|Another Letter for Nanny
Author: Helena Mira PM
What might have happened if when Nanny had received the letter from abroad that made her cry, the Professor had written his own letter. Based on the second season episode "A Letter for Nanny." Also referenced the first season episode "The Games Familes Play."Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Family - Words: 6,520 - Reviews: 1 - Published: 07-26-12 - Status: Complete - id: 8361757
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
I do not own these characters and make no profit from their use.
Another Letter for Nanny
This story is based on what could have happened, if Professor Everett decided to write a letter of his own in the second season episode "A Letter for Nanny."
Professor Harold Everett had just spent nearly the last 24 hours in a tailspin. What was going to happen to him if Nanny left? Wait a minute! He didn't mean that, he meant what was going to happen to them if Nanny left? He sat at the desk in his study examining the possibilities, but the one that kept crashing through his mind was, how would he, no they, get along without her? He reviewed the evidence that she was possibly going to leave them.
Yesterday, she had received a letter with a "funny" stamp that had her in tears. It was the first time that any of them had ever seen her cry. Prudence was with her when she opened and read the letter and firmly attested to the fact that about halfway through the letter, she started to cry. Then he and the boys had seen her wiping her eyes, as if she had been crying.
They spent the rest of the day, one by one, trying to find out what was in that letter, to no avail. There was no fooling her when she didn't want to say something. Then Butch saw her going to the mailbox with a letter of her own, addressed to them. What could that mean? Was it a letter of resignation? They had to wait for the post to come today.
After failing to get any information out of her, the kids decided to "help" her out to make her feel better. That didn't work out the way that any of them anticipated. Prudence got tangled up in a pile of sheets and blankets, Butch turned a load of laundry pink, and Hal installed windshield wipers that squirted her in the face. The piece de resistance was when Hal rigged the kitchen to be more "efficient." That effort backfired when the appliances began to act as if they were possessed, pelting her with pancake batter and everything else that he set up to make an "automatic" breakfast.
It did make her laugh however. It was music to his ears, but the unanswered question was still hanging out there. Was she going to leave them? It was impossible to tell at dinner. She was certainly more chipper than she had been at lunch. Afterwards the kids all commented that she seemed to be "back to normal." But even they knew that things were still up in the air.
But he couldn't wait. He decided that he needed to do something or he would go out of his mind. If she could write a letter, then so could he. If she had to tell them something that she was afraid to say face to face in a letter, well he had a lot to say to her that he didn't have the nerve to say face to face. But none of it was anything new. It was just many things that he had never said. But perhaps if he wrote down all those things that he needed to say and had never said, and then mailed the letter, then he could change her mind. Even if he didn't exactly know what he wanted to change her mind about.
He hadn't been able to sleep, so it was barely daylight. He had plenty of time to write his letter and mail it before she and the kids got up. He certainly knew what he wanted to say, he thought. But he wanted to make sure that none of them saw him. He didn't know why. Perhaps it was because what he had to say to her was extremely personal. And he knew his kids, if they saw him mailing a letter, they would drive him crazy as they tried to figure out why.
So he sat with a blank page before him "Dear Nanny," was his first attempt, but somehow that didn't sound right. Not for what he planned to say anyway. He balled up the piece of paper and hurled it in the trash basket. Then he tried "Dear Phoebe" but no that was too familiar, at least for now. Another ball of paper landed in the trash. I know, he thought, "Dear Miss Figalilly," Yes that would do. Whenever he was being gallant by opening a door or holding a chair for her, he always said "Miss Figalilly."
And she always returned his gesture with a smile and said, "Why, thank you, Professor!" with almost the same flourish. He thought of her opening the letter, reading it, and then saying, "Why thank you, Professor!" But was that all he wanted to hear? No, he wanted more. But what more could she say to him? Even he wasn't sure. All he knew was that he wanted her to say it.
He thought of the many times that some crisis had occurred with one of the children. Or some problem would arise that they needed to solve together. Then they shared a glance of concern. Their concern was the same as if . . . No, scratch that thought. Or when things were going particularly well with one of the children. Then they would share a smile. It was always a warm smile, as if she took as much pleasure in the child's accomplishment as if . . . No, he wouldn't finish that thought either.
And what had she done for him, other than about a thousand small kindnesses? She knew when he needed his briefcase or he was about to forget something. She made sure that all guests who came to dinner had their favorite meal. She kept his study tidy so that he could find things. She, well, did everything that his wife had once . . . No, stop thinking like that.
And then there was the time that he had a job offer with much higher pay. He had thought of all the things that he could do for the kids with that money. The hitch was that they would have to move to a new "city of tomorrow." He was still uncertain, but the kids were excited. Then all sorts of little things happened to prevent him from signing the contract. Odd things that later he decided had to be more than coincidence.
In the end it was Waldo who showed them what they were all really thinking, but didn't want to say. Once again, before he signed the contract, a little drama went on where the dog was first lost, and then found. And of course Nanny figured it out. He didn't want to move and neither did they. It was almost as if . . . Now be serious, she couldn't possibly have known what all them were thinking. Could she?
She had given him his children back and had shown him how he really didn't know them. And then she showed him how he could know them. Each child was special with his or her own talents. And she had shown them how to connect with him and how to care about each other. It was just like . . . Stop that right now, Hal, he scolded himself. You are only making things worse.
But she had always acted as if she really cared about them. She comforted Prudence when she was frightened and helped Butch develop more confidence in himself. She showed Hal, and, okay himself, that there were more ways to look at the world other than scientific. It was if even though . . . Oh, brother, he thought, this is really getting me nowhere. But if she really cared about them, how could she really leave them? Could she leave him?
But think about it. How many times had she encouraged him to seriously date other women? Just about every time he began to date someone new. Okay, so far he had dated lots of different women. But they never seemed to click. They just weren't . . . Oh stop it! He scolded himself again. This is crazy. However, it did seem as if she were on some kind of a personal mission to marry him off. Well, if she wanted to, with a little bit of encouragement he would be happy to . . . No, Hal, don't finish that thought either. Write the damn letter. How far had he gotten? "Dear Miss Figalilly,"
He looked at the clock. She would be up soon, hustling and bustling as always to do her morning chores. Then later that morning, her letter would come. He swallowed hard. It's now or never, Hal. Put the pen on the paper and your thoughts into words. Let's face it. If she's resigning then it won't matter what you say, unless you can change her mind. What could you say to change her mind?
He was not a romantic, and never been. He was a scientist. He didn't have to worry about prose style. It was all about detailing the facts and making his argument. Okay, Miss Figalilly, how about this.
"You have been living in my house for almost a year now. You have become a part of our family. We love you. I love you. We never want you to leave. I never want you to leave; we need you, I need you. Whatever you want, we'll give it to you. Do you want the moon? I'll get it for you."
Wait a minute! That's a line from a cheesy Christmas movie. Jimmy Stewart, he was not. No way! And the rest of it was too . . . impersonal, like one of his scientific papers. He balled up the paper and tossed it in the basket. He made six more attempts. And they all ended up in the wastebasket. Boy, he thought, I hope she doesn't snoop . . . Good Lord! Now he was paranoid! As if he could ever picture her bending down into a wastebasket and looking for crumpled correspondence to read.
What could he say? What would she respond to? Then it came to him. There were two words that she had always said were more important than all the others. I'll write a paragraph about each, he decided, as he organized his thoughts. And then, I'll finish from the heart. So he began "Dear Miss Figalilly,"
The Second Letter
He got back from mailing the letter just as she was coming down the stairs to make breakfast.
"You're up early this morning, Professor," she said cheerfully.
"Yes, well, I had some work to get done before I went out for my golf game later,' he replied.
"Well, then you must be ready for some coffee?" she asked.
"That would be great, Nanny," he said and followed her into the kitchen. He had picked up the morning paper on the way in. Not trusting himself in case he caught her eye, he sat down to read it. Of course she had no idea that he had written that letter. But he did and it was almost as if he felt guilty for . . . What now? He didn't even want to go there. His coffee cup appeared by his hand and he mumbled thanks. He managed to get through breakfast without making a fool of himself and then went out for a round of golf. He had never been so happy to leave the house.
As he drove by the mailbox on the corner, he thought about his letter that was inside. Later it would go to the post office where it would be processed and sorted so that it would be in Mr. Thatcher's mailbag tomorrow. In the end, he had had a final loss of confidence. He typed the address on the envelope and didn't put a return address on it. Okay, he was a coward, but what the hell? He had never done anything like this before. But what was done was done. It was too late to undo it.
Later when they were sitting at lunch, Butch came racing in.
"Nanny got another letter with a funny stamp on it," said Butch in a stage whisper. "And now she's laughing."
Before he had time to respond, Nanny briskly walked into the kitchen and dropped the mail in front of him. He picked it up and found what he was looking for. Opening it up was a lovely card, thanking them for being such a wonderful family. Her mood now jovial, she said that Prudence's card (which had originally said Happy Bar Mitzvah) had said it all. "Love and family."
"What more could a Nanny want?"
He laughed with the rest of them and then bolted into his study. This morning he could think of a thousand things that he thought she might want. But that was when he thought that she was leaving. What was he going to do now? His own letter, the letter that she would receive tomorrow had made the presumption that she was leaving and might more want more. It was a letter that he had written out of desperation. But now he was desperate that the letter might be lost in the mail. He wasn't sorry about anything that he had said. It was all true. And now he had to face up to that truth. One way or another.
Tete a tete
The next day, he was out of the house before anyone else was up. He spent the entire day at the university. When he called home in the late afternoon, he was glad to hear Hal's voice on the other end of the line. Yes, he would give Nanny the message that he would be home late and no she didn't have to worry about his dinner. He then spent the next several hours puttering around his office. By the time he left it was neater than it had been since he had moved into it. He wondered how he would spend his day tomorrow.
When he arrived at home, he quietly unlocked the door and let himself in. He was starving, so he made his way back to the kitchen to see what he could scrounge for himself. He was scanning through the refrigerator when a familiar voice said,
"Can I help you find something?"
He turned and there she stood, dressed for bed in her long blue robe and curls unbound around her face. He felt like a ten year old boy with his hand caught in the cookie jar.
"I, uh, just wanted a little snack," he said, fumbling over his words.
"Then let me help you," she said. "Can I make you a sandwich?"
Wordlessly he nodded. He watched as she deftly pulled out his favorite deli meat and cheese and made a sandwich worthy of Dagwood Bumstead. She even remembered to make it light on the mayo, no mustard. All he could do was watch, amazed at her poise and grace. As usual, she knew what was up, that he really hadn't had any dinner, and needed something more substantial than just a "snack." When she was finished, she garnished it with a pickle and asked if he wanted chips. He shook his head, by now afraid to trust his voice.
He sat down at his place where she had put the plate and set a glass of milk.
"Do you mind if I join you?" she asked. "I was just about to have a cup of tea when I heard you."
"Sure," he said, in a voice that was more like a choke. But she just smiled and sat down with her teacup as if it were any other night.
He looked at his sandwich but suddenly no longer felt hungry. He looked up at her and noticed that she was holding her teacup up but not drinking. She seemed to be staring off into space over the rim. Without taking a sip, she placed the cup back down in the saucer. She turned and looked at him with her deep blue eyes.
"Love and family," she said.
"Love and family," he repeated dumbly, not knowing what else to say.
"You know there are many people out there who don't fully appreciate those two words," she said softly. "I found out today that you are not among them."
He dropped his eyes to his sandwich.
"You really don't have to be afraid to look at me," she said.
Obediently he lifted his head up and turned to look back into her eyes. She was now smiling.
"I am sorry that I misled you all the other day," she told him. "I knew that you all were curious, but I didn't realize how upset you all were. I thought that it was all curiosity for curiosity's sake. But no one goes to the extent that the children did if they really don't care about the person that they are trying to help. And I didn't know how you really felt about me, until I read your letter today."
"I'm sorry . . ." he began.
"For what?" she asked. "For being honest? For expressing heartfelt thoughts about the two things that I value most in life, 'love and family'? You have nothing to be sorry for."
As he looked at her, he could see that she was melting in his gaze. Her professional demeanor was softening before his eyes. Now she seemed unable to speak. He wondered what would happen if . . .
Instead of wondering, he acted. He gently brushed a loose curl back from her face. As his hand touched the velvety skin, she closed her eyes. He realized that she felt it too. Reaching around, he grasped her face gently between his hands. She made no attempt to pull away. Her eyes remained shut as he brought his lips to meet hers in a chaste kiss.
Having tasted her lips, he wanted more. He opened his mouth to kiss her more deeply and she responded, parting her own lips and allowing his tongue to probe. Then has he let go of her face and moved his hands and arms down to hold her more closely, she leaned forward to grasp his mouth and then probed with her own tongue. He felt her arms reach up over his shoulders and around his neck.
Realizing that their position was awkward, he shifted his hands down to her waist to lift her from her chair, so that they were standing, facing each other.
She felt soft in his arms. She was tiny compared to him, probably less the a hundred pounds. Yet she willingly pressed all of that into his body. He responded as any man would when in close proximity with such a woman. He wondered if she felt it, but realized that she did when she pressed herself against it. He couldn't restrain himself. He held her more closely and kissed her with more passion than he had kissed any woman since he had lost his wife.
There was something different about her that night. She was no longer Nanny, or even Miss Figalilly. And he wasn't feeling particularly gallant. He wanted her as he had not wanted a woman since his wife had passed away. And he wanted her as a wife. He wanted to make her his wife. This was not merely the physical attraction that any normal, healthy, red-blooded man felt when a beautiful woman was responding to his advances. But he had never thought that she was that kind of girl anyway.
What were the two things that he was offering her, love and family? The question in his mind was, would she accept? Could she accept, what he had to offer? There would not be one without the other. He knew that. And she knew that. He had told her in his letter. He had spoken of the love that she brought to his home and to him. He wanted her to know that he loved her.
His lips left hers and trailed down her neck. She made a soft sound as he found the "sweet spot" in her neck. Her hair was as soft as he had always imagined it would be. She turned her head so that she could find his lips again and shifted her arms so that they were now clasped around his back. He wondered where this would end, this mutual passion stirring between them. It was as if everything had changed between them.
Gradually, reluctantly, he released her so that they could catch their breath and clear their heads. As they sat down again, he realized that he was suddenly hungry again. She smiled warmly and began to drink her tea. They sat in their old familiar, companionable silence as he ate and she drank. If there had been tension before it had dissipated. Several times they paused and smiled at each other. Everything seemed the same, but it was somehow different. It was almost as if they had crossed some boundary from which there was no way to return to where they had been.
When he was finished eating, he picked up her hand and kissed it. She made no attempt to escape his grasp. She lowered her eyes and seemed to be deep in thought, but her feelings were now imperceptible. She then looked up cautiously.
"If I had any ounce of common sense right now, I would pack my bags and be out of here in the morning," she said.
He considered her words. He could see how she would feel that way. There were unwritten rules about correct behavior between an employer and a domestic who lived in his home. To a very large extent, he had taken liberties with the help. But in all fairness, she had encouraged him.
"Yes, I know that I did," she replied as if he had said the words out loud. "And that makes all the difference."
"Do you have any common sense right now?" he asked.
It was her turn to look pensive. She seemed to be having some kind of an internal struggle. He could not even imagine what it was. It was brought home to him at that moment that while she knew almost everything about him, he knew almost nothing about her. It had always been that way. Since their initial interview she had very adeptly avoided all questions about her background.
He had felt an attraction from the beginning. And occasionally she let down her guard and he could see it in her, in her flirtatious glance or smile. The last half hour had proven to him that he had not imagined this. A woman did not respond to a man as she just had if she did not feel attracted to him. Could there be more than that? He decided that he needed to be bold and find out. He gathered his "boldest" thoughts. After all, she had just suggested that she might be leaving him anyway.
"You are the most beautiful woman that I have ever met," he said quietly. "Not only outside, but in. You have given back to my family everything that we had lost when my wife died. You have reawakened feelings in me that I thought had died with her. There is only one more thing that I can ask for. Will you stay with us, forever?"
His bluntness seemed to catch her off guard. But she surely understood all the implications of his question. He was not looking upon her as a "Nanny-for-life." No, there was much more to it than that.
"This isn't the way that it's supposed to happen," she said slowly.
"Then, tell me," he asked. "How is it supposed to happen?"
"You see," she replied, trying to get control of the situation. "I am the nanny. I am here to care for the children and keep the house in order. Then, you are supposed to settle down and find someone to marry."
He gave her a suggestive smile. He couldn't help it.
"No," she shook her head. "Not me. Someone else, someone more appropriate, shall we say."
"What makes you think that you are not appropriate?" he asked.
"Well," she said. "There are those who might say that I have taken advantage of my situation here."
"Did it ever occur to you that even more people might say that I have taken advantage of our living arrangement here?" he inquired.
She blushed a charming color of pink. No doubt about it, that thought had not crossed her mind.
"Nanny, Phoebe, Miss Figalilly. I don't even know what to call you any more," he said. "You are a lovely young woman living with a middle-aged widower. Your behavior has always been above reproach. But mine . . ."
"Oh, Professor, please," she said startled. "You are a man of the most upright character. No one would ever believe that of you."
"Then why do you think that anyone would believe it of you?" he asked. "You are a most proper Englishwoman."
She looked away. He realized that perhaps to some degree she just might, well, share his feelings. But he also could see that, for once, she was truly uncertain. This could be progress. At least she hadn't turned him down flat, yet. But then a look of determination came into her eyes.
"Professor," she said, suddenly standing up. "I believe that we should end this conversation for now. Things will no doubt look different in the morning."
She stood up. He stood up with her, and grasped and kissed her with all the passion that he could muster. He felt her response. It was almost as if she could find no other way to respond. There was more than a spark between them. Given time it could grow into a very intense flame. Once again releasing her, he made a decision.
"I will only ask you to promise me one thing," he said.
"And what it that?" she asked weakly.
"That the children and I will not wake up tomorrow morning and find that you have vanished from our lives as suddenly as you appeared," he said firmly.
She looked up at him with her deep blue eyes and whispered, "I promise."
Her lips parted slightly and he took her invitation, once more kissing her as if to punctuate his point. And then he released her.
"Remember what you always say," he said gently. "That things always work out for the best when given enough time."
"Yes," she whispered.
"I love you," he said simply.
With a last look at him, she quietly left the kitchen. Looking at the dishes still sitting on the table, he could see that he had really unsettled her. She never left the kitchen in anything less than perfect order. To give himself something to do, he cleaned it up and then went upstairs to bed.
Once again, for the third night in a row he found himself unable to get a good night's rest. He wondered if her sleep was any better than his. He suspected not. At this point he was no longer sure of anything. All he knew was that she would still be there in the morning. She would never break such a promise. Nor did she laugh or dismiss out of hand the three words that truly laid bare his heart, "I love you." But she hadn't answered them either. He would still have time to make another attempt to keep her here.
The next morning, as she had promised, she was in the kitchen making breakfast. The children were bursting with energy and high spirits. Their chatter was a good cover for her confusion and his anxiety. The kids were so engaged with what they wanted to do that day that they didn't notice their reticence, or the fact that they were unable to meet each other's gaze.
Hal tried to read the paper as he always did, but he couldn't focus. It was easier for her because she had so many things to do. He spent most of his time looking at page one over and over, but not making any sense out of the words. At last he gave up. He took his coffee into his study so that he could sit and think.
About an hour later, she came in to inform him that the children had prevailed upon her to take a picnic lunch to the park. She asked him if he wanted to join them. It was a struggle, but he finally said, no, he had work to do. She gave him a questioning look but didn't press the issue. She must have sensed that he needed some time alone.
So she and the kids, with Waldo in tow, left for their picnic. Shortly after they left, the head of the math department called saying that they all needed to come in for an important meeting. Sighing, he scribbled her a note to let her know about the last minute meeting and left it for her on the kitchen counter where he knew she would see it. He thought for a split second about how he might sign it, but realizing that one of the kids might see it, he wrote "Professor."
When he came home later that afternoon, he noticed her blue cape and hat on their usual peg beside the front door. Hal and Butch were playing checkers in the living room and Prudence had one of her dolls out. Waldo was lying beside Prudence on the floor. He decided to greet them first.
"Hey gang! How was your little outing?" he asked cheerfully.
"It was fun, Dad," replied Butch. "You should of come."
"Yeah, Dad," said Hal. "It's too bad that you had a department meeting."
"I know, but you know what happens when duty calls," he said.
"But Daddy," said Prudence. "If you had come with us, then you wouldn't have even known that you had a meeting."
"I guess so," said Hal. "Wait a minute, how did you figure something like that out?"
"Oh, I didn't figure it out," replied Prudence. "That's what Nanny said when we got home."
"Yeah, Dad," said Hal. "I think that Nanny was disappointed that you didn't come. She said that it was good for families to spend lots of time together."
"Oh?" he said, wanting to make sure that he heard what he thought that he just heard.
"Yeah," said Butch. "Nanny said that sometimes you work too hard and don't have enough fun, you know, like with us."
"Oh," he said, not knowing exactly what to make of that response. He had intended to go into the kitchen to say hello to her as well. But now he was uncertain. However he didn't get the chance to decide.
"Everyone," she called. "Dinner in ten minutes. Be sure to clean up."
The kids all ran off to wash their hands and he was standing alone.
"That means you too, Professor," she called.
Now how did she that he had come home? Oh, right, she must have heard him come in the front door. So obediently, he went upstairs to wash his hands.
Dinner was similar to breakfast in that the children dominated the conversation. He found that he was able to ask questions about what they had done, to keep the conversation on the topic of the outing. Occasionally one of the kids would ask Nanny to verify one of their anecdotes or to add one of her own. Everything seemed back to normal, almost.
That night when she brought him his coffee in the study after all the children were in bed, she hung back for a minute.
"You don't have to worry about waking up and finding me gone," she said.
Looking up at her, he replied, "That's a relief."
He didn't know what else to say. He had put his cards on the table last night. Nothing had changed for him. He wondered if anything had changed for her.
She seemed to be searching for the words to say something. He didn't press her. He waited until she was ready.
"I very much enjoyed my outing with the children today," she said.
"I'm glad. It was obvious that they had a great time," he responded. He decided that he wanted to say as little as possible. His real interest in the conversation was to hear what she had to say.
"I missed you," she said, looking directly at him.
The statement hung in the air. He considered her words but was not entirely sure of what to make of them. Did she miss him because she wanted him to spend more time with the children? Or she had missed him because he wasn't with her?
"The latter," she said.
If it were any other conversation, he would have rolled his eyes, because once again she had read his thoughts. But he still didn't know what to say.
"What would your common sense have to say about that?" he asked.
She lowered her eyes and then looked up into his eyes. He had seen that gaze before, last night. But he had come to his own decision. He would not kiss her unless he knew where he stood with her. His feelings were engaged. He didn't want to hurt her. However, he also didn't want to leave himself open to that kind of hurt. He did not want to feel guilty because she had ignored her common sense. And he didn't want to feel guilty because he had taken advantage of her. And he didn't want her to feel guilty for giving in to some very natural human impulses.
Looking at her standing there, she seemed very vulnerable. He realized that he had the power to hurt her, more easily than he had realized, whatever else she was feeling it became obvious to him that she didn't know what to do with those feelings.
"I am no longer sure that this has anything to do with common sense anymore," she said quietly.
"I never thought that it did,' he replied.
She gave him a little smile. Her lower lip trembled. He realized then that she felt helpless. Without thinking, he responded the only way he knew how. He walked around the desk and took her in his arms and held her close. She rested her head on his chest and he stroked her hair. She held on to him more tightly. He thought that she might cry, but she didn't.
It had been years since he had felt this way about a woman. Last night it had been about releasing the tension of repressed feelings. Only it was in a physical way. Tonight things appeared to be on an emotional level. He had offered her his heart. He wanted her to know that those feelings had not changed. In fact, they never would.
"I have never been so bewildered in my life," she admitted.
"I am not the least bit bewildered," he replied. "I am still offering you the same two things that I did yesterday. I want to give you love and family. I want to give you my love, for the rest of our lives. And I am offering you my family. And you know how we all love you."
"I know," she said as she pressed herself more closely into his arms.
Now she had him confused. She seemed to be encouraging him to make some kind of physical advance. And indications were that she would respond positively. But he was not looking for any kind of purely physical romance. He wondered about the nature of her confusion.
"I need to know something," he said. "Do you feel the same way about me, as I do about you?"
She swallowed hard and nodded.
"Then what is your confusion?" he asked.
"If I am Nanny . . ." she started.
"Okay," he said. "Let's get that obstacle out of the way. You are not Nanny anymore. Let's just pretend that you are Phoebe and I am Hal. We are simply a man and a woman. Now, what is your confusion?"
She thought for what seemed like forever.
"There is none," she said.
He smiled and she smiled back. He tipped her chin up and sought her mouth with the hunger that he felt last night. Her response was no less passionate. Yet unlike last night, there was no element of desperation or insecurity. In fact, she seemed to be truly enjoying it.
"I truly am," she said when they broke apart for a minute.
"And the other?" he asked.
"I am not ready to say," she replied with a ring of honesty in her voice. "These feelings are quite unfamiliar to me."
"I don't know whether that's good or bad," he said.
She smiled. "It's good."
Deciding that the conversation was over for the night, he sat down at his desk and began to work again. She stood at the doorway as if she didn't want to leave, but with a sigh she did. She must have realized that the conversation had ended. When she left, he stared at the closed door. For the first time since this whole episode had begun, he felt at peace with himself.
He wasn't going to rush her. Even though they had known each other for nearly a year, they had not known each other like this. Whatever else she was feeling, she must have decided to give them both the time to explore it. The crisis may have provided them the opening for discovering these feelings, but there was no reason to have act upon them too quickly.
Over the next few days, things seemed to have reached a new state of equilibrium between them. They both went about their normal daily activities. When the children weren't looking, they would exchange a warm glance. When she dropped off his coffee in the evening, they went back to their usual conversation about the kids and the day's happenings.
He no longer felt the need to grab her and kiss her, even though he suspected that she would enjoy a passionate interlude. He wanted to let things simmer down for a while. He needed time to think as much as she did.
Then one day when he was opening his mail at the university, he noticed that one envelope was addressed in a very familiar handwriting. There was no return address. Carefully, he opened it. On the page were written six words.
"Hal, Love and family? Yes! Phoebe."
He took a deep breath and picked up the phone. He wanted to make a dinner reservation for tonight . . . for two.