Not knowing where else to go, Garrett caught a cab to the airport after leaving  Theresa's apartment. Unfortunately no flights were available, and he ended up staying in the terminal the rest of the night, still angry and unable to sleep. Pacing the terminal for hours, he wandered past shops that had long since closed up for the evening, stopping only occasionally to look through the barricades that kept nighttime travelers at bay. The following morning he caught the first flight he could and made it home a little after eleven and then went straight to his room. As he lay in bed, however, the events of the evening before kept running through his head, keeping him awake. Trying and failing to fall asleep, he eventually gave up. He showered and dressed, then sat on his bed again. Staring at the photograph of Catherine, he eventually picked it up and carried it with him into the living room. On the coffee table he found the letters where he'd left them. In Theresa's apartment he'd been too shocked to make sense of them, but now, with her picture in front of him, he read the letters slowly, almost reverently, sensing Catherine's presence filling the room. "Hey, I thought you'd forgotten about our date," he said as he watched Catherine walking down the dock with a grocery bag. Smiling, Catherine took his hand as she stepped on board. "I didn't forget, I just had a little detour on the way." "Where?" "Actually, I went to see the doctor." He took the bag from her and set it off to one side. "Are you okay? I know you haven't been feeling well-" "I'm okay," she said, cutting him off gently. "But I don't think I'm up for a sail tonight." "Something is wrong, isn't it?" Catherine smiled again as she leaned over and pulled a small package out of one of the bags. Garrett watched as she began to open it. "Close your eyes," she said, "and I'll tell you all about it." Still a little unsure, Garrett nonetheless did as she asked and heard as tissue paper was unwrapped. "Okay, you can open them now." Catherine was holding up baby clothes in front of her. "What's this?" he asked, not understanding. Her face was buoyant. "I'm pregnant," she said excitedly. "Pregnant?" "Uh-huh. I'm officially eight weeks along." "Eight weeks?" She nodded. "I think I must have gotten pregnant the last time we went sailing." Hesitating from the shock, Garrett took the baby clothes and held them delicately in his hand, then finally leaned forward and gave Catherine a hug. "I can't believe it. . . ." "It's true." A broad smile crossed his lips as the realization finally began to sink in. "You're pregnant." Catherine closed her eyes and whispered in his ear, "And you're going to be a father." Garrett's thoughts were interrupted by the squeaking of the door. His father peeked his head into the room. "I saw your truck out front. I wanted to make sure everything was okay," he said in explanation. "I didn't expect you back here until this evening." When Garrett didn't respond, his father walked in and immediately spotted Catherine's picture on the table. "You okay, son?" he asked cautiously. They sat in the living room while Garrett explained the situation from the beginning-the dreams he'd been having over the years, the messages he'd been sending by bottle, finally moving on to the argument they'd had the night before. He left nothing out. When he finished, his father took the letters from Garrett's hand. "It must have been quite a shock," he said, glancing at the pages, surprised that Garrett had never mentioned the letters to him. He paused. "But don't you think you were a little rough on her?" Garrett shook his head tiredly. "She knew everything about me, Dad, and she never told me. She set the whole thing up." "No, she didn't," he said gently. "She may have come down to meet you, but she didn't make you fall in love with her. You did that on your own." Garrett looked away before finally returning his gaze to the picture on the table. "But don't you think it was wrong of her to hide it from me?" Jeb sighed, not wanting to answer the question, knowing it would lead Garrett to retread old ground. Instead he tried to think of another way to get through to his son. "A couple of weeks ago, when we were talking on the pier, you told me you wanted to marry Theresa because you loved her. Do you remember that?" Garrett nodded absently. "Why has that changed?" Garrett looked at his father, confused. "I've already told you that-" Jeb gently cut him off before he could finish. "Yeah, you've explained your reasons, but you haven't been honest about it. Not with me, not with Theresa, not even with yourself. She may not have told you about the letters, and granted, maybe she should have. But that's not why you're still angry now. You're angry because she made you realize something that you didn't want to admit." Garrett looked at his father without responding. Then, rising from the couch, he went to the kitchen, suddenly feeling the urge to escape the conversation. In the refrigerator, he found a pitcher of sweet tea and poured himself a glass. Holding the freezer open, he pulled out the metal tray to crack out a couple of cubes. In a sudden spurt of frustration, he pulled the lever too hard and icecubes flew over the counter and onto the floor. As Garrett muttered and cursed in the kitchen, Jeb stared at the picture of Catherine, remembering his own wife from long ago. He put the letters beside it and walked to the sliding glass door. Opening it, he watched as cold December winds from the Atlantic made the waves crash violently, the sounds echoing through the house. Jeb contemplated the ocean, watching it churn and roll until he heard a knock at the door. He turned, wondering who it could be. Strangely, he realized that in all of his visits here, no one had ever come to the door. In the kitchen, Garrett apparently hadn't heard the knock. Jeb went to answer it. Behind him, the wind chimes hanging over the back deck were ringing loudly. "Coming," he called out. When the front door swung open, wind gusted through the living room, scattering the letters to the floor. Jeb, however, didn't notice. All his attention was focused on the visitor on the porch. He couldn't help but stare. Standing before him was a dark-haired young woman he'd never seen before. He paused in the doorway, knowing exactly who she was but finding himself at a loss for words. He moved aside to make room for her. "C'mon in," he said quietly. As she entered, closing the door behind her, the wind abruptly died. She glanced at Jeb, uncomfortable. For a moment, neither spoke. "You must be Theresa," Jeb finally said. In the background, Jeb could hear Garrett mumbling to himself as he cleaned up the ice in the kitchen. "I've heard a lot about you." She crossed her arms, hesitating. "I know I'm not expected. . . ." "It's okay," Jeb encouraged. "Is he here?" Jeb nodded his head in the direction of the kitchen. "Yeah, he's here. He's getting something to drink." "How is he?" Jeb shrugged and gave her a slow, wry smile. "You'll have to talk to him. . . ." Theresa nodded, suddenly wondering whether coming down was a good idea. She glanced around the room and immediately spied the letters spread around the floor. She also noticed Garrett's bag sitting by his bedroom door, still packed from his visit. Other than that, the house looked exactly the same as it always did. Except, of course, for the photograph. She spotted it over Jeb's shoulder. Normally it was in his room, and for some reason, now that it was in plain view, she couldn't take her eyes off it. She was still staring at the picture when Garrett reentered the living room. "Dad, what happened in here-" He froze. Theresa faced him uncertainly. For a long moment, neither of them said anything. Then Theresa took a deep breath.
"Hello, Garrett," she said.
Garrett said nothing. Jeb picked up his keys from the table, knowing it was time to leave. "You two have a lot to talk about, so I'll get out of here." He went to the front door, glancing sidelong at Theresa. "It was nice meeting you," he murmured. But as he spoke, he raised his eyebrows and shrugged slightly, as if to wish her luck. In a moment he was outside, making his way down the walk. "Why are you here?" Garrett asked evenly once they were alone. "I wanted to come," she said quietly. "I wanted to see you again." "Why?" She didn't answer. Instead, after a moment's hesitation, she walked toward him, her eyes never leaving his. Once she was close, she put her finger to his lips and shook her head to stop him from speaking. "Shh," she whispered, "no questions . . . just for now. Please . . ." She tried to smile, but now that he could see her better, he knew she'd been crying. There was nothing she could say. There were no words to describe what she'd been going through. Instead she wrapped her arms around him. Reluctantly he drew his arms around her as she rested her head against him. She kissed his neck and pulled him closer. Running her hand through his hair, she moved her mouth tentatively to his cheek, then to his lips. She kissed them lightly at first, her lips barely brushing against them, then she kissed him again, more passionate now. Without conscious thought, he began to respond to her advances. His hands slowly traveled up her back, molding her against him. In the living room, with the roar of the ocean echoing through the house, they held each other tightly, giving in to their growing desires. Finally Theresa pulled back, reaching for his hand as she did so. Taking it in hers, she led him to the bedroom. Letting go, she crossed the room as he waited just inside the door. Light from the living room spilled in, casting shadows across the room. Hesitating only slightly before facing him again, she began to undress. Garrett made a small movement to close the bedroom door, but she shook her head. She wanted to see him this time, and she wanted him to see her. She wanted Garrett to know he was with her and no one else. Slowly, ever so slowly, she shed her garments. Her blouse . . . her jeans . . . her bra . . . her panties. She removed her clothing deliberately, her lips slightly parted, her eyes never leaving his. When she was naked, she stood before him, letting his gaze travel over all of her. Finally she approached him. Standing close, she ran her hands over him-his chest, his shoulders, his arms, touching him gently, as if she wanted to remember the way he felt forever. Stepping back to allow him to undress, she watched him, her eyes taking everything in as his clothes fell to the floor. Moving to his side, she kissed his shoulders, then slowly worked around him, her mouth against his skin, the wetness of her lips lingering everywhere she touched. Then, leading him to the bed, she lay down, pulling him with her. They made love fiercely, clinging desperately to each other. Their passion was unlike any time they'd made love before-each painfully conscious of the other's pleasure, every touch more electric than the last. As if fearful of what the future would bring, they worshiped each other's bodies with a singleminded intensity that would sear their memories forever. When they finally climaxed together, Theresa threw back her head and cried aloud, not attempting to stifle the sound. Afterward she sat up in the bed, cradling Garrett's head in her lap. She ran her hands through his hair, rhythmically, steadily, listening as the sound of his breathing gradually deepened. Later that afternoon, Garrett woke up alone. Noticing that Theresa's clothes were gone as well, he grabbed his jeans and shirt. Still buttoning his shirt as he left his bedroom, he quickly searched the house for her. The house was cold. He found her in the kitchen. She was seated at the table, wearing her jacket. On the table in front of her, he saw a cup of coffee, nearly empty, as if she'd been sitting there for some time. The coffeepot was already in the sink. Checking the clock, he realized he'd been asleep for almost two hours. "Hey there," he said uncertainly. Theresa glanced over her shoulder at him. Her voice was subdued. "Oh, hey . . . I didn't hear you get up." "You okay?" She didn't answer directly. "Come sit with me," she said instead. "There's a lot I've got to tell you." Garrett sat down at the table. He smiled tentatively at her. Theresa fidgeted with the coffee cup for a moment, her eyes downcast. He reached over, brushing a loose strand of hair away from the side of her face. When she didn't respond, he pulled back. Finally, without looking at him, she reached into her lap and removed the letters, laying them on the table. Apparently she'd gathered them up while he slept. "I found the bottle when I was jogging last summer," she began, her voice steady but distant, as if recalling something painful. "I didn't have any idea what the letter inside would say, but after reading it, I started to cry. It was just so beautiful-I knew it had come straight from your heart, and the way it was written . . . I guess I related to the things you wrote because I felt so alone, too."
She looked at him. "That morning, I showed it to Deanna. Publishing it was her idea. I didn't want to at first . . . I thought it was too personal, but she didn't see the harm in it. She thought it would be a nice thing for people to read. So I relented, and assumed that would be the end of it. But it wasn't."
She sighed. "After I got back to Boston, I got a call from someone who'd read the column. She sent me the second letter, one that she'd found a few years ago. After I read it, I was intrigued, but again, I didn't think it would go any further." She paused. "Have you ever heard of Yankee magazine?" "No." "It's a regional magazine. It's not well-known outside of New England, but it publishes some good stories. That's where I found the third letter." Garrett looked at her in surprise. "It was published there?" "Yes, it was. I tracked down the author of the article and he sent me the third letter, and . . . well, curiosity got the best of me. I had three letters, Garrett-not just one but three-and every one of them touched me the same way the first one had. So, with Deanna's help, I found out who you were and I came down to meet you." She smiled sadly. "I know it sounds like you said-that it was some sort of fantasy-but it wasn't. I didn't come down here to fall in love with you. I didn't come down here to write a column. I came down to see who you were, that was all. I wanted to meet the person who wrote those beautiful letters. So I went to the docks and there you were. We talked, and then, if you remember, you asked me to go sailing. If you hadn't, I probably would have gone home that day." He didn't know what to say. Theresa reached over and placed her hand carefully over his. "But you know what? We had a good time that night, and I realized I wanted to see you again. Not because of the letters, but because of how you treated me. And everything just seemed to grow naturally from there. After that first meeting, nothing that happened between us was part of a plan. It just happened." He sat quietly for a moment, looking at the letters. "Why didn't you tell me about them?" he asked. She took her time answering. "There were times when I wanted to, but . . . I don't know . . . I guess I convinced myself that it didn't matter how we met. The only thing that mattered was how well we got along." She paused, knowing there was more. "Besides, I didn't think you'd understand. I didn't want to lose you." "If you'd told me earlier, I would have understood." She watched him carefully as he answered. "Would you, Garrett? Would you really have understood?" Garrett knew it to be a moment of truth. When he didn't respond, Theresa shook her head and glanced away. "Last night, when you asked me to move, I didn't say yes right away because I was afraid of why you'd asked." She hesitated. "I needed to be sure you wanted me, Garrett. I needed to be sure you asked me because of us , and not because you were running from something. I guess I wanted you to convince me when I got back from the store. But you found these instead. . . ." She shrugged, speaking more softly now. "Deep down, I guess I knew it all along, but I wanted to believe that everything would work itself out." "What are you talking about?" She didn't answer directly. "Garrett-it isn't that I don't think you love me, because I know you do. That's what makes this whole thing so hard. I know you love me, and I love you, too-and if the circumstances were different, perhaps we could get through all this. But right now, I don't think we can. I don't think you're ready yet." Garrett felt as if he'd been punched in the stomach. She looked directly at him, meeting his eyes. "I'm not blind, Garrett. I knew why you would get so quiet sometimes when we weren't together. I knew why you wanted me to move down here." "It was because I missed you," he interjected. "That was part of it . . . but not all of it," Theresa said, pausing to blink back tears. Her voice began to crack. "It's also because of Catherine." She dabbed at the corner of her eye, clearly fighting tears, determined not to break down. "When you first told me about her, I saw the way you looked . . . it was obvious that you still loved her. And last night-despite your anger-I saw the same look again. Even after all the time we've spent together, you're still not over her. And then . . . the things you said . . ." She took a deep, uneven breath. "You weren't angry simply because I found the letters, you were angry because you felt I threatened what you and Catherine shared-and still do." Garrett looked away, hearing the echo of his father's accusation. Again she reached over and touched his hand. "You are who you are, Garrett. You're a man who loves deeply, but you're also a man who loves forever. No matter how much you love me, I don't think it's in you to ever forget her, and I can't live my life wondering whether I measure up to her." "We can work on it," he began hoarsely. "I mean . . . I can work on it. I know it can be different-" Theresa cut him off with a brief squeeze of his hand. "I know you believe that, and part of me wants to believe it, too. If you put your arms around me now and begged me to stay, I'm sure I would, because you added something to my life that was lacking for a long time. And we'd go on again like we had been, both believing everything was okay. . . . But it wouldn't be, don't you see? Because the next time we had an argument . . ." She stopped. "I can't compete with her. And as much as I want it to go on, I can't let it, because you won't let it." "But I love you." She smiled gently. Letting go of his hand, she reached up and softly caressed his cheek. "I love you, too, Garrett. But sometimes love isn't enough." Garrett was quiet when she finished, his face pale. In the long silence between them, Theresa began to cry. Leaning toward her, he put his arm around her and held her, his arms weak. He rested his cheek against her hair as she buried her face in his chest, her body shaking as she cried into him. It was a long time before Theresa wiped her cheeks and pulled away. They looked at each other, Garrett's eyes issuing a mute plea. She shook her head. "I can't stay, Garrett. As much as we both want me to, I can't." The words hit hard. Garrett's head suddenly felt woozy. "No . . . ," he said brokenly. Theresa stood, knowing she had to leave before she lost her nerve. Outside, thunder boomed loudly. Seconds later a light, misty rain began to fall. "I have to go." She slipped her purse over her shoulder and started for the front door. For a moment, Garrett was too stunned to move. Finally, in a daze, he rose from his seat and followed her out the door, the rain beginning to fall steadily now. Her rental car was parked in the driveway. Garrett watched as she opened the car door, unable to think of anything to say. In the driver's seat she fumbled with the key for a moment, then put it in the ignition. She forced a weak smile as she shut the door. Despite the rain, she rolled down the window to see him more clearly. Turning the key, she felt the engine crank to life. They stared at each other as the car idled in his driveway. His expression as he looked at her cut through all her defenses, her fragile resolve. For just a moment she wanted to take everything back. She wanted to tell him that she didn't mean what she had said, that she still loved him, that it shouldn't end this way. It would be easy to do that, it would feel so right- But no matter how much she wanted to, she couldn't force herself to say the words. He took a step toward the car. Theresa shook her head to stop him. This was already painful enough. "I'll miss you, Garrett," she said beneath her breath, uncertain whether he could even hear her. She slid the transmission into reverse. The rain began to fall harder: the thicker, colder drops of a winter storm. Garrett stood, frozen. "Please," he said raggedly, "don't leave." His voice was low, almost obscured by the sound of the rain.
She didn't answer.
Knowing she would start to cry again if she stayed any longer, she rolled up the window. Looking over her shoulder, she began to back out of the drive. Garrett put his hand on the hood as the car started to move, his fingers gliding along the wet surface as it slowly backed away. In a moment the car was on the street, ready to roll, the windshield wipers flapping back and forth. With sudden urgency, Garrett felt his last chance slipping away. "Theresa," he shouted, "wait!" With the rain coming down steadily, she didn't hear him. The car was already past the house. Garrett jogged to the end of the drive, waving his arms to get her attention. She didn't seem to notice. "Theresa!" he shouted again. He was in the middle of the road now, running behind the car, his feet splashing through the puddles that had already begun to form. The brake lights blinked for a second, then steadied as the car came to a halt. Rain and mist swirled around it, making it look like a mirage. Garrett knew she was watching him in the rearview mirror, watching him close the distance. There's still a chance. . . . The brake lights suddenly flicked off and the car started forward again, picking up speed, accelerating more quickly this time. Garrett kept running behind the car, chasing it as it made its way down the street. He watched as the car moved farther into the distance, becoming smaller with each passing moment. His lungs burned, but he kept on going, racing a sense of futility. The rain began to come down in sheets, storm drops, soaking through his shirt and making it difficult for him to see. Finally he slowed to a jog, then stopped. The air was dense with rain, and he was breathing heavily. His shirt clung to his skin, his hair hanging in his eyes. While the rain came down around him, he stood in the middle of the road, watching as her car turned the corner and vanished from sight. Still, he didn't move. He stayed in the middle of the road for a long time, trying to catch his breath, hoping she would turn around and come back to him, wishing he hadn't let her go. Wishing for one more chance. She was gone. A few moments later a car honked its horn behind him and he felt his heart surge. He turned quickly and wiped the rain from his eyes, almost expecting to see her face behind the windshield, but immediately saw he was mistaken. Garrett moved to the side of the road to let the car pass, and as he felt the man's curious stare upon him, he suddenly realized he'd never felt so alone. *  *  * On the airplane, Theresa sat with her purse resting in her lap. She'd been one of the last to board, making her way onto the plane with only a few minutes to spare. Looking out the window, she watched the rain coming down in blowing sheets. Below her, on the tarmac, the last of the luggage was being loaded, the handlers working quickly to keep the bags from getting soaked. They finished just as the main cabin door closed, and moments later the boarding ramp pulled back to the terminal.
It was dusk, and there were only a few minutes left of waning gray light. The stewardesses made their final run through the cabin, making sure everything was stored properly, then headed for their seats. The cabin lights blinked and the plane began its slow reverse drift, away from the terminal, turning in the direction of the runway.
The plane stopped, waiting for clearance, parallel to the terminal. Absently she glanced out at the terminal. From the corner of her eye, she saw a solitary figure standing near the terminal window, his hands pressed against the glass. She looked closer. Could it be? She couldn't tell. The tinted windows of the terminal coupled with the pouring rain obscured her view. Had he not been standing so close to the glass, she wouldn't have known he was there at all. Theresa continued to stare at the figure, her breath catching in her throat. Whoever it was didn't move. The engines roared, then quieted as the plane began its slow roll forward. She knew there were only a few moments left. The gate fell farther behind them as the plane gradually picked up speed. Forward . . . toward the runway . . . away from Wilmington . . . She turned her head, straining for one last glimpse, but it was impossible to tell whether the person was still there. While the plane taxied into final position, she continued to stare out the window, wondering whether her sighting had been real or if she'd imagined it. The plane turned sharply, rotating into position, and Theresa felt the thrust of the engines as the plane made its way down the runway, the tires rumbling loudly until they lifted from the ground. Squinting through her tears as the plane rose higher, Theresa watched as Wilmington came into view. She could make out the empty beaches as they passed over them . . . the piers . . . the marina. . . . The plane started to make its turn, banking slightly, turning north and heading for home. From her window all she could see was the ocean now, the same ocean that had brought them together. Behind the heavy clouds, the sun was going down, drifting toward the horizon. Just before they soared into the clouds that would obliterate everything below, she put her hand against the glass and touched it gently, imagining the feel of his hand once more. "Good-bye," she whispered. Silently she began to cry.