The original ‘Edna’ is a perfect example of what happens when a writer writes for a specific site’s audience. The story was one of the very first I posted at Literotica, and while I had a good idea of where I wanted the story to go, I was starting to get comments telling me that my stories weren’t ‘hot enough’ for the audience. So I read a few, took a deep breath and tried my best to make Edna get with the program.
I thought the end result was disastrous, contrived and unconvincingly plotted, yet it got a bunch of positive feedback. I reread it recently and the sex scenes made me nervous.
‘Did I really write that? Where did that come from?’
So, while I work away on post-Driftwood stuff, as well as TimeShadow, I’m pulling up some of these old stories and rewriting them. Setting the record straight, so to speak.
And so here’s Edna Mayfield one more time, only a little less off the wall and cleaned up a bit. Oh, and I’m posting in two parts, a little easier to digest that way…
I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.
“The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” – T.S. Eliot
The Mayfield house was unlike any other in the neighborhood; comfortable, perhaps, but hardly practical and certainly not in keeping with it’s more typical suburban neighbors. The house’s immaculate cypress siding, stained dark gray, hovered lightly under a copper roof, yet the sidewalk along the street had buckled in spots – an old maple tree had sent strong roots shooting under the walk to the street – lending an incongruous air to the approach. Across vast lawns, looking towards the house, linen curtains in their mullioned windows were beginning to show a certain age. Still, the house looked long and lean – almost adrift on a sea of trees – and four foot roof overhangs conspired with overarching leaves to create vast shadows in the noonday sun.
A light yellow Cadillac sat under the carport off the right side of the house; an observant neighbor might have told you that the car had not moved from that spot in weeks. If you, perhaps, stopped for a chat with this observant neighbor, you would have learned that Stanton Mayfield had passed away in May, after a short, fierce battle with pancreatic cancer. The Mayfield daughters – Tracy and Claire – had just left for college, for their second and forth years respectively, while Edna Mayfield, long considered the most beautiful woman in Springdale, lived – alone – in this, her comfortable, impractical house. Any of Edna’s neighbors might have described her as comfortable – in a way, as well as impractical – and certainly out of step with her surroundings, and anyone describing her so would have demonstrated a monumental flair for understatement.
Edna Mayfield acted now as the curator of the Mayfield house, a caretaker of memories that lined the taupe grass-clothed walls, memories of a political career that stood in regimental perfection on the legions of Stickley tables and cabinets that dotted her dove gray carpets and slate entry halls. Grey cypress beams crossed lighter gray ceilings, while immaculately varnished mahogany doors stood guard over the private spaces of Senator Stanton Mayfield’s personal library. The Senator’s private papers – and the less tangible accoutrement of 12 years in the senate – were so guarded. The Mayfield girl’s rooms remained ready to deploy on a moments notice, waiting for their return, yet they too remained under guard. Linen covers now guarded custom-made sofas and chairs that had for decades entertained Oregon’s political establishment.
What life there was remaining in the Mayfield house now existed on life-support, remnants of the memories sheltered within provided the oxygen Edna Mayfield needed to survive.
The back yard of the Mayfield estate was criss-crossed with trellised red brick walkways; in the spaces between the walks stood vast explosions of late-Summer annuals. A brace of magnolia trees lined the eastern boundary of the property, while wrought-iron fencing adorned with geometric designs the color of weathered copper defined the boundaries of the property. To the rear of the grounds, at the end of a long stone driveway, stood a huge cypress-timbered garage, and above this vast unused space was an apartment that had been constructed to house a very select few women who attended the college located just a few blocks to the north. The apartment was comfortable, impractical – and had not been occupied for years.
Early on this bright August morning, on this late summer’s day, Edna Mayfield was in the kitchen looking over the backyard to pine covered mountains standing mute in the distance. She was dressed, as she almost always was, in a dark blue gabardine skirt and white cotton blouse, her legs were sheathed in the finest silk stockings, while her feet were adorned in navy blue pumps.
She was timelessly elegant and, for her age, still devastatingly attractive.
Edna Mayfield knelt over the polished slate floor, wiping up coffee grounds that had fallen to the floor while was cleaning up after a breakfast of toast, melon and coffee, black. There was an expression of silent resignation on her face – when the telephone rang – yet her first impulse was to ignore the call.
The telephone had been busy for weeks after her husband’s passing; friends called to console Edna and, when the girls returned home for summer, a steady stream of young men called all hours of the day, and often well into the night. Still, the dreadful machine had been quiet the past few days; with the girls just off to school for the fall term the telephone had been blissfully silent.
And so, on this warm August morning, Edna Mayfield was startled by a ringing so out of time.
She walked to the desk that stood across from the island sink and picked up the olive-colored telephone’s handset. Speaking with a warm western accent, she greeted the caller, asked who was calling.
“Mrs Mayfield? This is Dorothy Fisher, the new Dean of Academic Affairs at the college, and I wanted to ask how you and your daughters are doing.”
Puzzled why one of the college’s deans would call this time of day, she hesitated before continuing, then: “Why thank you for asking, Ms Fisher, the girls are fine.” Edna Mayfield thought it best to take the upper hand by calling this new Dean by a lesser salutation, and deliberately omitted any mention of herself. Few could play a more deliberative round of chess than Edna Mayfield.
“Claire is at Stanford this year, isn’t she? I haven’t heard where Tracy is,” the voice continued.
“Tracy has gone back to Boston, Miss Fisher. To Harvard,” Edna Mayfield replied.
“Didn’t you and the Senator meet at Stanford?” continued the voice.
Well, she wants me to know she’s done her homework, so I wonder how much money they want this year? “Why yes, we did,” Edna Mayfield said, pondering her next move.
“Mrs Mayfield, excuse me, but may I call you Edna?”
“Why certainly,” Edna Mayfield said pleasantly, noncommittally.
“Edna, I hate to ask, but we have a problem I hope you can help us with. I understand you have an apartment on your property that in the past has been leased to our students.”
“We haven’t leased it in years, Miss Fisher, and Stanton had no intention of ever doing so again. Aside from that, I’m afraid it’s not in very good shape. And to speak bluntly, we had a great deal of trouble with our last student, and my husband told your predecessor we’re not prepared to tolerate that kind of behavior on our property. I thought my husband made that very clear to your housing department?”
“Yes, he certainly did, Mrs Mayfield, and I’ve been through all the relevant files this morning. But please bare with me for a moment. As I said, it’s a bit of a situation, and I do hope you’ll appreciate that I fully understand your feelings. That being said, Dr Tomlinson of the History Department has taken ill, very ill actually, and we’ve found it necessary to find a replacement for the fall term, or perhaps longer if the situation requires. We’ve found a young man with impressive experience in government, and who just received his doctorate from Stanford. He has no family, and just arrived late yesterday afternoon. We met with him last night and have decided to take him on for the term, to evaluate him. As you know, classes have been going on for almost a week now, and we have no faculty housing whatsoever available, but we’d like to do everything we can to get him settled and prepared to assume his duties. He’s told us he lives simply, and he wondered if a garage apartment might be available within walking distance of the college. The Housing Department, for some reason I’m sure I’ll never understand, still had your information on file, as well as a summary of events concerning your last occupants, and your husband’s letters to us about the matter. We were all very reluctant to involve you in this matter, but this young man’s situation is pressing, and, I have to say Mrs Mayfield, he seems a remarkably professional and polite young man, if a bit unorthodox. I do wish you’d see him.”
“Miss Fisher, I’d really like to help, but…”
“Edna, there is one other thing.”
“And that would be?” Edna Mayfield replied.
“His government service. Edna, he left the C. I. A. not long ago, and he served under your husband for a few years, when he first started with the agency.”
“I see.” Edna Mayfield began to tremble, her eyes welled with tears.
“Edna, couldn’t you at least talk to him. He doesn’t have classes until tomorrow afternoon, and I could send him to your house straight away. Edna? Edna?”
Edna Mayfield’s right fist was pulled up tightly to her face, she was biting the clinched index finger of her left hand, and trying unsuccessfully to hold back the racking sobs she knew were coming. She spoke into the telephone now in ragged breathless whispers. “All right. I’ll see you both here in an hour.”
Edna Mayfield gently replaced the handset in it’s cradle, then turned towards the door that led to the backyard – and to the sanctuary that was her trellised garden. She walked to the center of her secret space, to a sundial atop a short, geometric column. Stanton Mayfield’s ashes lay undisturbed under the base of the column, a brass plaque with an inscription was set in stone on the ground just above the buried urn. She stood for a moment in embattled silence, not sure what to say – or to do.
“A spy,” she said to herself. She felt the blood flow out of her face, felt herself growing cold and pale as memories of his time there came flooding back. “Oh-please-my-God-in-Heaven – not another goddamned spy…”
Edna Mayfield sank to her knees for the second time that August morning, and hung onto the stark, bronze column in sheer, breathless loneliness. An impossible wailing cry soon shook the comfortable, impractical air of her garden. She looked to the heavens for a moment, then her eyes fell reluctantly to the inscribed words below:
“the tide abides for, tarrieth for no man, stays no man, tide nor time tarrieth no man”
Gales of anguish overtook her. She curled up on the ground above her husband and felt the cold fury of a thousand tears scream for release. Her’s had been a silent fury – now grown vile and powerful, a force she could no longer contain.
Dorothy Fisher sat in the black leather passenger seat of a 1973 Porsche 911 S Targa, her hair streaming wildly in the open air, trying her very best not to look at the man in the driver’s seat. A man who had shown up for his first and only pre-job interview yesterday afternoon dressed in oil-stained khaki shorts and an immaculately pressed white buttoned-down dress shirt. Yet his sleeves were rolled-up, for God’s sake, and the man had not worn socks under his salt-caked boat-shoes – and the stainless-steel Rolex on his left wrist was spattered with dark-red paint. The man wore the same clothing this morning, yet she was sure the shirt was freshly laundered. Looking straight ahead now, Fisher occasionally looked down and moaned at the sight of his lean, muscled legs. She more than once caught herself wanting to know this man better.
Dorothy Fisher gave the man directions to FoxWood Lane, to Edna Mayfield’s house. She felt somewhat at odds with herself: guilty at having manipulated the woman; angry at having been pulled into Edna Mayfield’s one act drama. She had voided her own best counsel, played her trump card right away. Desperate to find a home for this man, in a way – desperate to know him better, to marry him, to bare his children!
She found her way back to reality, desperate to not appear the addled fool as she guided the man through the final turns to FoxWood Lane.
They pulled into the gated drive at number Forty Three, and slowly made their way down the rather long, tree-lined driveway to the house. The man stopped the car behind a pale yellow Cadillac coupe, admiring the grey Prairie School architecture of the sprawling house. He thought the house looked vaguely familiar, like he’d seen it before somewhere.
He unfastened his seatbelt and hopped out of the car, walked around the back and opened Fisher’s door. He held out his hand and helped her out, then walked off toward the front door; she walked briskly to keep up with the man’s vigorous stride.
The front door was open wide, and Edna Mayfield stood just inside, her right hand outstretched and a bright smile on her face.
“Good morning. I’m Edna Mayfield.” the woman said, shaking the man’s hand.
“Yes, it is a beautiful day. I’m Jordan Douglas. And this is Dorothy Fisher,” the man said, moving aside, letting her come forward. He wondered if she recognized him…
“Mrs Mayfield. It’s such an honor to finally meet you.” The two women shook hands. “I’m Dorothy Fisher. I think I’ve read every book and article you’ve ever written,” she gushed. And Dorothy Fisher was shocked by the woman she saw. Mayfield was almost certainly in her 60s now, yet she looked at least twenty years younger. Her figure was perfect, and the woman’s legs would turn any other woman green with envy – and the way she was dressed? A timeless elegance that was at once understated and yet, well, frankly sexy – in an understated way all the woman’s own. As they walked into the house, Dorothy Fisher looked past the entry hall and into the living room beyond – and all at once understood what it meant to be richer than hell. She saw two Monet’s and a Picasso, and she knew from comments on campus they weren’t prints.
Edna Mayfield led her visitors through the house to her kitchen, where she turned and offered them coffee. As she passed sugar cubes and a sterling pitcher of cream, the three continued to chat aimlessly about the weather and the coming semester’s academic highlights.
Still…without any change in apparent emotion or cadence in her speaking, Edna Mayfield came to her decision.
“Well, Dr Douglas, perhaps we’d better go out back so you can look over the apartment,” she said, standing up. Concealing her hopeful confusion, Fisher stood and followed her as she made her way to the door that led out into the vast garden; Jordan followed at a slower pace, his eyes linger on Edna Mayfield. He stepped into the sunshine and followed the woman through the maze of trellised walkways that led to the garage, his eyes fixed ahead.
Edna Mayfield unlocked the door and walked up the steps just inside the door, leading them up to the apartment. She flipped on a light switch at the top of the stairs and stood aside.
Jordan Douglas and Dorothy Fisher arrived and both seemed to stagger to a halt, their eye’s moving about slowly, taking in the grandeur of Wright’s creation. The ‘apartment’ was a vast open space composed entirely of smoke-colored cypress – there was not a single expanse of sheetrock or plaster in evidence. A gently vaulted ceiling dappled with stained-glass skylights gave the air a soaring spirit; it felt almost like a cathedral – only on a slightly more human scale. The southern exposure of the room was an uninterrupted expanse of geometrically mullioned glass; beyond lay a small lake, and in the distance a range of grey-green mountains stood mutely, as if placed there to define the limits of the Mayfield’s landscape. The room was furnished sparsely with Japanese and Mission style furniture and flowed into a compact, yet perfectly equipped kitchen space. Behind them, translucent shoji screens separated the main space from the sleeping and bathing spaces. Edna Mayfield beckoned the two to make themselves at home and wander about at will, then sat down lightly in a simple cherry-wood rocking chair looking out at her mountains. Her gaze seemed focused but detached, lost to the wonder of the space even after so many years.
Jordan Douglas spoke at once. “Mrs Mayfield, this is simply an overwhelming space. It’s hardly an apartment, it’s more a museum. I hesitate to ask, but who was the architect?”
“Frank Lloyd Wright, Dr Douglas,” Mrs Mayfield said.
The man paused, then put out his hand as if to commune with the very fabric of creation. He closed his eyes, and his head listed a bit to his right. “I see,” he said. “The main house is as well, I seem to recall?” He opened his eyes and looked at Edna Mayfield, who simply gave the faintest smile – a gently nodding assent. He looked at Edna Mayfield for a long time, and she in turn did not break away from his direct gaze.
“Well, Mr Douglas, I assume it meets with your approval. Now, could you tell me, please, is this manner of attire you’ve so graciously blessed us with in any way representative of your character?”
Jordan Douglas walked over and sat next to Edna Mayfield. He paused and nodded his head. “Mrs Mayfield, I understand what you mean, and perhaps someday if we know one another better I might explain my appearance to you. But let’s be clear about two things. First, I appreciate what you have created here; I’d be honored to live here, and I would treat the space accordingly. Second, I care not a bit about the conventions of society. I wear what I choose to wear, and I will not apologize to you, or to anyone else for that matter, for the choices I make.”
Dorothy Fisher turned away to hide her surprise and dismay, then shook her head in both wonder and disapproval.
Edna Mayfield continued to look directly at Jordan Douglas, her faint smile an open question that revealed nothing of the thoughts behind the facade. Presently she stood up, moved to pat Jordan Douglas on his shoulder and said “Good for you, Jordan. And here I was, given to believe men no longer have balls.”
With that, Edna Mayfield strode to the stairwell and proceeded down. As she neared the bottom she called out for the two of them to take their time.
Edna Mayfield walked over through a gate and onto the stone drive, then walked down toward her Cadillac, and just then saw the dark green Porsche in the drive. She looked at it, then back at the garage, a million emotions colliding in her mind’s eye. She looked at the car for a moment, checked the license plate if for no other reason than to reassure herself, then fought back the tears that seemed to be an integral part of this day. She turned and walked quickly back to the main house.
Jordan Douglas and Dorothy Fisher came back into the sunlight in time to see Edna Mayfield step back into the kitchen; they walked back through the garden towards the kitchen door to catch up, but as they grew near he turned and spoke quietly to Fisher: “Perhaps I’d better talk to her alone,” he said.
“I’ll see you back at the car in a minute.” He continued on to the house, alone but for his own conflicted thoughts.
He entered the kitchen to find Edna Mayfield hastily wiping tears from her face. ‘Oh, God, what have I done to this woman,’ he said to himself.
Edna Mayfield made no effort to conceal her grief any longer. She turned to the young man and said, “I’m sorry. This has been very difficult for me.”
“I understand, Mrs Mayfield. The country lost a great voice when your husband left us.”
The opaque smile returned. “Well,” she said, “the place is yours if you want it.”
“Thank you. I hate to be so crude, but could I ask how much rent I should expect to pay, with utilities and such?”
“Well, let me see, Mr Douglas,” she said, acting as though she were sizing him up. “How about you take me out to dinner once a month in that green monster out there.”
She smiled at the surprise on the young man’s face, then led him to the front door.
Jordan Douglas pulled his car up to the garage, turned off the ancient cassette player, then the ignition as he gathered his books and papers to carry up to his room. As he shut the door he heard Edna Mayfield call out: “Hey there, stranger!” and he turned to see her waving at him as she worked away in her garden. He hadn’t seen her since that first day, but had heard that she’d been off to London to give a talk at the Institute For Strategic Studies at Cambridge.
“Well! Hey there, yourself,” he called back.
“Your rent’s due. How ‘bout tonight?”
“Sounds good. What time?”
“I’m famished, starved really! I just have to wash my hands, so I’m basically ready when you are.”
Jordan Douglas thought of all the papers to be graded piling up on his desk, the lectures to prepare for next week, and he sighed, then said: “Fine, let me take this stuff upstairs. Be down in five.”
When he came down he found Edna Mayfield standing by the rear of the Porsche.
“This is a ‘73 S, I take it?” she asked.
He nodded, not really surprised by her knowledge of the model.
“You haven’t seen Stanton’s cars yet, have you?” she asked.
“Well, c’mon then,” she said excitedly. Edna Mayfield grabbed Jordan Douglas by the hand and pulled him back to the garage. She entered a code on the concealed keypad, and the lone garage door rolled up and out of the way.
Jordan Douglas laughed with joy at the sight. Another huge wooden space, again completely of cypress, the geometric stained glass windows an echo of other motifs around the main house, the massive wooden beams and finally, the low indirect lighting that switched on automatically as the door finished opening. A red Ferrari Daytona Spider stood at the front of a small pack of museum quality sports cars that were crowded into the garage. A cream colored Mercedes 300 SL Gullwing popped into view, it’s blazing red interior inappropriately elegant; a silver-blue Alpha Romeo Montreal, a Maserati here, a Lotus there. And in the very back, lost in a dimly lit corner of the museum, a dark green Porsche Targa.
“That’s his 73 S,” he said wonderingly. “I remember it, you know? On campus.”
“Yup,” she replied – with a bubble of laughter lurking just under the surface. “His pride and joy.”
“This must be some kind of weird for you,” he said as he looked at her.
“Took some gettin’ used to, that’s for sure. But I did some checkin’ up on you while I was away. You’ll do.”
He turned, looked at Edna Mayfield and smiled. “I’m glad,” he said. “Honored, actually.”
“Well, okay. I’m ready for dinner,” she said.
“All right. Your choice, Taco Bell or Burger King.”
She laughed gayly. “You drive, I’ll navigate.” It was a challenge, a dare he had to accept.
Across town they pulled into a drive-in hamburger stand, one of the few remaining postwar originals, she told him after they ordered. “Best goddamn rings west of the Rockies,” she continued. The carhop walked out a few minutes later and placed a tray heaped with burgers, onion rings, and drinks on his partially rolled up window. They talked about the college and his classes, students still flirting with the professors and professors still getting caught up in sloppy romances, all the while happy as they dug into their burgers. They laughed at stupid agency tales and legends, moaned about the folly of politicians. They were, in short, very relaxed with one another, enjoying each other’s company.
“I haven’t been here in ages,” Edna Mayfield said. “This place was here when Stan and I were first dating. Tastes like they haven’t changed the grease in the fryers since then, too.”
“Yeah, but this chocolate malt is the best. I can feel my arteries clogging as we speak.”
“Next month, okay? When I feel like gaining twenty pounds.”
He laughed. “I have to wait a month?”
“You can find your way,” she said, suddenly wary.
“I meant with you.”
She sighed, looked away. “Jordan, I appreciate the compliment, I really do, but I’m old enough to be your mother.”
“I plead ulterior motives,” he grinned. “I simply wanted to be seen driving around with the prettiest gal in town.”
Edna Mayfield reached over and took Jordan Douglas’ hand in hers. “That’s very sweet, Jordan. But I’m too old for that kind of foolishness, and you’re too young.” Open conflict seemed to dance across Edna Mayfield’s characteristically unreadable eyes, and he was amused.
“Told you that first day, Mrs Mayfield, I’m not much on conventions.”
“So, salty boat shoes? You have a boat?”
“When I moved back to the Bay Area. My dad’s actually. After he passed I couldn’t think of letting her go, so I moved aboard.”
“What’s that like?”
“Not bad for a bachelor, unusual community atmosphere all around. Interesting, I think. Not your usual nine to five lifestyle.”
“You liked it, then?”
“I did, yes. I should say I still do. I liked sailing up to the delta, towards Sacramento, and I went outside a few times, sailed down to Monterrey Bay.”
“We used to drive over to Half Moon Bay, up over Skyline Drive and down to the little artichoke stands along Highway 1. Did you ever make it to Alice’s Restaurant?”
“Most every Sunday.”
Edna Mayfield smiled at that, then reclined the seat as far as it would go and looked out the car into the deep blue sky above. “Such a beautiful evening,” she whispered. “I miss him so much. Hated to see him reduced to such frailty. You just can’t imagine.”
“Yes, Edna, I can,” he whispered back.
She turned and looked at him, willing him to continue.
“We were stationed in Ecuador. I was seconded as commercial attache, Emily worked for State. Leftist guerrillas hit a diplomatic convoy headed to the airport to pick up Vance. She was killed that day, but it took her weeks to pass.”
Edna Mayfield suddenly remembered the incident. Remembered Emily Douglas and the baby she carried, the outrage in D.C. And just as suddenly she recalled Jordan Douglas, his ancient grief spread over tabloids and network newscasts.
“She was so young,” he said quietly. “Like all of us were, I guess.”
“And I am so old,” she said to herself. The words echoed around Edna Mayfield’s memories – even through the walls she had erected to keep so many of them away.
They sat in silence for a while, awash in their respective grief, and storm clouds gathered over distant mountains, then moved down the valley towards the city. Lightning lit their way on the drive home.
Jordan Douglas sat on the patio off the east side of his room, watching evening overtake the valley. He was reading, or at least trying to reread Oswald Spengler’s Decline of the West, preparing for a lecture on Social Darwinism in the early 20th-century. He was still far too busy with classes, and was considering the college’s offer of a tenure-track position in the wake of Olin Tomlinson’s death. Too, he had been looking after the main house after Edna Mayfield departed a few days after their brief evening out. Gone to Norway to visit relatives, or so she said. Edna Mayfield had given him the keys and the codes, hopped into a taxi and been gone in a heartbeat.
In today’s mail he’d found a letter from Norway, and he’d set it aside – for a time – when distractions would be few. After two more hours he set aside Spengler’s brooding missive, took up the letter he assumed was from Edna Mayfield and slowly knifed the envelope, carefully setting it on the table by his side.
He took in the writing on the page, its elegant, finished form awash I subtle femininity. He read Edna Mayfield’s pleasantries and banal descriptions of ancient stave churches and crystal-hued waterfalls diving through autumn foliage to the ice-blue waters of deep fjords. Still, he smiled at the imagery as he flipped to the next page.
The words on this page were from someone in deep emotional conflict, and though the handwriting on the surface was the same elegant script, the words no longer reflected the casual wanderings of an idle tourist. Edna Mayfield now described the wanderings of her heart through the barren landscapes of her husband’s life and death, the triumphs and the betrayals of their careers in public service. She described the enduring love she had for her husband, and for their children. She threw into the light of day Jordan’s oblique reference to some form of tryst with her, and here Jordan Douglas sat bolt upright in his chair, for it soon became apparent she had not dismissed the idea out of hand.
She drifted through needs to protect the memories of her marriage from meaningless diversions, the feelings of her children and their certain sense of betrayal should their mother carry-on a disreputable affair, and Jordan’s own very tenuous standing in a small-town college community. Yet she expressed an affection for him, indeed, a strong attraction. Her confidence seemed to build again as she continued, and she ended by asking him to think about her words and feelings as he might those of a close friend.
Edna added she’d be home in a few weeks, and to keep himself well until her return. Douglas set the letter aside and picked up the envelope and noted the post mark, then lifted the paper to his nose and smiled again. Her perfume suffused his senses, and whether deliberate or accidental he did not care. He closed his eyes as he felt cast adrift in so many memories, so suddenly, and he felt he was tumbling in a ragged surf when he pictured her in his mind.
He thought of Stanton, his friend and mentor, and the times he’d seen them together in D.C. He thought of Ecuador and his own loss, and now her’s. Stanton had belonged to her, yet the old man had been a part of his moral universe too, and he found it difficult to separate the two. He thought of the mornings he and Stanton played squash or tennis, and the mornings over the past several weeks when he saw Edna coming back from an early morning run… How alike they were, how attuned to one another they must have been. How remarkable it would be to cut through time – like an arrow – with someone like her by your side.
Social conventions aside, he wondered if she was ready for her own second verse.
“And what about me?” he wondered. “Am I ready for her, and everything she is?”
He’d felt light-headed for days, almost giddy with adolescent anticipation as the assumed days of Edna Mayfield’s return came – and went, and it was already late in the evening when he accepted defeat, knew this was not to be the day. He rubbed his eyes as he looked at the pile of ungraded papers on his desk, then jumped at the sudden knocking on the door below. He flew down the stairs and opened the door to see Edna Mayfield standing there, silhouetted by the bright lights of a taxi in the driveway.
“Jordan! I’m so glad you’re home! I don’t suppose you have any small change about? All I have are some traveler’s checks and a handful of Krone.” Jordan walked out to the old yellow cab and paid off the cabbie, then picked up Edna Mayfield’s bags and carried them towards the main house.
“Oh, put them down, Jordan! I’m starved!” she said, a sudden smile flashing across her face. Jordan took out his house keys and placed the bags inside the door and returned to the driveway. As the taxi backed out the drive he walked over to Edna.
“So, how are you? What would you like to eat?” he said as he hugged her.
Edna Mayfield stood looking at Jordan Douglas in the receding light. Her eyes bore into his with feral intensity, and she took both his hands in hers.
“I feel a great need for a chocolate malt and onion rings,” Edna Mayfield said as she grinned. “I’ve been thinking about that for at least a day.”
He grinned, felt in his pockets and found his keys as they walked to his car, and they drove in silence to the old drive-in. After they ordered she reclined the seat and looked up at the coming stars – and she reached over, took his hand in hers.
He let her drift, let her set the agenda, but the feel of her skin on his was unimaginably full of nether currents. He held her to his own – all the while wanting desperately to hold her, the pull she exerted now absolute. They picked at their food when it came, still in silence, then she turned to him, asked him to take her home.
And still they sat in silence, her hair lifting in the slipstream. Stopped at a light, he looked at her, at her upturned face, her closed eyes, and he took her hand and carried her fingers to his lips.
They turned into the drive, the headlights of his old Porsche lighting the stone, and her pale yellow Cadillac, on his way back to the garage. When he stopped, when he’d switched off the ignition and the lights, he felt her eyes on him and he turned to meet them.
“Thanks,” she said lightly, gently.
He smiled as gently. “You betcha…would hate to fall behind on my rent.”
“You received my letter?” she asked.
“I’ve been counting the minutes ever since.”
“I feel like a teenager,” she grinned. “All addled by the silliest hopes and dreams…”
“Yes. I thought you, off all people, might understand. You know, I miss Stanton so, but I think he’d understand, perhaps even approve.”
“I think he’d be jealous as hell,” he said, smiling. “I’ve never seen a more pure love than his for you.”
She turned to him, looked into his eyes after this unexpected thrust. He does understand, everything, she thought. “And yet,” she breathed, “I’d love nothing more than to fall in love with you.”
And with that, she led him to the garage, to the stairs that led to his room. She seemed to float up the stairs, leading Jordan in casual flight among clouds of their own creation – within the heady glow of forgotten anticipation. He looked at her as she drifted up the currents of their finding, took in the sweet elegance of her every move, the subtly restrained sexuality of her movements. Cast adrift by her off-white suit, the bone colored blouse, stockings, and pumps, the random twinkling of jewelry, the soft cloud of Chanel he drifted within, he followed her now – in a trance of her making.
As they reached the deep glow within her vaulting space, she flipped off the lights and turned on Jordan Douglas. There was nothing forced or hesitant about their lovemaking; he thought it more an acknowledgment of the obvious, a part of who they might become.
“Penny for your thoughts,” she said as they lay together after, her smile demure, full of understanding. Yet her soul radiated curiosity, questions about the why and the what of things to come…
Yet he hesitated. “Until I saw you again, until we went on that first drive, I thought my life incomplete, somehow wanting of a conclusion. I think I’d given up on the idea of ever finding someone like you.”
“Someone like me?”
“Yes. Like you, and only you.”
“What does that mean, Jordan?”
“When I look at you, think about you, my world turns upside down. Everything is chaos until I think of you by my side – and then everything falls into place, makes perfect sense.”
She lay on her side, propped her face on her hand as she looked at him. “Perfect sense? How? Symmetry – between the past and the present?”
“I suppose, but after I read your letter, all that evening I drifted among memories of Stanton and Emily, and then of course, you. What hit me hardest, I suppose, was that we wouldn’t be here – you and I, together – right this minute, without our universe unfolding just the way that it has…and yet, despite all the odds against that happening – here we are. I don’t like resorting to cliché, but right now it feels like everything before this moment happened for a reason; everything’s that’s happened has led us right here, right now. And I feel this moment is the most important of my life.”
“Important? Why do you say that?”
“Because when I read your letter I felt joy again, in my heart, but not from a purely selfish point of view.”
“Selfish?” she wondered aloud.
“I think I fell in love with you again the moment I saw you, when you were standing in the door waiting to show me this room,” he started. “Of course I knew who you were. Of course I was reluctant to get you involved. I just couldn’t imagine violating your need for privacy, being interrupted by a reminder of Stanton’s past, yet I felt a certain joy then because, I think, I could see a circle rejoined.”
She didn’t blink an eye, she just continued to look at Jordan’s face, the weight of loneliness falling from her spirit as he spoke. “You loved him too, didn’t you?”
“Yes, I suspect I did, perhaps in the way a son loves his father. He always seemed such a wise soul, careful to avoid the excesses and abuses of power. He was a rancher, and he was a philosopher, and – I think he always believed in the promise of this country.”
“Wait a minute! Did you say you fell in love with me – again?”
“Edna, every red-blooded heterosexual male in Washington D.C. was in love with you. I just got with the program and fell in line with everyone else.”
“Oh, piffle,” she said, smirking. “All that bullshit about ‘brains and beauty’, like someone’s sexuality is their single most defining trait…”
“That’s what’s so stunning about you, Edna. It’s always been that way, too.”
She looked away, feeling almost disappointed now.
“I think I understand how you feel,” he continued – as seriousness clouded her eyes. “The miracle of you, your curse too, I suppose, has always been your beauty, yet how it complement’s your intellect. Men have always been drawn to you, but often to your beauty, and yet you used that attraction to draw men closer, to draw people to your arguments. Even so, I assume you could never be sure what was left after those encounters. Did men take you seriously because of the positions you advanced, or because they were drawn to your beauty – and didn’t really give a damn?”
She lay on her back just then, looked up at the ceiling. “Stanton and I talked about this all the time, the very same thing. It feels like you and I are replaying conversations we had…”
“I’m sorry, perhaps I…”
“No, no. I love it that you see into me the way he did, that you know me the way he did.”
“As I know you understand my feelings for Emily, and all that came before. Yet what I’ve thought about most since we met, since we sat eating onion rings and burgers, is that life now is for the living. I don’t think I’ve thought of much else, really. And yes, though you are a little older, all that means is time is precious now – to both of us now. It’s not the simple commodity we used to take for granted when we were kids.”
“No, I suppose not,” she said, smiling as a thought ran through her mind.
“Sorry you asked?” he replied.
Edna Mayfield took his hand in hers and kissed it, all the while feeling a tenderness well up in her soul. She turned, rested her face on his chest, listening to his heart beating away, still smiling gently at random thoughts running through her mind’s eye.
“So,” he continued, “things seem pretty clear to me. I hope my feelings are clear, but then again I’m usually fairly transparent.”
“Oh, did I hear a statement of feelings in there, somewhere along the line?” Edna Mayfield asked coyly.
“Wasn’t there? Why, Mrs Mayfield, I love you.”
“Oh, I see,” she said in mock seriousness, then her cares seemed to fall away. “I never expected to feel this way again, not ever. I think I’ve been dead ever since Stanton passed, actually.” He felt her move closer now, her body conforming to his. She held him close, breathed in deeply. “Thank you,” she said at last, “for helping me find my life once again.”
She fell asleep on his chest, listening to the quiet, steady beat of his heart.
Edna Mayfield waved excitedly as her youngest daughter, Tracy, bounded out of the arrivals concourse. Tracy ran up to her mother, fell into her embrace, yet Edna was shocked at the change she saw in her daughter. Older now, more mature in an unexpected way. Something had happened, changed, yet she was happy.
Tracy remained her secret favorite; Tracy the romantic, the poet at heart, her soul always attuned to other people’s feelings. And she had Edna’s looks, too: not quite as tall, slim but well-proportioned, and the same long, flowing copper colored hair that revealed her Nordic-Scottish ancestry. Academically, Tracy had always been something of an enigma to her parents; rarely performing to expectation but making almost perfect scores on the SATs and ACTs. She’d applied to Stanford, but from an early age wanted to get away from the west, to go back east. Harvard took her, so did Dartmouth, but the small town girl went to Cambridge to live in the heart of a big city. Though she had yet to declare a major, she’d been interested in history for many years, just like her father, yet she loved to paint – like her mother.
Now here she was, dressed in typical Tracy fashion; gray cardigan sweater over white blouse, grey flannel skirt, black tights and tasseled loafers. Boarding school garb, always the same – like coming of age at that school in New Hampshire would always define her life. She was home for Thanksgiving vacation, just like high school – again, yet Claire wouldn’t be home this time.
How would she react to Jordan? ‘Thank God,’ Edna Mayfield said to herself as she thought of their meeting, ‘I don’t think I could handle all of them together this time.’
“So Mom, what’s new with you,” Tracy asked, and yet just then she could hear Stanton’s penetrating questions in her voice.
“Oh, not too much, sweetie. I’ve had to make appearances at a couple of seminars, some campaign appearances for Senator Daniels, but not much else. I went to Norway in September to visit family. And, oh, don’t go wandering up into the garage apartment; we’ve got a boarder up there.”
“Oh, really?” Tracy said, now very curious. The last girl they’d had up there had been really bad news. Drugs and all night parties, and her father had been furious at the damage done to the place. “What’s she like?” she asked.
“Not a she, sweetie. He’s a very nice young man,” Edna Mayfield said, not wanting to walk this minefield so early in her vacation.
“That’s a pretty good trick for a girl’s college, don’t you think, mom?”
“He’s a replacement they brought in, after Olin had his heart attack. You know, he actually worked for your father for a while at the agency,” she continued.
“That’s pretty wild, huh? What’s he like, how old is he?” she said as they made their way through the little terminal to the parking lot, and she was looking closely at her mother now, looking at all the tell-tale signs glowing on her face.
“You know, sweetie, I’m not real sure. I’ve been away so much this fall I just haven’t had a chance to get to know him as well as I’d have liked.”
Yet, as Tracy Mayfield got in the car she saw her mother blushing, and now red flags started popping-up all over the place. Still, she moved on, not wanting to upset her mother, also thinking the right guy might be good for her.
As they pulled into the driveway Tracy commented that the house looked good. Her mother pulled through the carport and headed back to the garage.
“Wow, mom, are you driving Dad’s Porsche?”
“Hmm? Oh, no sweetie, that’s Jordan’s.”
“Jordan’s?” Tracy asked, a telltale arched eyebrow the giveaway.
“Dr Douglas, dear. Jordan Douglas. I guess he’s home now. Oh, I forgot, they only had classes scheduled for half a day.”
Tracy Mayfield knew all she needed to know for now. Her analyst’s mind was the natural by-product of being raised by two spooks – one in the C.I.A., the other from the N.S.A. ‘Ok,’ she said to herself, ‘the facts so far: first name basis; knows his schedule; blushes when talking about him. This could be an interesting vacation after all…’
She carried her small bag into the house while her mother went into the kitchen to work on her stuffing. She made her way quickly into her parent’s bathroom and took a quick look around – and it didn’t take long to make her inventory.
There, around the sink, is that brown hair? Ah-ha, razor stubble there, and on the shower floor, and TWO damp towels. She went back to her bedroom and got out her cell phone, pulled up her contacts and speed dialed her sister’s number.
“Claire? It’s Trace. I think you’d better come home tonight. What? Are you feeling okay? Yeah, I know, but I think it’s that important. Yeah, but listen…I think something’s up with Mom, there might be a boyfriend thing going on. Yeah, I know, but get me the flight time as soon as you can, and call me on the Boston cell. Right. Bye.”
She went back down to the kitchen, looked at her mother working away in her apron, her real, bonafide kitchen warfare uniform, making homemade biscuits for her stuffing, an old family recipe called out only for the most important occasions.
‘She hasn’t made this in years, has she?’
“Can I help out, mom?”
“I was thinking it might be nice to call Dr Douglas and invite him over for a drink. Would you mind doing that?”
“Can’t I go over and ask him? Seems silly to call.”
“I think calling’s the polite thing to do, Tracy. He might have company.”
She smiled – thinking of tangled webs – then called the number to the back house. “Hello, Jordan? It’s Tracy, Tracy Mayfield. Mom and I would love it if you’d come over for a drink. Five minutes? Sounds good. Bye!”
Edna Mayfield’s eyes were wide open.
‘Jordan?’ – then she thought of Tracy’s best poker voice on the phone, when she had a bad report card to discuss. ‘OK. She’s never been a fool, and if she hasn’t figured it out already, she will in about ten minutes. Time to set my own snare…’
Jordan walked up to the kitchen door and knocked, and when Edna was through with her stuffing and she set it in the ‘fridge, Jordan fixed drinks and they all went to sit in the living room.
“So, you’re teaching at the college?” Tracy asked, wanting to break through the ice quickly.
He smiled at her, wondered what form her game would take. “Yes, that’s about the size of it.”
Tracy’s eyes lit up. “I just declared my major. History, but I may minor in philosophy…”
“You are so your father’s daughter,” Edna said, grinning. “When did you decide?”
“A few weeks ago. So, where’d you do your PhD, Jordan?”
“Stanford. On FDR’s pre-war efforts to mobilize industry, for what he considered an inevitable war.”
“What are you teaching now?”
“Oh, a couple of intro survey courses, and one 400 level seminar, 20th-century social structures. What are your interests?”
“The medieval church, oddly enough, and Rome.”
“Tracy, Jordan’s been living on a sailboat, on San Francisco Bay. That’s interesting, don’t you think?” Of course, Edna tossed that one into the ring knowing Tracy lived to go sailing…
And her eyes went wide hearing that. “Really? What kind of boat?”
“Oh, a real oldie, an Alden Boothbay Challenger; it was my father’s.”
“That’s a Maine boat, wasn’t it? How big is she?”
“Yes, only fourteen of ‘em built. 58 feet, draws a little over five with the boards up. She was the light in my dad’s eye.”
“What’s her name?”
“I love it!”
He grinned. “Three staterooms, maybe we can all go out on her sometime…”
“Gosh…I’d love that…I know Claire would too…” Tracy said as she looked at her mother. “Maybe we could, huh?”
Edna looked at Tracy, then at Jordan – and she smiled…
And then Tracy’s phone chirped – and she dashed outside to take the call. “Yeah, it’s me. There’s a boarder in the back house, a new prof at the college. Former spook, worked for Dad too, apparently. Oh, yeah, confirmed; evidence all over her bathroom. Uh, huh. Yeah, he seems like a nice guy, did his doc at Stanford so maybe you can do some research. So yeah, really interesting in a beach bum sorta way, lived on a sailboat around there somewhere. Okay, got it. Flight 481. 2315 hours. I’ll get out of here somehow, meet you at the baggage claim.”
As she walked back in she thought about how best to make an excuse to get the car keys. Bet her mom would fall for it, give her time to be with her beau anyway, she thought with a smile. Mom’s are so easy to fool…
As she came back inside she saw her mother on the telephone, heard her thanking the party on the other end, saying good night.
Mother turned to daughter, a knowing smile on her face.
“So. I guess you’ll be wanting the car tonight? Say around ten or so? You did write down her flight number, didn’t you? 481, is it?”
“Well, fuck,” Tracy muttered under her breath. When your mother was retired from the NSA, you couldn’t get away with dick.
“I know,” Edna Mayfield said, seeing the frustration in her daughter’s eyes. “Let’s go out to dinner now, shall we? We can pick her up after…”
Jordan Douglas looked at mother and daughter and wondered just what the hell had happened.
Claire Mayfield came into the arrivals concourse only to see a dejected Tracy standing next to her mother – and a nice looking man who stood about a half head taller than their mother.
‘OK, cover now thoroughly blown,’ as her Dad would’ve said at a time like this, ‘it’s time for Plan B.’
“Hi, Mom. Tracy thought it would be nice to surprise you for Thanksgiving.”
Edna Mayfield hugged her oldest daughter, gave her a kiss on the cheek. “Well, Claire, you know how it goes,” her mother said. “Hard to keep a secret in a house full of women.” She smiled, trying her best to keep her sense of irony in check.
“And I’m Jordan Douglas,” the man next to her mother said, holding out his hand.
Claire Mayfield turned and looked into the man’s penetrating eyes, yet she sensed little guile, and an unassuming intelligence. And anyone with an IQ over 70 could see that he was head over heels in love with her mother. She gave Trace a sidelong glance and noted the ‘she beat us again’ grin on her face, and knew it was all over now. Oh, well. Someday. Someday, they’d pull one over on her.
Claire Mayfield turned and walked out the terminal, holding her mother’s hand for a while, and she tried not to stare at the man she instinctively knew was about to change all their lives – forever. And she wasn’t too surprised when her mother let Jordan Douglas drive the car, nor the way they surreptitiously held hands in the front seat of her pale yellow Cadillac.
Tracy Mayfield walked out into the massive arrivals concourse, her arms fully loaded with holiday packages and a single carry-on. She looked around for her mother, or even Jordan, but no one was there, no one waiting with open arms…
Then she saw Claire – walking her way – an uneasy smile on her face. They hugged, and Claire took some of the load off her sister’s hands, then they started for the car.
“Mom and Jordan? Where are they?”
“On the boat.”
“Have you seen it yet?”
“Yeah. It’s nice, I guess, very cozy down below, but it’s as old as he is, built forty something years ago. You can tell he’s put a lot into her, though. Anyway, bet you’re glad to get out of Beantown…supposed to be a monster blizzard coming in.”
“It’s there. It was ten below when I got to Logan this morning, and already about a foot on the ground. I was never so happy as when those wheels came up…”
“Yeah? It’s been like 80 degrees here, for the last three months. I’d almost like to see some snow.”
“I don’t know…it feels pretty nice out here to me…” They were on the upper parking deck now, walking to Claire’s Honda in the sunlight. “Where’s the boat, anyway?”
“Pier 39,” Claire said, “downtown. Nice spot, if you can handle tourists gawking at you all day long.”
“I can’t believe we’re doing Christmas here. This is the first time we’ve ever not been at home.”
“I think a lot of things are changing, Tracy. Kind of – ‘right before our eyes.’ She’s 21 years older, you know? I’m not sure I think it’s right.”
“It’s her life, Claire.”
“It’s our life, too,” Claire said as she unlocked the doors. “We don’t know him, who he is, or what he wants from her. Maybe he tried to get a job at the college, maybe he’s trying to get closer to mom. Maybe all he wants is her money. Did you think of that?”
Tracy looked at her sister, not really sure what she was hearing. Paranoia was one thing, but Claire sounded almost delusional. “Well, I’m sure we’ll find out a lot about what’s going on over the next few days. Why don’t we just sit back and watch ‘em for a while.”
“Tracy, you should read his dissertation. It reads like he worships FDR and the New Deal.”
“So did Dad, Claire.”
“He did not!”
“Claire, he was a democrat.”
“He was not!”
“Claire, what’s the name of that place by campus…the one with the pastrami sandwiches Dad always took us to?”
“Yeah, The O. Have you been lately?”
“No, too many memories. I didn’t go to any football games this year. Dad will kill me,” Claire said.
And Tracy looked at her sister just then, at the faraway look in her eyes. “I’m real hungry. Suppose we could drive down there? I’d like to see the place one more time…”
“It’s not the same anymore.”
Tracy listened to the voice. Flat, lifeless – and very depressed. “Okay, well, let’s go on up to the city…” Something was wrong, something had drastically changed since Thanksgiving. “Have you stayed on the boat yet? Been around them?”
Claire pulled up to the gate to pay, then got on the 101 – heading north into San Francisco in a silent fugue – then she pulled onto the Embarcadero and drove into North Beach. Parking was always a nightmare down here, Claire said absent-mindedly as she passed a vacant space, then another – finally settling on a space far from the marina. They walked down to the pier and to the marina, and Claire entered a code and led Tracy down to the Siren Song.
Jordan was up the mast in a bosun’s chair – setting a radar reflector below the spreader – as the girls walked up, and when he saw them approaching he lowered himself down to the broad teak decks and slipped out of the chair, then hopped over to the boarding gate and took the packages from Tracy’s hands, helped her up.
“How are you?” he said, smiling as he helped Claire up. Tracy gave him a hug while Claire walked by in a silent rage, went to the cockpit and sat down in a heaping pile.
“Doing fine. You?” She looked at him, expressing caution as she looked at Claire, but he gave her a knowing nod.
“I could use a hand,” he said as he turned and walked back to the mast. He tied-off lines from the reflector, handed her a line and asked her to shackle it off. He watched her, looked how she handled the line, then walked forward to the bow pulpit. “How was she?” he asked.
“What’s happened to her?”
He shrugged. “You mom started getting bills last October, from student health services. Her report card is all incompletes, she’s put 13,000 miles on the car since August.”
“That’s all you know?” she said as she smiled. “What do the health service notices say?”
“HIPA, confidential, won’t tell us anything, just a bunch of bills and co-pays.”
“What’s Mom think?”
“Okay. When are we headed out?”
Jordan looked at his watch. “About an hour, as soon as the tide turns.”
“I’d better go say ‘hi’ to Mom, then get changed.”
“She’s aft, working on some emails. When you come back up we’ll head out.”
She looked at him again, smiled. “I’m glad you’re here, Jordan. With her, I mean,” then she turned and walked aft.
He watched her as she walked away. How like her mother she was, and in a way, like Stanton, too. And there was Claire, looking at him from the cockpit, the complete opposite of Tracy. Claire, who seemed to be a composite of all those traits Stanton struggled with. Brilliant, insecure when on unfamiliar turf, easily unsettled by challenges to his authority. All the things he had relied on Edna to keep in check…and now, those had settled on Claire. Who would be there to hold her together? She was fading so fast, who would come to her rescue?
Once the main was set, Siren Song pulled into the wind on her own, and while Tracy steered Jordan rolled out the genoa, then hopped aft and shut down the engine. The afternoon breeze was flowing in the Golden Gate so they tacked towards Sausalito, dodging fishing trawlers and a nuclear submarine as they crossed the bay. A quarter mile shy of The Needles, Siren Song tacked to port and sailed close-hauled under the Golden Gate, keeping well off Baker Beach on her way to Mile Rock. Once five miles offshore Tracy steadied up on a heading to carry them down the peninsula, their next turn seventy miles ahead.
The mid-afternoon sun beat down on the deck, and it was warm for a December day, even by California standards. A steady onshore wind keep Siren Song’s sails pulling; Claire walked up to the bow and straddled the pulpit, let her legs dangle off the bow while Tracy steered and Jordan walked around checking lines and gear.
Presently, Edna Mayfield came up from below and sat beside her youngest, looking at her – so immersed and in her element – as she held fast to wheel and compass. She looked forward, saw Claire sitting on the bow – isolating herself, drowning in self-inflicted despair, then she turned and saw Jordan on the aft rail, looking up at the mast, measuring angles in the rigging. He had a tension gauge in his hand and went forward, tweaked one of the shrouds then walked aft again, checking the angle one more time. When he was satisfied he slipped into the cockpit and sat between Edna and Tracy, looking from one to the other – and startled once again by the almost complete similarity between them. Tracy’s nose was different, and her skin lighter, but that was about it. Looking at Edna was like looking at a Tracy that might exist in forty years – and here he was, in age straddling the two of them.
“Well,” he said, “here I am, sitting between the two most gorgeous women in the world, and what I want to know is which one of you is going to fix lunch?”
Edna Mayfield pushed her sunglasses down to the tip of her nose and looked at Jordan.
“Are you saying Tracy is as pretty as I am?” she said in a deadpan, her eyes boring into his.
“Oh, no,” Jordan replied, just as seriously. “She’s much prettier than you are.”
That made Edna Mayfield smile. “Who wants a Coke?” Edna smiled as she went below to the galley. A few minutes later she came up with chicken salad sandwiches, chips and cokes, and Edna called Claire out of the sun.
“There are a lot of sharks out here,” Claire said as she slipped into the shaded cockpit, and Edna looked at her carefully.
“Oh? What did you see?”
“I don’t know what kind, but I’ve seen two really big ones, like that one,” she said, pointing.
Jordan looked, saw the large scything tail of a White about 50 meters to port – and Edna’s eyes went wide. “What is it, Jordan?” Edna asked.
“A White. There are a lot of them in the area this time of year, especially out at the Farallon Islands. Humpback whales, too.”
“Could we go out there?” Claire asked, her voice clear, yet sounding almost mesmerized.
Jordan looked at Edna, who gently shook her head. “This is the wrong time of year, Claire. Winter is when the Whites gather out there, a breeding and hunting season, and it’s off-limits to everyone but a handful of researchers, even passing boats are required to stay well away.”
“They’re pretty,” she said. “Dangerous, but pretty.”
“From a distance,” Jordan said, “I suppose they are. In a few months they’ll disappear, head out into deep water between here and Maui. It’s thought they give birth out there, then return here in winter.”
Claire looked at the animal as it swam along. “God…how lonely she must be. Out there adrift in the blue, to give birth – then lose even that companionship…”
Tracy looked at her mother – who looked back and smiled, then Claire turned to them, to Jordan, really.
“I’m pregnant, Jordan, and I need your help.”
Edna sat very still, not sure where Claire was coming from, or where she was going…
Jordan, however, smiled gently as he turned to her. “Oh?”
“I’ve decided to have an abortion, and I want you to go with me when I have it done.”
“I see. Why me, not the child’s father?”
“I don’t know who he is.”
“Whatever do you mean, Claire?” Edna said.
“I was at a party…and I woke up on a bed, naked. I may have been raped, but I don’t even know that much. I went to the health services clinic last week and they confirmed it, and I’ve found a place that does them. Abortions, I mean. I don’t want to go alone.”
Jordan reached for her hand and she moved away.
“Claire,” he said as he looked into her eyes, “please don’t pull away from me.”
“I’ve made up my mind, and I don’t want you to try to talk me out of this.”
“I wouldn’t do that,” he said as he willed her to come back to his side.
She looked at him, then slid across the cockpit seat until she was next to him. He looked in her eyes, saw her fighting to hold back tears, the trembling lips, the shaking hands…
Then he took her in his arms and pulled her close, let her come to terms with the idea he was there for her – then he felt her relax, felt her arms encircle his, felt her whole body shaking. “I’m sorry your father isn’t here to help you now, but I’ll be there for you, okay?”
He felt her nod on his chest, felt her silent tears moisten his chest as he looked at Edna, then to Tracy. They all seemed to understand Something Important had just happened, perhaps Jordan most of all that some final barrier had been breeched, then he felt her go from relaxed to almost limp – and he leaned back a bit and he heard her snoring…
He leaned back and cradled her head in his hands and held her close; Edna watched stunned by Claire’s sudden release – then her shattering news – and not least of all by her proximate clinging to Jordan. She’d never seen her let go in front of her father, nor even her for that matter, yet Tracy seemed most unsettled by it all.
And why was that? Edna Mayfield asked herself. Tracy looked at Jordan almost possessively now, and from time to time she watched something take shape in her youngest’s eyes that was troublingly more than possessiveness. Still, that wasn’t what troubled her now.
Here was Jordan, now thrust into an impossible series of emotional hurricanes. His love for her, Tracy’s budding infatuation – and now, Claire’s implosion. They’d seen parts of the unfolding drama arrive in the mail, but now everything was out in the open. Most important of all now, Claire’s terrifying emotional ordeal was out in the open – and she’d reached out to – Jordan? Not to her? Why? Or…why not?
Of course she had no way of knowing, but the exact same thought was running through Jordan’s mind as he held on to Claire…
‘Why me, and why not Edna? What’s going on here? And why is Tracy looking at me like that?’
©2005-2016 | Adrian Leverkühn | abw | So ends the first part of this rewrite. Look for the conclusion in a few days.