," Annie whispered softly. "I won't do it if it's going to affect us in any way."
Adam stood perfectly still, wondering how clear a view everyone inside the house had of them. The afternoon sun was glaring on all the windows and he couldn't see a thing going on in there, but knew they could see everything going on out on the deck. He wanted to put his arms around her and kiss her, but of course was not going to. He heard a faint voice in his head. 'Acceptance and opportunity,' it said.
He looked at Annie with his intense brown eyes, hoping she'd understand why he wasn't holding her.
"It's okay. You can have lunch with my mother." He hoped his voice would convey what he was feeling. "I promise it won't affect us."
He could tell she felt it and at the same time realized why he wasn't touching her. She glanced over her shoulder.
"I guess we'd better go inside." Annie said.
Inside, they found everyone in various states of preparation for departure. Neela and Jam were in the kitchen looking at the ferry schedule. Paul and Moira were saying good-bye to Michael, Coral and Michelle. Annie wandered into the kitchen.
"You guys going on the next ferry?" she asked.
"Looks like it. But we just heard from Paul that there may be a long wait, it being Sunday afternoon and Easter. So we're going to head out early, just in case. What are you going to do?" Jam asked her.
Annie glanced over at Adam. He had assumed she'd carpooled with Neela and Jam, and had expected that she'd leave when they left.
"When are you going?" she asked him.
"I'm going to help my parents clean up, and try to be home before dark, Adam answered.
Annie looked over at Neela, and then at Adam. "I don't know what to do. Maybe I should go now." She waited for Adam to say something.
Adam stood there, waiting for Annie to say something more.
Annie looked back at Neela, who raised her eyebrows, but said nothing.
"Oh, heck. I'm tired. I'm going." Annie said, impatiently. She followed her friends towards the door.
Paul and Moira were on the deck, watching Michael, Coral and Michelle leave up the stairs.
"Thanks for the party, Neela said to them, "We had a great time."
"Thanks from me, too." Jam said, as he passed by. "Give me a call if you ever want the inside of this place done."
Annie paused in front of Paul and Moira. "Thanks. For everything." She looked at Moira. "It's okay to have lunch with you next week."
Moira beamed. "I knew it would be. I look forward to it. Now, hurry and catch your friends."
Annie looked up. "Oh, I don't have to hurry too much. Their truck is blocking my car. I parked right behind a tree, you see, and they pulled up right behind me."
Paul and Moira looked at her, the same thought going through their heads.
"Oh." Paul said, and then stopped in confusion. He wanted to ask her to stay for coffee, but didn't know what was going on between her and Adam. Why wasn't Adam leaving with her?
Moira, who knew exactly what was going on, but trying hard not to manipulate, simply gave Annie a genuine smile. "Well, I'm very happy to have met you, and I'm really looking forward to getting to know you better." She leaned forward and embraced her warmly.
"You have to come back sometime for dinner." Paul hoped it was okay he'd said that, and gave her a bear hug.
"I'd like that." Annie laughed inside his grip. Paul did seem like a big, cuddly teddy bear. She wondered if Adam would ever become like Paul, or would he remain lean and wiry into old age.
"Well, goodbye." Annie headed up the stairs.
Paul put his arm around Moira and watched Annie in her little print dress head up the stairs. "Where is that idiot son of ours?" he muttered under his breath.
Moira chuckled. "He's in the kitchen. Not making the most of an opportunity."
Paul looked at her. "What's he doing in there?"
"What he thinks he should be doing, not what he feels he should be doing."
Paul looked up to see Annie nearing the top step. "Well, I'm going to have a talk with that boy."
He strode into the house, and found Adam washing dishes.
"What are you doing in here?" Paul demanded.
"Washing dishes," Adam said, surprised by his father's intensity.
"Why? We have a dishwasher!" Paul exclaimed.
"Oh, yeah. I don't use them, so I forgot you have one." Adam noticed the one under the counter for the first time.
"Why are you in here, washing dishes, when Annie is leaving? Did you even say goodbye? Did you two have a fight or something?" Paul sputtered out the questions.
Adam looked truly puzzled. "Uh, she said she was tired and was leaving, I think."
"Why aren't you leaving with her?" Paul demanded.
"I came on my bike," Adam said, confused by Paul's line of questioning.
Paul looked over at Moira who was watching the interchange with amusement.
"I think Paul is trying to tell you that you're missing an opportunity." Moira explained.
A light turned on over Adam's head. "Oh. Oh! I see what you mean."
"So you grab your bike, get up there, and go after that girl!" Paul said, spelling it out. He looked at Moira. "It's got to come from your side of the family. I was never like this, was I?"
Moira laughed, "No, you were something else." She kissed him.
"Well, I'll leave the dishes then." Adam said, looking at his parents.
"Go! Go!" his parents said in unison.
Adam went and grabbed his bike and sprinted up the stairs. No one was at the road, so he put on his helmet and jumped on his bike. He took the Southworth turnoff as a shortcut down to the ferry line, and was surprised when he came out at the dock to find there was none. A boat was just leaving, loaded to the gills. He had missed it by thirty seconds.
It took him over two hours to get home, as the ferries were off schedule. Once there, he tried phoning Annie, but hung up when he got her voice mail. He decided to spend the evening in meditation, cleaning out the intensity of the day.