As she walked off the elevator pod, her pulse raced with anticipation as she covered the distance to his room. Knocking lightly, the door slid open and she once again felt the overwhelming flood of feelings and emotions at the mere sight of him. He pulled her into his arms and clung tightly to her.
"Promise me you'll never leave me," he said when their lips momentarily parted.
"You were afraid I wouldn't come back, weren't you?" she asked. "Actually, I'm kind of glad you did. I felt guilty about wondering if you'd still be here when I came back. But I never doubted I'd be back. And I promise I'll never leave you."
"I wasn't as afraid you wouldn't come back as I was that someone would convince you this was the stupidest thing you ever did."
"It does have all the earmarks of someone in dire need of some heavy counseling. But I know I'm supposed to be with you. Even if I still don't know your name. And don't tell me. It'll make a great story to tell our grandchildren someday."
Smiling, he pulled her back into his arms and continued where he'd left of moments before. Lying together later that afternoon, he told her he'd called his wife to explain why he hadn't met her as planned. She'd been upset, more so by the fact that she'd had to move all her belongings by herself than by the unexpected turn of events.
"How can she let you go that easily? I'd fight like hell to keep you."
"We did fight like hell. Maybe that's why she can let me go so easily....Did your fiancé put up a big stink?"
"He was hurt and upset. And that's understandable. But what could he really do?"
"So now what?"
"I'm supposed to pick up my things tomorrow morning from his apartment. Then...I guess I'll just follow where you lead."
"What if we leave the state?"
"I don't think I'm going to have a whole lot of friends left after today. There's nothing here I won't willingly give up to be with you."
"What if I were to tell you we'd be living in Tranquillity Center?"
"On the Moon? Are you serious?" she asked excitedly.
"You wouldn't mind?"
"Not at all. I hate all these damn tunnels and tubes! I always feel so trapped, like the earth is going to cave in on me. I'd much rather be outdoors! Are we really going to live on the Moon?"
"No. At least, not immediately. Maybe someday. There's not much call for vets on the Moon. At least, not yet. But we do live in a house that's above ground."
"The second floor is above ground. The basement connects to the tubes. They didn't have to go so deep in the country since there wasn't a lot of other underground building."
Pondering this new information, she smiled at him. "I always told Will that someday we'd live in a house in the country. He'd always ask why on earth we'd want to do that. I had the house part right. I just had the man wrong. Until now."
After several minutes of tender kisses and caresses, he said, "I scheduled a shower for ten tonight and another one for six tomorrow morning. Which do you want?"
"Will we have to schedule showers in the country?"
"We can take showers together," he whispered suggestively.
"Really? There's that much room?"
"There's two bathrooms with that much room."
"What luxury! As far back as I can remember, I've always hated the fact that there's only a certain time during which I could shower."
"They do need to control the water flow so they can maintain the minimum pressure. If I don't want to miss my time, I have to go now. I'll be back in five minutes."
Quickly kissing her, he hurried into the bathroom and climbed into the shower. She heard the water start at precisely ten o'clock according to the clock on the bedside table. At ten-oh-three, the phone rang but she didn't answer it until she asked him if he wanted her to. By the time she got his answer, the phone stopped. But almost immediately it started again.
"Answer. Audio," Becky said. "Hello?" she asked when the green light indicated the connection had been made.
"Well, well, I guess he wasn't making you up. Is Alec there?"
"He's in the shower. Do you want me to have him call you back?"
"How long til he's out?"
"About a minute."
"I'll hold. Tell him Sharon wants to talk to him."
"Will do. Hold." When the light switched to yellow, she walked to the bathroom and knocked on the door. "Oh, Alec, Sharon wants to talk to you when you're done," she sang through the door.
She heard his laugh and seconds later, the water stopped. With a towel wrapped around his still wet body, he stepped out of the small room and into her arms.
"Resume....Hi, Sharon. What can I do for you?"
"When are you going back?"
"We'll be picking up her things tomorrow and probably head back in the afternoon once we've arranged transport."
"What are you going to do about the stuff I still have at home?"
"What do you want me to do with it?"
"Pack it and ship it to me."
"Okay. Is there anything else?"
"Yeah. I want to file for the divorce. And I want you to accept the responsibility."
"As long as you don't try to change the agreed financial resolution, I don't care who accepts responsibility and files."
"What about the five percent fine for adultery?"
"I'll pay it. Gladly."
"Then you should have the papers in a few days. I guess that's all....Are you happy?"
"To tell you the truth, Sharon, even if you and I had been getting along as well as we did when we first got married, I'd still have left you for her."
"I don't know whether I've been insulted or not."
"It wasn't meant to be an insult. I just wanted you to know there's not much you could have done to stop this. There wasn't a whole lot I could have done."
"Then I guess the sporting thing to do would be to wish you good luck. Not that I'm in a particularly sporting mood right now."
"It's the thought that counts. Thanks, Sharon."
"Bye, Alec. Disconnect."
"So, Dr. Alec, do you want me to tell you my name now that I know yours?" Becky said with a smile.
"I still think your name is Rita....Okay. What is it?"
"Becky. Becky Eyler."
"Short for Rebecca?" When she nodded, he said, "At least I wasn't that far off. They both begin with an 'R'."
"Then I was way off. Alec and Tony don't start with the same letter."
"Alec and Anthony do," he pointed out. "Most people named Tony are actually Anthony."
A shiver ran up Becky's back when she heard him say "Anthony."
"Just a chill," she said.
"Then come here and let me warm you up a bit," he said gently laying her on the bed.
Standing in the lobby, she dialed the code to his apartment. It was a while before he pressed the new access code that allowed her inside. Since they'd agreed it would be better for Alec to wait downstairs, she kissed him lightly before passing through the door, which whisked shut immediately behind her. Taking the pod down to the fifteenth floor, she walked the familiar hallway to the apartment she no longer even thought of as hers. Knocking, she again waited for a while until it opened. Walking inside, she was surprised at how much of a stranger she felt in a place that until three days ago had been her home. Standing beside the small desk, she called out to Will. She heard him coming down the hall and prepared herself for his angry glare.
As soon as he saw her, his eyes widened in surprise. "My, God! You look beautiful!" he said before he realized what he was saying. Looking somewhat embarrassed, he turned away from her.
"Thank you, Will. They say true love brings out the inner beauty."
"I've never seen you look so...stunning. If that's from love, maybe you didn't have a choice," he conceded.
"Thank you, again."
"If this is what love makes you look like, what the hell did we have? I know I never made you look...Don't answer that. I'm not sure I want to know....Your stuff's in the freight elevator. Mr. Pollard will be here in five minutes to take it down. Is he here?"
"He's waiting downstairs."
"Do you know his name yet?" he asked with a tinge of sarcasm.
"Yes. Do you want to know it?"
"No....Do you have an address where I can forward your e-mail?"
"Not yet. I mean, there's an address, but I'm not sure what it is. I never really thought to ask. I can call you from downstairs with it if you want."
"Just send it along someday....So when's the wedding?"
"I don't know. He's still married although she's agreed to a divorce. They were separated at the time."
"We weren't. Sorry. I guess I'm a little more bitter than I thought I was."
"That's okay. I'd be bitter if the roles were reversed. ...Before I forget," she added, "here's the engagement ring back."
Handing him the ring, she smiled apologetically. A knock on the door saved them from having to continue the awkward conversation. Mr. Pollard said he'd meet her in the rear of the lobby. As she turned to leave, she faced him one last time.
"Will, I really did love you. Part of me always will. And you did make me feel beautiful. Maybe you just didn't notice it because you made me feel that way all the time."
When he didn't respond, she turned to leave.
"Thank you," she heard just before the door closed.
By the end of the day, Becky was settled in her new home, although her belongings wouldn't arrive for two or three days. She and Alec strolled hand in hand down the old roadways the next morning and even took a dip in the pond behind the house. A picnic lunch was interrupted by a sudden thundershower. In twenty-five years, Becky couldn't once remember hearing thunder except in simulation. She stood in the middle of the field, her arms raised, laughing in glee as the rain pelted her and the deep rumbles rolled through her body. But when a bolt of lightning hit a tree on the hilltop, she ran to Alec and sought shelter in his arms. Her body trembling in terror, he gently caressed her and held her close. By the time the storm passed, she'd also made love outside for the first time.
The divorce papers arrived the same day as Becky's things and were sent back out that evening with Sharon's belongings. Where Sharon had insisted on living in the lower two floors, Becky preferred the top floor and relegated the basement for storage. Even the second level was used only when necessary. Since it contained the kitchen, that was more than she would have preferred, but without doing major renovations, it was unavoidable. Although one of the bathrooms was on the second level, she didn't mind that. For several weeks, she'd take showers in the middle of the afternoon just because she could. And Alec introduced her to bubble baths, something she'd heard about but never experienced. She especially liked when he joined her in the bath and vowed never to give up such a luxury.
Alec's divorce was finalized by the end of the following week and would take effect when he transferred the first alimony installment. If he preferred, he was informed, in lieu of monthly payments, he could transfer a lump sum to the former Mrs. Bearinger which, if invested at current returns, would yield a comparable total amount in financial compensation. He was also kindly reminded to submit the five percent fine for adultery by the end of the month. Although it drained his entire savings, he transferred the entire amount, including the penalty, simply to put that part of his life behind them.
As far as Becky was concerned, the only drawback to living in the country was the frequent thunderstorms. She found herself dreading the darkening skies knowing it meant lightning and thunder would usually follow. During storms, she found something that needed doing in the basement, where the flash of lightning was unnoticed and the thunder was muted. Alec tried to help her over her fear, but at times when they were unable to get out of the storm, her heart beat so fast from her terror he was afraid she'd actually have a heart attack or pass out from hyperventilation. Then she'd simply close her eyes, put her hands over her ears and her head between her knees, and rock back and forth as tears rolled down her cheeks.
One morning, after a particularly violent storm the night before, Becky woke with tears streaming down her face. From the dampness of the pillow beneath her head, she'd been crying for some time. Closing her eyes, she could only remember a deep sadness and feeling of hopelessness. About what eluded her. It stuck with her the entire day— not even fresh flowers from Alec helped her shake her depression. When he asked her what was wrong, she couldn't even tell him because she didn't know herself. But by the next morning, she was back to herself, except for an uneasy feeling that it was not really over.
Although it was more than six weeks later, she again woke with the same feelings of despair. As the months passed, they became more frequent until even Alec, who thought all regressionists and dream analysts were frauds, suggested she visit one to find out what was upsetting her so much. When she began to dread going to bed, she finally agreed to see a hypnotherapist provided Alec was allowed to stay in the room with her at all times.
The decision to seek outside help seemed to quell the dreams, but on the night after she had decided to postpone the appointment, she again woke to a damp pillow and puffy eyes.