I was sorry to hear about your divorce. Several of my friends have been through this, and even the best divorces are nasty messes, full of suffering and guilt and blame. Though I never liked Owen, I would never wish this event on you.
I will say this straight out and as simply as I can, in the hope that I'm not writing too soon. I love you, Ada. You probably know that I've never been able not to. I cannot imagine feeling any other way. I don't even want to try to stop loving you. It's what I was put on this earth to do. It has been since the day I met you. Since our time together, not a day has passed without a thought of you. A picture of you is still in my wallet, and is the only thing I own from those days, except the ring you returned to me, and your letters. You remember visiting me in Los Angeles, the visit I think of as the great disaster. Everything changed after that. The best of me went with you.
I broke up with my girlfriend recently. I haven't been able to sustain a relationship. I always end up comparing them to you, and of course no woman can compete with your memory, idealized as I've made you. I remember your gestures and the way you brush back your hair with your hand, even the way you sit down to the table, and how slowly you eat. Everything. I know I shouldn't be writing this, but I can't help it. For years I have been living with a hope I knew was illusory, and now that hope may be real, and I can't adjust to the change. Maybe you've forgotten, or you're bitter and unready, or you're simply past caring. People change, even you. I know that we were meant to be together for life. But even us can get lost or ruined or buried somehow. It flies in the face of all that should be, but it can happen.
So the question is, could you love me again? Even if not, is it at least possible that we can be together again? Do you know how you feel, or do these questions come too soon?
I have a house, a life. There is a place in that house and that life for you, if you are willing, just as before, without questions, and without hesitation. There is no need to make room. The space has always been there, waiting for you.
I hope this doesn't come too soon after your divorce, and that it isn't difficult for any other reason. I hope you can answer. Speak from what you really feel, deep down. You know how to do that. I have seen you do it many times.
She wrote back, asking for time to think, and wrote again two months later -- she'd always procrastinated on these matters, the ones that were awkward, the ones riddled with uncertainties -- inviting him to Monteverde. When the day came she put her daughter in Maria's arms and drove down to San Jose.
The airport in the capital city was so small and primitive there was only one terminal, with space for half a dozen aircraft. Passengers walked from airplane to terminal. That hadn't changed since she'd first seen it as a girl. She watched the passengers file in. Wyatt was the fifth, looking around. He saw her and raised a hand, palm out, without waving, a grin on his face. She squeezed her way to the front of the throng and watched him as he talked to the official. She imagined their conversation: "Reason for your visit?" "Tourism." The man stamped Wyatt's passport, handed it to him, and had already turned toward the next in line before Wyatt had the little blue document in hand.
She seized him and said, "Wyatt. Wyatt. All those years. How I've missed you."
Later, after he'd checked into his hotel and they were alone in his room, he laughed, and drew her to him, and his hand, his gestures, were familiar. She remembered these, his ways, and how he had always been with her. His joy seemed unchanged.
"I should have listened," she said. "You came back to Lawrence. You tried to tell me."
He tried to undress her, but that had always embarrassed her. She turned her back and removed her clothes. He was naked and in bed first, when she turned, naked herself, to face him. After all the years with Owen, she felt strange that another man was watching her, and in a moment would be touching her anywhere he wanted. He lifted the sheet and she lay next to him. He cradled her face in his hands and examined her eyes, and her face. Her hesitation gone, she kissed him.
She wanted to speak, to say something that would tell him precisely what she felt, and would set the tone for everything that would follow. She wanted to read his mind. But she knew nothing. She was already losing track of her own pleasure, his movements, the sounds he made, and she made. She felt as she had at seventeen: new to all this. Only now could she admit that he compelled her in some way Owen never had. When she was with him, she didn't want to restrain herself.
"Can't stay awake," he murmured afterward. His eyes were closing. "Long day. All this."
"Go to sleep."
Late evening, with enough light coming through the curtains for her to see his face. The years had etched themselves on that face; he was unmistakably descended from the boy he'd been, but the last traces of the softness of that boy's face had gone. She hadn't noticed, when she'd got his autograph on the album for Dougal, and when she'd said goodbye to him on the steps at Sarah's. She had kept a screen between herself and him. He had become a man, and she had not seen. She had not wanted to see. It had been safer and more comfortable not to.
She dressed and moved the chair to the window. She opened the curtains. The street was almost empty of automobile traffic and pedestrians. A puddle of water, oil patterns on its surface, refracted the light. What on earth was she thinking? Why had she allowed this man to come? Hadn't she damaged her life enough? She was in no condition for a relationship. She could barely get through the days, much less add the complexities of re-establishing a long-dead love affair. She was one big wound. This was happening too soon, too fast.
She slept on the floor, under a spare blanket. She woke before him, folded the blanket and returned it to the drawer, and showered. She hadn't brought a change of clothes, having expected to drive straight from San Jose to Monteverde.
When she opened the bathroom door Wyatt was there, within breathing distance, and shirtless. Last night she'd paid little attention to his body, she had looked into his face and eyes. He must have been training with weights: his chest was a slab, his arms solid with muscle, his hands much larger than she remembered. He had always been much bigger than her; now his size was frightening. One hand was reaching for her cheek, to stroke it. She held herself without flinching, though she wanted to step back and close the door on him.
"Good morning," he said, and kissed her. "I dreamed about you -- about us."
She squeezed past him. "Go ahead. You'll want to get ready. You have a long trip ahead of you."
They drove to a restaurant half a mile away, across from a park. She had gone there with Clover, when she'd first returned and had been waiting for her father and brother. The swinging doors belonged to a Western movie, but the floors shone, and the ceiling fans rotated in slow circles, and the walls were panelled. It was a clean, inviting place. Wyatt couldn't read the menu, all in Spanish, so she translated.
The waitress left, and Wyatt said, "I wish I had some music paper. Any paper. There's a great new song in my head. Listen to this." He drummed a pattern on the table with his hands. "I've got the rhythm and the melody." He hummed a little tune. "Now I need lyrics. Give me a line."
"A line. Give me a line."
"You don't have any idea what I'm talking about, do you?"
He stopped drumming. "Do you feel okay? You look like you're sick."
She walked to the register and asked for a sheet of paper and a pencil. She brought them back and set them on the table. "Here."
He spent the time until their food arrived happily scribbling music and words.
She pushed her food around her plate.
"Not hungry?" he asked.
"It isn't that," she said. "I've been thinking about this, and it's probably better that you go home."
"What? What about last night?"
"That was a mistake. I have a daughter, and I live with my father and stepmother and I don't have any money. The ink is barely dry on my divorce."
"Christ. This again? I fly down here, we make love, you as good as tell me you love me, then you pull this?"
"I meant those things. I still mean them. But I'm not ready."
"It's the same thing, the same thing you did before," he yelled. "You came out to L.A. and took the ring and said you'd marry me and then you went back to Lawrence and wrote me that Dear John letter. Now I come down here, you set me up and dump me again."
"It's not like that."
"How is it different?"
"I, I don't know... "
"Fuck!" he yelled. He stood, and hurled his plate to the floor. It shattered. A moment later he was gone.
She paid for the meal and the damage, but the transaction with the restaurant took too long, and Wyatt was nowhere to be seen. He'd forgotten his sheet of music. She ran back inside and snatched it from the table.
She folded the paper and tucked it into her shirt pocket. He would have to return to his hotel. He'd left his bags, and his passport. He was probably on his way there. The traffic was clogged, as it usually was that time of morning. She inched forward and watched stop lights change from green to red and back again. The hotel was on a one-way street, and she had to circle around to come at it the right way. When she realized she needed to turn, she yanked the wheel to the right although she was in the center lane, and a car coming up in her blind spot screeched to a stop. Her right rear tire touched the other car's left front bumper. She got out, looked, got back in, and backed the Land Rover up. Finally the other driver agreed there was no damage. The cars had scarcely touched.
Wyatt was standing in front of the hotel with his bags, looking for a cab, when she drove up. She leaned across the passenger seat and rolled down the window. "Don't go," she said.
He ignored her.
She set the parking brake and leaped out. "Wyatt, you can't leave like this. We have to talk. We have to figure this out. I don't know what I want."
He saw a cab and waved.
"Wait. Wait," she pleaded. "Please, Wyatt. Please. I didn't mean to hurt you. You're the last person I would hurt."
He picked up his bag, then set it down again. The cabbie hadn't pulled over. "Go away," he said. "I'm sorry I ever met you. I gave you everything. Things I never thought I could give. My heart. Things I didn't even know I had until you showed them to me. I needed you more than music, for God's sake. I gave you everything I am, and you dumped me for a rich asshole. The very first day I'm here you do it all over again. Who's the rich asshole this time? You're not who I thought. I'm a chump. Taken in by -- "
She put a hand on his arm, and he stopped. "Please get in the car," she said. "I'll drive you to the airport. I'll try to explain."
Pulling into traffic, shifting from first to second, she began, "I thought you'd left me. I thought you'd abandoned me. I thought I was being naive, that you didn't intend to come home to me." He started to speak. "Let me finish, please," she said. "I won't be able to get this out, if I can't say it right through." She resumed, "You see, I was so inexperienced, and I knew it, and I knew boys do that to girls sometimes, and I was trying to be rational. I talked myself into thinking you weren't coming back. I should have listened to my heart, too. I always go wrong when I don't find a way to follow my heart and my head together. When I don't reconcile them. But I've always been afraid that anyone I love will leave me." She brushed a hand under an eye. "I know it's crazy, but... And I didn't dump you for Owen. I barely knew him. I didn't understand him. I didn't trust him." She glanced at Wyatt. "I trusted you, you know. Always, from the moment we met. I wouldn't have let any other stranger take me to his apartment, take me in like that. I don't know why." She changed lanes and signalled a turn, looking in the mirror. "I married Owen because there wasn't anyone else. I didn't want his money. I wanted a family. I wanted not to be alone any more." She told him the story of her marriage -- the deceptions, the power struggles, the affair, all of it, with a fluency and clarity that surprised her, and made her see the shape of the marriage for the first time, as a story -- finishing as she pulled into a miraculous spot in front of the airport terminal. She turned off the car.
Her hands were on the steering wheel. A tiny three-wheeled truck pulled up next to her, the driver looking at her inquiringly, asking with the expression on his face whether the parking space would be free in a moment. She waved him on, then turned to face Wyatt. She gestured at the shabby buildings, the beat-up taxis, the men looking at the Land Rover and hoping to be hired to carry bags into the airport. "Here I am, back in the place I was desperate to leave." She reached inside, and found a smile, and showed it to him. "You know how they say, 'Home is where they have to take you in when you have nowhere else to go'? I'm one step above a street person." She smiled more widely. "I simply make one mistake after another. I was afraid I'd botch it with you, too. I wasn't rejecting you." She looked away, out the windshield. "I have never forgotten you, Wyatt. Never. All that time I was married to another man, there was a part of me that knew it should have been you. There was a part of me that knew you were out there somewhere, and wondered how you were, and hoped and prayed you -- yes, I prayed for you, prayed you were happy. I loved you when we were together, and I loved you when we were apart, and I love you now. Why do you think I tried to send you away? Because a feeling like this, a feeling that lives that long, is frightening. It's beyond my control." She took the sheet of paper from her breast pocket and handed it to him. "Here. You don't want to forget this. At least your trip wasn't a complete waste. You got a song out of it."
"Ada -- "
"Goodbye," she said, staring ahead through the windshield. "I know how my behavior must have seemed. Will you write me? I'd like to know how you're doing." The quavering of her voice embarrassed her.
"When you're done with your breakdown, we can go," he said. "But it's a waste of time, isn't it? Your melodramas? They always got in the way. Slowed us down. We've already lost too much time."
She turned and looked at him, puzzled. "Oh. You mean... Are you sure? It gets more difficult." She reached for his cheek, but stopped before she touched him. "Remember my seventeenth birthday? How confused I was? I still am. I'm trying to grow up. I can't afford this any longer. I have to get my life straightened out, but I have no idea what to do."
He made an exasperated snort. "You still don't get it, do you?"
"Get what?" she asked.
"It's easier when there are two of you."
"Two of me?"
He chuckled. "Sometimes," he said, "for a smart woman, you're really pretty dumb. Come on, let's get out of here. I want to meet your family." She didn't respond, and he reached for the ignition key, then pulled back his hand and gestured. "You do it."
They drove her father's ancient Land Rover up the Pan-American Highway, and turned off at a dirt road and bucked and swayed their way for hours up that savage, decayed mess of holes and rocks and mud. Wyatt thought, They call this a road?
There was no room for Wyatt in the house, not because it was too small, but because Ada wouldn't ask permission for her lover to live under her father's roof. He slept in the tree house, which had been her playhouse when she was growing up. He spent most of the day outdoors or in the real house, but at night he slept on the table in the little room. There was no space on the floor. In the morning Ada would come and wake him, and they would sit on the stoop and hold hands until Maria called out from the kitchen window, Clover in her arms, Maria waving the child's hand in her own and saying on her behalf: "Come, Mama! Come kiss me!"
The center of the kitchen, where Maria would have the baby waiting for them, was a large table. Wyatt's first day at the house, only Maria had been home when he and Ada arrived. Maria had hurried from cupboard to drawer, getting plates and bowl and utensils. She set the table with these, and cheese and bread and butter.
"So good you are here. Thomas will be home soon."
Wyatt admired the table. A single slab of wood three inches thick, it had to weigh hundreds of pounds. (Later, at night, when everyone had gone to bed, he came back inside and wandered the house, inspecting the contents; all the furniture was as simple and durable as the table. He jumped up and down in the middle of the main room. Not a shiver. Not a sound. It was like jumping on rock.)
Maria brought a pot of stew from the stove and ladled it into their bowls.
"Eat," Maria commanded. "You come from far."
He picked up the spoon.
"Goat stew," Ada said.
"Ada's vegetables," Maria said.
There were tomatoes and carrots and potatoes and celery and corn, and others he didn't recognize. Flecks of pepper floated on the surface, moved by the currents. Vapor curled from the liquid. He ate.
"You like?" Maria asked.
"Yes. It's fantastic."
"What is this word?"
"It means this is very good."
"You nice man," Maria said.
He would discover that watching someone eat her food was her great happiness. She liked the occasional evening dinners with Ada's brother Henry best, because more people were at the meal. Henry usually brought his girlfriend. The first of these dinners, Wyatt was late, returning from a hike. Henry was at the table, next to a girl with long blond hair and green eyes. Around her neck were what used to be called love beads. She wore a peasant blouse and porcupine quill earrings. Wyatt seated himself in the chair across from her.
"This is Dawn," Henry said. "Dawn, this is Wyatt."
Dawn nodded and smiled. She had a wide mouth and large, marvelously regular white teeth. She squinted when she smiled.
"She used to rent Henry's cabin," Ada said.
Dawn smiled at Ada.
Wyatt had heard her story from Maria. Dawn had been wandering the country for six weeks before drifting into Monteverde, had liked the place, and decided to stay. Henry had built a cabin that he rented to hippies travelling through. She'd rented it for a while, before moving in with him, ostensibly as his housekeeper. This was the subject of gossip and speculation among both Quakers and Ticos, and Maria had made it clear to Wyatt that Henry was keeping his mouth shut for good reason. He was being too careful, never doing anything in public that might be interpreted as intimacy. He never touched Dawn when there was a chance of being seen. Maria had told Wyatt the story like a warning: exercise discretion.
"I've been thinking," Wyatt said. "The tree house is a bit small. Would you rent me the cabin?"
"Take it," Henry said. "You can have it as long as you want."
"No. I'll pay. How much do you charge?"
"Two dollars a day."
Wyatt glanced at Ada, who smiled. He reached in his pocket and gave Henry sixty dollars.
Now he slept away from the house. The real reason for renting the cabin, which he'd known Ada had picked up on the moment she'd smiled at him, had been privacy, not living space. After dinner he and Ada would ride the mile and a half there on horseback, and she would stay a while. Usually she would nap after they'd had sex, and then she would ride back to her father's house. This went on until the night she fell asleep and didn't wake. She galloped off at dawn and found her family at the breakfast table. She reported the conversation to Wyatt later:
"Move over there," her father said. "You're always looking out the window, trying to see the place."
"I wanted to ask him if it bothered him, but I didn't have the courage," she told Wyatt.
But move in she did, bringing Clover. For the first time since high school Wyatt had a family.
Mornings, Wyatt helped Thomas, who was becoming too slow and weak to tend to the cows. Wyatt took over the chore, bidding Ada goodbye and setting off before dawn. In the dim light the cows' breath was like clouds and their respiration like bellows, their hooves thudding like horseshoes, but more dully, on the cement floor of the milking shed. They looked and acted incredibly stupid, but they radiated calm. He felt the heat of their bodies when he hooked the machines to their udders. He grew accustomed to their sweet stink.
When he had taken their milk, he set it out for the dairy to collect. Then he walked to the house and ate the breakfast Maria had cooked him. Ada would be gone; she worked at the Quaker school in the mornings. After breakfast Wyatt would drive with Clover to the forest preserve. It was as Ada had told him: endlessly interesting. The trees were tall, and spaced apart, and there was less underbrush than in the woods back home. The shade was deep, with only scattered spots of sunlight, and few plants grew on the floor, where the light was dim. The real action was higher up, where the contest for sunlight was waged. The boles of the trees soared a hundred or two hundred feet, some smooth, others covered with vines and epiphytes and bromeliads, some of the trunks with buttress roots, others without. Above, an irregular roof of leaves. No glimpse of sky, except occasionally where an old giant had fallen and left a clearing for new growth to pioneer. These rare gaps were raw blemishes, not damp and dark and cool, but brighter and hotter, and improbably crowded with plants struggling for every inch of space and glimpse of sun.
He rarely saw animals, but there were bugs, and butterflies, and every kind of vegetation, with every imaginable kind of leaf. Occasionally a mixed flock of birds came through, and he'd try to note all the species, to look them up later. A minute or two, and the birds would be gone, their calls receding into silence.
There were also birds that didn't flock, but perched and waited. In the deep shade they were difficult to spot. Even the most brilliant of them merged with their surroundings. Even the quetzal. Ada had described it to him, and Wyatt had seen the color plate in her bird book. Then one day Ada had worn that two-foot-long green feather woven in her hair, and Wyatt was infatuated with a bird he had never seen, a famous bird. He had fallen the way a boy falls for a movie star. The bird that is named with the adjective "resplendent".
He saw it finally through a gap in the trees, sitting on a branch, with the incredibly long tailfeathers trailing below. It was a male, centered in a spot of light, with the scarlet breast showing. The rest of him, including his crest, and his tail, was a brilliant iridescent emerald. Wyatt watched until the bird took off, and flew down and to the right, the tail coverts floating sinuously behind. Wyatt waited, hoping to see again. When he turned, Clover had vanished.
He called, and looked around himself, circling slowly. The only sounds were water dripping from a leaf, and the stream nearby, no sounds of a child, or of a foot breaking sticks. No sounds of the almost-words she liked to babble. Nothing. He was surrounded by green, and without a sign of the girl.
He waited and watched, and prayed, though he don't believe in prayer. The choices were to wait, to run for help, or to start searching alone. How long had he watched the bird? Two minutes? If he stepped off the trail, he wasn't likely to find her. But if he ran for help, she might wander farther into the forest. Then she would be lost forever. He would search first.
He trotted along the trail in one direction as far as he thought she could have gone, calling her name, sweeping the vegetation on each side of the trail visually, looking for anything out of place: a footprint, a misplaced or broken branch. Nothing. He ran back to his starting point, and jogged the other direction, calling again, and heard a giggle. She was hiding behind a large leaf, a few feet off the trail. She was very pleased with herself when Wyatt picked her up.
"Clover," he said, "don't ever, ever do that," and held her close, feeling her little body against his, squeezing her, kissing her hair. "Clover," he said. "Clover." She struggled to free herself.
After that, he tied a string around her waist and held it when they were in the forest. She was never any trouble, except when she was tired. She was curious, always looking around, even though she was a toddler. She could stare for minutes on end, wholly absorbed in deciphering the holes in the leaves, or the manner in which the ants cut up and carried away their loads. Even so young her powers of concentration were uncommon. When she got older, and interested in mathematics, and began to work on proofs and problems, they would call her for dinner and the response would be silence. When Wyatt spoke to her from the door of her room she wouldn't hear. They learned that when this happened they had only to leave a plate of food on the table, and she would wander downstairs after everyone was in bed and she finally, after all those hours of work, had wakened from her train of thought. The next day, she always asked, "Why didn't you call me for dinner?" and never believed them when they said they had.
Later, he would come to wonder whether his memory hadn't tricked him into thinking her more that way as a baby than she really had been. He had never tended a baby. He had no one to compare her to. But he believed she was like her mother in that absorption. In other ways, though she was not his daughter, she was more like him: she had the detachment he had always tried to cultivate, and a jaded quality unlike her mother. But in infancy she was lovable and happy and good-natured. It wasn't until she began to visit her father, and understand the differences between her families, that she became withdrawn.
After the morning exploration, he brought Clover to the school. Ada's face lit at the sight of them, and she took the girl from his arms. She would hold Clover and stand by the door, watching the children go home for lunch. Then she and Wyatt would play with the child for a few minutes, and go home themselves. Ada always sat by her father, asking about his morning.
The old man lost his strength quickly, and spent most of his time resting. So Wyatt did the heavy labor in the afternoons. He shoveled the cow manure and towed it to the compost piles, and turned the piles, and from the piles that had rotted down, spread the matter in the greenhouses. He planted coffee bushes.
The afternoon chores varied from day to day or week to week. There was always enough to do, but never any hurry. After years of sitting behind pianos, or touring, or recording in studios, physical labor was a delight. And he wanted to help Thomas, because Thomas, had he been able, would have dropped whatever he was doing, to help Wyatt.
Thomas looked like a Quaker: plain blue clothes, simple scuffed boots, a vast beard. They'd abandoned the broadcloth clothes and the wide-brimmed hats, but he wore the modern equivalents -- denim, chambray, and an old felt hat. He never pretended. What he was, he was in plain sight. He seemed almost to have no interior. He gave his attention to simple things: the health of his animals and plants, the soundness of the roof on his house, how much longer he could drive before he needed gasoline. His most complicated concerns were the happiness of his wife and son and daughter. He didn't think about himself. He was a happy man.
One day they'd been looking together at an old barn he was considering buying and tearing down for firewood. "Too well built," he pronounced. "It would be difficult. And wasteful."
He liked Wyatt to drive, so he could watch the countryside. They were halfway home when he said, "I hope you're not taking advantage of my daughter. I've been here so long I don't understand people like you. Are you sincere? If she's hurt again, it will last a long time. This divorce, you know."
"Sir, I love your daughter. I only want to make her happy."
"That's what I hoped. But don't call me 'sir'."
Wyatt turned a corner, hugging the edge of the road to avoid a hole. "There's something I want to ask. Ada's afraid to get married again. She -- "
"Be patient," the old man said. "She will. I know it."
The coffee harvest was the following week. Wyatt didn't have the knack for finding all the berries on a plant -- sometimes they were hidden at the bottom of the bush -- so his job was bagging. The workers dumped their baskets, and Wyatt filled the bags and carried them to the trailer. When it was full he drove to the mill where the berries were sorted and washed, and the beans extracted. These were long days and he didn't see much of Ada or Clover. When the work was over, he went home in late afternoon, and fell asleep, and slept straight through the night.
The day after the harvest Ada got up early, and in doing so woke him, though she tried, as always, not to. She knelt by the bed and said her morning prayer; he asked her what it was, and she answered: "It changes. This morning I said, 'Thank you for my health, my family, the love I feel, the food I eat, the air I breathe. Than you for my father still alive. Thank you.' " Wyatt looked around. How could she be thankful? This place was depressing: one small room, a woodburning stove in the far corner, and the stone sink and tap along the back wall. Kerosene lamps hung on nails, one of them from the ceiling, where Wyatt always had to be careful not to bump it with his head. No refrigerator. A large cupboard with the plates and bread and cheese; they could only keep foods that didn't require refrigeration. The rickety table and chairs that, with the bed, consumed half the room. The tiny bathroom was concealed behind an old wool curtain. He dressed and went out to join Ada. They sat on the veranda with their feet on the top stair, listening in the half-light to the birds calling each other. Day came as a slow dissipation of the gloom. Sunrise is quicker in low latitudes, but their little house was among the trees, on the steep side of a mountain sideways to the dawn, and the light filtered in. When it was finally day he said what he was ready to:
"Ada, we have to make some plans. We can't live like this. One shitty room. No electricity or hot water. I'm not used to this. You hate it as much as I do. Everybody here has the comforts but us. What about Clover? Doesn't she deserve better?"
"I'm not ready," she said.
"Well I am. We can't go on ducking it."
"I just ended a marriage. You'll have to wait."
"This is -- "
"No. You have to wait. And I want you to remember, always, that I never stopped loving you. I forgot, but I never stopped. I love you, and I know you want us to be permanent, and I think I want that too, some day. But you will have to wait."
He wanted space, and comfort, and a place to practice music on his small keyboard without having to borrow a room from Thomas. His career, which had been improving, had collapsed again. He worried about his house, his music studio, his possessions, though his friend Buzz reassured him in weekly letters that everything was in good shape. In Monteverde there wasn't even privacy for an argument: at her father's house there was usually someone around, and at the cabin acquaintances walked by on the trail at inopportune times. Not that Ada was easy to argue with; she usually ignored his outbursts. His needs became a rash he couldn't cure. Food would spoil, or the latrine would need mucking out, and his anger would rise. But when he looked at Ada, he could only think that it was easy to be beautiful when you had money, but she was beautiful when she had nothing, and didn't even know she was. She had never in her life had an evil thought, never hated anyone, and wanted only to live in peace.
They lived together for another half year, carefully. The times he failed to hold his temper, she soothed him, or ignored him. The few times she failed to hold hers, he was silent. When he pleaded with her to come home to the U.S., so he could work, she apologized for delaying, or suggested that he divide his time between the two places.
They ate dinner with her family several nights a week, and used the shower nearly every day, and in general were a burden on Thomas and Maria, who never seemed to feel imposed on. The cabin was a difficult place to keep the child, and they found themselves spending increasing amounts of time at Thomas' house. This pleased Maria, who loved the baby, and was constantly offering to tend to her. Ada often left Clover overnight, both because it required unending vigilance to prevent her from wandering onto the veranda and falling down the stairs, and because Ada would not have sex with Wyatt when Clover was with them in the tiny room. The nights they were free of the child they made love for hours.
The two of them living together scandalized her Quaker friends. When Wyatt saw this, he understood why Henry and Dawn played cool in public. But the only opinion Ada cared about was Thomas's, and Thomas showed no disapproval. The coldness from some of the others was unmistakable. Ada said it would pass, but she was temporizing. Wyatt wanted a future: wedding rings, children, plans, a house, tax breaks. The shared enterprise that marriage entailed. It was the big show of his life: arrive on time, play his best, and stay to the end.
He was practising on the organ at the Catholic church one day, when Ada came in and waited for him to finish. "I have to go to San Jose," she said. "Will you drive me?"
"Are we taking Clover?"
"No. It's only overnight. We'll leave her with Maria."
Early the next morning Maria stood in the door, waving goodbye and holding Clover, who was also waving.
"She's a smart girl," Wyatt said, looking in the rear-view mirror at the disappearing faces.
Ada didn't reply. She was silent the entire drive, even when he dropped her at a clinic in San Jose.
She was little more communicative that night in the Santo Tomas. In the morning he took her to the clinic again, and waited in the parking lot, reading the book he'd bought the day before. When she returned, folding a sheet of paper, she still had her blank look still on, the look that meant she would be uncommunicative.
They went to the restaurant across the street from their hotel. The ceilings were low, the room narrow, the walls covered with bric-a-brac, the colors dark. His claustrophobia kicked in, but Ada still looked preoccupied. He waited until they were eating dessert before he asked, "Why did you go to the clinic? Are you all right?"
"That depends what you mean by 'all right'," she said. "I'm pregnant."
Fierce joy gripped his heart. Now they could find a livable place. Now she would be willing to return to civilization. Now she would marry him. She didn't believe in single mothers, or raising children alone, though she was living those roles at the moment.
"How do you feel about it?" he asked, neutrally.
"Feel? Feeling doesn't have much to do with it at this point. I don't know what to do."
"I thought those pills you take were birth control."
"No. They're for a thyroid condition. I thought I was infertile. It took years of effort to conceive Clover. Apparently your seed is more potent than Owen's."
"Maybe wanting a child too much got in the way."
"It was more likely the thyroid condition." She rubbed the bridge of her nose. "Whatever the reason, there's another one on the way."
"What do you want to do?"
"Not get married. I know, I know," she said, "but I don't want to rely on a man again. The last thing I'm going to do is marry you because I got pregnant. Your money will support me, the way Owen's money did. I want to be a partner, not a kept woman."
"You're not going to have an abortion."
"No. You know what I think about that."
"Good. Either we get married and raise it together, or I leave."
"Wyatt." He'd never heard her sound so exasperated. "Don't threaten me with things you don't plan to do."
"You're stalling too long. I cancelled two recording sessions and a tour. The reason people hire me is because I'm reliable. But I came here. I stayed here. I took the risk. Now it's your turn. Commit. If you won't, I'll go. Write me when you're ready."
"Is this an ultimatum?"
"Yes. I've tried to show you. I've stayed in that shitty cabin. I've taken care of Clover. I've helped your father."
"What an ungracious attitude."
"I don't mind helping. I like it. I like your father. I love Clover. But what am I getting? A cold shoulder. You're stringing me along."
"Stringing you along?"
"You've been tiptoeing around for six months. If we get married, you won't have to. Your whole mindset will change. You believe in marriage."
"What else do you want?"
"Yes. Children. But I'll have to support them. The only way I'm going to make money is by making music."
She looked dubious.
"What?" he asked. "Out with it. Let's get it all cleared up."
"You'll be gone a lot, won't you?"
"You want to go back to Lawrence, don't you?"
"Yes. It's home."
"That's the problem. I can't. My father is dieing. He doesn't want you to know, but he has congestive heart failure."
That explained why the man was spending most of his time in his armchair. "And?"
"And I want to stay and take care of him, the way I took care of my mother when she was dying." She leaned toward him. "Wyatt, he gave me life. He's as fine a man as I've ever known, ever imagined. He deserves all my care and love. It won't be long, less than a year. Then we can go."
"Home to Lawrence? To my house?"
"Yes. Anywhere. Anywhere you like."
"We should take Maria with us. She'll be lonely."
"I didn't think of that," Ada said. "You're right. She'll probably want to come and help with the children. She loves Clover."
They were married on the lawn of the Meeting house, in front of her family and friends. Thomas was in a wheelchair; his heart had deteriorated so badly that he rarely walked.
They began with silence. Wyatt had memorized the words of the simple promise they would say to each other. He thought there might a customary minimum time before speaking, so he waited for Ada to go first. She surprised him by speaking almost immediately:
"In the presence of God and these our friends, I Ada take thee Wyatt to be my husband, promising with divine assistance to be unto thee a loving and faithful wife for so long as we both shall live."
He made the same promise to her. Then he put on her finger the ring he had given her in Los Angeles. She put a ring on his finger. They kissed, and signed the certificate, and everyone present signed in witness. They wrote Clover's name next to her fingerprint.
At the picnic tables, while they ate, Henry announced that he and Dawn were planning to get married. Maria said, "So we having two more childs."
"How did you know?" Ada and Dawn asked, and looked at each other.
"I am old," Maria said. "I like to see the little babies
come into the world." She laughed, and said in Spanish, "Lucky guess."