Actions

Work Header

the expanding universe.

Work Text:

“We’re almost there!” Adam announced, almost proudly, as we turned off the highway onto an exit. “Only a few more miles, then we should be at the beach.”

“I still don’t understand why we have to visit this random place in South Carolina,” I grumbled. “Why are we going here again?”

Adam and I had been on a trip to Florida to celebrate both his upcoming senior year of college at Berkeley and my first year of college at New York University. My family, despite going on a cross-country trip a few years prior, had somehow never been to Florida, and Adam had wanted to show me around the place where he spent many of his summers growing up as a child. Although we had flown down to Tampa from the Hartford Airport, Adam was strangely adamant about driving back to Connecticut with a rented car from the very beginning of our trip planning; and only a few days ago did he drop the bomb on me that we had to visit some friends of his in a beach town outside of Charleston.

“What friends are these? You never quite gave me a clear answer,” I continued with a laugh, but honestly I just wanted to know who we were going to be seeing so I could mentally prepare. Adam had never mentioned friends in the south at all until a few days ago.

In return, Adam gave a small sigh. “You know how I used to be really distant with you? I used to be really hesitant to open up to anyone, especially you.”
I nodded. “After Antarctica, I think you got over that, though,” I pointed out.

He assented, “Yeah, I know. But there are still some things I haven’t told you, some big parts of me and who I believe I am that I’ve never shared with you. So, I figured it was a good time to take you to meet some of the best people I’ve ever known in my life: my friend Polly and her family.”

I raised my eyebrows. “Excuse me? POLLY? Why have I never heard about this girl? Did you date her?”
Adam smiled. “All in good time, Vicky. Here we are at the house right now.”

He pulled our little mini-van up in front of what appeared to be a sprawling beach house, with a clear view of the ocean from their driveway. For a second I was torn back to summers on Seven Bay Island, with the ocean just outside of my window, but I shook my head to tear myself away from those memories.

A girl ran out of the house at the sound of our car. She had shoulder length reddish-brown hair, freckles on her face, and was fairly tall.

“Adam!” she yelled from the other side of their lawn. “I can’t believe you’re finally here!”

She ran across the sand to him, and practically leaped into his arms. “Oh, Polly, it’s so good to see you,” he said, hugging her back. Meanwhile, I stood to the side, arms crossed over my chest and feeling like both of my eyebrows were all the way on the top of my forehead. Excuse me? THIS was Polly?

Suddenly, the girl turned to me and gave me a huge smile. “You must be Vicky. Oh, I am so glad to finally meet you! I’ve heard so much about you from Adam,” she said, coming closer to me and pulling me into a hug. “I almost feel as if I know you already.”

I adhered to this hug from a strange girl I had never met before, but gave Adam a befuddled look over her shoulder. “I’m glad to meet you too, Polly, though I must admit, I don’t quite know why Adam and I are here right now.”

She laughed and threw her red hair over her shoulder. “Oh, that’s Adam, always pretending that he knows best by keeping himself closed off. Well, I’m Polly O’Keefe—”

“Oh, like the Dr. O’Keefe that you worked for in Portugal?” I cut in. “Oh, why didn’t you just tell me that, Adam? If you wanted to pop in to see your old boss, there is no reason to keep it so secretive.” I laughed and looked over to him, but he had a serious expression.

“It’s not just that, though, Vicky. Not only did I work for the Doctor, but I also became very close with his family. Polly, in particular.” He smiled at her from where he was standing beside me, and she grinned back.

“Oh, gosh, I’ve missed you, Adam. Now, enough chit chat! We’ve all been waiting to meet you, Vicky, and I’m sure you’re all famished from the trip.” Polly beckoned with her hand for us to follow her, and we trailed behind her in the sand until we got to the back door of their beach house.

“Who is ‘we’?” I asked Adam under my breath, and reaching for his hand to steady myself.

“Oh, Polly’s parents, and her siblings. Just the people who live here,” he explained. Okay, that can’t be too bad, I thought. Just an environmental scientist, his wife, his daughter Polly, and his two other kids or whatever.

Instead, as we ducked through what seemed to be a makeshift lab in a pantry addition to the kitchen, I was greeted by two older adults and six other, younger children.

“Adam! How wonderful to see you,” the older man exclaimed, bringing him into a big hug. Adam then turned to the older woman, and said, “Mrs. O’Keefe, how lovely to see you again,” and hugged her as well. He gave all of the little kids high fives or mussed up their hair in turn, before everyone looked at me. I felt sort of awkward, so I said, “Hi, everyone. I’m Vicky Austin, Adam’s girlfriend.”

“Oh, of course, how silly of us! We should have recognized you from the way Adam talks about you in his letters. Any friend of Adam is a friend of ours, and you are very welcome in our home,” the kindly Mrs. O’Keefe said as she walked up to me and gave me a quick one-armed hug. However, the only thing I got out of that was the word “letters.” Excuse me? Adam, Mr. Not-Good-At-Correspondence, has been writing letters to his former boss and his strange seven children all along?

Meanwhile, Dr. O’Keefe also beamed in my direction. “We’re very glad to welcome you to our home, Vicky. We’ve heard so much about you. Do you want to have some lunch? You both must be starving.” We walked from the kitchen into the dining room, where we all picked up sandwiches and potato salad from a spread on the table before sitting down. Once everyone had had a bite, and once the younger kids ran off, the Doctor continued, “Meg and I are sorry if the house is sort of messy—we moved fairly recently, and are still getting adjusted.”

“Yes, when did you move from Benne Seed Island?” Adam asked.

“Oh, about two months ago, but it’s been a process to move all of our things from the island. We can’t move them by car, you know,” Mrs. O’Keefe joked lightly.

“The island, after many years of making our home there, turned out to be too much for all of us. It was easier to move to the mainland, especially for the kids to go to school here,” the Doctor added.

Polly grinned and butted in, “Oh, and don’t forget, it was important that Mom was on the mainland too!”
Adam turned to Mrs. O’Keefe. “Oh, and why is that?”
While Polly’s mom looked sheepish, Polly exclaimed, “Oh, come on, Mom, this is such great news! You can’t feel nervous about it now.”

Mrs. O’Keefe said tentatively, “Well, I’m going to be starting my PhD in Physics at the College of Charleston this fall.” Polly practically squealed with glee, and exclaimed, “Just like my grandparents and like father! I am so happy for Mom.”

Adam exclaimed as well, “That is so excellent! You’re going to do so well.”

I looked around at all of these strange people and the strange situation I seemed to be in. Some of this seemed familiar, too familiar for words, and not even from just hearing Adam talk about the Doctor and his wife is his few brief allusions to his time in Portugal throughout the many years I had known him. I felt like I had so many questions and no way to have them all answered; but thankfully Polly came to my rescue.

“Oh, Vicky, I’m sorry we’ve been excluding you. I was just talking about how both of my maternal grandparents have PhDs in physics, and now Mom is following in both their, and Dad’s, footsteps.” She beamed over at her mom, who seemed to squirm under the attention. Mrs. O’Keefe seemed to be a very pretty woman, buried under the stress that raising seven kids in unconventional, exotic locales must have placed on her.

“Oh, you must have a very academic background, then,” I said lightly.

Mrs. O’Keefe shrugged. “More scientific, really. My parents discovered—” Dr. O’Keefe gave her a sharp look, and she amended, “—a lot of scientific breakthroughs with NASA.”

“That’s an understatement,” Polly said, almost under her breath, as she stood up from the table. I thought that was an odd comment, but before I could think too much about it, Mrs. O’Keefe snapped, “Polyhymnia, where are you going?”

I laughed in spite of myself. “Polyhymnia? That’s your real name, Polly?”

She rolled her eyes at me while she started collecting the plates from the table. “Mom, I thought I’d just start clearing the table. And yes, Vicky, that’s my real name. The ancient goddess of poetry, you know.”

“Her godfather gave her the name. He was a good friend of ours when we were living in London for Calvin’s post-doctoral position; I suppose you could say we both had some crises of faith during the few years we were there, especially before Polly was born,” Mrs. O’Keefe explained genially.

“Oh, he’s an Anglican priest,” Polly amended. “Sorry we didn’t explain that first. He’s a very interesting person, as he’s lived and traveled all over the world, and he looks silly too – with no hair or eyebrows, although I quite like him just the way he is.”

The “no eyebrows” comment set off something in my mind, and I must have had an odd look on my face as Adam turned to look at me.

“You good, Vicky?” he asked, placing a hand on my arm.

“Uhh… what’s this man’s name?” I asked slowly.

“Canon Thomas Tallis!” Polly replied happily as she brought her collected plates into the kitchen.

“Oh gosh, I know him too!” I exclaimed.

“What? How in the world do you also know our Tom?” Dr. O’Keefe asked, leaning forward in his seat.

Polly rushed back into the dining room. “What?? You know my godfather?”

“Yeah, I uh… lived in New York City with my family for a year when I was in high school. Canon Tallis happened to be in residence at St. John the Divine at the time, and my younger brother took quite a liking to him. There were some suspicious and strange things happening in the diocese of New York at the time, and the Canon helped solve a lot of them, to say the least,” I explained, not wanting to go into the whole “lasers” and “Emily Gregory” and “Alphabats” thing right now.

“That sounds like Tom, all right,” Mrs. O’Keefe laughed, looking over at the doctor, who was chuckling too.

“What do you mean?” I asked, looking around the table.

Adam looked sheepish, and added, “I know him too, Vicky. He was a big part of the, um, Portugal problems when I first worked for Dr. O’Keefe.”

I looked at him in shock. “What?? How has this never come up before? We all know this extremely unique person from different places?”

Mrs. O’Keefe shrugged. “I’ve seen stranger things happen.”

“Understatement!” Polly called over her shoulder, going back into the kitchen to put the kettle on.

I was starting to feel like this family had a lot of secrets, a lot of odd stories, most of which Adam didn’t even know. I liked them, though, and I wasn’t usually quick to say that. I felt safe here, like they were my people. Like I had always belonged here, with Adam and Polly and her parents, and it had just been a matter of getting here.

----

That night, after drinking some tea, chatting with Mrs. and Dr. O’Keefe about their travels and Adam’s and my own trip to Antarctica, and Adam reading the young kids a bedtime story, it was determined that I would sleep on an air mattress in Polly’s room, and Adam would sleep on the couch. (I don’t think this was because of any religious or moral reasons, just that the O’Keefes didn’t have a large enough extra bed for two people.) I was also excited to be staying with Polly – she lived in what was almost a turret at the top of the house, with a beautiful view out to the sea. I took a shower and changed, and when Polly did the same and came back into the room I was sitting cross-legged on the floor, looking out the window and thinking about what odd and lovely people these O’Keefes were.

“It’s an excellent view, isn’t it?” Polly asked, startling me, while she towel-dried her hair. “I made my parents give me this room when we moved, sort of as their forced apology for moving me to a new school in my senior year.”

I laughed. “It’s an excellent room, all right. Where do you think you’ll study when you go to college?”

“Oh, I’m not sure,” she said lightly, tying her bright red hair up in a ponytail. “I’m quite good at languages, but I’m not sure I want to be a translator for the rest of my life. Maybe a journalist, or something to do with international affairs. It’s important to me and my parents that I get a liberal arts education too, probably somewhere on the east coast, and I want to study classics and art history and maybe some science too…” She trailed off, then laughed at herself. “In short, I have no freaking idea what I want!”

I laughed too. “Me either, Polly, honestly. I’m going to NYU in August to study creative writing, but even I’m not too sure about that.”
Polly gasped. “Oh my gosh, how cool! I didn’t know you were a writer too! I think I might want to go to Barnard in New York – maybe we’ll both wind up there!”

I allowed myself to think about this for a second. I had a hard enough time imagining my soon-to-be-real life in New York City, even though I’d lived there once before in very different circumstances. I suppose with my acceptance of NYU’s offer, I was trying to relive and re-do my very strange year in New York, which changed me as a person more than any other period of time in my life; I was trying to welcome that change in, and become the person I had always wanted to be, the person that Adam brought out of me at certain times. I was starting to think that Polly and her parents could bring it out of me, too. Being in New York City with Polly, though I had just met her, would be a dream, I was sure of it.

“So, Vicky,” Polly said, jumping up onto her plain bed with a red plaid duvet, “how’s Adam?” She sing-songed his name, laughing while she did so.

“You spoke to him!! He’s fine!!” I exclaimed, not knowing what she wanted to know. “We had fun in Florida.”
“No, no, but how is he?” she asked, winking at me.

I clenched my eyes shut and asked, “Okay, first, what is your actual relationship with my boyfriend? Perhaps I should have asked him this earlier,” I added.

“Oh, yes, that’s important before we gossip. Hmmm, well, when I was a young kid, like twelve, I had a horrid crush on him. Like, I was obsessed. But now, he’s just my… Adam. Like a brother or a very best friend. I don’t see or talk to him that often, but when we’re together we are very close. You are lucky, though, that you’re dating him,” she added. “I couldn’t imagine and don’t want to date him now, but he’s a wonderful person and a very good guy, and a…”

“A perfect boyfriend.” I finished for her. “Except when he’s not! But yes, I am lucky. Our relationship has withstood a lot, including but not only long-distance, and it still feels real. Like forever.”

“Okay, y’all are officially now my dream team couple,” Polly exclaimed, jumping almost in the air and landing down on her bed.

It was weird to talk about my relationship with Adam, as so much of it has been founded on private and unspoken moments since the start, but I figured Polly would understand some of that. I continued, “When I first met Adam, on the island my dearly departed grandfather called home, I immediately felt a connection to him. Like we knew what the other was feeling before we could even speak, and knew when the other was in trouble. He understood me at a time when I didn’t understand anything about the world, including myself, and made me… much stronger as a result.”

I looked up from my gratuitously sappy monologue, the kind of which I usually saved for my journal, to see Polly with a slightly shocked expression on her face. “What’s up, Polly?”

“Oh, just, uh,” she said, lifting herself out of her fog. “My parents have that. Or, rather, had that,” she amended. “When they were our age. My mother can tell you more about that, it’s not my story to tell. But, if you don’t mind me saying… what you both have is special. Are you in it for the long haul?”

I nodded without even thinking. “Yes. This is it.”

She nodded in agreement. “You are very lucky, then. I have unfortunately never had a relationship like that, they’ve all just been assholes.”

“Who were they??” I asked, getting up onto her bed and crossing my legs. “Tell me stories, Polly!”
“Well, there have been a few boys in the past. There was this guy Renny a few years ago, who… was a mistake. In every way. There was an age difference between us, like an age difference that made our relationship illegal, but that didn’t seem to matter to me or to anyone in my family, then, apparently?”

“I mean, what was the relationship, if he was so much older? It’s not illegal unless you had…” I trailed off, then realized and amended. “Oh. Okay. Got it.”

She shrugged. “It seemed like a good idea at the time, but also I was slightly manic because of other things when it happened, and in retrospect he took advantage of me. I kind of regret that that was the first exposure I had to physical relationships, at a time when it was only a coping mechanism, and an illegal one at that.”

I thought back to my own first time with Adam – it hadn’t been perfect, but it felt good and natural and our relationship was so close already that it had just felt like an extension of our existing chemistry.

“Then there was this other bitchass, his name was Zachary Gray—”

My brain short-circuited for a moment. Oh God almighty, was there no end to the connections between Polly and myself? I lay my head down on the bed and covered with a pillow.

“Hey, Vicky, you good?” Polly asked, leaning down to me.

“Describe him, please,” I asked her, my voice muffled through the pillow.

“Well, uh, he was from California. Very dark and brooding. Black leather jacket, the whole deal. Very much had a death wish, his parents had died recently and he was messing around Greece for no reason…”

I took the pillow off my head and sheepishly said, “I’ve dated him, too.”

Polly’s jaw dropped to the ground. “No shit? How in the world did that happen?”

“Adam knows him too,” I pointed out quickly.

She shook her head. “This is just too damn weird. Where do you know him from?”

“Well, I met him on a family road trip when I was in freshman year of high school. Somehow his family was following the same route as ours and we kept meeting in campsites and the like. He also dragged me into a deadly situation when we were stuck in an avalanche.” I tossed that part off like it was nothing, when in fact I’d had a lot of nightmares about it, after which Adam had often had to comfort me. “Then somehow the next summer he was on my grandfather’s island, Seven Bay? He indirectly caused the death of a member of the community by attempting suicide himself, and afterwards he tried to sleep with me and again dragged me into a situation where I could have been killed.” I shrugged. “I had met Adam that summer, though…”

Polly scoffed. “Lucky you, I wish I had had Adam around me to keep me away from stupid Zachary Gray. I met him on a Greek island while I was traveling alone, before I started an internship at a conference center. He, also, tried to sleep with me and then tried to drag me into bad situations.” She laughed ruefully. “He did, however, mention while I knew him that he was trying to come to terms with damage that he had done to another girl. I’ve thought about that comment a bit; who that girl could be and what he could have done to her, but…”

“That’s me!” I started giggling, as did she, until we were both lying on her bed and laughing loudly. We eventually stopped and I said, “Dear God, I’m tired!”

“It’s time for bed, Vicky! We’ll have fun on the beach tomorrow.” Polly gave me a quick hug, then indicated my makeshift bed on the ground. “Let me know if you’re uncomfy at all, but if you’re not I’ll wake you up in the morning.”

I returned the hug and then laid down on the pillow, immediately falling into a deep sleep.

----

The next day, I woke up before Polly. The sun was streaming in through the windows and my back really, really hurt, but mostly I was thinking about, well, Polly herself. How absolutely odd that we had both literally run in the same circles for years without ever meeting; how strange that we had the same acquaintances, down to my little brother’s friend from the city and freaking Zachary Gray?? In turn, this meant that there were things connecting myself and Adam, too, before we had ever met – Canon Tallis and Zachary amongst them. It made me think more than ever that our relationship was predestined, that we were, actually, soulmates; but, then again, it made me terrified.

I had known Polly for only a few hours and I already felt like I was connected to her. She was so pretty, with her bright red hair and her tanned skin, and her laugh tinkled in the sweet space of her bedroom. She was so smart and silly and seemed perfect. No wonder Adam liked her so much, honestly, but also… I don’t think I’d ever felt this way about a female friend, before. It scared me, a tiny bit.

Soon enough, Polly woke up and looked even cuter than she did the night before, if that was possible. I pretended that I was sleeping and let her reach down from her bed to shake my shoulder. “Wake up, sleepyhead!! Mama’s made scones!” Polly catapulted herself out of bed, slipped on some flip-flops and waited for me to get up, stretch, and put on my own shoes before we headed downstairs.

Adam was already down, having slept on the couch all night. He was helping Mrs. O’Keefe with the coffeepot while she removed some delicious-looking scones from the oven. I sidled over to him in his worn t-shirt and boxers, putting my hand on his elbow and turning him to kiss me. It felt really good to do that, especially after the night I had had; he made me feel safe and warm, and I think we had both felt comforted since setting foot in the O’Keefe household.

“Okay, knock it off y’all,” Polly said loudly, laughing as she did so.

“Come on, dear, they’re just two kids in love,” Mrs. O’Keefe acted as devil’s advocate as she leaned over to rustle my bedhead. “Your father and I know what that’s like.” Polly just rolled her eyes, but I thought again about the comment Polly had tossed off last night: that her parents had had a very close bond, but that it wasn’t her story to tell. Maybe I could try to talk to Mrs. O’Keefe about it later in the day.

After a quick breakfast of scones with jam and butter, coffee, and orange juice, Mrs. O’Keefe asked, “What are you kids all intending to do today?”

Polly looked hopefully over at Adam. “Do you want to go swimming, Adam?” she asked. “You’ll love the beach here. We could go over to the cove, is that okay, Mama? We can drive over there.”

Mrs. O’Keefe nodded. “That’s fine. Maybe you can get lunch at the Barton’s while you’re over there. They’re a lovely little family who own a summer snack stand,” she explained for the two of us interlopers.

“Perfect idea!” Polly exclaimed, jumping up and running to the stairs. “C’mon Adam, get ready!”

“What about you, Vicky?” Mrs. O’Keefe asked me placidly, and Vicky stalled at the foot of the stairs.

“You could come with us,” Adam told me hopefully, putting a hand over mine.

“Yes, do!” Polly yelled from a distance.

“No, um…I think I’ll stay closer to here. I’m still pretty tired from the drive yesterday,” I lied. However, I thought it was important, nay, necessary that Adam and Polly have their long-awaited time alone together. They clearly had a special relationship, like me and Adam, or now me and Polly, I was hoping. It was the least I could do to make them go swimming together.

“Are you sure?” Adam asked, a quizzical expression on his face.

I nodded. “I’m sure.”

“You could stay here and help me prepare dinner, if you’d like. You could spend some time on our little stretch of beach and do some reading or writing,” Mrs. O’Keefe suggested.

“That sounds perfect! You go on ahead,” I told Polly and Adam. Polly evidently didn’t need to hear me say it twice as she practically leaped up the stairs, but Adam looked a little worried. I gave him a quick kiss. “You haven’t seen Polly in years – go have fun!” I said softly. He smiled and plodded off to get changed, while Mrs. O’Keefe and I calmly continued to sit and sip our coffee.

----

I spend some time on the beach that morning, a liter bottle of raspberry sparkling water beside me from our car’s trunk cooler, and alternating between reading Little Women, a classic that I had somehow missed over my time in grade school, and writing some reflections on Adam’s and my trip in my journal. I tried to move past the thoughts I had had about Polly that morning, but it was hard – once I had thought them, I couldn’t let them go. The two of us were so connected, but also, I felt so attracted to her – not only in a physical sense, but also in our souls, as corny as that sounded. Like a kindred spirit, but a very cute one.

I am committed to Adam until the end of time, and I knew that we are soulmates. But, she had a special relationship with Adam – why couldn’t I have one with her too?

----

Around lunchtime, I came into the house to take a shower and see if I could rustle up something to eat. Mrs. O’Keefe was happily sitting in the living room off of the kitchen, in the direct path of a fan. She patted the seat next to her and said, “Come sit down, my dear. Or maybe you want to have some lunch?”

I smiled and sat down. “Thanks, ma’am.”

She waved her hand in the air. “Please, don’t call me ma’am. Or Mrs., for that matter. Meg is absolutely fine, and preferable, even,” she told me with a warm smile.

“Okay, well, thank you, Meg,” I told her with a smile of my own.

“How are you liking your stay in South Carolina?” she asked me.

“Oh, I love it so far! It reminds me a lot of the summers I used to spend with my family and my grandfather on an island off the coast of Maine,” I told her. “The place where I met Adam, you know.”

She nodded. “I’ve seen Adam’s pictures; it’s a gorgeous place. We’ve seen some gorgeous places in our travels with Calvin, but to me, nothing beats our own American sights.”

I started to agree with her and allude to my own road trip across the USA, but the mention of Calvin made me want to talk to her about what Polly had said. “Hey, um, Meg, can I ask you a question? It may take a while,” I added sheepishly.

“Oh of course, my dear! But let’s get some lunch cracking while we do so, shall we?” Meg stood up, as did I, and we went to the kitchen to make lunch. Meg made a large batch of chicken salad with canned meat – “When we were on the island, it was hard to get fresh provisions, and my kids grew to love canned chicken. It’s not as terrible as it sounds, I promise you,” she laughed – and some onions and other mix-ins that I helped her prepare. She took some potato buns out of the toaster oven where they had been warming, and we both made ourselves a sandwich. (“The kids are over at a friend’s house, but they should be home for lunch in an hour or so,” Meg told me.)

While we were chopping vegetables and making the salad, I broached the topic again. “So, um, I was talking to Polly last night, and mentioned to her that Adam and I are very, very close and secure in our relationship.”

Meg smiled over at me. “That’s so nice and I’m so glad to hear that, Vicky. I love Adam like a son, and I like you a lot, too.”

“No, but like – thank you, I mean – but, the relationship we have is very close. Like we know what the other was feeling before we could even speak, and innately know when the other was in trouble. Don’t think I’m crazy, but in certain situations we could almost… communicate telepathically? Sorry, this sounds insane,” I said quickly, turning away from her.

“Oh, Vicky,” Meg said, gently turning me back towards her. “I don’t think you’re crazy at all. You probably don’t know this, but Calvin and myself met when we were quite young, too. We met under very… strange circumstances, but from the minute we met I knew we were meant to be; I felt like Calvin was the only person who could keep me grounded. Calvin, himself, said that he ‘felt like he was going home’ when he came to our family house for the first time. I’ve never forgotten that!” Meg chuckled. It was hard for me to picture the stoic Dr. O’Keefe being so emotional, but then, it was hard to picture Meg as a teenager, too.

“That sounds… so much like me and Adam. I had always felt so different, but Adam understood me perfectly,” I added. “Polly mentioned to me that you and Calvin also had a bond together but that I should ask you about it, as it wasn’t her story.”

Meg laughed again. “Not even Polly really knows the whole story of our relationship. To put a very long story short, Calvin and I, along with my little brother, were in a lot of situations when we were younger that tested us. Like, supernatural situations.” I had a million questions when she said that, but she held up a hand to stop me and smiled apologetically. “I’m sorry, Vicky, but it’s much too long and strange of a story to go into now. But, let’s just say that Calvin and I discovered that we could communicate telepathically. Someone told us that our way of communication was called ‘kything,’ which is perhaps what yours is with Adam. During our youth together, we had to put a lot of trust in the universe, and in turn both of us believe that the universe held us together – like our relationship was pre-destined. Aside from my brother, I’ve never felt as close to someone as I have to Calvin, in the emotional, spiritual, and, well, physical sort of ways.”

I turned all of this information over in my brain. “Kything”? That seemed like a very strange and likely not real word, but somehow it fit a puzzle piece into my brain regarding the, well, supernatural ways Adam and I had communicated when we were separated in Antarctica, or on Seven Bay Island.

Slowly I responded, “I think Adam and my relationship was pre-destined, too. It freaks me out so much that both of us knew Canon Tallis without knowing it, and also that Polly and I both had a relationship with the same guy—” Meg raised her eyebrows, I quickly said, “Zachary Gray, a guy I had met on a road trip with my family and Polly had met in Greece.” She nodded, like she remembered him. “Anyway, it seems like there are so many things connecting Adam and I – and even connecting the two of us with Polly. Polly is a really special girl, you know?” I asked Meg, looking right at her.

She smiled in return. “She certainly is. I’m so glad that the two of you became friends so quickly.”

“Me too,” I responded. “But anyway, it feels strange that me and Adam’s relationship followed along the same lines as yours and Calvin’s. I know that Adam and I are together forever, but it just freaks me out that… it seems like the universe, or God, or something also placed us together, with a need for us to work out.”

Meg took my hands in hers and said, “I don’t really have answers for you, Vicky, but I do know that I am also committed to Calvin forever. Things have not been easy for us; we’ve had some horrid arguments, some brief times where I thought that we couldn’t possibly stay together any longer. But, we always worked things out, and returned to our belief in the universe, and in the lives that we are leading. Calvin and I can attest to the way that life has a very strange way of working out and bringing you straight to the thing you need. I am very happy that for you, that happened to be Adam.”

“And Polly—” I started, while Polly and Adam burst through the doorway and into the kitchen, still dripping saltwater from their bathing suits.

“Hellooooooo, Mom and Vicky!” Polly exclaimed, as the two of them put down their towels and street clothes.

“Okay if I take a quick shower?” Adam asked Meg, running his hand through his still-wet hair.

She nodded. “Of course, our home is your home. Lunch will be ready soon, too.”

Adam smiled at her in reply and turned the corner to the living room and the bathroom at its far end. While Polly and Meg were talking together about when the young kids were coming back from the neighbor’s house, I snuck away to where Adam was grabbing his toiletries in the living room. Waiting until he was standing up again, I surprised him with a deep French kiss. He soon pulled away, bewildered, and said, “Well, that was nice. What was that for?”

I just smiled and pulled him back in again, thanking the universe with every passing second.

He pulled away again and narrowed his eyes. “Do you miss our private Air BnBs in Florida? Is that what this is about?”

Well, sure, of course, I thought, but said to him, “Not really, I just really, really love you. I am very glad we found each other.”

A blush sprung up on Adam’s freckled cheeks, and I giggled and kissed him on each one. “Now get clean, babe!”

He smiled and turned into the bathroom, sticking his head out and calling, “By the way, I love you too!”

----

That afternoon, the kids came back from their playdate and Polly, Adam, and I did some activities with them. On their private stretch of beach, we laid out multiple beach towels together and brought out some board games and balls to play with. Some of the older kids remembered Adam from Portugal, so they were excited to be spending time with him. I, personally, just liked being out in the sun with all of these nice, strange, clever kids and Adam and Polly, of course, although we didn’t really talk to each other while we played with the kids. Soon enough, dinner time came around, and we had hamburgers, hot dogs, and baked beans on their grill. The day was ending, the sun was going down, and the kids were going to bed when Polly leaned over to where Adam and I were sitting close together and said softly, “Hey, wanna go night-swimming?”

Adam and I looked at each other, found agreement in each other’s eyes, and said, “Oh, of course.”

Polly grinned and said, “Let’s get our suits on, come on!”

Polly and I ran up to her room and pulled on our bikinis. We mostly were turned away from each other while we did so, but I did catch a glimpse of the freckles on her back, which made me feel quite flushed, and then made me question why I felt that way. We quickly met Adam again at the foot of the stairs, and with a quick goodbye to Meg and Calvin without any other explanation, we set out for their stretch of beach, laughing and giggling the whole way.

Between Polly and Adam, we stood at the edge of the water, with the surf gently lapping at our toes. In a burst of confidence, I held out my hands to both of them, which they took quickly, and then we ran into the water, as one unit. I felt so good while I was with them, like there was electricity crackling through me, like the universe knew that this was Good. Once we were up to our shoulders in the water and Polly was happily swimming around in circles like a little fish, I pulled Adam back to me, grabbed him around the shoulders, hitched my legs around his waist, and kissed him hard, which he happily returned. In a few minutes Polly came back and loudly coughed. We broke away, sheepish, and she shrugged. “Don’t want to be a cockblock, but also…”

Adam laughed, and then changed the subject. “The water is so gorgeous tonight, and the weather is perfect.”

Polly nodded, her chin bobbing in and out of the water. “The weather is always perfect here.”

“You’re perfect,” I blurted out, looking straight at her as her eyes connected with mine and her eyebrows went up. “And you are, too,” I said to Adam, turning back to him and taking his hand. Normally Adam would refute such an obvious inaccuracy, but I think he knew I was working up to something, because instead he just smiled softly. I reached out and took his hand, all the while still treading water, and then reached for Polly’s, too. After a second she took it, and then after another moment she took Adam’s, too. The three of us were connected and floating gently in the water, and I felt whole, for once in my life.

“Shall we go back on shore?” Adam asked rhetorically. “Seems like Vicky has something to say.” He playfully picked up my soaked hair from where it lay against my back, and curled it around my shoulder. I gave his hand a squeeze.

We all splashed out of the water and back on to the sand. We got our towels and then sat down in a semi-circle, all able to see each other.

Polly looked thoughtful, like she didn’t know exactly what was happening. To be fair, I didn’t, either. She took a breath and said, “For the record, I’m not perfect at all. So, Vicky…?” She ended in an open-ended question, trying to understand what I was saying.

I felt scattered and confused and full of feelings that I didn’t understand. I similarly took a deep breath. “I love Adam until the end of time, and I believe that we are soulmates.” I turned to him, and he nodded and patted my knee; I then turned to Polly. “But, I think I love you, too, Polly. You are beautiful, and so sweet and funny, and I’m so attracted to you, and so scared of these feelings, because I’ve never felt them before, but I figured that I’m a writer and supposed to understand, so I just wanted to tell you both. I understand if you don’t feel the same way or are weirded out, but I just thought I should say something.” I had said that all basically in one breath, and now I took another into my lungs. I saw Polly look silently over at Adam, who nodded almost imperceptibly at her, and she turned to me and smiled.

“C’mere, Vicky,” she said warmly, patting the sand right next to her. I moved over and she ran one hand down the side of my face gently, adjusting the place where my still-damp hair fell. In turn, I put my hand on her knee, and ran it up and down. She put two fingers under my chin and tilted my head up to meet hers.

“You okay with this, Polly?” I asked her, a little nervous.

“Oh, absolutely,” she told me, pushing forward and kissing me right on the lips. I was a bit shocked at first, but I leaned into it and brushed my hand against the back of her hair. It felt good – different than it did with Adam, a little softer, maybe, but it still satisfied a hunger within me. At the same time, I thought, Oh shit, Adam! and quickly broke away to turn and look at him. He was just smirking, leaning back, with his towel over his lap in a move that I doubt was casual.

“Excuse me, Mr. Eddington? What is so funny?” Polly asked in a mock-serious voice.

He leaned forward and said, “I’m so happy to see my two favorite young ladies together like this. That’s all.”

“You’re not, like… weirded out or anything?” I asked him, silently begging him to say no.

I think maybe he heard those worries, in that special way of his, because he pulled me back over to him and kissed me himself. My mind spun – who the hell was this girl who kissed two people of two genders within the span of a few minutes? Who was I? What was I?

To his credit, Adam’s kisses made me feel calmer as usual, and reassured me that he didn’t find me weird—he took me just as I am. I pulled away from him, and swore, “Fuck, three-way relationships are exhausting!” They both laughed.

“No, honestly, Vicky, I’ve seen this in you since I met you, practically. It just finally clicked for you, I guess.” I opened my mouth to start to object, but Adam raised an eyebrow. “Remember I can read your mind, Vicky? Yeah, don’t argue.”

I shut my mouth and gave him another peck on the lips, then turned back to Polly and put my arm around her. She rubbed circles up and down on my arm, and gave me a quick kiss on top of my head. Polly then reached her free arm out to Adam and said, “Get the fuck over here, Mr. Eddington!”

He laughed out loud and scooted closer to her. He glanced over at me for a second, probably found some kind of reassurance in my eyes, and then leaned down and gave Polly a quick kiss too. They pulled away, and Polly screwed her face up into an unsure expression.

“You’re still like my freaking brother, but that was good,” she said matter-of-factly, and Adam laughed again and nodded in agreement. “Miss Vicky is a lucky gal.”

I giggled myself, and lay myself back down on to the sand, dragging both of them down with me. Oh good God, was I lucky. I felt loved and I felt whole because I loved and was loved in return.

The stars sparkled up in the South Carolina sky. Entire universes out there. Entire futures left to be created.

---

The next day, Adam and I left the O’Keefe house. We packed up the car, waved goodbye to the kids, I shook Dr. O’Keeffe’s hand before being pulled into a quick hug instead, and gave Meg a long and wholesome embrace, thanking her profusely for everything she had helped me to figure out. The Polly goodbye was the hardest one: I pulled her aside, away from her family, and gave her another big hug.

“I’m going to miss you,” I told her, not wanting to let her go.

“Oh, I will too,” she said to me. “But, remember: there are phones and letters and also New York City where I fully intend to see you sooner rather than later.”

I grinned in response, and she giggled and gave me a quick kiss on the lips. At that moment, Adam turned the corner, saw us, and smiled, pulling both of us into a hug and kissing the top of Polly’s head. It seemed like words couldn’t help us at that moment – there was nothing left to say, just love.

In the car, once we got on to the highway, I turned to Adam and said, “You know what I still can’t get over? There were so many things connecting me and Polly, and even me and you, before we even met. Like the universe had laid out a path for us to follow, and led us straight to each other. I’m glad it did, but it seems strange. Like the universe knew what I needed before I did.”

Adam, keeping his eyes on the road, chuckled and patted my knee, saying, “I guess the universe is just expanding, huh?”


THE END