I heard from Mickey Kingsley in early February. Colin had told me that as far as he knew his father was in the Middle East on a photojournalism contract; the court order allowed Mickey contact with his children by post or email, but he was not a good correspondent and they sometimes went for months without hearing from him. He had gone out to Iraq shortly after the first wave of British troops, and he had only returned to England for brief visits since then.
It was early evening in the middle of the week; Emma had gone down to the hospital to visit Sarah, and I had just started working at my desk when the telephone rang. I picked it up and said, “Tom and Emma’s house”.
“Mickey Kingsley here”.
I sat up in surprise; “Mickey! I thought you were in Iraq?”
“Just got back a couple of days ago; I’m in the country for two weeks. It’s been a long time; how are you?”
“I’m fine; how did you know I was here?”
“I get copies of all Colin’s report cards, you know”.
“So you recognised my name?”
“Yeah, and I e-mailed Colin last night to find out if you were the same Tom Masefield I knew long ago. Sounds like you’ve made quite an impression on him. Just as a matter of interest, what are you doing back in England?”
“My Dad’s got lymphoma”.
“That’s a sort of cancer, right?”
“I’m sorry to hear that. Of course, you two never did get along very well, did you?”
“We’re doing a little better now, I’m glad to say”.
“Oh, well, in that case, my sympathies. Is it terminal?”
“I’m afraid so”.
“How long has he got?”
“It’s hard to say; he was diagnosed almost a year ago, and at the time they gave him two years at the most. Watching him lately, I don’t think he’ll make it to two years”.
“I see”. He paused for a moment, and then said, “Have you been seeing much of Wendy since you’ve been here?”
“We’ve met a few times; why do you ask?”
“So you know about Lisa, do you?”
I saw immediately where this conversation was going. “I’ve met Lisa and talked with her a little”, I replied carefully, “and Wendy’s told me she’s had some struggles with her, but that’s about it; why?”
“Typical! Wendy hasn’t lost her talent for deception and manipulation, I see!”
“What do you mean?”
“Lisa’s not my daughter, you know, Tom; she’s yours. She’s the product of that little one-night stand you and Wendy had not long before you left the country”.
“I know that, Mickey”.
“I thought you said you hadn’t talked about her?”
“I’ve got access to school files with dates of birth in them, and I can count”.
“Ah! So you’ve been doing a bit of espionage, have you? I take it that Wendy doesn’t know that you know?”
I was silent for a moment; I knew that I felt uncomfortable talking with Mickey about Wendy behind her back, but I also felt instinctively that it would be wrong to simply give him the cold shoulder altogether.
“I don’t really want to talk about Wendy behind her back like this”, I said.
“What exactly is going on between the two of you that you don’t want me to know about?” he asked.
“Nothing; we’ve met, we’ve talked, we’ve played music together – that’s it”.
“She’s told you all about me, no doubt?”
“I know that you went to jail for assaulting her”.
“That’s the British justice system for you!”
“You’re saying you weren’t guilty?”
“The stories were exaggerated; Wendy had a good lawyer”.
“Presumably the court had access to the medical reports from the time you put her and Lisa in hospital?”
There was a long silence on the other end of the line; I waited, listening to the sound of Mickey’s breathing. Eventually he said, “I may not be allowed to see Colin, but I’m still his father, Tom. Don’t forget that”.
“Of course not; why would I forget it?”
“I just wanted to clarify the situation. How long do you plan to keep your little secret from Wendy?”
“I think I’ll choose not to answer that one”.
“Why are you being so hostile?”
“I’m not being hostile at all; I just don’t want to talk with you about stuff that concerns Wendy before I’ve had a chance to talk with her about it”.
“Sounds like you two are getting pretty cosy”.
I didn’t respond, letting the silence hang between us. Eventually he said, “Okay, I get the message. I’ll say goodbye, then, and don’t forget what I’ve said about Colin”.
I heard the click as he hung up. I put my own phone down and stared for a moment at my computer screen; then I picked up the phone again and rang Owen’s number.
“Hey, it’s me”.
“Tom; what’s up?”
“I just had a phone call from Mickey”.
“Mickey? How on earth did he come to be phoning you?”
I gave him a summary of my conversation with Mickey; when I was finished he was quiet for a moment, and then he said, “This changes things a bit, doesn’t it?”
“I think so”.
“Are you afraid he’s going to talk to Lisa and Colin about you being Lisa’s father?”
“Mickey’s always been volatile; there’s no knowing what he might or might not do”.
“Does this mean you’re going to tell Wendy what you know?”
“I think I have to; I had hoped to leave it and let her decide when she wanted to tell me the truth, but I don’t think that’ll work any more”.
“He hasn’t lost his talent for causing chaos, has he?”
“I’m afraid not”.
“Are you worried about your own safety?”
“I don’t think so. Wendy says that for the most part he’s been pretty good about observing the court order”.
“But you aren’t part of the court order; that’s why he could call you the way he did”.
“I guess so”.
“And it sounds to me as if he was giving you a threat about Colin”.
“I think that word’s a bit too strong”.
“I don’t. Take my advice, Tom, and talk to the police about your situation; he’s done jail time for assault, and if he’s making a threat, even a veiled one, you have to take it seriously”.
“If he makes a threat I’ll certainly take it seriously, but I don’t think what he said tonight was a threat”.
“Well, you have to make your own decision about it, but if I was in your shoes, I’d be talking to the police”.
“I think before I do that I’m going to talk to Wendy”.
I went downstairs to get a glass of water, trying to decide how to broach the subject of Lisa in conversation with Wendy. As I was on my way back upstairs the phone started to ring again; I went back into the office, sat down at my desk and picked up the cordless receiver; “Tom and Emma’s house”.
“Tom, it’s Wendy”.
I guessed immediately that Mickey had called her as soon as he finished talking to me. “Hello Wendy – is everything alright?”
“Actually, Tom, I really need to talk to you about something, and it’s rather urgent. You aren’t by any chance free right now are you?”
“I can be”.
“Are you alone?”
I glanced at my watch; it was about seven forty-five. “I’m expecting Emma back from the hospital in about an hour”.
“Right – that doesn’t leave much time. Is there a place near you that we could meet?”
“There’s a quiet little pub on Marston Road not far from here; do you want to meet there?”
“That might work; can you give me directions?”
We met at the pub about fifteen minutes later; it was a tiny place on a street corner, with the traditional polished wood floor and oak beamed ceiling. A couple of customers were seated at the bar when Wendy and I walked in; we found ourselves a table in the corner of a small side room, and I left her there while I went to get drinks. When I returned to the table I handed Wendy her pint of cider and sat down opposite her. She had removed her coat; I saw that she was wearing a thick sweater, and her hair was tied back in a loose pony tail. “Cheers”, I said, raising my glass to hers. “So – what’s up?”
She took a sip of her drink, put it down on the table and looked at me; “I had a telephone call from Mickey tonight”.
“I thought he wasn’t supposed to call?”
“He’s not; he’s supposed to use post or e-mail with the children, and in an emergency he’s supposed to contact me through Rees, not directly like this”.
“Was this an emergency?”
“Not really”. She looked away for a moment, and I waited, knowing what was coming.
“Tom, there’s something I need to say to you”, she said, meeting my eyes again. “There’s something I haven’t been telling you the truth about, and now Mickey’s forcing my hand about it”.
I didn’t answer, but I nodded slowly, continuing to meet her gaze steadily. Something in my expression must have given me away, because after a moment I saw understanding dawning in her eyes. “You know, don’t you?” she whispered.
“Yes, I do”.
“You know that you’re Lisa’s real father?”
“My God, Tom! How long have you known?”
“About six weeks”.
“How did you find out?”
“I’ve got access to school records, and they include birthdays”.
She gave a sudden frown; “Why would you go searching Lisa’s school records? She’s not one of your pupils”.
“It wasn’t just a whim of curiosity, Wendy. After our dinner at Merton before Christmas, Emma and I were talking about Lisa. I happened to mention what you’d told me about her age, and Emma corrected me; Colin had been talking to her, and he’d told her that Lisa’s twenty-first birthday was coming up in February. So the next day I went to the school files and checked”.
“And you found out that I hadn’t told you the truth”.
“Why didn’t you say anything to me?”
“I was going to at first, but then right after Christmas Rick and Sarah had their accident, and I got a little preoccupied. And then I decided that since you obviously had a reason to want to keep this secret from me, I’d leave it to you to make your mind up about when you’d tell me the truth”.
She looked away, and for several minutes she said nothing. Behind me I could hear other people coming into the pub; someone greeted the bartender in a loud and cheerful voice, and he responded in the same way. In the background I heard the voice of Sting singing ‘How Fragile We Are’.
Eventually she looked up at me, and I saw the nervousness in her eyes. “I suppose you’re really angry with me now, are you?” she asked.
“I was at first, but the last few weeks have changed things for me”. I paused, and then said “For a few months that spring you were my closest friend after Owen; I know it must have been difficult for you to decide what to do after you found out you were pregnant”.
She took a sip of her cider and then put the glass down on the table again, a faraway look in her eyes. “Do you remember the last time we met before you went to Canada?” she asked.
“Yes, it was at Owen’s house, wasn’t it, the week before I left?”
“That’s right. I’d already begun to suspect that I might be pregnant when I saw you that night. I wanted to take you aside and talk to you about it, but another part of me realized that I had no right to assume we could be a couple at all; I’d withdrawn from you, and it would have seemed very shabby for me to come back and ask for your help after I’d basically rejected you for the past few weeks.
“Then you left for Canada, and about a week later I had a pregnancy test. So then I knew; I was pregnant, and I was going to have to find a way to deal with it. For some reason it never occurred to me to try to get an abortion; I didn’t have any really strong religious convictions by then, as you know, but I couldn’t bring myself to think of my unborn child as anything other than a human being, and it seemed unthinkable to me that I would do away with that human being because the circumstances were difficult.
“I thought about trying to get in touch with you in Canada, but I was afraid, Tom; I knew I’d turned you away, and I couldn’t bring myself to – well, I thought perhaps I’d hurt you too much to – I mean…”
“I understand, Wendy”.
She gave a nervous laugh; “A fine English lecturer I’m turning out to be; I can’t even put two coherent sentences together tonight!”
“That’s all right”.
“Well, what I’m trying to say is, I was afraid I’d hurt you too much, and that you wouldn’t be able to get past that. And of course I knew what had just happened between you and your Dad, and I was pretty sure that you wouldn’t want to come back to England, at least for the foreseeable future. I knew that you’d moved to a small town, far away from any university, and one thing I knew for certain was that sooner or later I’d want to do my doctorate. And, to be honest, I didn’t have your sense of adventure, either; I couldn’t see myself moving to a strange country and starting all over again out there. So, for all those reasons, I decided not to contact you. But I also knew that I couldn’t imagine trying to bring up a child by myself, without any help at all; the thought of even attempting to do that was just too overwhelming to contemplate.
“So I had to find a solution that didn’t include you. My family – well, again, I knew I’d taken a different path from my Dad and Mum; not that they would ever have rejected me, I know that now, but at the time I had a rather superior attitude toward their simple-minded faith – that’s the way I would have described it in those days – and I couldn’t bring myself to ask for their help. And my brother Rees had recently been ordained and he was going through a time when he was the most god-awful self-righteous prig on the planet!” We both laughed, and she continued, “Poor Rees! He’s been such a help to me since my marriage broke up, and I’m sure I misjudged him in those days, just like I misjudged everyone else. But I really didn’t want to end up as an illustration in one of his sermons, so I decided Mickey was my only option”.
She shook her head; “I was so pathetically stupid”, she whispered, looking down at her half-empty glass. “I was a classic case; I wanted to believe that Mickey and I could work things out, and I succeeded in convincing myself. Mickey was living in London, of course, and I knew the city well from my undergrad days; I knew I could study there, and get work there too. And, after all, Mickey and I had been a couple for seven years, and it hadn’t all been grief; we’d had a lot of good times, and there was a lot of feeling for him left in me still.
“So I went to London and talked to him. I told him the absolute truth; I told him that I was pregnant, that you were the father, that you had gone to Canada and that I didn’t want to follow you there, because despite the night we’d spent together, I didn’t think that you and I were a couple. I told him that I wasn’t sure how I felt about him, but that I was in a tight corner and if he still wanted me, I was willing to give it a try again.
She shook her head. “When I look back on it now, I find it hard to recognize myself; what I was actually doing was throwing myself on him, in exactly the shameless way that I refused to contemplate doing with you, or with my own family, and I couldn’t see how stupid I was being”.
“Don’t be so hard on yourself”, I said; “it was a tough situation and you didn’t have many options”.
“No, but I was brilliant enough to choose the worse one, wasn’t I?”
“How did he react?”
“He was angry when he heard that you and I had slept together; I could see that. Of course, he hadn’t exactly been Mr. Purity himself since moving to London – denying himself an attractive roll in the hay wasn’t something Mickey was ever very good at, I’m afraid. But I didn’t know anything about that then. He shouted at me a bit – we were at his flat, not in a public place – and for a while I started to think it wasn’t going to work out the way I wanted. But deep down inside, I was fairly sure that in the end he would say yes. I knew instinctively that I had the winning card; I knew that Mickey still wanted me, and that in the end his desire would overrule everything else. And of course I was right. It didn’t occur to me that basing the security of the rest of my life on Mickey’s lust was a rather risky policy; I can’t believe how short sighted I was”.
“So that’s when you moved in together?”
“Yes, and I spent that autumn studying at UCL. Then of course, Lisa was born in February, and Mickey and I were married the following summer”.
“How did the abuse start?”
She frowned. “There was a subtle difference in our relationship when we got back together. I didn’t notice it at first; in fact, I don’t think it became really clear until after we were married. But he was more directive with me; he seemed to like ordering me around more. Of course, he’d been directive when we first started going out, but I was the sheltered vicarage girl and he was the man of the world with a motor bike and a reputation, so it had seemed only natural that he should take the lead. Later on, though, after we started playing and singing together, our relationship was much more equal, and he seemed to be alright with that. But after I went to London and we moved in together, we seemed to revert back to our old style.
“Anyway, it was after Lisa was born that I first started to notice he was losing his temper with me more often. At first I didn’t think anything of it; I was rather strong-willed myself, too, and we’d always had arguments. But after a couple of years he started to really shout at me and say demeaning and insulting things when he was angry. And then, not long after that, he hit me for the first time”.
She was silent for a minute, and I waited, knowing by the expression on her face that she was reliving the experience as she recounted it for me.
“It was during a reunion of friends from my UCL undergrad days. We went to a nice club, and one of the people who came was a man who’d been an occasional study partner of mine. We shared a couple of drinks, caught up with each other’s news, and danced a couple of numbers together. I never thought anything of it, and I certainly didn’t mean anything by it. But afterwards, when we got home, Mickey lost his temper and accused me of shaming him in front of all our old friends. I got very angry with him; I told him that it wasn’t my job to pander to his childish immaturity all the time. The next thing I knew, he was hitting me across the side of the face, three times, with the palm of his hand.
“I can remember it as if it were yesterday. He hit me hard enough to bruise, but at first I didn’t notice the pain; I was too shocked. I couldn’t believe this was happening to me; abuse was something that happened to other people, not me. And then I cut that thought off; I told myself that this was not abuse, this was just a momentary lapse. We’d get over it.
“The next day he was profusely apologetic, he said he couldn’t believe what had got into him, and he promised me it would never happen again. So we had an emotional reunion and gushed over each other for several days. I didn’t know then, of course, that this is a common cycle in abusive relationships: deterioration, abuse, repentance, deterioration, abuse, repentance, and so on. I lived in that cycle for the next twelve years”.
“I’m so sorry, Wendy”, I said. “It was wrong of me to ask you to relive this all tonight”.
She looked at me and shook her head slowly; “No – you had a right to ask, and I’m not sorry I’ve told you. And I need to add that even though it’s still very painful for me to think about it, I’ve done a lot of healing since I moved to Oxford – especially since Stephen came to our college chapel. He got the story out of me after a while, and then he put me in touch with a group for survivors of abuse which was really, really helpful. And moving away from London was tremendously important for the children and me. For the most part, we feel safe now. Rees calls regularly to check up on us; he’s turned out to be one of the truest friends I’ve had through the years, and of course I’ve got other friends at the college and in the chapel community. I’ve discovered that I’m stronger than I thought I was, and I’ve realized that other people have pain too, lots of them worse pain than mine. I’m grateful for your concern, Tom, but please don’t think that I spend a lot of time paralyzed by memories of the past. I don’t. Every now and again I have nightmares, but I’ve learned how to deal with them; I get up, I make myself a cup of tea, I read a good book or pray the psalms, and eventually the fear passes and I can go back to sleep again. For the most part, I’m coping well; I really am”.
I shook my head in admiration; “You’re an amazing person, Wendy”.
“No, really, I’m not. This sort of thing is common with survivors of abuse; I could introduce you to at least five or six others in the academic community in Oxford who have been through the same thing I’ve been through, and have dealt with it in the same way I’ve dealt with it. It’s not an uncommon story – sad to say, but it really isn’t”.
“I still think it’s amazing”. I pointed at her empty glass; “Would you like another pint?”
“A two-pint night? Isn’t that a bit adventurous?” She shook her head; “I’d better not, Tom; not when I have to go to work tomorrow. I’ll tell you what, though; if you ask for a pot of tea, I’ll help you drink it”.
“Okay; excuse me for just a minute”.
I got up, went out to the bar and ordered a pot of tea. The pub was fuller now; there were six or eight people standing or sitting at the bar, and a few others seated around the tables. A couple of cigarettes were burning, and in the background, an old Benny Goodman tune was playing. One of the things I liked about this pub was the landlord’s taste in music.
When I returned to our table in the side room, I sat down and said, “Just out of curiosity, what did you tell Lisa?”
“About her parentage, you mean?”
“Yes. I mean, she must know she was born before you and Mickey were married”.
“Lots of children are born before their parents are married, Tom”.
“I realize that, but did you tell her that Mickey was her Dad?”
“Did you put Mickey’s name on the birth certificate?”
“Of course not – that would have been foolish, in case of medical complications later on. Her birth certificate doesn’t list a father”.
“How did you explain that to her?”
“She didn’t actually see her birth certificate until a couple of years ago, when she applied for a passport before going to Russia. I told her it had just been an oversight when she was born. By that time, of course, she already hated Mickey so much that she thought it was rather ironic and funny”.
“I notice she goes by ‘Howard’ now, not ‘Kingsley’”.
“Yes. Mickey had legally adopted her after she was born, so she went by ‘Kingsley’ when she was young, but when she turned sixteen she had her name changed to ‘Howard’ again”.
“Please tell me you’re not going to ask her to change it to ‘Masefield’ any time soon”.
I frowned; “Of course not, Wendy; the last thing I want to do is to barge into her life. I think it would be better to take things slowly, at her pace, don’t you?”
She nodded; “Sorry, Tom; I shouldn’t have been so defensive”.
“Not at all”. I looked across at her and said, “You must have been nervous when you found out I was back in Oxford”.
“Yes, I got quite a shock when Colin first mentioned your name, but then I thought, ‘There must be lots of Masefields in England; it must be a coincidence’, and so I put it out of my mind. But then he told me that you’d just moved back from Canada; that’s when I began to think it really must be you, and I mentioned to Colin that I thought I knew you from my student days. Later, of course, when you went to the Habitat building site with him and told him that you knew me – well, at that point I knew I had a problem.
“I knew that sooner or later you would want to meet me, and I wanted that, too, actually. But I was afraid about what would happen if you found out about Lisa. I tried to put myself in your shoes, finding out that you’d had a child for over twenty years, and knowing that the truth had been concealed from you; it was really hard for me to imagine you reacting in any other way but anger”.
At that moment the landlord appeared at our table; I smiled my thanks as he put the tea tray down. “Let me know if you need more hot water”, he said as he turned and went back to the bar.
Wendy took the lid off the teapot and stirred the bags around for a moment. “You probably noticed that I tried to avoid meeting you”, she said. “It was hard, because I really did want to see you and talk to you, especially after we’d had that meeting at the school and I’d met Emma. But I couldn’t risk you finding out about Lisa, and so when you e-mailed me about getting together I put you off”.
She poured milk into the bottom of the cups, filled them both with thick black tea, and handed one of them to me. “I did my best to avoid you, but then after we’d had such a good time together at Emma’s party, I realized that I still liked you and I didn’t want to jeopardize any chance we might have of being friends again, so I continued to hide the truth from you, because I was afraid that once you found out, our friendship would be over. I know it was wrong of me to do that, and I’m certainly not proud of what I did, but there it is”. She looked across at me; “I’m so sorry, Tom”, she said in a small voice; “Please forgive me”.
“There’s really nothing for me to forgive; I’m only glad that we’ve finally been able to talk about it together”.
“So am I”.
I hesitated, then reached out and put my hand on hers. “I’m not angry, Wendy; please believe me. There’s nothing for you to be afraid of”.
She turned her face away for a moment, and when she looked back at me, I saw the tears in her eyes. “Thank you, Tom”, she whispered.
“No – thank you, Wendy, for being so open with me”.
She took a deep breath, smiled at me through her tears, and said, “So, what are we going to do now?”
“Well, I should tell you now that Mickey rang me tonight as well”.
“Mickey rang you?”
“I’m afraid so”.
“I’m sorry, Tom; was he very obnoxious?”
“Not really”. I recounted my conversation with Mickey to her, concluding by saying, “I think we have to take seriously the possibility that he might blurt it all out in an email to Lisa or Colin”.
“So I’m going to have to tell them, before they get it from him”.
“I think it might be better for them to get it from you”.
“Yes, of course. And what about you; before the story comes out, who do you need to tell?”
“Emma first, then Becca”.
“Are you afraid of how Emma will respond?”
“I am a little. Owen thinks I’ve got nothing to fear; he thinks Emma and I have a strong enough relationship that we can get through this. He and I first talked about it the morning I found Lisa’s birth date in the school files; I remember telling him I was afraid this news would break Emma’s heart, but he disagreed. I’d like to be sure he’s right, but I have to admit I’m worried about it”.
“Of course you are; it’s not hard to see how special Emma is to you”.
“Yeah, she’s – she’s all I’ve got left, you know…” I stared into my teacup for a moment, then looked up at her and said, “What about you? Are you worried about how Lisa and Colin will take it?”
“I’m worried about how Lisa will take it. Not that there’s any love lost between her and Mickey; she hates him. But I’m sure she’ll quietly hold it against me as one more example of how I’ve failed to protect her. After all, if I’d chosen to go to you instead of to Mickey, she would never have had to go through that day when Mickey assaulted her”.
“Would you rather I talked to her?”
She smiled at me. “Thanks, but I know I’ve got to do it. Can she ring you up afterwards, if she wants to?”
“Of course. Are you going to tell her tonight?”
“I can’t really – she’s at Christ Church, you see. I’ll probably ring her tonight and ask if we can have lunch tomorrow; we try to do that once a week anyway. What about you; will you talk to Emma tonight?”
“Probably, if she’s not too tired. She’s been working all day, and then she went in to see Sarah tonight. I wish I could get her to take a break; she’s exhausted, but she insists on going to see Sarah whenever she has free time, and she often gets together with Eric and Anna as well”.
Wendy finished her tea, put the cup down on the saucer, and said, “Would you and Emma like to go to Essex with Colin and me next weekend, Tom?”
“This’ll be your weekend to go down there this month, will it?”
“Yes; we usually go right after school on Friday and come back Sunday evening. I’ve got this great big Volvo that’s ridiculously expensive to put petrol in, but I’ve had it for fifteen years and it just won’t fall apart on me! Anyway, there would be lots of room in the car if you and Emma would like to come. I know you like to walk in the country, and if we’re lucky and the weather’s good, there are some nice walks near Chelmsford. Rees and his family live in an absolutely enormous vicarage; I’m sure there’d be no problem about you staying. You wouldn’t have to do a lot of socializing with my family; once we got there, I could let you have the car and you and Emma could go exploring. I might even be able to come walking with you for part of Saturday”. She shrugged her shoulders; “I just thought it might be a nice break for you, and for Emma too if you can talk her into it”.
“I like the sound of that. I’ll talk to her about it”.
“Of course, you’d have to put up with Rees’ church on Sunday; they’re very charismatic down there”.
“Very. They’re rather fond of hugs, too; I’m usually lucky to get out of there without being hugged by a dozen people”.
“I’m all in favour of hugs, personally”.
“Are Mennonites big huggers?”
“Not German Mennonites; for the most part, they’re pretty reserved. But the Reimers are great huggers. Kelly’s Dad has a thick Grizzly Adams beard and a bear hug you’re lucky to survive”.
She laughed; “He sounds delightful!”
“He’s a very special guy”. I glanced at my watch and said, “Well, I’d better get going if I’m going to talk to Emma tonight”.
I got to my feet and went to the bar to pay our bill, and then Wendy followed me out into the night air; a mist from the river was slowly rolling in, and I felt the chill in my bones as we walked across the parking lot to our cars.
“Thanks for coming out, Tom; I’m sorry if I put you behind on your schoolwork”.
“Can’t be helped, and I’m really, really glad we talked about this stuff, even if Mickey backed us into it”.
“So am I”. She leaned forward and gave me a gentle hug. “Good night”, she said.
“Good night. Ring me when you’ve talked to Lisa”.