"Well, Paul," she said between gasps, "you better go get the car. Is it just me, or does anyone else here have a craving for chowder?"
In the two weeks since the funeral for his parents, Paul Carter had arranged for and seen to the details of his parents final requests. He had seen to it that Melody and Edith were enrolled in summer sessions at BC, and that Brooke had access to funds so that she could get away from the stress that the news about her family was undoubtedly causing. He had advised her to travel for a while, but he cautioned her that she couldn't run away from her troubles, that she'd need to make peace with her mother and find a new place in her heart for Rod MacDonald.
He had managed to secure graduation documents from the medical school, and confirmed his acceptance of the internship at MassGen. He had then flown back to California to pack his belongings and clean up his apartment under Coit Tower. He was looking forward to the drive, to the drive he and his father had made together almost eight years ago, although in a slightly different direction. He would make this trip in the same old BMW 2002, the very same car he had sat with his father in for five days. They had sat as the car droned along and talked about all the what-ifs and woulda-coulda-shouldas of their lives so far, about all that faced Paul as he began college, and what was at stake. All as the landscape of the country drifted by. Paul Carter looked forward to the drive, to the memories.
In a very elemental way, however, he missed Heather MacDonald. They had talked to one another a couple of time since he had returned to San Francisco. He didn't sense any regrets or ulterior motives in her voice when they talked, only that she was happy to hear his voice, to listen to him, and to have him listen to her. Perhaps that was to be expected, she was a successful, mature operator skilled at moving through the political landscapes of both Boston and Washington.
In another, again, very elemental way, he was confused about her presence in his life. Could he make a life with her; hell, is that even what she wanted. He was pretty sure she was just about as beautiful a woman as he had ever been with, to the degree that was important. And having kids would never be an issue with him; he was so sure he didn't want to bring another life into the world that he'd had a vasectomy a couple of years ago. But she was his mother's best friend. 'People are funny about these things,' Paul thought. Having kids isn't the issue.
More to the point, he was comfortable with her in a way that went beyond the familiar. He thought about that for a while, turned it over in his mind. That's when he thought of Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft.
"Hell," he said to the walls, "Ben and Mrs Robinson were probably having fun, too, but that relationship was fatally flawed even before the whole Elaine thing. Mrs Robinson was an alcoholic/neurotic narcissistic sociopath with serious people issues. And Ben, who the hell could blame him? Fresh out of school, a red Alpha Romeo, an older chick with killer legs. So he screwed up and took Elaine Robinson out. I mean, for Christ sakes it was Katherine fucking Ross! Who wouldn't? Oh, God, now I'm talking to myself..."
It hit him like a body blow, right out of the blue. He thought of her in the yard behind the house, her arms outstretched in the night. The golden glow of the firefly silhouetting her features. How lovely she was. That was what he had told her, and he had meant it. Heather MacDonald wasn't a Mrs Robinson, a broken down drunk as Ben had called her in the movie. She was a force of nature.
As he was putting the last of his socks and shirts in his overnighter, he fought the urge to call her. Something told him that he needed to tell her his feelings, and he suddenly felt very sure what those feelings were; he was sure that he loved her. Not in some confused adolescent/Oedipal way, but in a way that felt very organic to him. She was a part of him, his past, to be sure; but she had been the single most important voice of reason during the past few weeks, and he did not want to envision a life without that voice.
'Had she cast a spell?' he thought out loud. "Firefly, firefly..."
He walked into the little kitchenette and placed some Cokes and frozen Snickers Bars into the same little cooler he had used on the trip out eight years ago. He looked at the phone on the wall; it probably hadn't been disconnected yet. 'Call her,' the voice inside kept saying, "and tell her that you love her. That you don't want to spend another day without her."
He stepped toward the phone when the little doorbell buzzed. He stopped; walked to the door and pulled it open. Of course, it had to be...
"Thought you might like a little company," an ever on-the-spot Heather MacDonald said.
"You know. I was just thinkin' the same thing," Paul Carter shot back.
"Oh, you were, were you?"
"Yep. Actually, kinda thought I might like to keep you around for a while, if you think you could handle bein' around me."
"Well, we've got about three thousand miles to figure that one out," she said. "Is there still a bed in here."
"Who needs sheets, woman?"
Some affairs are like gravity. With some people, it's like there's a force of nature - an attraction - between two bodies, an irresistible force. You know. Newton, the apple and all that.
And it's always good to remember that the apple always falls pretty close to the tree.
Even if the tree is pretty close to home.