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The Last Sign

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Go east. That was all she knew at first. If she relaxed and allowed her mind to lift up, away from the confines of this earthly body, she could sense the direction he was in, like a compass drawn north to the pole. But it was still vague; sometimes she had to backtrack, realizing she had overshot her mark only several miles later. And she didn’t know his name or age or what profession he would have, though she would certainly recognize him when she saw him.

She pinpointed him to a certain town in upstate New York. Then she was drawn to its largest hospital. Was he currently an employee there, or a patient? It was difficult, in this day and age, to lurk in a public place for hours, especially outside a hospital; she had to be careful not to attract attention. Finally, late into the night, just when she was thinking he must be a patient, she saw him emerge and head for the staff parking lot.

He was going for the bearded look this time, apparently, and baggy clothes that were not very flattering on his slim frame. He blended in well with the other doctors and nurses trudging away from long shifts, his shoulders hunched, eyes faraway—he couldn’t be physically tired, surely. But she could understand how the work might be emotionally draining.

She came up behind him while he was unlocking his car. She knew she didn’t make a sound, but as he reached for the door handle he paused, then slowly turned. She smiled—and suddenly, for the first time, felt unsure of her reception. But she needn’t have worried: after a moment of staring at her in shock, he embraced her. She felt like a float being clutched by a drowning man.

“Angel,” he whispered in her ear, before kissing her. She began to wonder just what kind of life he’d had here.

She stepped back slightly and glanced over her shoulder toward the hospital—other people, people he might know, were coming for their own cars, and whatever situation he was in, kissing a strange woman in the parking lot at work probably wouldn’t fit. He followed her gaze but didn’t let her go.

“Can I take you home with me?” he murmured. He didn’t know her situation, either.

She nodded quickly. “Yes.”

He seemed reluctant to release her but finally walked her to the other side of the car and put her in the passenger seat, shutting the door firmly as if afraid she might try to escape, or perhaps just vanish into thin air the moment he turned his back. The first thing he did upon opening his own door was to look at her, confirming that she was still there.

“I’m not going anywhere,” she assured him, reaching over to take his hand.

He seemed a bit embarrassed to be called out and gave her a quick smile. “I’ve just—missed you.”

The drive to wherever they were going was short and they didn’t say much. She was surprised to see him pull into the parking lot of an extended-stay hotel—but he’d lived in worse places. Maybe he was new in town. He grabbed her hand and held it firmly as soon as they were out of the car.

It was a nice hotel, at any rate, with a cheerful lobby staffed by a bright-eyed young man even at this time of night. “Doctor Macfarlane!” he greeted upon spotting them, and her hand was reluctantly dropped. “Some mail for you.”

“Oh, thanks,” he mumbled, retrieving the small stack of envelopes.

“Good night!” the young man called as the couple started to walk away.

They took the stairs to the second floor and fairly burst into his room, the need to hold each other too great to deny any longer. She did her best to convince him that she was really there, and not just a figment of his imagination.

It was quite a bit later when they lay in bed, just gazing at each other. The sun peeked around the edge of the curtains, allowing her to see a bit more of the room, though that wasn’t really her interest at the moment.

“What’s your name?” she asked fondly, running a finger along his furry cheek.

He nipped at it playfully. “Jeremy. What’s yours?” His mood had lifted considerably from the night before.


He frowned slightly. “Did you have a bad time?” It was rather unlikely she would have been given that name at birth.

She shrugged a little, noncommittally. “It was okay. I kept my last name—Brown.”

“And what do you do?”

“I’m a librarian,” Susannah replied, and he smiled a little, no doubt figuring the profession was just an excuse to read a lot. “And you’re a doctor?”

He nodded. “Mm-hmm. I work in the ER mostly.”

“It’s a long time since you’ve been a doctor,” she observed lightly.

“I should always be a doctor,” he avowed suddenly, seriously. “I can do so much good. I don’t get tired, I don’t forget, I can travel to places other people can’t—I’ve been to clinics in Africa, South America—“

“You don’t always care about doing good,” Susannah reminded him, with a pleased smile. Usually she was the one telling him these things.

“Well, I should,” he decided shortly. How many lifetimes had he wasted in villainy and selfishness, when he could have been helping people? But at the same time he knew that wasn’t fair; his personality changed somewhat every time, and upbringing could have a large influence as well. Try telling some of his former selves they had to be doctors and the results wouldn’t have been pretty.

Jeremy sighed and curled up closer to Susannah. “Do you have to be anywhere?” he asked her.

“No,” she assured him, running a hand through his hair. “I have a few things at a motel across town I want to pick up later—it’s okay if I stay here with you, isn’t it?” she asked suddenly, seeing his preoccupied expression.

“Oh, yes, it’s fine,” he agreed. “It’s not much, but… You just got into town?”

“Mm-hmm,” she nodded. “I guess I’ll look for a job soon…” There was something he hadn’t told her—something important. Well, there were a lot of things he hadn’t told her, and she hadn’t asked yet. “Are you staying in this area long?” she probed. “Can we get married?”

“Definitely,” he assured her with a smile, presumably to the latter question. “Let’s just continue with the honeymoon…”


Now will you tell me where we’re going?” Susannah pressed as the car turned onto the highway, pointed away from town.

“Out to the woods,” Jeremy replied, deliberately vague. He gave her an impish smirk and she shoved lightly on his shoulder in protest. “Didn’t you say you wanted to see the woods?”

“I’m not dressed for hiking!” she pointed out with a laugh, indicating her summery floral dress and sandals. “You said this was fine.”

“I said it was perfect,” he corrected, eyes lingering on her attire—and the figure under it—before raising slowly to her face.

“Watch the road,” she commanded, though the attention pleased her. She liked to see him so genuinely happy in her presence. Although, it made her wonder what his life had been like up to that point, that she should inspire so much joy now.

Watching the road and adjusting to its bends and curves did not require much of his attention and he slid his hand over to her lap. She caught it before it could wander too far. “Come on, where are we going?” Susannah asked again, playfully. “Do you want me to start guessing?” she threatened. “You’ll just feel bad about all the outings you didn’t think of!”

“I won’t feel bad,” he assured her, freeing his hand from her grasp. “I’ll just remember them for the future.” He seemed preoccupied suddenly, his body language indicating a slightly withdrawal, and Susannah frowned. “We’re just going to have dinner with some friends of mine, that’s all,” he finally revealed, flashing her a quick smile.

“Ohhhh.” She thought for a moment, wondering why the idea made him uncomfortable. They certainly knew each other well, and yet in this setting they had just met; sometimes there were adjustment difficulties, quirks to be gotten used to. “And your friends live in the woods?” she asked in a light tone.

“They do,” Jeremy confirmed.

“Are they lumberjacks?” she teased. “Or raccoons?”

He laughed a little but the look he gave her was inscrutable. “Nope, neither one. Here’s the turn.”

“Fancy,” Susannah commented as they turned down a private drive flanked by brick posts and bit, old-fashioned lamps. “This is very private,” she noted with admiration as they continued to wind through the woods. Soon the highway was completely forgotten and there was nothing on either side but the green, sun-dappled woods. She could see herself living in a place like this. “It’s beautiful.”

“It’s h—l in the wintertime,” Jeremy remarked matter-of-factly, seemingly unmoved by the scenery.

“Only if you need to leave,” Susannah replied playfully.

“Well, most people do.”

She finally took her eyes off the forest and watched him drive. He didn’t show the slightest interest in the landscape around him—perhaps he was quite familiar with it already. It was silly to speculate, she should just ask him, but she felt like maybe she was just supposed to wait and see, like it would show her trust in him. Even when they could look into each other’s eyes and know each other from centuries past, there was still a lifetime of experience and expectations to deal with that held a certain immediacy.

“Here it is,” Jeremy announced as they reached the end of the drive.

“Wow,” Susannah breathed. There were not one but two beautiful buildings situated on the courtyard, both French revival with lead-paned windows, pointed rooflines, and complicated brickwork. One was clearly a very nice house, the kind a couple with a lot of money and some taste would pick out of a catalog; the other was smaller and Susannah couldn’t quite discern its purpose.

Jeremy parked the car at the end of the courtyard, positioned to make a quick exit it seemed to Susannah. As they got out of the car it wasn’t the house he glanced at but rather the smaller building. “What’s that?” Susannah asked quickly.

“It’s empty,” he replied, just as fast. “It used to be a medical clinic,” he added after a moment.

And Jeremy was a doctor. Susannah opened her mouth to question him further, but at that moment they reached the entryway to the main house and a girl appeared at the door, squealing. “Daddy! Daddy’s here!” She bounded out the door, letting the screen slam shut behind her, and Jeremy scooped her up.

“Hello, sweetie. How’s my angel?” He deliberately didn’t glance at Susannah and her shocked expression as he pushed into the house.

His arrival had unleashed chaos. A second little girl charged over, also calling him Daddy and demanding attention. Somewhere in the house a deep bark sounded. Finally a woman appeared in the foyer, her expression hard but also slightly anxious. “Jeremy! We agreed that you would call before—“ She stopped chastising him when she saw Susannah there, looking awkward. “Oh.”

Jeremy fussed with the girls, easy-going and ingratiating, but the look he turned on the woman was flat and slightly wary. “This is Susannah,” he introduced casually. “She’s a friend.” Something indefinable skittered across the woman’s face—equal parts irritation and… relief? Jeremy glanced at Susannah and nodded at the woman carelessly. “This is Kathy, my ex-wife. Come out to the car and see what I’ve brought you!” he enticed the girls, exiting quickly.

“We were just sitting down to dinner—“ Kathy started to protest, then gave up when everyone ignored her. The two women found themselves alone in the foyer. It was an uncomfortable moment, to say the least.

“Um,” Kathy began, with the look of a woman trying to figure out what on earth she should do now.

“I’m-I’m terribly sorry if we’re imposing,” Susannah said quickly.

Kathy seemed to be making a real effort to not be rude, perhaps realizing it wasn’t Susannah’s fault. “Um, no, it’s—Well—“ She shook her head and turned away hurriedly. “Would you excuse me for a minute? I have to put the dog up.” She disappeared through a doorway in the expansive interior.

Feeling excruciatingly ill at ease, Susannah peeked down some of the other exits, looking for somewhere she could go without being intrusive. Of course, the fact that she was in this woman’s house at all was terribly intrusive, it seemed. Ex-wife. Two children. This must have been Jeremy’s house at one point, Susannah realized suddenly—a doctor’s money could have built it. And the medical clinic where he used to practice—

A childish shriek echoed from outside and Susannah glanced up through a window. The girls were dancing around with glee, clutching the gifts Jeremy had brought them—something small and electronic and no doubt expensive, in the way of many non-custodial parents. He looked so happy, though—the same kind of genuine emotion she sometimes caught in gazes directed at her. Susannah didn’t feel jealous, though—at least, not of the girls; of Jeremy, maybe, for having them.

Susannah looked up to see Kathy watching from another window, but her expression was anxious—she twisted a dishtowel in her hands without seeming to realize it. That reminded Susannah about the meal they’d interrupted.

“Can I help you with dinner?” she offered, startling the other woman. “Set the table, or‑‑?”

“No, no, it’s all—Well, we’ll need two more places now,” Kathy corrected herself. She didn’t seem to know which way to turn, back to the kitchen or out towards the window. Finally she decided to have it both ways. “Girls! Come in for supper now!” She seemed like a woman with a fragile world held together only by order, and Jeremy had definitely disrupted that order. And Susannah, of course.

Jeremy and the two girls tumbled back into the house noisily. Kathy turned away as soon as they were inside and Susannah followed the procession to the kitchen, where a table was set with four places.

“Where’s Jason?” Jeremy asked, and there was a slight accusatory tone in his voice.

“He’s out riding his bike,” Kathy replied shortly. “If you’d called first—“

Jeremy snorted dismissively and opened a kitchen cabinet. “You’ve moved the plates,” he observed, grabbing two glasses instead.

“Yes,” Kathy replied curtly.

Susannah winced. “Can I—“

“No, just sit down,” Jeremy told her cheerfully, opening random cabinets now. Kathy followed behind closing them. “Girls, can you say hello to my friend, Susannah?” he prompted. “Introduce yourselves.”

Susannah tried to give the girls, who looked to be eight or nine, a friendly smile. “I’m Jenny, and that’s Jessie,” said one of the girls boldly.

“Mom!” the other complained immediately. “She didn’t let me introduce myself!”

“You’re too slow!” her sister accused.

“Am not!”

“Are too!”

“Girls!” Kathy chastised. She was trying to discreetly remove the wine bottle and glass that had been at her own spot on the table, but Jeremy obviously noticed. For once, it seemed, he didn’t say anything about it, but rather gracelessly set extra plates and silverware down for Susannah to divide up.

They started to pass the food around. Fortunately it was large bowls of pasta and salad, with plenty for everyone. A slight engine rumble was heard outside and then the door to the house was flung open. “Dad? Is Dad here?” a voice called excitedly, with more volume than was necessary.

A teenage boy appeared in the kitchen and Jeremy embraced him heartily. “Jason! How are you? How’s the bike?”

“I wish you wouldn’t ride that thing without a license,” Kathy chastised sourly.

“I stayed on the trails,” Jason dismissed defensively. “Why didn’t you tell me Dad was coming for dinner?”

“No, I didn’t tell her I was coming,” Jeremy assured the boy, who was giving his mother an accusatory look. Kathy’s expression said she didn’t like being defended by him, even if what he said was true. “Here, I want you to meet Susannah.”

Jason turned to give her a brief glance. “Oh. Hey.” He was obviously more interested in seeing his father than in scrutinizing a newcomer.

“Well come on, sit down,” Jeremy encouraged.

“Go wash up before eating,” Kathy countered, and Jason stood back up with the kind of indignant sigh only teenagers could manage. He was back at the table in record time and one could imagine his washing-up had been less than thorough.

“Lookit what Dad brought us!” the girls bragged to their brother, showing off the music players Jeremy had given them.

“Sweet,” the teenager complimented generously.

“I’ve got one for you, too,” Jeremy assured him, reaching into his coat. “D’you want shiny purple or sparkly pink?” The girls seemed to find this hilarious. “No, here you go.” Instead he handed the boy a plastic gift-card.   

“AutoZone? Awesome!” Jason declared with glee.

“I thought we could go together,” his father suggested. “Maybe get something for the bike. This weekend?”

Jason’s eyes lit up. “Yeah, that’d be—“

“We’re going to Aunt Isabel’s this weekend,” Kathy reminded him.

Immediately the boy’s good mood evaporated. “We’re always there! Or she’s here,” he protested. “Can’t I stay with Dad this weekend?”

Maybe Kathy would have said yes if it had just been Jason, but the two girls began to protest that they wanted to spend the weekend with their father as well, and that was too much for her. “No!” Kathy snapped, silencing them all. “I already told Isabel we were coming this weekend,” she went on, trying to force calmness into her tone. Jason picked sullenly at his food. “Besides,” she went on riskily, “you know I don’t want you hanging around that hotel.”

“It’s a hotel,” Jason shot back obnoxiously. “It’s not, like, a crackhouse or something.”

“Jason!” his mother admonished.

“What’s a crackhouse?” asked one of the girls.

“It’s a house,” Jeremy replied breezily, “with a lot of cracks in it. Actually Susannah and I were going to start house-hunting soon.”

Kathy practically dropped the pasta bowl on the floor. So did Susannah, for that matter. “Really,” Kathy finally sputtered, turning her gaze on the stranger like a laser beam. “How long have you two known each other?”

“We just met yesterday,” Susannah replied, not sure how that was going to play.

“We re-met yesterday,” Jeremy corrected quickly. “But we’ve known each other for, I don’t know, four or five years.”

For a second Susannah thought he had just made the time frame up randomly, but then she saw a shadow cross Kathy’s face. Obviously there was more significance to what Jeremy had said than Susannah realized. Her irritation at him increased—they had spent all last night and today talking (well, that wasn’t all they did), and he couldn’t mention any of this to her? It didn’t look like Kathy was too pleased about the situation either—Susannah didn’t know enough about her to decide if she deserved whatever Jeremy had implied or not.

“I see,” Kathy finally replied. “Well, what exactly is it that you do, um, Susannah?” The question was somewhat pointed—Kathy seemed to be mad about her and was trying not to be mad at her. Which Susannah appreciated.

“I’m a librarian,” Susannah answered, trying to keep the tone light.

This came as a surprise to the other woman. Maybe she had expected her to say ‘stripper.’ “Really? Where?”

Thanks, Jeremy, for yet another awkward moment. “Well, I used to work in the med school library at the University of San Francisco,” Susannah told her, “but I’ve just recently moved her and I’m still looking for a job.”

The unemployed part didn’t seem like a surprise. “What brought you to the area?” Kathy pressed.

“Just—looking for a change of scenery,” Susannah replied. She realized she might just as well have screamed, I’m lying about something important!

“So, what’s for dessert?” Jeremy segued unhelpfully.


Neither woman was surprised when Jeremy beat a hasty retreat from the dinner table with the children, playing basketball with them in the lingering summer twilight. Susannah started to gather up some of the dishes.

“You don’t need to do that,” Kathy said brusquely, taking a load to the sink herself.

“I’m not very good at basketball,” Susannah admitted with a small smile, trying to seem harmless and a bit vulnerable. It wasn’t far from how she felt at the moment. It seemed to do the trick anyway, and for a few minutes there was only the sound of clanking dishes and silverware. When Susannah felt that the tension had dissipated somewhat, she began, “I’m really very sorry that we barged in on you like this.” The other woman stiffened immediately but Susannah pressed on. “I didn’t realize—I thought it was going to be a dinner party of some kind, with some friends of Jeremy’s.” She didn’t want to outright lay all the blame at his feet, even though he deserved it—it seemed a bit disloyal, when she didn’t know the whole situation.

Kathy sighed and turned around, not quite meeting Susannah’s eye. “Well,” she said, and Susannah thought there would be more, but there wasn’t. Kathy just moved to the refrigerator to put something away. It was like she’d gotten distracted thinking about something else—the woman certainly did seem a bit preoccupied, and compulsive in the way she constantly checked on the children in the driveway.

Susannah had just about given up on conversing with her when Kathy suddenly shut a cabinet door a bit hard, drawing the other woman’s attention, and faced her with her arms crossed defensively. “Tell me honestly, please,” Kathy insisted shortly, “because if my children are going to be with him, I need to know. Is he still drinking?”

Susannah’s eyes widened. “Well, no, not that I know of,” she answered honestly. She’d only been around him for twenty-four hours. “There’s no alcohol in his room at the hotel,” she added.

Kathy let out a short breath, and Susannah wasn’t sure if her response had been useful—or believed. “I don’t want him drinking around the children,” she stated, fussing with the dishes again.

“Well that—that seems reasonable,” Susannah agreed, not sure where this was coming from. Jeremy couldn’t get drunk, so he couldn’t do bad things while drunk. Kathy had been planning to have a glass of wine with dinner herself, so she couldn’t be against drinking entirely. “How long have you two been divorced?” she ventured.

Kathy snorted as though she didn’t really find it odd that Jeremy hadn’t told her this. “Almost a year,” she finally replied, putting something away forcefully. “When did you two meet again?” Here she pinned Susannah with her gaze.

Susannah’s mind raced. She didn’t know where Jeremy had been four or five years ago. She might not even have been out of high school then. “Well—I—can’t remember exactly,” she tried, in a terribly guilty manner. “It just—feels like I’ve known him forever. I didn’t realize he was married,” she added impulsively, throwing him under the bus a little. Well, he deserved it.

Kathy just nodded, like this was what she’d suspected. “Well, I hope you know him better before you go much further,” she suggested, and Susannah could see the conversation was over. If she were a normal woman, that would be very good advice indeed.


It was late when they left. Susannah felt she had far overstayed her welcome, but Jeremy insisted that they had to stay until the girls had taken their showers so he could tuck them into bed. Then he had the gall to suggest staying up to watch a movie with Jason. Both Kathy and Susannah had given him such hard looks at that that even he couldn’t ignore it any longer. Finally they got into the car and drove away, back down the now-darkened driveway. The strange shadows cast by the headlights through the undergrowth made Susannah less fond of the landscape than she’d been earlier.

She let only a few moments go by before turning on him. “What was all that about?!” she demanded, encompassing the whole evening.

For a moment his expression said he was going to play dumb. Then he thought better of it. “I didn’t know where you were, or if I’d ever find you,” Jeremy replied defensively, clutching the steering wheel hard. “I was alone for a long time, and I didn’t like it. Then I met Kathy, and…” His expression softened somewhat at the memory. “We got married, we had the kids—“

“How?” Susannah couldn’t help but interrupt. “Are they adopted?”

“No,” he replied. “The infertility technology they have now is more advanced than you’d imagine—“

“They’re yours?!” Susannah’s gasp was part horror, part jealousy.

“No, no,” Jeremy assured her quickly. “G-d, no. Donor sperm. Same bloke for all three kids, don’t know who he is. You can pick them out of a catalog—“ It was a fascinating story, but he could see that now was not the time for it. “I had Kathy, the kids, my work,” he went on, staring at the road again. “I didn’t have much trouble… fitting in. It was very satisfying.”

He sounded so guilty about being happy without her that Susannah felt some of her anger start to melt away. The few mortals with an inkling of who they really were usually thought them lucky, but in reality—they could be very isolated from those around them, from the simple pleasures other people found in life. How could you really connect with anyone when you had the abilities, the knowledge they had? It was a lonely existence, especially when they were separated; and Wayland’s character had a more sensitive bent than it sometimes did as well.

Susannah leaned over and kissed his cheek gently. “I’m not mad at you for getting married,” she told him truthfully. “That’s just the way it works out sometimes. I wouldn’t have wanted you to wait.” He flashed her a slight smile in acknowledgement. But Susannah hadn’t forgotten the rest of the evening. “So what happened?” she pressed. “You said you were happy, but Wayland, that woman is afraid of you!” His expression darkened. “She asked me if you still drank. What changed?”

“Four or five years ago,” he replied, with deliberate slowness, “I felt you.” He pinned her with a gaze that reached across all the eons they had known each other, all the powers that bound them together. It took none of his concentration to swerve around a blown tire in the road—their abilities were far above those of the beings around them, as whom they were forced to masquerade. Sometimes the mask slipped just when it seemed the most comfortable.

“I was about eighteen,” Susannah realized—just coming into her true powers, awakening to her true identity. In centuries past it had happened earlier, but here and now humans were children for longer.

She sat back for a moment, absorbing what he’d said as they drove silently back towards town. In a sense, she had broken up his marriage. His family. She didn’t feel guilty as it wasn’t really her doing; but she felt terribly sad that it had occurred.

“All the things I used to find satisfying,” Jeremy went on, “suddenly felt like weights holding me down. I wanted to abandon everything and look for you.”

“But you didn’t,” Susannah said softly.

“No,” he agreed. “I couldn’t. I was used to being responsible. People depended on me. So I became frustrated. Angry, even. I started—“ He paused for an instant, ashamed but matter-of-fact. “I started breaking things—dishes, windows, furniture.” Susannah winced. “I never hurt anybody,” he pledged. “But I’m sure Kathy thought it was only a matter of time.” He sighed, suddenly sounding tired although he couldn’t be, not really. “I didn’t want to be at home so I started hanging out at this bar near the hospital,” he forced himself to continue. “I guess that’s where Kathy got the idea I was drinking too much. It was easy to blame things on being drunk, and apologize in the morning if I felt bad,” he admitted. “I told her—“

Susannah waited for him to go on. “What did you tell her?” she prompted after a moment.

“I told her there was someone else for me in the world,” he stated flatly. “Someone other than her.” Susannah closed her eyes and leaned back in her seat. “Not that I was seeing someone else right then or anything,” he clarified, “but just—that I wasn’t content with her anymore.” There was silence for a while before he continued. “She hung on longer than I thought she would. I mean, I wasn’t trying to drive her to divorce or anything, I just—“ He shook his head. “I didn’t think about what I was doing. I didn’t think about what I was doing to her. It wasn’t until all the papers had been signed and I was living in this d—n place that I realized what I had lost.”

They sat in the parking lot of the extended-stay hotel where Jeremy was currently living, not far from the hospital. Sometimes, Susannah thought, even with all their abilities and knowledge, they made no better decisions than ordinary humans did.

“But you didn’t come to find me,” she pointed out. “I found you.”

He smirked a bit ruefully. “I would have come eventually,” he said. “But when I wasn’t living with the kids every day, I realized how much I missed them. I wasn’t ready to leave them behind for weeks while I searched for you.”

“Well now you don’t have to,” Susannah assured him, reaching across the seat to embrace him. It sounded like there was a lot of work to be done to repair the relationships she had walked into. But fortunately, she was willing to make the effort. She leaned back a little and smiled at him. “So. We’re going house-hunting, huh?”


“Do you want an ice cream cone?” Jeremy held two he’d just bought from the street vendor. “If not I’ll eat them both.”

Kathy took a second longer to decide than most people would. “Okay,” she agreed, taking the treat. She didn’t feel like she was giving in to an overbearing demand, she assessed of herself as her therapist had suggested; she could have said no if she wanted.

Jeremy didn’t seem burdened with such analysis of his own behavior as he sat down in the swing beside her with his own ice cream. Kathy let the silence hang between them, pleasantly surprised to find it reasonably companionable. They both rocked idly in their seats and ate their ice cream, watching Jenny and Jessie scamper across the playground equipment with childish shrieks of glee. Susannah spun them on the merry-go-round with almost equal enthusiasm.

“The girls really like Susannah,” Kathy finally offered.

“She really likes them,” Jeremy agreed, keeping his tone casual. He paused to see if Kathy had anything else to say on the subject; Susannah had advised him to listen to his ex-wife more and not talk past her. When Kathy didn’t continue, however, he decided to add, “She really likes kids.”

Kathy seemed to understand where he was going with this. “Oh?”

“Yeah. We might try to adopt soon,” he went on, still staring aimlessly at the children. “Would that bother you?”

“No, of course not,” Kathy said, too quickly. Then she caught herself, thought about it, and reiterated more sincerely, “No, that would be great. She wants to adopt?”

Jeremy shrugged. “She can’t have kids either, so…” and Kathy nodded, dropping the subject. In truth she was somewhat relieved that she would be spared seeing Jeremy’s new partner glowing in pregnancy, even if biologically it wouldn’t be his child. Perhaps that was an unkind sentiment, though—she shouldn’t be glad the younger woman was infertile.

“We might get married soon,” Jeremy threw out as well. “Nothing elaborate. Just a little ceremony and a nice dinner after. Would you and the kids want to come to that?”

“I’d have to think about it,” Kathy answered honestly, and he nodded. She felt that marriage to Susannah might bring her ex some stability, and she really did like the other woman; but she wasn’t sure she actually wanted to witness the event.