Early the next morning, Theresa was sleeping soundly when the sound of a ringing phone jarred her awake. Fumbling for the phone, she recognized Garrett's voice instantly. "Did you make it home okay?" "Yeah, I did," she replied groggily. "What time is it?" "A little after six. Did I wake you?" "Yes. I stayed up late last night waiting for your call. I started to wonder if you'd forgotten your promise." "I didn't forget. I just figured you needed a little time to settle in." "But you were confident I'd be up at the crack of dawn, right?" Garrett laughed. "Sorry about that. How was the flight? How are you?" "Good. Tired, but good." "So I take it that the pace of the big city has already worn you out again." She laughed, and Garrett's voice turned serious. "Hey, I want you to know something." "What?" "I miss you." "You do?" "Yeah-I went in to do work yesterday even though the shop was closed, hoping to get some paperwork done, but I couldn't do much because I kept thinking about you." "That's good to hear." "It's the truth. I don't know how I'm going to get any work done over the next couple of weeks." "Oh, you'll manage." "I might not be able to sleep, either." She laughed, knowing he was teasing. "Now, don't go that far. I'm not into those superdependent guys, you know. I like my men to be men." "I'll try to keep it in check, then." She paused. "Where are you now?" "I'm sitting on the back deck, watching the sun come up. Why?" Theresa thought about the view she was missing. "Is it beautiful?" "It always is, but this morning, I'm not enjoying it as much as I usually do." "Why not?" "Because you're not here with me to enjoy it." She lay back on the bed, making herself comfortable. "Hey-I miss you, too." "I hope so. I'd hate to think I was the only one who felt this way." She smiled, holding the phone to her ear with one hand and absently twirling a strand of her hair with the other, until they finally said a reluctant good-bye twenty minutes later and hung up the phone. *  *  * Entering the office later than usual, Theresa felt the effects of her whirlwind adventure finally catching up with her. She hadn't slept much, and when she'd looked in the mirror after talking to Garrett on the phone, she'd felt sure that she looked at least a decade older than she was. As usual, the first place she went once she got to work was the break room for a cup of coffee, and on this morning she added a second packet of sugar to give her an extra jolt. "Well, hello, Theresa," Deanna said happily, striding in behind her. "I thought you'd never get here. I've been dying to hear everything that happened." "Good morning," Theresa mumbled, stirring her coffee. "Sorry I'm late." "I'm just glad you made it at all. I almost ran over to your apartment last night to talk to you, but I didn't know what time you got in." "I'm sorry for not calling, but I was a little worn out from my week," she said. Deanna leaned against the counter. "Well, that's not a surprise. I've already put two and two together." "What do you mean?" Deanna's eyes were bright. "I take it you haven't seen your desk yet." "No, I just walked in. Why?" "Well," she said, raising her eyebrows, "I guess you must have made a good impression." "What are you talking about, Deanna?" "Come with me," Deanna said with a conspiratorial grin as she led her back into the newsroom. When Theresa saw her desk, she gasped. Next to the mail that had accumulated while she was gone stood a dozen roses, beautifully arranged in a large clear vase.
"They arrived first thing this morning. I think the delivery man was a little shocked that you weren't there to receive them, but I went ahead and said I was you. Then he really looked shocked."
Barely listening to what Deanna had said, Theresa reached for the card leaning against the vase and opened it immediately. Deanna stood behind her, craning over her shoulder. It read: To the most beautiful woman I know-Now that I'm alone again, nothing is as it once was. The sky is grayer, the ocean is more forbidding. Will you make it right? The only way is to see me again. I miss you, Garrett Theresa smiled at the note and slipped it back inside the envelope, bending to smell the bouquet. "You must have had a memorable week," Deanna said. "Yeah, I did," Theresa answered simply. "I can't wait to hear about it-every spicy detail." "I think," Theresa said, glancing around the newsroom at all the people watching her discreetly, "that I'd rather talk to you about it later, when we're alone. I don't need the whole office gossiping about it." "They already are, Theresa. It's been a long time since flowers have been delivered here. But all right-we'll talk about it later." "Did you tell them who they were from?" "Of course not. To be honest, I kind of like leaving them in suspense." She gave a small wink after looking around the newsroom. "Listen, Theresa, I've got some work to do. Do you think we could have lunch today? Then we can talk." "Sure. Where?" "How about Mikuni's? I bet you didn't find much sushi down in Wilmington." "That sounds great. And Deanna . . . thanks for keeping it a secret." "No problem." Deanna patted Theresa's shoulder gently and headed back to her office. Theresa leaned over her desk and smelled the roses again before moving the vase to the corner of her desk. She began to sort through her mail for a couple of minutes, pretending not to notice the flowers until the newsroom resumed its chaotic patterns. Making sure that no one was paying attention, she picked up the phone and dialed Garrett at work. Ian answered the phone. "Hold on, I think he's in his office. Who's calling, please?" "Tell him it's someone who wants to schedule some dive lessons in a couple of weeks." She tried to sound as distant as she could, not sure if Ian knew about them. Ian put her on hold, and there was silence for a short moment. Then the line clicked and Garrett came on. "Can I help you?" he asked, sounding a little frazzled. She said simply: "You shouldn't have, but I'm glad you did." He recognized her voice, and his tone brightened. "Hey, it's you. I'm glad they arrived. Do they look okay?" "They're beautiful. How did you know I loved roses?" "I didn't, but I've never heard of a woman who didn't, so I took a chance." She smiled. "So you send lots of women roses?" "Millions. I have a lot of fans. Dive instructors are almost like movie stars, you know." "They are, huh?" "You mean you didn't know? And here I thought you were just another groupie." She laughed. "Thanks a lot." "Sure. Did anyone ask who they were from?" She smiled. "Of course." "I hope you said good things." "I did. I told them you were sixty-eight and with a horrible lisp that made it impossible to understand you. But since you were so pitiful, I went ahead and had lunch with you. And now, unfortunately, you're stalking me." "Hey, that hurts," he said. He paused. "So . . . I hope the roses will remind you that I'm thinking about you." "They might," she said coyly. "Well, I am thinking about you and I don't want you to forget it." She glanced at the roses. "Ditto," she said quietly. After they had hung up, Theresa sat quietly for a moment, reaching for the card again. She read it once more, and this time, instead of putting it back with the flowers, she placed it in her purse for safekeeping. Knowing this crowd, she was sure someone would read it when she wasn't looking. *  *  * "So, what's he like?" Deanna sat across from Theresa at the table in the restaurant. Theresa handed Deanna the pictures from her vacation. "I don't know where to start." Staring at a picture of Garrett and Theresa on the beach, Deanna spoke without looking at her. "Start at the beginning. I don't want to miss a thing." Since Theresa had already told her about meeting Garrett at the docks, she picked up her story from the evening they spent sailing. She told Deanna how she had purposely left her jacket on board as an excuse to see him again-to which Deanna replied, "Marvelous!"-moving on to their lunch the next day and finally to their dinner. Recapping the final four days they spent together, she left very little out as Deanna listened with rapt attention. "It sounds like you had a wonderful time," Deanna said, smiling like a proud mother. "I did. It was one of the best weeks I've ever spent. It's just that . . ." "What?" It took a moment for her to answer. "Well, Garrett said something toward the end that got me wondering where this whole thing was going to go from here." "What did he say?" "It wasn't just what he said, but how he said it. He sounded as if he weren't sure he wanted us to see each other again." "I thought you said that you were going down to Wilmington again in a couple of weeks." "I am." "Then what's the problem?" She fidgeted, trying to collect her thoughts. "Well, he's still struggling with Catherine and . . . and I'm not exactly sure whether he'll ever get over it." Deanna laughed suddenly. "What's so funny?" Theresa asked, startled. "You are, Theresa. What did you expect? You knew he was still struggling with Catherine before you went down there. Remember, it was his 'undying' love that you found so attractive in the first place. Did you think that he'd completely get over Catherine in a couple of days, just because you two hit it off so well?" Theresa looked sheepish and Deanna laughed again. "You did, didn't you? That's exactly what you thought." "Deanna, you weren't there. . . . You don't know how right everything seemed between us, up until the last night." Deanna's voice softened. "Theresa, I know there's a part of you that believes you can change someone, but the reality is that you can't. You can change yourself, and Garrett can change himself, but you can't do it for him." "I know that-" "But you don't," Deanna said, gently cutting her off. "Or if you do, you don't want to see it that way. Your vision, as they say, has become clouded." Theresa thought for a moment about what she'd said. "Let's take an objective look at what happened with Garrett, shall we?" Deanna asked. Theresa nodded. "Though you knew something about Garrett, he knew absolutely nothing about you. Yet he was the one who asked you to go sailing. So something between you two must have clicked right away. Next, you see him again when you pick up your jacket, and he asks you to lunch. He tells you about Catherine and then asks you to come over for dinner. After that, you spend four wonderful days together getting to know-and care for-each other. Had you told me before you'd left that this is what would have happened, I wouldn't have believed it possible. But it did-that's the thing. And now, you two are planning to see each other again. To me, it sounds like the whole thing was a smashing success." "Then, you mean I shouldn't worry about whether he'll ever get over Catherine?" Deanna shook her head. "Not exactly. But look-you've got to take this one step at a time. The fact is, you only spent a few days together so far-that's not enough time to make a decision about something like this. If I were you, I'd see how you both feel over the next couple of weeks, and when you see him the next time, you're bound to know a lot more than you know now." "Do you think so?" Theresa eyed her friend worriedly. "I was right about twisting your arm to get you down there in the first place, wasn't I?" *  *  * While Theresa and Deanna were eating, Garrett was working in his office behind a giant stack of papers when the door opened. Jeb Blake entered, making sure that his son was alone before closing the door behind him. After taking a seat in the chair across from Garrett's desk, Jeb pulled some tobacco and rolling paper from his pocket and began to roll his cigarette. "Go ahead and sit down. As you can see, I don't have much to do." Garrett gestured toward the pile. Jeb smiled and continued rolling. "I called the shop a couple of times and they said you hadn't come in all week. What have you been up to?" Leaning back in his chair, Garrett eyed his father. "I'm sure you already know the answer to your question, and that's probably the reason you're here." "You were with Theresa the whole time?" "Yeah, I was." Continuing to roll his cigarette, Jeb asked nonchalantly, "So, what did you two do with yourselves?" "We went sailing, walked on the beach, talked. . . . You know, just got to know each other." Jeb finished with his cigarette and put it in his mouth. He pulled a Zippo lighter from his front shirt pocket, lit up, and inhaled deeply. Exhaling, he gave Garrett a roguish grin. "Did you cook those steaks like I taught you?" Garrett smirked. "Of course." "Was she impressed?" "She was very impressed." Jeb nodded and took another drag from his cigarette. Garrett could feel the air in the office beginning to grow stale. "Well then, she has at least one good quality, doesn't she." "She's got a lot more than one, Dad." "You liked her, didn't you?" "Very much." "Even though you don't know her very well?" "I feel like I know everything about her." Jeb nodded and said nothing for a moment. Finally he asked, "Are you going to see her again?" "Actually, she's coming down in a couple of weeks with her son." Jeb watched Garrett's expression carefully. Then, standing, he started toward the door. Before opening it, he turned and faced his son. "Garrett, can I give you some advice?" Startled at his father's abrupt departure, he answered: "Sure." "If you like her, if she makes you happy, and if you feel like you know her-then don't let her go." "Why are you telling me this?" Jeb looked directly at Garrett and took another drag on his cigarette. "Because if I know you, you're going to be the one who ends it, and I'm here to try to stop you if I can." "What are you talking about?" "You know exactly what I'm talking about," he said quietly. Turning around, Jeb opened the door and left Garrett's office without another word. *  *  * Later that night, with the remnants of his father's comments rolling through his head, Garrett couldn't sleep. He rose from his bed and went to the kitchen, knowing what needed to be done. In the drawer, he found the stationery he always used when his mind was conflicted, and he sat down with the hopes of putting his thoughts into words. My darling Catherine, I don't know what's happening to me, and I don't know if I ever will. So much has happened lately that I can't make sense of what I'm going through.
Garrett sat at the table for an hour after writing those first two lines, and no matter how hard he tried, he couldn't think of anything else to say. But when he woke the following morning, unlike most days, his first thought wasn't about Catherine.
Instead it was about Theresa. *  *  * Over the next two weeks, Garrett and Theresa spoke on the phone every night, sometimes for hours. Garrett also sent a couple of letters-short notes, really-to let her know that he missed her, and he had another dozen roses delivered the following week, this time with a box of candy. Theresa didn't want to send him flowers or candy, so instead she sent him a light blue oxford shirt she thought would look good his jeans, along with a couple of cards. Kevin arrived home a few days later, and it made the next week pass much more quickly for Theresa than for Garrett. His first night home, Kevin ate dinner with Theresa, telling her about his vacation in fits and starts before collapsing into a deep sleep for almost fifteen hours. When he woke, there was already a long list of things that needed to be done. He needed new clothes for school-he'd already outgrown most of what he'd worn the previous year-and he had to sign up for fall league soccer, which ended up taking almost an entire Saturday. In addition, he'd come home with a suitcase full of dirty laundry that needed to be washed, he wanted to develop the pictures he'd taken on his vacation, and he had a Tuesday afternoon appointment with the orthodontist to see if he needed braces. In other words, life was back to normal at the Osborne household. On Kevin's second night back, Theresa told him about her vacation at the Cape, then about her trip to Wilmington. She mentioned Garrett, trying to convey how she felt about him without alarming Kevin. At first, when she explained how they were going to visit him the following weekend, Kevin didn't sound so sure about it. But after she told him what Garrett did for a living, Kevin began to show some signs of interest. "You mean he might teach me how to scuba dive?" he asked as she was vacuuming the house. "He said that he would, if you wanted to." "Cool," he said, returning to whatever he'd been doing before. A few nights later she took him to the store to get him a few magazines about diving. By the time they were ready to leave, Kevin knew the name of every piece of equipment it was possible to own, obviously dreaming about his upcoming adventure. Garrett, meanwhile, plunged ahead with work. He worked late, thinking about Theresa while he did so, acting much the same way he had after Catherine's death. When he mentioned to his father how much he missed Theresa, his father only nodded and smiled. Something in his father's assessing gaze made Garrett wonder what exactly was going through the old man's mind. By prior agreement, both Theresa and Garrett had decided it would be best if she and Kevin didn't stay at Garrett's house, but because it was still summer, nearly every room in town was booked. Luckily Garrett knew the owner of a small motel a mile up the beach from Garrett's house, and he had been able to make arrangements for their stay. When the day finally came for Theresa and Kevin to visit, Garrett bought some groceries, washed his truck inside and out, and showered before heading to the airport. Dressed in khaki pants, Top-Siders, and the shirt that Theresa had bought him, he waited nervously at the gate. In the last two weeks his feelings for Theresa had grown. He knew now that whatever happened between him and Theresa wasn't based simply on physical attraction-his longing hinted at something much deeper, more lasting. As he craned his neck for a glimpse of her among the passengers, he felt a pang of anxiety. It had been so long since he'd felt this way about anyone-and where was it all going? When Theresa stepped off the plane with Kevin beside her, all his nervousness suddenly faded away. She was beautiful-more so than he remembered. And Kevin-he looked exactly like his picture and a lot like his mother. He was a little over five feet, with Theresa's dark hair and eyes, and gangly-both his arms and his legs seemed to have grown a little faster than the rest of him. He was wearing long Bermuda shorts, Nike shoes, and a shirt from a concert by Hootie and the Blowfish. His choice of apparel was clearly inspired by MTV and Garrett couldn't help but smile to himself. Boston, Wilmington . . . it really didn't matter, did it? Kids would be kids. When Theresa saw him she waved, and Garrett moved toward them, reaching for their carry-on bags. Not sure whether he should kiss her in front of Kevin, he hesitated until Theresa leaned over and gaily kissed him on the cheek. "Garrett, I'd like you to meet my son, Kevin," she said proudly. "Hi, Kevin." "Hi, Mr. Blake," he said stiffly, as if Garrett were his teacher. "Call me Garrett," he said, holding out his hand. Kevin shook it, a little unsure. Until this point, no adult other than Annette had said that he could use their first name. "How was your flight?" Garrett asked. "Good," Theresa responded. "Did you get anything to eat?" "Not yet." "Well, how about we grab a bite before I take you to your motel?" "Sounds good." "Do you want anything in particular?" Garrett asked Kevin. "I like McDonald's." "Oh, honey, no," Theresa said quickly, but Garrett stopped her with a shake of his head. "McDonald's is fine with me." "You sure?" Theresa asked. "Positive. I eat there all the time." Kevin looked delighted at his answer, and the three of them started walking toward the baggage claim area. As they left the gates, Garrett asked: "Are you a good swimmer, Kevin?" "Pretty good." "Are you up for some scuba lessons this weekend?" "I think so-I've been reading up on it," he said, trying to sound older than he was. "Well, good. I was hoping you'd say that. If we're lucky, we may even be able to get you certified before you head back." "What does that mean?" "It's a license that allows you to dive whenever you want-kind of like a driver's license." "You can do that in a few days?" "Sure. You're required to take a written test and spend a few hours in the water with an instructor. But since you'll be my only student this weekend-unless your mother wants to learn, too-we should have more than enough time." "Cool," Kevin said. He turned toward Theresa. "Are you gonna learn, too, Mom?" "I don't know. Maybe." "I think you should," Kevin said. "It would be fun." "He's right-you should learn, too," Garrett added with a smirk, knowing she would feel cornered by the two of them and probably give in. "Fine," she said, rolling her eyes, "I'll go, too. But if I see any sharks, I'm quitting." "You mean there might be sharks?" Kevin asked quickly. "Yeah, we'll probably see some sharks. But they're little and they don't bother people." "How little?" Theresa asked, remembering the story he'd told about the hammerhead he'd encountered. "Little enough that you won't have anything to worry about." "Are you sure?" "Positive." "Cool," Kevin repeated to himself, and Theresa glanced at Garrett, wondering if he was telling the truth. *  *  * After picking up their bags and stopping for a bite to eat, Garrett drove Theresa and Kevin to the motel. Once their things were inside, Garrett went back to his truck, returning with a book and some papers under his arms. "Kevin-these are for you." "What are they?" "It's the book and the tests you need to read for your certification. Don't worry-it looks like there's more to read than there is. But if you want to head out tomorrow, you have to have the first two sections read and complete the first test." "Is it hard?" "No-it's pretty easy, but you still have to do it. And you can use the book to find the answers you're not sure about." "You mean I can look up the answers while I take the test?" Garrett nodded. "Yeah. When I give these to my classes, they're supposed to do them at home and I'm sure almost everyone uses the book. The important thing is that you try to learn what you need to know. Diving is a lot of fun, but it can be dangerous if you don't know what you're doing." Garrett handed Kevin the book as he went on. "If you can finish by tomorrow-it's about twenty pages to read, plus the test-we'll head to the pool for the first part of your certification. You'll learn how to put on your equipment and then we'll practice for a while." "We're not going in the ocean?" "Not tomorrow-you have to spend some time getting comfortable with the equipment first. After we spend a few hours doing that, then we'll be ready. We'll probably hit the ocean on Monday and Tuesday for your first open-water dives. And if you get enough hours in the water, you'll have a temporary certification by the time you step on the plane to go home. Then, all you have to do is mail an application, and you'll get the actual certification in the mail in a couple of weeks." Kevin began to flip through the pages. "Does Mom have to do it, too?" "If she wants to be certified, she does." Theresa walked over, peeking over Kevin's shoulder as he glanced through the book. The information didn't look too daunting. "Kevin," she said, "we can do it together tomorrow morning, if you're too tired to start now." "I'm not too tired," he said quickly. "Then would you mind if Garrett and I talked on the patio for a while?" "No, go ahead," he said absently, already turning to the first page. Once outside, Garrett and Theresa sat across from each other. Glancing back at her son, Theresa saw that Kevin was already reading. "You're not cutting any corners to get him certified, are you?" Garrett shook his head. "No, not at all. To get a PADI certificate-the certificate for recreational divers-you need to pass the tests and spend a certain amount of time in the water with an instructor-that's all. Usually we pace it out over three or four weekends, but that's because most people don't have time to do it during the week. He'll get the same number of hours-it's just more condensed." "I appreciate your doing this for him." "Hey-you forget this is what I do for a living." After making sure that Kevin was still reading, he scooted his chair a little closer. "I missed you these last couple of weeks," he said quietly, taking her hand in his. "I missed you, too." "You look wonderful," he added. "You were easily the prettiest woman who got off the plane." Despite herself, Theresa blushed. "Thanks. . . . You look good yourself-especially wearing that shirt." "I thought you might like it." "Are you disappointed that we're not staying at your place?" "Not really. I understand your reasons-Kevin doesn't know me from Adam, and I'd rather let him get comfortable with me on his own terms than push it on him. Like you said, he's been through enough already." "You know that it means we won't be able to spend much time alone this weekend, don't you?" "I'll take you any way I can get you," he said. Theresa glanced inside again, and when she saw that Kevin was immersed in the book, she leaned over and kissed Garrett. Despite the fact that she wouldn't be with him all night, she found herself surprisingly happy. Sitting beside him and seeing the way he looked at her made her heartbeat surge. "I wish we didn't live so far apart," she said. "You're kind of addicting." "I'll take that as a compliment." *  *  * Three hours later, long after Kevin was asleep, Theresa quietly led Garrett to the door. After stepping out into the hall and closing the door behind them, they kissed for a long time, both of them finding it hard to let each other go. In his arms Theresa felt like a teenager again, as if she were sneaking a kiss on her parents' porch, and it somehow added to the excitement she was feeling. "I wish you could stay here tonight," she whispered. "I do, too." "Is it as difficult for you to say good night as it is for me?" "I'd be willing to bet it's a lot more difficult for me. I'm going home to an empty house." "Don't say that. You'll make me feel guilty." "Maybe a little guilt is a good thing. Lets me know you care." "I wouldn't be down here if I didn't." They kissed again, hungrily. Pulling back, he mumbled, "I should really be going." He didn't sound as if he meant it. "I know." "But I don't want to," he said with a boyish smile. "I know what you mean," she said. "But you have to. You've got to teach us how to dive tomorrow." "I'd rather teach you a couple of other things I know." "I think you did that the last time I was here," she said coyly. "I know. But practice makes perfect." "Then we'll have to find some time to practice while I'm here." "You think that might happen?" "I think," she said honestly, "that when it comes to us, anything is possible." "I hope you're right." "I'm right," she said before kissing him one last time. "I usually am." She gently pulled away from him and backed toward the door. "That's what I like about you, Theresa-your confidence. You always know what's going on." "Go home, Garrett," she said demurely. "And do me a favor?" "Anything." "Dream about me, okay?" *  *  * Kevin woke early the next morning and opened the curtains, letting sunlight flood into the room. Theresa squinted and rolled over, trying to get a few more minutes' rest, but Kevin was persistent. "Mom-you've got to take the test before we go," he said excitedly. Theresa groaned. Turning over, she checked the clock. A little after six A.M. She'd been in bed less than five hours. "It's too early," she said, closing her eyes again. "Can you give me a few more minutes, honey?" "We don't have time," he said, sitting on her bed and nudging her shoulder gently. "You haven't even read the first section yet." "Did you finish it all last night?" "Yep," he said. "My test is over there, but don't copy, okay? I don't want to get into trouble." "I don't think you'd get in trouble," she said groggily. "We know the teacher, you know." "But it wouldn't be fair. And besides, you have to know this stuff, just like Mr. Blake . . . I mean Garrett . . . said, otherwise you could run into trouble." "Okay, okay," she said, sitting up slowly. She rubbed her eyes. "Do they have any instant coffee in the bathroom?" "I didn't see any, but if you want, I'll run down the hall and get you a Coke." "I have some change in my purse. . . ." Kevin jumped up and began rummaging through her handbag. After finding a few quarters, he ran out the front door, his hair tousled from sleeping. She heard his feet thumping as he raced down the hall. After standing and stretching her arms above her head, she made her way to the small table. She picked up the book and started in on the first chapter just as he returned with two Cokes. "Here you go," he said, putting one on the table beside her. "I'm going to shower and get ready. Where'd you put my swimsuit?" Ah, the endless energy of childhood, she thought. "It's in the top drawer, next to your socks." "Okay," he said, pulling the drawer open, "got it." He went to the bathroom and Theresa listened as the shower was turned on. Opening her Coke, she returned to the book. Luckily Garrett had been right when he'd told her that the information wasn't difficult. It was easy reading with pictures describing the equipment, and she was finished by the time Kevin was dressed. After finding her test, she set it in front of her. Kevin walked over and stood behind her as she glanced at the first question. Remembering where she'd read about it, she began to flip back through the book to the appropriate page. "Mom, that's an easy one. You don't need the book for that." "At six in the morning, I need all the help I can get," she grumbled, not feeling the least bit guilty about it. Garrett had said she could use the book, hadn't he? Kevin continued to look over her shoulder as she answered the first couple of questions, commenting, "No, you're looking in the wrong place," or, "Are you sure you read the chapters?" until she finally told him to go watch television. "But there's nothing on," he said, sounding dejected. "Then read something." "I didn't bring anything." "Then sit quietly." "I am." "No, you're not. You're standing over my shoulder." "I'm just trying to help." "Just sit on the bed, okay? And don't say anything." "I'm not saying anything." "You're talking right now." "That's because you're talking to me." "Can't you let me take the test in peace?" "Okay. I won't say another word. I'll be as quiet as a mouse." And he was-for two minutes. Then he started whistling. She put her pen down and faced him. "Why are you whistling?" "I'm bored." "Then turn on the TV." "There's nothing on. . . ." And so it went until she finally finished. It had taken almost an hour to do something she could have done in her office in half the time. She took a long, hot shower and dressed, putting on her swimsuit beneath her clothes. Kevin, now famished, wanted to go to McDonald's again, but she drew the line and suggested that they have breakfast at the Waffle House across the street. "But I don't like their food." "You haven't ever eaten there before." "I know." "Then how do you know you don't like it?" "I just know." "Are you omniscient?" "What does that mean?" "It means, young man, that we're going to eat where I want to eat for once." "Really?" "Yes," she said, looking forward to a cup of coffee more than she had in a long time. *  *  * Garrett knocked at the front door of their motel room promptly at nine, and Kevin raced to the door to answer it. "Are you two ready?" he asked. "We sure are," Kevin answered quickly. "My test is over there. Let me get it for you." He skipped over to the table as Theresa rose from the bed and gave Garrett a quick kiss good morning. "How was your morning?" he asked. "It already seems like afternoon. Kevin got me up at the crack of dawn to take the test." Garrett smiled as Kevin returned with his test. "Here it is, Mr. Blake. Garrett, I mean." Garrett took it and began to look through his answers. "My mom had some trouble with a couple, but I helped her out," Kevin went on, and Theresa rolled her eyes. "Ready to go, Mom?"
"Whenever you are," she said, picking up the room key and her purse.
"Then c'mon," Kevin said, leading the way down the hall, toward Garrett's truck. *  *  * Throughout the morning and early afternoon, Garrett taught them the basics of scuba diving. They learned how the equipment worked, how to put it on and test it, and finally how to breathe through the mouthpiece, first on the side of the pool, then underwater. "The most important thing to remember," Garrett explained, "is to breathe normally. Don't hold your breath, don't breathe too quickly or slowly. Just let it come naturally." Of course, nothing seemed natural about it to Theresa, and she ended up having more trouble with it than Kevin. Kevin, always the adventurer, thought that after a few minutes underwater he knew all there was to know. "This is easy," he said to Garrett. "I think I'll be ready for the ocean this afternoon." "I'm sure you would, but we still have to do the lessons in the proper order." "How's Mom doing?" "Good." "As good as me?" "You're both doing great," he said, and Kevin put the mouthpiece back in. He went back underwater just as Theresa came up and took out her mouthpiece. "It feels funny when I breathe," she said. "You're doing fine. Just relax and breathe normally." "That's what you said the last time I came up gagging." "The rules haven't changed in the last few minutes, Theresa." "I know that. I just wonder if something isn't wrong with my tank." "The tank is fine. I double-checked it this morning." "But you're not the one using it, are you?" "Would you like me to test it out?" "No," she muttered, squinting in frustration, "I'll manage." Underwater she went again. Kevin popped up and took his mouthpiece out again. "Is Mom okay? I saw her come up." "She's fine. Just getting used to it, like you are." "Good. I'd feel really bad if I got my certification and she didn't." "Don't you worry about that. Just keep practicing." "Okay." And so it went. After a few hours in the water, both Kevin and Theresa were tired. They had lunch, and once again Garrett told his diving stories, this time for Kevin's benefit. Kevin asked what seemed like a hundred wide-eyed questions. Garrett answered each one patiently, and Theresa was relieved at how well they seemed to get along. After stopping at the motel to pick up the book and the lesson for the following day, Garrett brought them both to his house. Though Kevin had planned on starting the next few chapters right away, the fact that Garrett lived on the beach changed everything. Standing in the living room and looking toward the ocean, he asked: "Can I go down to the water, Mom?" "I don't think so," she said gently. "We've just spent all day in the pool." "Ah, Mom . . . please? You don't have to go with me-you can watch me from the deck." She hesitated, and Kevin knew he had her. "Please," he said again, giving her his most earnest smile. "All right, you can go. But don't go out too deep, okay?" "I won't, I promise," he said excitedly. After seizing the towel Garrett handed him, he ran down to the water. Garrett and Theresa sat on the deck and watched him as he began to splash around. "He's quite a young man," Garrett said quietly. "Yes, he is," she said. "And I think he likes you. At lunch when you went to the bathroom, he said you were cool." Garrett smiled. "I'm glad. I like him, too. He's one of the better students I've had." "You're just saying that to please me." "No, I'm not. He really is. I meet a lot of young kids in my classes, and he's very mature and well-spoken for his age. And he's nice, too. Too many kids are spoiled these days, but I don't get that sense about him." "Thank you." "I mean it, Theresa. After hearing about your worries, I wasn't sure what to expect. But he's really a great kid. You've done a good job raising him." She reached for his hand and kissed it gently. She spoke quietly. "It means a lot to me to hear you say that. I haven't met many men who want to talk about him, let alone spend time with him." "Then it's their loss." She smiled. "How come you always know exactly what to say to make me feel good?" "Maybe it's because you bring out the best in me." "Maybe I do." *  *  * That evening Garrett took Kevin to the video store to pick up a couple of movies he wanted to watch and ordered pizza for the three of them. They watched the first movie together, eating in the living room. After dinner Kevin slowly began to fade. By nine o'clock he'd fallen asleep in front of the television. Theresa nudged him gently, telling him it was time to leave. "Can't we just sleep here tonight?" he mumbled, only half-conscious. "I think we should go," she said quietly. "If you want, you two can sleep in my bed," Garrett offered. "I'll stay out here and sleep on the couch." "Let's do that, Mom. I'm really tired." "Are you sure?" she asked, but by then Kevin had already begun to stagger in the direction of the bedroom. They heard the springs squeak as Kevin plopped down on Garrett's bed. Following him, they peeked in the door. In a moment he was sleeping again. "I don't think he's giving you much choice," Garrett whispered. "I'm still not sure it's a good idea." "I'll be a perfect gentleman-I promise." "I'm not worried about you-I just don't want to give Kevin the wrong impression." "You mean you don't want him to know we care about each other? I think he already knows that." "You know what I mean." "Yeah, I know." He shrugged. "Look, if you want me to help you get him out to the truck, I'd be glad to do it." She stared at Kevin for a moment, listening to his deep, even breaths. He looked dead to the world. "Well, maybe one night wouldn't hurt," she relented, and Garrett winked. "I was hoping you'd say that." "Now don't forget your promise to be a perfect gentleman." "I won't." "You sound so sure about it." "Hey . . . a promise is a promise." She gently closed the door and put her arms around Garrett's neck. She kissed him, biting him teasingly on the lip. "That's good, because if it was just up to me, I don't think I could control myself." He winced. "You really know how to make it tough on a guy, don't you?" "Does that mean you think I'm a tease?" "No," he said quietly. "It means I think you're perfect." *  *  * Instead of watching the second movie, Garrett and Theresa sat on the couch, sipping wine and talking. Theresa checked on Kevin a couple of times, making sure he was still asleep. He looked as if he hadn't moved at all. By midnight Theresa was yawning steadily, and Garrett suggested that she get some sleep. "But I came down here to see you," she protested drowsily. "But if you don't get your sleep, I'll look blurry." "I'm fine, really," she said before yawning again. Garrett rose and went to the closet. He pulled out a sheet, blanket, and pillow and brought them to the couch. "I insist. Try to get some sleep. We have the next few days to see each other." "Are you sure?" "Positive." She helped Garrett get the couch ready and went to the bedroom. "If you don't want to sleep in your clothes, there are some sweats in the second drawer," he said. She kissed him again. "I had a wonderful day today," she said. "So did I." "I'm sorry for being so tired." "You've done a lot today. It's completely understandable." With their arms entwined, she whispered in his ear, "Are you always this easy to get along with?" "I try." "Well, you're doing a heck of a job." *  *  * A few hours later Garrett woke to the sensation of someone nudging him in the ribs. Opening his eyes, he saw Theresa sitting next to him. She was wearing the sweats he'd mentioned earlier. "Are you okay?" he asked, sitting up. "I'm fine," she whispered, stroking his arm. "What time is it?" "A little after three." "Is Kevin still sleeping?" "Like a rock." "Can I ask why you got out of bed?" "I had a dream and I couldn't fall back to sleep." He rubbed his eyes. "What was the dream about?" "You," she said in hushed tones. "Was it a good dream?" he asked. "Oh, yes . . ." She trailed off. She leaned over to kiss his chest, and Garrett pulled her closer. He glanced toward the bedroom door. She had closed it behind her. "Aren't you worried about Kevin?" he asked. "A little, but I'm going to trust you to be as quiet as possible." She reached under the blanket and ran her fingers across his belly. Her touch was electric. "Are you sure about this?" "Uh-huh," she said. They made love tenderly, quietly, and afterward they lay beside each other. For a long time, neither of them spoke. When the faintest hint of light began to brush the horizon, they kissed good night and she returned to the bedroom. Within a few minutes she was sleeping soundly, and Garrett watched her from the doorway. For some reason, he found it impossible to fall asleep again. *  *  * The following morning, Theresa and Kevin did the workbook together while Garrett ran off to pick up some fresh bagels for breakfast. Again they headed off to the pool. This time the lessons were a little more advanced, covering a number of different skills. Theresa and Kevin practiced "buddy breathing" in the event that either one of them ran out of air when underwater and had to share one tank, and Garrett warned of the dangers of panicking while diving and rushing to the surface too quickly. "If you do that, you'll get what's called 'the bends.' It's not only painful-it can be life-threatening." They also spent time in the deep end of the pool, swimming underwater for extended periods, getting used to the equipment and practicing how to clear their ears. Toward the end of their lesson, Garrett showed them how to jump off the side of the pool without having their masks come off. Predictably, both of them were tired after a few hours and ready to call it a day. "Will we go into the ocean tomorrow?" Kevin asked as they were walking back to the truck. "If you'd like to. I think you're ready, but if you'd rather spend another day in the pool, we could do that instead." "No, I'm ready." "Are you sure? I don't want to rush you." "I'm sure," he said quickly. "How about you, Theresa? Are you ready for the ocean?" "If Kevin's ready, then I'm ready." "Am I still going to get certified by Tuesday?" Kevin asked. "If the ocean dives go well, you both will." "Awesome." "What's up for the rest of the day?" Theresa asked. Garrett started loading the tanks in the back of the truck. "I thought we'd go sailing. It looks like it's going to be great weather." "Can I learn how to do that, too?" Kevin asked eagerly. "Sure. I'll make you my first mate." "Do I need to be certified for that, too?" "No-that's up to the captain, and since I'm the captain, I can do it right now." "Just like that?" "Just like that." Kevin looked at Theresa with wide eyes, and she could almost read his thoughts. First I learn how to dive, then I become a first mate. Wait until I tell my friends. *  *  * Garrett was accurate in predicting ideal weather, and the three of them had a wonderful time on the water. Garrett taught Kevin the basics of sailing-from how and when to tack to anticipating the direction of the wind based on the clouds. As on their first date together, they had sandwiches and salads, but this time they were treated to a family of porpoises that frolicked around the boat as they ate. It was late by the time they made it back to the docks, and after Garrett showed Kevin how to close up the boat to protect it from unexpected storms, Garrett brought them back to their motel. Since all three of them were exhausted, Theresa and Garrett said good-bye quickly, and both Theresa and Kevin were in bed by the time Garrett arrived back at his house. The following day, Garrett took them out for their first ocean dive. After the initial nervousness wore off, they began to enjoy themselves and ended up going through two tanks each over the course of the afternoon. Thanks to the calm, coastal weather, the water was clear, with excellent visibility. Garrett took a few photos of them as they explored one of the shallow-water wrecks off the North Carolina coast. He promised to have them developed that week and to send them up as soon as he could. They spent the evening at Garrett's house again. After Kevin fell asleep, Garrett and Theresa sat close to each other on the deck, caressed by the warm, humid air. After talking about their earlier dive, Theresa was quiet for a little while. "I can't believe we'll be leaving tomorrow night," she said finally, a trace of sadness in her voice. "These last couple of days have flown by." "That's because we've been so busy." She smiled. "Now you have a sense of what my life is like in Boston." "Always racing around?" She nodded. "Exactly. Kevin is the best thing that ever happened to me, but he sometimes wears me out. He always has to be doing something." "You wouldn't change it, though, would you? I mean, you don't want to raise a TV junkie or a kid who sits in his room listening to music all day, do you?" "No." "Then count your blessings. He's a great kid-I've really enjoyed spending time with him." "I'm so glad. I know he feels the same way." She paused. "You know, even though we haven't spent much time alone on this trip, it seems like I know you a lot better now than when I first came down here by myself." "What do you mean? I'm still the same guy I was before." She smiled. "You are and you aren't. The last time I was here, you had me all to yourself, and we both know it's easier to get involved with someone when you can spend a lot of exclusive time together. This time, you saw what it would really be like with Kevin around . . . and yet you handled the whole thing better than I could have imagined." "Well, thanks, but it wasn't that hard. As long as you're around, it doesn't matter what we do. I just like spending time with you."
He put his arm around her, pulling her close. She rested her head on his shoulder. In the silence, they listened as the waves rolled up along the beach.
"Are you going to stay over again tonight?" he asked. "I was giving it some serious consideration." "Would you want me to be a perfect gentleman again?" "Maybe. Maybe not." He raised his eyebrows. "Are you flirting with me?" "I'm trying," she confessed, and he laughed. "You know, Garrett, I really feel comfortable around you." "Comfortable? You make it sound like I'm a couch." "I don't mean it like that. I mean I just feel good about myself when we're together." "You should. I feel pretty good about you." "Pretty good? That's it?" He shook his head. "No, that's not all." He looked almost bashful for a second. "After you left the last time, my dad came in and lectured me." "What did he say?" "He said that if you made me happy, that I shouldn't let you go." "And how do you intend to do that?" "I guess I'll have to bowl you over with my charisma." "You've already done that." He glanced at her, then looked out over the water. After a moment he spoke quietly. "Then I guess I'll have to tell you that I love you." I love you. Overhead, the stars were out in full, twinkling in the darkened sky. Distant clouds rode the horizon, reflecting the light of a crescent moon. Theresa listened as the words rolled through her head again. I love you. No ambivalence this time, no doubt about what he'd said. "Do you really?" she whispered finally. "Yes," he said, turning to face her, "I do."When he answered, she saw something in his eyes she hadn't seen before. "Oh Garrett . . . ," she began uncertainly, before Garrett interrupted her with a shake of his head. "Theresa, I don't expect you to feel the same way. I just wanted you to know how I feel." He thought for a moment and found himself remembering the dream he'd had. "Over the last two weeks, a lot of things have happened. . . ." He paused. She started to say something, but Garrett shook his head. It took a moment for him to continue. "And I'm not sure I understand everything, but I do know how I feel about you." His finger gently moved across her cheek and lips. "I love you, Theresa." "I love you, too," she said softly, trying out the words and hoping they were true. They held each other for a long time afterward, then went inside and made love, whispering to each other until the early morning hours. But this time, after Theresa went to the bedroom, Garrett slept soundly while Theresa stayed awake, thinking about the miracle that had brought them together. *  *  * The next day passed wonderfully. Whenever they had a chance, Garrett and Theresa held hands, stealing a few furtive kisses when Kevin wasn't looking. They spent their day practicing as they had before, and once they had finished their final diving lesson, Garrett gave them their temporary certificates right on the boat. "You can dive whenever and wherever you want now," he said to Kevin, who handled the certificate almost as if it were gold. "Just send this form in and you'll have your PADI certificate in a couple of weeks. But remember-it's never safe to dive alone. Always go with someone else." Since it was their last day in Wilmington, Theresa checked them out of the motel, and the three of them went to Garrett's house. Kevin wanted to spend their last few hours on the beach, and Theresa and Garrett sat with him near the water's edge. For a while Garrett and Kevin played Frisbee, and realizing it was getting late in the afternoon, Theresa went inside and found something to eat. They had a quick dinner on the back deck-hot dogs on the grill-before Garrett drove them to the airport. After Theresa and Kevin had safely boarded, Garrett stayed a few minutes, watching until the plane finally began to back out of the gate. When it drew out of sight, he walked back to the truck and returned home, already watching the clock to see how long it would be until he could call her that evening. In their seats, Theresa and Kevin thumbed through magazines. Halfway through the first leg of their trip home, Kevin suddenly turned to her and asked: "Mom, do you like Garrett?" "Yes, I do. But more important, do you like him?" "I think he's cool. For a grownup, I mean." Theresa smiled. "You two seemed to have hit it off. Are you glad we came?" He nodded. "Yeah, I'm glad." He paused, fidgeting with the magazine. "Mom, can I ask you something?" "Anything." "Are you gonna marry Garrett?" "I don't know. Why?" "Do you want to?" It took her a few moments to answer. "I'm not sure. I do know that I don't want to marry him right now. We're still getting to know each other." "But you might want to marry him in the future?" "Maybe." Kevin looked relieved. "I'm glad. You seemed like you were really happy when you were with him." "Could you tell?" "Mom, I'm twelve. I know more than you think." She reached over and touched his hand. "Well, what would you have said if I'd told you I did want to marry him now?" He was quiet for a moment. "I guess I'd wonder where we were gonna live." For the life of her, Theresa couldn't think of a good response. Where indeed?