If she could remember that, so vividly and correctly, could there really be so much the matter with her? It was all he could do not to turn around and drive home. There was another rule that the supervisor explained to him.
New residents were not to be visited during the first thirty days. Most people needed that time to get settled in. Before the rule had been put in place, there had been pleas and tears and tantrums, even from those who had come in willingly. Around the third or fourth day they would start lamenting and begging to be taken home.
And some relatives could be susceptible to that, so you would have people being carted home who would not get on there any better than they had before. Six months or sometimes only a few weeks later, the whole upsetting hassle would have to be gone through again. They had in fact gone over to Meadowlake a few times several years ago to visit Mr. Farquhar, the old bachelor farmer who had been their neighbor. He had lived by himself in a drafty brick house unaltered since the early years of the century, except for the addition of a refrigerator and a television set.
Now, just as Mr. The new building was a spacious, vaulted place, whose air was faintly, pleasantly pine-scented. Profuse and genuine greenery sprouted out of giant crocks in the hallways. Nevertheless, it was the old Meadowlake that Grant found himself picturing Fiona in, during the long month he had to get through without seeing her. He phoned every day and hoped to get the nurse whose name was Kristy. She seemed a little amused at his constancy, but she would give him a fuller report than any other nurse he got stuck with.
Fiona had caught a cold the first week, she said, but that was not unusual for newcomers. Then the cold got better. This was the first Grant had heard about either the antibiotics or the confusion.
Her appetite was pretty good and she seemed to enjoy sitting in the sunroom. And she was making some friends, Kristy said. If anybody phoned, he let the machine pick up.
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The people they saw socially, occasionally, were not close neighbors but people who lived around the country, who were retired, as they were, and who often went away without notice. They would imagine that he and Fiona were away on some such trip at present. Grant skied for exercise. He skied around and around in the field behind the house as the sun went down and left the sky pink over a countryside that seemed to be bound by waves of blue-edged ice. Then he came back to the darkening house, turning the television news on while he made his supper.
They had usually prepared supper together. One of them made the drinks and the other the fire, and they talked about his work he was writing a study of legendary Norse wolves and particularly of the great wolf Fenrir, which swallows up Odin at the end of the world and about whatever Fiona was reading and what they had been thinking during their close but separate day.
This was their time of liveliest intimacy, though there was also, of course, the five or ten minutes of physical sweetness just after they got into bed—something that did not often end in sex but reassured them that sex was not over yet. In a dream he showed a letter to one of his colleagues. The letter was from the roommate of a girl he had not thought of for a while and was sanctimonious and hostile, threatening in a whining way.
The girl herself was someone he had parted from decently and it seemed unlikely that she would want to make a fuss, let alone try to kill herself, which was what the letter was elaborately trying to tell him she had done.
He had thought of the colleague as a friend. He was one of those husbands who had been among the first to throw away their neckties and leave home to spend every night on a floor mattress with a bewitching young mistress—coming to their offices, their classes, bedraggled and smelling of dope and incense.
But now he took a dim view. So Grant went off to find Fiona in Meadowlake—the old Meadowlake— and got into a lecture hall instead. Everybody was waiting there for him to teach his class. And sitting in the last, highest row was a flock of cold-eyed young women all in black robes, all in mourning, who never took their bitter stares off him, and pointedly did not write down, or care about, anything he was saying. Fiona was in the first row, untroubled. He hauled himself out of the dream, took pills, and set about separating what was real from what was not.
The Bear Came Over The Mountain (Storycuts)
In fact, he had got off easy when you thought of what might have happened just a couple of years later. But word got around. Cold shoulders became conspicuous. Grant got drunk, and without its being required of him—also, thank God, without making the error of a confession—he promised Fiona a new life. Nowhere had there been any acknowledgment that the life of a philanderer if that was what Grant had to call himself—he who had not had half as many conquests as the man who had reproached him in his dream involved acts of generosity, and even sacrifice.
All so that he could now find himself accused of wounding and exploiting and destroying self-esteem. And of deceiving Fiona—as, of course, he had. But would it have been better if he had done as others had done with their wives, and left her? He had never thought of such a thing. He had never stopped making love to Fiona. He had not stayed away from her for a single night. No making up elaborate stories in order to spend a weekend in San Francisco or in a tent on Manitoulin Island. He had gone easy on the dope and the drink, and he had continued to publish papers, serve on committees, make progress in his career.
He had never had any intention of throwing over work and marriage and taking to the country to practice carpentry or keep bees. But something like that had happened, after all. He had taken early retirement with a reduced pension. It was a new life. He and Fiona worked on the house.
They got cross-country skis. They were not very sociable but they gradually made some friends. There were no more hectic flirtations.
See a Problem?
No more loose wives. Just in time, Grant was able to think, when the sense of injustice had worn down. The feminists and perhaps the sad silly girl herself and his cowardly so-called friends had pushed him out just in time. Out of a life that was in fact getting to be more trouble than it was worth. And that might eventually have cost him Fiona. On the morning of the day when he was to go back to Meadowlake, for the first visit, Grant woke early.
He was full of a solemn tingling, as in the old days on the morning of his first planned meeting with a new woman. The feeling was not precisely sexual. Later, when the meetings had become routine, that was all it was. There was an expectation of discovery, almost a spiritual expansion. Also timidity, humility, alarm. There had been a thaw. Plenty of snow was left, but the dazzling hard landscape of earlier winter had crumbled. These pocked heaps under a gray sky looked like refuse in the fields.
He had never presented flowers to Fiona before. Or to anyone else.