Four days after Theresa left Wilmington, Garrett had another dream, only this time it was about Catherine. In the dream they were in a grassy field bordered by a cliff overlooking the ocean. They were walking together, holding hands and talking, when Garrett said something that made her laugh. All at once she broke away from him. Looking over her shoulder and laughing, she called for Garrett to chase her. He did, laughing as well, feeling much as he had the day they were married. Watching her run, he couldn't help but notice how beautiful she was. Her flowing hair reflected the light of the high yellow sun, her legs were lean and moving rhythmically, effortlessly. Her smile, despite the fact she was running, looked easy and relaxed, as if she were standing still. "Chase me, Garrett. Can you catch me?" she called. The sound of laughter after she said it floated in the air around him, sounding musical. He was slowly gaining on her when he noticed that she was heading toward the cliff. In her excitement and joy, she didn't seem to realize where she was going. But that's ridiculous, he thought. She has to know. Garrett called for her to stop, but instead she began to run faster. She was approaching the edge of the cliff. With a feeling of certain dread, he saw that he was still too far behind her to catch her. He ran as fast as he could, screaming for her to turn around. She didn't appear to hear him. He felt the adrenaline rush through his body, fed by a paralyzing fear. "Stop, Catherine!" he shouted, his lungs exhausted. "The cliff-you're not watching where you're going!" The more he shouted, the softer his voice became, until it turned into a whisper. Catherine kept on running, unaware. The cliff was only a few feet away. He was closing ground. But he was still too far behind. "Stop!" he screamed again, though this time he knew she couldn't hear it. His voice had diminished to nothing. The panic he felt then was greater than anything he'd ever known. With everything he had, he willed his legs to move faster, but they began to tire, turning heavier with every step he took. I'm not going to make it, he thought, panicking. Then, just as suddenly as she had broken away, she stopped. Turning to face him, she seemed oblivious of any danger. She stood only inches from the edge. "Don't move," he shouted, but again it came out in a whisper. He stopped a few feet from her and held out his hand, breathing heavily. "Come toward me," he pleaded. "You're right on the edge." She smiled and glanced behind her. Noticing how close she was to falling, she turned toward him. "Did you think you were going to lose me?" "Yes," he said quietly, "and I promise not to ever let it happen again." *  *  * Garrett woke and sat up in bed, staying awake for several hours afterward. When he finally fell back to sleep, it was fitful at best, and it was almost ten o'clock the next morning before he was able to get up. Still exhausted and feeling depressed, he found it impossible to think about anything but the dream. Not knowing what to do, he called his father, who met him for breakfast in their usual place. "I don't know why I feel this way," he told his father after a few minutes of small talk. "I just don't understand it." His father didn't answer. Instead he watched his son over his coffee cup, remaining silent as his son went on. "It's not like she did anything to upset me," he continued. "We just spent a long weekend together, and I really care for her. I met her son, too, and he's great. It's just that . . . I don't know I don't know if I'm going to be able to keep this up." Garrett paused. The only sound came from the tables around them. "Keep what up?" Jeb Blake finally asked. Garrett stirred his coffee absently. "I don't know whether I can see her again." His father cocked an eyebrow but didn't reply. Garrett went on. "Maybe it's just not meant to be. I mean, she doesn't even live here. She's a thousand miles away, she's got her own life, she's got her own interests. And here I am, living down here and leading an entirely separate life. Maybe she'd do better with someone else, someone she could see on a regular basis." He thought about what he'd said, knowing that he didn't quite believe himself. Still, he didn't want to tell his father about the dream. "I mean, how can we build a relationship if we don't see each other very often?" Again his father said nothing. Garrett carried on, as if talking to himself. "If she lived here and I could see her every day, I think I'd feel differently. But with her being gone . . ." He trailed off, trying to make sense of his thoughts. After a while he spoke again. "I just don't see how we can make it work. I've thought about it a lot, and I don't see how it could be possible. I don't want to move to Boston, and I'm sure she doesn't want to move here, so where would that leave us?" Garrett stopped and waited for his father to say something-anything-in response to what he'd said up to that point. But for a while, he didn't make a sound. Finally he sighed and looked away. "It sounds to me like you're making excuses," Jeb said quietly. "You're trying to convince yourself, and you're using me to listen to yourself talk." "No, Dad, I'm not. I'm just trying to figure out this whole thing." "Who do you think you're talking to, Garrett?" Jeb Blake shook his head. "Sometimes, I swear you think I just fell off the turnip truck and bumbled through life without learning anything along the way. But I know exactly what you're going through. You've gotten so caught up in being alone that you're afraid of what might happen if you actually find someone else that can take you away from it." "I'm not afraid," Garrett protested. His father cut him off sharply. "You can't even admit it to yourself, can you?" The disappointment in his tone was unmistakable. "You know, Garrett, when your mom died, I made excuses, too. Over the years, I told myself all sorts of things. And you wanna know where it got me?" He stared at his son. "I'm old and tired, and most of all, I'm alone. If I could go back in time, I'd change a lot about myself, and I'll be damned if I'm going to let you do the same things I did." Jeb paused before going on, his tone softening. "I was wrong, Garrett. I was wrong not to try to find someone else. I was wrong to feel guilty about your mom. I was wrong to keep living my life the way I did, always suffering inside and wondering what she would have thought. Because you know what? I think your mom would have wanted me to find someone else. Your mom would have wanted me to be happy. And you know why?" Garrett didn't answer. "Because she loved me. And if you think that you're showing your love to Catherine by suffering the way you've been doing, then somewhere along the way, I must have messed up in raising you." "You didn't mess up. . . ." "I must have. Because when I look at you, I see myself, and to be honest, I'd rather see someone different. I'd like to see someone who learned that it's okay to go on, that it's okay to find someone that can make you happy. But right now, it's like I'm looking in the mirror and seeing myself twenty years ago." *  *  * Garrett spent the rest of the afternoon alone, walking on the beach, thinking about what his father had said. Looking back, he knew he'd been dishonest from the start of the conversation and wasn't surprised that his father had figured it out. Why, then, had he wanted to talk to him? Had he wanted his father to confront him as he had? As the afternoon wore on, his depression gave way to confusion, then to a sort of numbness. By the time he called Theresa later in the evening, the feelings of betrayal he'd felt as a result of the dream had subsided enough to speak with her. They were still there, though not as strong, and when she answered the phone, he felt them diminish even further. The sound of her voice reminded him of the way he felt when they were together. "I'm glad you called," she said cheerfully, "I thought a lot about you today." "I thought about you, too," he said. "I wish you were here right now." "Are you okay? You sound a little down." "I'm fine. . . . Just lonely that's all. How was your day?" "Typical. Too much to do at work, too much to do at home. But it's better now that I've heard from you." Garrett smiled. "Is Kevin around?" "He's in his room reading a book about scuba diving. He tells me he wants to be a dive instructor when he grows up." "Where could he have gotten that idea?" "I haven't the slightest," she said, amusement in her tone. "How about you? What did you do today?" "Not much, actually. I didn't go into the shop-I sort of took the day off and wandered the beaches." "Dreaming about me, I hope?" The irony of her comment was not lost on him. He didn't answer directly. "I just really missed you today." "I've only been gone a few days," she said gently. "I know. And speaking of that, when will we get to see each other again?" Theresa sat at the dining room table and glanced at her Day-Timer. "Umm . . . how about in three weeks? I was thinking that maybe you could come up here this time. Kevin has a week-long soccer camp, and we'd be able to spend some time alone." "Would you like to come down here instead?" "It would be better if you came up here, if that's okay. I'm running low on vacation days, and I think we'd be able to work around my schedule. And besides, I think it's about time you got out of North Carolina, just so you can see what the rest of the country has to offer." As she spoke, he found himself staring at Catherine's picture on the nightstand. It took him a few seconds to respond. "Sure . . . I guess I could do that." "You don't sound too sure about it." "I am." "Is there something else, then?" "No." She paused uncertainly. "Are you really okay, Garrett?" *  *  * It took him a few days and several phone calls to Theresa to feel somewhat normal again. More than once he found himself calling her late in the evening, just to hear her voice. "Hey," he'd say, "it's me again." "Hi, Garrett, what's up?" she'd ask sleepily. "Not much. I just wanted to say good night before you crawled into bed." "I'm already in bed." "What time is it?" She glanced toward the clock. "Almost midnight." "Why are you awake? You should be sleeping," he'd tease, and then he'd let her hang up the phone so she could get her rest. Sometimes, if he couldn't sleep, he'd think about his week with Theresa, remembering how good her skin felt to his touch, overwhelmed by his desire to hold her again. Then, walking into the bedroom, he'd see Catherine's picture by his bed. And at that moment the dream would rush forward with crystal clarity. He knew he was still unsettled by the dream. In the past he would have written a letter to Catherine to help him get it into perspective. Then, taking Happenstance out on the same route he and Catherine had sailed for the first time after Happenstance had been restored, he'd seal it and toss it into the ocean. Strangely, he wasn't able to do it this time. When he sat down to write, the words simply wouldn't come. Finally growing frustrated, he willed himself to remember, instead. "Now there's a surprise," Garrett said as he pointed at Catherine's plate. On it, she was piling spinach salad from the buffet in front of them. Catherine shrugged dismissively. "What's wrong with wanting a salad?" "Nothing's wrong with it," he said quickly. "It's just that this is the third time you've eaten it this week." "I know. I've just been craving it. I don't know why." "If you keep eating it like you do, you're going to turn into a rabbit." She laughed and poured on the salad dressing. "If that were the case," she said, looking at his plate, "if you keep eating that seafood, you'll turn into a shark." "I am a shark," he said, raising his eyebrows. "You may be a shark, but if you keep teasing me, you'll never get the chance to prove it with me." He smiled. "Why don't I prove it this weekend?" "When? You'll be working this weekend." "Not this weekend. Believe it or not, I've cleared my schedule so that we can spend some time together. We haven't spent a whole weekend alone since I don't know when." "What did you have in mind?" "I don't know. Maybe sailing, maybe something else. Whatever you want to do." She laughed. "Well, I did have big plans-my trip to Paris for a little shopping, a quick safari or two . . . but I guess I can rearrange things." "Then it's a date." *  *  * As the days passed, the image of the dream began to fade. Each time Garrett talked to Theresa, he found himself feeling a little more renewed. He also spoke to Kevin a couple of times, and his enthusiasm for Garrett's presence in their lives helped him regain his footing as well. Even though the heat and humidity of August seemed to make time pass more slowly than usual, he kept himself as busy as he could, doing his best not to think about the complexities of his new situation. Two weeks later-a few days before he was leaving for Boston-Garrett was cooking in the kitchen when the phone rang. "Hiya, stranger," she said. "Got a few minutes?" "I always have a few minutes to talk when it comes to you." "I was just calling to find out what time your flight is coming in. You weren't sure the last time we talked." "Hold on," he said, rummaging through the kitchen drawer for his itinerary. "Here it is-I'll be getting into Boston a few minutes after one." "That works out perfectly. I've got to drop Kevin off a few hours earlier, and it'll give me time to get the apartment in shape."
"Cleaning up for me?"
"You get the full treatment. I'm even going to dust." "I feel honored." "You should. Only you and my parents get that kind of attention." "Should I pack a pair of white gloves to make sure you've done a good job?" "If you do, you won't live to see the evening." He laughed and changed the subject. "I'm looking forward to seeing you again," he said earnestly. "These last three weeks were a lot harder than the first two." "I know. I could hear it in your voice. You were really down for a few days, and . . . well, I was beginning to get worried about you." He wondered whether she suspected the reason for his melancholy. Clearing his mind, he went on. "I was, but I'm over it now. I've already packed my bags." "I hope you didn't take up any space with unnecessary items." "Like what?" "Like . . . I don't know . . . pajamas." He laughed. "I don't own any pajamas." "That's good. Because even if you did, you wouldn't need them." *  *  * Three days later, Garrett Blake arrived in Boston. After picking him up from the airport, Theresa showed him around the city. They had lunch at Faneuil Hall, watched the skullers gliding on the Charles River, and took a quick tour of the Harvard campus. As usual, they held hands most of the day, reveling in each other's company. More than once, Garrett found himself wondering why the last three weeks had been so difficult for him. He knew that part of his anxiety stemmed from the dream, but spending time with Theresa made the dream's troubling feelings seem distant and insubstantial. Every time Theresa laughed or squeezed his hand, she reaffirmed the feelings he'd had when she was last in Wilmington, banishing the dark thoughts that plagued him in her absence. When the day began to cool and the sun dipped below the trees, Theresa and Garrett stopped for some Mexican food to bring back to her apartment. Sitting on her living room floor in the glow of candlelight, Garrett looked around the room. "You have a nice place," he said, forking up some beans with a tortilla chip. "For some reason, I thought it would be smaller than it is. It's bigger than my house." "Only by a little, but thanks. It works for us. It's real convenient to everything." "Like restaurants?" "Exactly. I wasn't kidding when I told you I didn't like to cook. I'm not exactly Martha Stewart." "Who?" "Never mind," she said. Outside her apartment, the sound of traffic was clearly audible. A car screeched on the street below, a horn blared, and all at once the air was filled with noise as other cars joined in the chorus. "Is it always this quiet?" he asked. She nodded toward the windows. "Friday and Saturday nights are the worst-usually it's not so bad. But you get used to it if you live here long enough." The sounds of city living continued. A siren blared in the distance, growing steadily louder as it approached. "Would you like to put on some music?" Garrett asked. "Sure. What kind do you like?" "I like both kinds," he said, pausing dramatically. "Country and western." She laughed. "I don't have anything like that here." He shook his head, enjoying his own joke. "I was kidding, anyway. It's an old line. Not too funny, but I've been waiting for my chance to say it for years." "You must have watched a lot of Hee-Haw as a kid." Now it was his turn to laugh. "Back to my original question-what kind of music do you like?" she persisted. "Anything you have is fine." "How about some jazz?" "Sounds good." Theresa got up and chose something she thought he might like and slipped it into the CD player. In a few moments the music started, just as the traffic congestion outside seemed to clear. "So what do you think of Boston so far?" she asked, reclaiming her seat. "I like it. For a big city, it's not too bad. It doesn't seem as impersonal as I thought it would be, and it's cleaner, too. I guess I pictured it differently. You know-crowds, asphalt, tall buildings, not a tree in sight, and muggers on every corner. But it's not like that at all." She smiled. "It is nice, isn't it? I mean, it's not beachfront, but it has its own appeal. Especially if you consider what the city has to offer. You could go to the symphony, or to museums, or just stroll around in the Commons. There's something for everyone here-they even have a sailing club." "I can see why you like it here," he said, wondering why it sounded as if she were selling the place. "I do. And Kevin likes it, too." He changed the subject: "You said he's at soccer camp?" She nodded. "Yeah. He's trying out for an all-star team for twelve and under. I don't know if he'll make it, but he thinks he has a pretty good shot. Last year, he made the final cut as an eleven-year-old." "It sounds like he's good." "He is," she said with a nod. She pushed their now empty plates to the side and moved closer. "But enough about Kevin," she said softly. "We don't always have to talk about him. We can talk about other things, you know." "Like what?" She kissed his neck. "Like what I want to do with you now that I have you all to myself." "Are you sure you just want to talk about it?" "You're right," she whispered. "Who wants to talk at a time like this?" *  *  * The next day, Theresa again took Garrett on a tour of Boston, spending most of the morning in the Italian neighborhoods of the North End, wandering the narrow, twisting streets and stopping for the occasional cannoli and coffee. Though Garrett knew she wrote columns for the paper, he didn't know exactly what else her job entailed. He asked her about it as they made their way leisurely through the city. "Can't you write a column from your home?" "In time, I suppose I can. But right now, it's not possible." "Why not?" "Well, it's not in my contract, for starters. Besides, I have to do a lot more than sit at my computer and write. Often, I have to interview people, so there's time involved in that-sometimes even a little travel. Plus, there's all the research I have to do, especially when I write about medical or psychological issues, and when I'm in the office, I have access to a lot more sources. And then there's the fact that I need a place where I can be reached. A lot of the stuff I do is human interest, and I get calls from people all day long. If I worked out of my home, I know a lot of people would call in the evenings when I'm spending time with Kevin, and I'm not willing to give up my time with him." "Do you get calls at home now?" "Occasionally. But my number isn't listed, so not all that often." "Do you get a lot of crazy calls?" She nodded. "I think all columnists do. A lot of people call the paper with stories they want printed. I get calls about people who are locked up in prison who shouldn't be, I get calls about city services and how the garbage isn't being picked up on time. I get calls about street crime. It seems like I've gotten calls about everything." "I thought you said you write about parenting." "I do." "Then why would they call you? Why don't they call someone else?" She shrugged. "I'm sure they do, but it still doesn't stop them from calling me. A lot of people begin their calls with, 'No one else will listen to me and you're my last hope.' " She glanced at him before going on. "I guess they think I'll be able to do something about their problems." "Why?" "Well, columnists are different from other newspaper writers. Most things printed in the newspaper are impersonal-straightforward reporting, facts and figures, and the like. But if people read my column every day, I guess they think they know me. They begin to see me as a friend of sorts. And people look to their friends to help them out when they need it." "It must put you in an awkward position sometimes." She shrugged. "It does, but I try not to think about it. Besides, there are good parts about my job, too-giving information that people can use, keeping up with the latest medical data and spelling it out in laymen's terms, even sharing lighthearted stories just to make the day a little easier." Garrett stopped at a sidewalk store selling fresh fruit. He picked out a couple of apples from the bin, then handed one to Theresa. "What's the most popular thing you've ever written about in your column?" he asked. Theresa felt her breath catch. The most popular? Easy-I found a message in a bottle once, and I got a couple of hundred letters.
She forced herself to think of something else. "Oh . . . I get a lot of letters when I write about teaching disabled children," she said finally.
"That must be rewarding," he said, paying the shopkeeper. "It is." Before taking a bite of his apple, Garrett asked: "Could you still write your column even if you changed papers?" She considered the question. "It would be hard to do, especially if I want to continue to syndicate. Since I'm so new and still establishing my name, having the Boston Times behind me really helps. Why?" "Just curious," he said quietly. *  *  * The next morning Theresa went into work for a few hours but was home for the day a little after lunchtime. They spent the afternoon at the Boston Commons, where they ate a picnic lunch. Their lunch was interrupted twice by people who recognized her from her picture in the paper, and Garrett realized that Theresa was actually more well-known than he had thought. "I didn't know you were such a celebrity," he said wryly after the second person walked away. "I'm not really a celebrity. It's just that my picture appears above my column, so people know what I look like." "Does this sort of thing happen a lot?" "Not really. Maybe a few times a week." "That's a lot," he said, surprised. She shook her head. "Not when you consider real celebrities. They can't even go to the store without someone taking their picture. I pretty much lead a normal life." "But it still must be odd to have total strangers coming up to you." "Actually, it's kind of flattering. Most people are very nice about it." "Either way, I'm glad I didn't know you were so famous right off the bat." "Why?" "I might have been too intimidated to ask you to go sailing." She reached over and took his hand. "I can't imagine you being intimidated about anything." "Then you don't know me very well." She was quiet for a moment. "Would you really have been intimidated?" she asked sheepishly. "Probably." "Why?" "I guess I'd wonder what someone like you could possibly see in me." She leaned over to kiss him. "I'll tell you what I see. I see the man that I love, the man who makes me happy . . . someone I want to continue to see for a long time." "How come you always know just what to say?" "Because," she said quietly, "I know more about you than you would ever suspect." "Such as?" A lazy smile played over her lips. "For instance, I know you want me to kiss you again." "I do?" "Absolutely." And she was right. *  *  * Later that evening Garrett said, "You know, Theresa, I can't find a single thing wrong with you." They were in the tub together, surrounded by mountains of bubbles, Theresa leaning against his chest. He used a sponge to wash her skin as he spoke. "What's that supposed to mean?" she asked curiously, turning her head to look at him. "Just what I said. I can't find a single thing wrong with you. I mean, you're perfect." "I'm not perfect, Garrett," she said, pleased nonetheless. "But you are. You're beautiful, you're kind, you make me laugh, you're intelligent, and you're a great mother as well. Toss in the fact that you're famous, and I don't think there's anyone who can measure up to you." She caressed his arm, relaxing against him. "I think you see me through rose-colored glasses. But I like it. . . ." "Are you saying I'm biased?" "No-but you've only seen my good side so far." "I didn't know you had another side to you," he said, squeezing both of her arms simultaneously. "Both sides feel pretty good right now." She laughed. "You know what I mean. You haven't seen my dark side yet." "You don't have a dark side." "Sure I do. Everyone does. It's just that when you're around, it likes to keep itself hidden." "So, how would you describe your dark side?" She thought for a moment. "Well, for starters, I'm stubborn, and I can get mean when I'm angry. I tend to lash out and say the first thing that pops in my head, and believe me, it's not pretty. I also have a tendency to tell others exactly what I'm thinking, even when I know it would be best just to walk away." "That doesn't sound so bad." "You haven't been on the receiving end yet." "It still doesn't sound so bad." "Well . . . let me put it this way. When I first confronted David about the affair, I called him some of the worst names in the English language." "He deserved it." "But I'm not sure he deserved to have a vase thrown at him." "Did you do that?" She nodded. "You should have seen the look on his face. He'd never seen me like that before." "What did he do?" "Nothing-I think he was too shocked to do anything. Especially when I started in with the plates. I cleaned out most of the cupboard that night." He grinned in admiration. "I didn't know you were so feisty." "It's my midwest upbringing. Don't mess with me, buster." "I won't." "That's good. I'm much more accurate these days." "I'll remember that." They sank deeper into the warm water. Garrett continued to move the sponge over her body. "I still think you're perfect," he said softly. She closed her eyes. "Even with my dark side?" she asked. "Especially with your dark side. It adds an element of excitement." "I'm glad, because I think you're pretty perfect yourself." *  *  * The rest of their vacation flew by. In the mornings Theresa would go into work for a few hours, then come home and spend the afternoons and evenings with Garrett. In the evenings they would either order something in or head to one of the many small restaurants near her apartment. Sometimes they rented a movie to watch afterward, but usually they preferred to spend their time without other distractions. On Friday night Kevin called from the soccer camp. Excitedly he explained that he'd made the all-star team. Though it meant more games would be played outside of Boston and they'd have to travel most weekends, Theresa was happy for him. Then, surprising her, Kevin asked to speak to Garrett. Garrett listened as he described what had happened that week and congratulated him. After hanging up, Theresa opened a bottle of wine and the two of them celebrated Kevin's good fortune until the early morning hours.
On Sunday morning-the day he was leaving-they had brunch with Deanna and Brian. Garrett saw immediately what Theresa loved about Deanna. She was both charming and amusing, and Garrett found himself laughing throughout his meal. Deanna asked him about diving and sailing, while Brian speculated that if he owned his own business, he'd never get anything done because golf would simply take over his life.
Theresa was pleased that they seemed to get along so well. Excusing themselves after they'd eaten, Deanna and Theresa headed together into the bathroom to chat. "So, what do you think?" Theresa asked expectantly. "He's great," Deanna admitted. "He's even better looking than he was in the pictures you brought back." "I know. My heart skips a beat whenever I look at him." Deanna primped her hair, doing her best to add a little body to it. "Did your week turn out as well as you hoped?" "Even better." Deanna beamed. "I could tell by the way he was looking at you that he really cares about you, too. The way you two act together reminds me of Brian and me. You seem like a good match." "Do you really think so?" "I wouldn't say it if I didn't mean it." Deanna took some lipstick out of her purse and began to apply it. "So, how did he like Boston?" she asked offhandedly. Theresa took out her own lipstick as well. "It's not what he's used to, but he seemed to have enjoyed himself. We went to a lot of fun places." "Did he say anything in particular?" "No . . . why?" She looked at Deanna curiously. "Because," Deanna answered evenly, "I was just wondering if he'd said anything that might make you think he'd move here if you asked him to." Her comment made Theresa think about something she'd been avoiding. "We haven't talked about it yet," she said finally. "Were you planning to?" The distance between us is a problem, but there's still something else, isn't there? she heard a voice inside her whisper. Not wanting to think about it, she shook her head. "I don't think it's the right time-at least not yet." She paused, gathering her thoughts. "I mean-I know we have to talk about it sometime, but I don't think we've known each other long enough to start making decisions about the future. We're still getting to know each other." Deanna eyed her with motherly suspicion. "But you've known him long enough to fall in love with him, haven't you?" "Yes," Theresa conceded. "Then you know that this decision is coming, whether you want to face it or not." It took a moment for her to answer. "I know." Deanna put her hand on Theresa's shoulder. "What if it comes down to losing him or leaving Boston?" Theresa pondered the question and its implications. "I'm not sure," she said quietly, and looked at Deanna uncertainly. "Can I give you some advice?" Deanna asked. Theresa nodded. Deanna led her out of the bathroom by the arm, leaning toward Theresa's ear so that no one could overhear them. "Whatever you decide to do, remember that you have to be able to go forward in life without looking back. If you're sure that Garrett can give you the kind of love you need and that you'll be happy, then you have to do whatever it takes to keep him. True love is rare, and it's the only thing that gives life real meaning." "But doesn't the same thing apply to him? Shouldn't he be willing to sacrifice as well?" "Of course." "Then where does that leave me?" "It leaves you with the same problem you had before, Theresa-one that you're definitely going to have to think about." *  *  * Over the next two months, their long-distance relationship began to evolve in a way that neither Theresa nor Garrett expected though both should have foreseen. Working around each other's schedules, they were able to get together three more times, each time for a weekend. Once, Theresa flew down to Wilmington so they could be alone, and they spent their time holed up in Garrett's house, except for an evening they spent sailing. Garrett traveled to Boston twice, spending much of his time on the road for Kevin's soccer tournaments, though he hadn't minded. They were the first soccer games he'd ever attended, and he found himself caught up in the action more than he thought he would. "How come you're not as excited as I am?" he'd asked Theresa during one particularly frenzied moment on the field. "Why don't you wait until you've seen a few hundred games, and then I'm sure you could answer your own question," she'd replied playfully. When they were together during those weekends, it was as if nothing else mattered in the world. Usually Kevin would spend one of the nights at a friend's house so they could be alone, at least for a little while. They spent hours talking and laughing, holding each other close, and making love, trying to make up for weeks spent apart. Yet neither of them broached the subject of what was going to happen to their relationship in the future. They lived moment to moment, neither of them exactly sure of what to expect from the other. Not that they weren't in love. Of that, at least, they were certain. But because they didn't see each other very often, their relationship had more ups and downs than either of them had experienced before. Since everything felt right when they were together, everything felt wrong when they weren't. Garrett, especially, found himself struggling with the distance between them. Usually the good feelings he'd had when they saw each other lasted for a few days afterward, but then he'd find himself growing depressed as he anticipated the weeks before he saw her again. Of course, he wanted them to spend more time together than was possible. Now that summer had passed, it was easier for him to get away than it was for her. Even with most of the employees gone, there wasn't much to do around the shop. But Theresa's schedule was completely different, if only because of Kevin. He was in school again, he had tournaments on the weekends, and it was difficult for her to break away, even for a few days. Although Garrett was willing to visit Boston to see her more often, Theresa simply didn't have the time. More than once he'd suggested another trip up to see her, but for one reason or another, it hadn't worked out. True, he knew there were couples who faced living situations more difficult than theirs. His father told him stories of how he and his mother hadn't spoken for months at a time. He'd gone to Korea and spent two years with the marines, and when times were tough in the shrimping business, he used to find work with passing freighters on their way to South America. Sometimes those trips lasted months. The only thing his parents had during those times were letters, which were infrequent at best. Garrett and Theresa had something less difficult, but that still didn't make it easy. He knew the distance between them was a problem, but it didn't seem as if it were going to change anytime in the near future. As he saw it, there were only two solutions-he could move, or she could move. No matter how he looked at it-and no matter how much they cared for each other-it always came down to one of those two choices. Deep down, he suspected that Theresa was having the same thoughts he was, which was why neither of them wanted to talk about it. It seemed easier not to bring it up, since it would mean starting down a path that neither was sure they wanted to follow One of them was going to have to change his or her life dramatically. But which one? He had his own business in Wilmington, the kind of life he wanted to live, the only life he knew how to live. Boston was nice to visit, but it wasn't home. He'd never even contemplated living somewhere else. And then there was his father-he was getting up in years, and despite the strong exterior, his age was catching up with him and Garrett was all he had. On the other hand, Theresa had strong ties to Boston. Though her parents lived elsewhere, Kevin was in a school he liked, she had a blossoming career with a major newspaper, and she had a network of friends she'd have to leave. She'd worked hard to get where she was, and if she left Boston, she'd probably have to give it up. Would she be able to do that without resenting him for what he'd made her do? Garrett didn't want to think about it. Instead he focused on the fact that he loved Theresa, clinging to the belief that if they were meant to be together, they would find a way to do it. Deep down, however, he knew it wasn't going to be that easy, and not just because of the distance between them. After he'd returned from his second trip to Boston, he had a picture of Theresa enlarged and framed. He set it on the bedstand opposite Catherine's picture, but despite his feelings for Theresa, it seemed out of place in his bedroom. A few days later he moved the picture across the room, but it still didn't help. Wherever he put it, it seemed to him as if Catherine's eyes would follow it. This is ridiculous, he told himself after moving it yet again. Nonetheless he found himself finally slipping Theresa's picture into the drawer and reaching for Catherine's instead. Sighing, he sat on the bed and held it in front of him. "We didn't have these problems," he whispered as he ran his finger over her image. "With us, everything always seemed so easy, didn't it?" When he realized the picture wouldn't answer, he cursed his foolishness and retrieved Theresa's picture. Staring at them both, even he understood why he was having so much trouble with it all. He loved Theresa more than he ever thought he could . . . but he still loved Catherine. . . . Was it possible to love them both at once? *  *  * "I can't wait to see you again," Garrett said. It was the middle of November, a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving. Theresa and Kevin were flying home to see her parents for the holidays, and Theresa had made arrangements to come down the weekend before to spend some time with Garrett. It had been a month since they'd seen each other. "I'm looking forward to it, too," she said. "And you promised that I'd finally get to meet your father, right?" "He's planning on cooking an early Thanksgiving dinner for us at his place. He keeps asking me what you like to eat. I think he wants to make a good impression." "Tell him he doesn't have to worry. Anything he makes will be fine." "That's what I keep telling him. But I can tell he's nervous about it." "Why?" "Because you'll be the first guest we've ever had over. For years, it's just been the two of us." "Am I interrupting a family tradition?" "No-I like to think that we're starting a new one. Besides, he was the one who volunteered, remember?" "Do you think he'll like me?" "I know he will." *  *  * When he found out Theresa was coming, Jeb Blake did some things he hadn't ever done before. First, he hired someone to come in and clean the small house where he lived, a job that ended up taking almost two days because he was so adamant that the house be spotless. He also bought a new shirt and tie. Emerging from his bedroom in his new clothes, he couldn't help but notice the surprise in Garrett's eyes. "How do I look?" he asked. "You look fine, but why are you wearing a tie?" "It's not for you-it's for dinner this weekend." Garrett continued to stare at his father, a wry smile on his face. "I don't think I've ever seen you in a tie before." "I've worn them before. You just haven't noticed." "You don't have to wear a tie just because Theresa is coming." "I know that," he replied tersely, "I just felt like wearing one to dinner this year." "You're nervous about meeting her, aren't you?" "No." "Dad-you don't have to be someone you're not. I'm sure Theresa would like you no matter how you were dressed." "That doesn't mean I can't look nice for your lady friend, does it?" "No." "Then I guess it's settled, isn't it? I didn't come out here to get your advice about it, I came out here to see if I looked okay."
"You look fine."
"Good." He turned and started back to the bedroom, already untucking his shirt and loosening the tie. Garrett watched him vanish from sight, and a moment later he heard his father call his name. "What now?" Garrett asked. His father peeked his head around the corner. "You're wearing a tie, too, aren't you?" "I wasn't planning on it." "Well, change your plans. I don't want Theresa to find out that I raised someone who didn't know how to dress for company." *  *  * The day before her arrival, Garrett helped his father finish his preparations. Garrett mowed the lawn while Jeb unpacked the wedding china he seldom, if ever, used anymore and washed the dishes by hand. After searching for matching silverware-easier said than done-Jeb found a tablecloth in the closet, deciding it would be a nice touch. He tossed it into the washing machine just as Garrett came inside after finishing the yard. Garrett walked to the cupboard and pulled a glass from the shelf. "What time is she coming in tomorrow?" Jeb asked from around the corner. Garrett filled the glass with water and answered over his shoulder. "Her plane gets in about ten o'clock. We should be here around eleven or so." "What time do you think she'll want to eat?" "I don't know." Jeb walked into the kitchen. "You didn't ask her?" "No." "Then how will I know when to put the turkey in the oven?" Garrett took a drink of water. "Just plan on us eating sometime in the middle of the afternoon. Anytime is fine, I'm sure." "Do you think you should call and ask her?" "I really don't think it's necessary. It's not that big of a deal." "Maybe not to you. But it's the first time I'll be meeting her, and if you two end up getting married, I don't want to be the subject of any humorous stories later on." Garrett raised his eyebrows. "Who said we're getting married?" "No one." "Then why did you bring it up?" "Because," he said quickly, "I figured one of us had to, and I wasn't sure you were ever going to get around to it." Garrett stared at his father. "So, you think I should marry her?" Jeb winked as he answered. "It doesn't matter what I think, it's what you think that's important, isn't it?" *  *  * Later that evening, Garrett opened his front door just as the phone began to ring. After rushing to the phone, he picked it up and heard the voice he expected. "Garrett?" Theresa asked. "You sound out of breath." He smiled. "Oh, hey, Theresa. I just walked in. My father had me over at his house all day getting the place ready-he's really look ing forward to meeting you." There was an uncomfortable pause. "About tomorrow . . . ," she said finally. He felt his throat tighten. "What about tomorrow?" It took a moment for her to answer. "I'm really sorry, Garrett . . . I don't know how to tell you this, but I'm not going to be able to make it down to Wilmington after all." "Is something wrong?" "No, everything's fine. It's just that something came up at the last minute-a big conference that I've got to go to." "What kind of conference?" "It's for my job." She paused again. "I know it sounds terrible, but I wouldn't go unless it was really important." He closed his eyes. "What's it for?" "It's for bigwig editors and media types-they're meeting in Dallas this weekend. Deanna thinks it would be a good idea if I met some of them." "Did you just find out about it?" "No . . . I mean, yes. Well-I knew there was going to be a meeting, but I wasn't supposed to go. Usually, columnists aren't invited, but Deanna pulled some strings and arranged for me to go with her." She hesitated. "I'm really sorry, Garrett, but like I said, it would be wonderful exposure, and it's an opportunity of a lifetime." He was silent for a moment. Then he said simply, "I understand." "You're angry with me, aren't you." "No." "Are you sure?" "I'm sure." She knew by his tone that he wasn't telling the truth, but she didn't think there was anything she could say that would make him feel any better. "Will you tell your father that I'm sorry?" "Yeah, I'll tell him." "Can I call you this weekend?" "If you want to." *  *  * The next day he ate dinner with his father, who did his best to play down the whole affair. "If it's like she said," his father explained, "she had a good reason. It's not like she can put her job on the back burner. She has a son to support, and she's got to do her best to provide for him. Besides, it's just one weekend-not much in the grand scheme of things." Garrett nodded, listening to his father but still upset about the whole thing. Jeb went on. "I'm sure you two will be able to work it out. In fact, she's probably going to do something real special the next time you two are together." Garrett said nothing. Jeb took a couple of bites before speaking again. "You've got to understand, Garrett-she's got responsibilities, just like you do, and sometimes those responsibilities take priority. I'm sure that if something happened in the shop that you had to take care of, you would have done the same thing." Garrett leaned back, pushing his half-eaten plate to the side. "I understand all that, Dad. It's just that I haven't seen her for a month now, and I was really looking forward to her visit." "Don't you think she wanted to see you, too?" "She said she did." Jeb leaned across the table and pushed Garrett's plate in front of him again. "Eat your dinner," he said. "I spent all day cooking, and you're not going to waste it." Garrett looked at his plate. Though he wasn't hungry anymore, he picked up his fork and took a small bite. "You know," his father said as he picked at his own food, "this isn't the last time this is to happen, so you shouldn't get so down about it now." "What do you mean?" "I mean that as long as you two continue to live a thousand miles apart, things like this are going to come up and you won't see each other as much as either one of you wants." "Don't you think I know that?" "I'm sure you do. But I don't know if either one of you has the guts to do something about it." Garrett looked at his father, thinking, Gee, Dad, tell me how you really feel. Don't hold back. "When I was young," Jeb continued, oblivious of his son's sour expression, "things were a lot simpler. If a man loved a woman, he asked her to marry him, and then they lived together. It was as simple as that. But you two-it's like you don't know what to do."
"I've told you before-it's not that easy. . . ."
"Sure it is-if you love her, then find a way to be with her. It's as simple as that. That way, if something comes up and you don't see each other one weekend, you don't end up acting like your life is over." Jeb paused before continuing. "It just isn't natural what you two are trying to do, and in the long run, it isn't going to work. You know that, don't you?" "I know," Garrett said simply, wishing his father would stop talking about it. His father cocked his eyebrow, waiting. When Garrett didn't add anything else, Jeb spoke again. " 'I know'? That's all you have to say?" He shrugged. "What else can I say?" "You can say that the next time you see her, you two are going to figure this out. That's what you can say." "Fine-we'll try to figure it out." Jeb put his fork down and glared at his son. "I didn't say try, Garrett, I said that you two are going to figure this out." "Why are you so adamant about it?" "Because," he said, "if you two don't figure it out, you and me are going to keep eating alone for the next twenty years."
*  *  *
The following day, Garrett took Happenstance out first thing in the morning and stayed on the water until after the sun went down. Though Theresa had left a message for him with her hotel information in Dallas, he hadn't called last night, telling himself that it was too late and that she was already asleep. It was a lie and he knew it, but he simply didn't feel like talking to her yet. The fact was, he didn't feel like talking to anyone. He was still angry at what she'd done, and the best place for him to think about it was out on the ocean, where no one could bother him. Most of the morning he found himself wondering if she realized how much this whole thing bothered him. More than likely she didn't-he convinced himself-otherwise she wouldn't have done it. That is, if she cared about him. By the time the sun rose higher in the sky, however, his anger began to fade. As he thought more clearly about the situation, he decided that his father had been right-as usual. Her reason for not coming didn't reflect on him as much as it reflected on the differences in their lives. She did have responsibilities she couldn't ignore, and as long as they continued to live separate lives, things like this were going to keep coming up. Though he wasn't happy about it, he wondered if all relationships had moments like these. If truth be told, he didn't know. The only other real relationship he'd ever had was with Catherine, and it wasn't easy to compare the two. He and Catherine were married and living under the same roof, for one thing. Even more, they'd known each other most of their lives, and because they were younger, they didn't have the same responsibilities that either Garrett or Theresa had now. They were fresh out of college, they didn't own a home, and there certainly weren't any children to care for. No-what they had was completely different from what he and Theresa had now, and it wasn't fair to try to link them. Still, there was one thing he couldn't ignore, one thing that nagged at him throughout the afternoon. Yes, he knew there were differences-yes, he knew it wasn't fair to compare them-but in the end, what stood out for him was the fact that he had never questioned whether he and Catherine were a team. Never once did he question the future with her, never once did it enter his mind that either one of them wouldn't sacrifice everything for the other. Even when they'd had their fights-about where to live, whether to start the shop, or even what to do on Saturday nights-it wasn't as if either one of them doubted their relationship. There was something long-term in the way they interacted with each other, something that reminded him that they would always be together.
Theresa and he, on the other hand, didn't have that yet.
By the time the sun went down, he realized it wasn't fair to think this way. He and Theresa had known each other only for a short period of time-it wasn't realistic to expect it so soon. Given enough time-and the right circumstances-they would become a team as well. Wouldn't they? Shaking his head, he realized he wasn't exactly sure. He wasn't sure about a lot of things. But one thing he did know-he hadn't ever analyzed his relationship with Catherine the way he was doing with Theresa, and this wasn't fair, either. Besides, analysis wasn't going to help him in this situation. All the analysis in the world didn't change the fact that they didn't see each other as much as they wanted-or needed-to. No-what they needed now was action. *  *  * Garrett called Theresa as soon as he got home that evening. "Hello," she answered sleepily. He spoke softly into the phone. "Hey, it's me." "Garrett?" "I'm sorry for waking you up, but you'd left a couple of messages on my answering machine." "I'm glad you called. I wasn't sure you were going to." "For a while, I didn't want to." "Are you still mad at me?" "No," he said quietly. "Sad, maybe, but not mad." "Because I'm not there this weekend?" "No. Because you're not here most weekends." *  *  * That night he dreamed again. In his dream Theresa and he were in Boston, walking along one of the busy city streets, crowded with the usual collection of individuals-men and women, old and young, some dressed in suits, others in the baggy clothing typical of today's youth. For a while, they window-shopped just as they had on one of his previous visits. The day was clear and bright, without a cloud in the sky, and Garrett was enjoying spending the day with her. Theresa stopped at the window of a small craft store and asked if Garrett wanted to go inside. Shaking his head, he said, "You go ahead. I'll wait for you here." Theresa made sure he was certain, then stepped inside. Garrett stood outside the door, relaxing in the shade of the tall buildings, when he saw something familiar out of the corner of his eye. It was a woman, walking along the sidewalk a little distance away, her blond hair just brushing her shoulders. He blinked, glanced away for a moment, and turned back quickly. Something in the way she moved struck him, and he watched her as she slowly moved away. Finally the woman stopped and turned her head, as if remembering something. Garrett felt his breath catch. Catherine. It couldn't be. He shook his head. At this distance he couldn't tell if he was mistaken or not. She started to walk away again just as Garrett called to her. "Catherine-is it you?" She didn't seem to hear him above the noise of the street. Garrett glanced over his shoulder and spotted Theresa in the shop browsing. When he looked back up the street, Catherine-or whoever she was-was turning the corner. He started toward her, walking quickly, then he began to jog. The sidewalks were becoming more crowded by the second, as if a subway had suddenly opened its doors, and he had to dodge around throngs of people before he reached the corner. He turned where she had. Once around the corner, the street grew steadily-menacingly-darker. He picked up his pace again. Though it hadn't been raining, he felt his feet splashing through puddles. He stopped for a moment to catch his breath, his heart pounding in his chest. As he did so, fog began to roll in, almost like a wave, and soon he couldn't see anything more than a few feet away. "Catherine-are you here?" he shouted. "Where are you?" He heard laughter in the distance, though he couldn't make out exactly where it was coming from. He started walking again, slowly. Again he heard the laughter-childlike, happy. He stopped in his tracks. "Where are you?" Silence. He looked from side to side. Nothing. The fog grew steadily thicker as a light rain began to fall. He started moving again, unsure where he was going. Something darted into the fog, and he moved quickly toward it. She was walking away, only a few feet in front of him. The rain began to fall harder now, and suddenly everything seemed to be moving in slow motion. He began to jog . . . slowly . . . slowly . . . he could see her just ahead . . . the fog growing thicker by the second . . . rain coming down in showers . . . a glimpse of her hair . . . And then she was gone. He stopped again. The rain and fog made it impossible to see anymore. "Where are you?" he shouted again. Nothing. "Where are you?" he shouted, even louder this time. "I'm here," a voice said from the rain and mist. He wiped the rain from his face. "Catherine? . . . Is it really you?" "It's me, Garrett." But it wasn't her voice. Theresa stepped out of the fog. "I'm here." Garrett woke and sat up in bed, sweating profusely. Wiping his face with the sheet, he sat up for a long time afterward.
*  *  *
Later that day, Garrett met with his father. "I think I want to marry her, Dad." They were fishing together at the end of the pier with a dozen other people, most of whom seemed lost in thought. Jeb looked up in surprise. "Two days ago, it didn't seem like you wanted to see her again." "I've done a lot of thinking since then." "You must have," Jeb said quietly. He reeled in his line, checked the bait, then cast again. Even though he doubted he'd catch anything he wanted to keep, fishing was, in his estimation, one of life's greatest pleasures. "Do you love her?" Jeb asked. Garrett looked at him, surprised. "Of course I do. I've told you that a few times." Jeb Blake shook his head. "No . . . you haven't," he said sincerely. "We've talked about her a lot-you've told me that she makes you happy, that you feel like you know her, and that you don't want to lose her-but you've never told me that you love her." "It's the same thing." "Is it?" *  *  * After he'd gone home, the conversation he'd had with his father kept repeating itself in his mind. "Is it? " "Of course it is," he'd said right away. "And even if it isn't, I do love her." Jeb stared at his son for a moment before finally turning away. "You want to marry her?" "I do." "Why?" "Because I love her, that's why. Isn't that enough?" "Maybe." Garrett reeled in his line, frustrated. "Weren't you the one who thought we should get married in the first place?" "Yeah." "So why are you questioning it now?" "Because I want to make sure you're doing it for the right reasons. Two days ago, you weren't even sure if you wanted to see her again. Now, you're ready for marriage. It just seems like a mighty big turnaround to me, and I want to make sure it's because of the way you feel about Theresa-and that it doesn't have anything to do with Catherine." Bringing up her name stung a little. "Catherine doesn't have anything to do with this," Garrett said quickly. He shook his head and sighed deeply. "You know, Dad, I don't understand you sometimes. You've been pushing me into this the whole time. You kept telling me I had to put the past behind me, that I had to find someone new. And now that I have, it seems like you're trying to talk me out of it." Jeb put his free hand on Garrett's shoulder. "I'm not talking you out of anything, Garrett. I'm glad you found Theresa, I'm glad that you love her, and yes, I do hope that you end up marrying her. I just said that if you're going to get married, then you'd better be doing it for the right reasons. Marriage is between two people, not three. And it's not fair to her if you go into it otherwise." It took a moment for him to respond. "Dad, I want to get married because I love her. I want to spend my life with her." His father stood silently for a long time, watching. Then he said something that made Garrett look away. "So, in other words, you're telling me that you're completely over Catherine?" Though he felt the expectant weight of his father's gaze, Garrett didn't know the answer. *  *  * "Are you tired?" Garrett asked. He was lying on his bed as he spoke with Theresa, with only the bedside lamp turned on. "Yeah, I got in just a little while ago. It was a long weekend." "Did it turn out as well as you hoped it would?" "I hope so. There's no way to tell just yet, but I did meet a lot of people who could eventually help me out with my column." "It's a good thing you went, then." "Good and bad. Most of the time, I wished I'd gone to visit you instead." He smiled. "When do you leave for your parents'?" "Wednesday morning. I'll be gone until Sunday." "Are they looking forward to seeing you?" "Yeah, they are. They haven't seen Kevin for almost a year, and I know they're looking forward to having him around for a few days."
"That's good."
There was a short pause. "Garrett?" "Yeah." She spoke softly. "I just want you to know that I'm still really sorry about this weekend." "I know." "Can I make it up to you?" "What did you have in mind?" "Well . . . can you come up here to visit the weekend after Thanksgiving?" "I suppose so." "Good, because I'm going to plan a special weekend just for the two of us." *  *  * It was a weekend that neither of them would ever forget. Theresa had called him more than usual in the preceding two weeks. Usually it had been Garrett who called, but it seemed that every time he'd wanted to talk to her, she had anticipated it. Twice, while he was walking to the phone to dial her number, it started ringing before he got there, and the second time it happened, he simply answered the phone with, "Hi, Theresa." It had surprised her, and they joked for a while about his psychic abilities before settling into an easy conversation. When he arrived in Boston two weeks later, Theresa met him at the airport. She had told him to wear something dressy, and he walked off the plane wearing a blazer, something she'd never seen him in before. "Wow," she'd said simply. He adjusted the blazer self-consciously. "Do I look okay?" "You look great." They went straight from the airport to dinner. She'd made reservations at the most elegant restaurant in town. They had a leisurely, wonderful meal, and afterward Theresa took Garrett to Les Misérables, which was currently showing in Boston. The play was sold out, but because Theresa knew the manager, they found themselves seated in the best section of the house. It was late by the time they got back, and to Garrett, the following day seemed just as rushed. Theresa took him to her office and showed him around-introducing him to a couple of people-and afterward they visited the Museum of Fine Arts for the rest of the afternoon. That evening they met Deanna and Brian for dinner at Anthony's-a restaurant on the top floor of the Prudential Building that offered wonderful views of the entire city. Garrett had never seen anything