Resolution, Of Sorts

In the end the crisis point of my latest little misadventure stole up behind me on quiet feline feet. Several days had passed without any activity, meaning that none of my few very modest “monitors” had detected any action regarding inquiries in to my name, or my finances or my history. So of course early Saturday afternoon my doorbell buzzed.

I regarded the intercom for a full minute, fully aware that if the person who rang the buzzer was truly looking for me my days in this city, in this identity, were quite likely over. The buzzer rang again.


“Miss Baker? I need to speak with you. My name is Roger Travis.” There was no anger in the voice, perhaps just a trace of apprehension. With a heavy sigh I triggered the latch for the security door and then opened the door to my apartment. Mentally I checked the location of my pistol, then examined myself in the mirror- I was wearing a light white sun dress as I had been preparing to go for a walk and enjoy the summer heat after so many days of rain. I was not made up. I appeared painfully young.

The man who arrived at my door was nearly forty, tall and in good condition- barely breathing hard after climbing four flights in the heat of this summer day. He bore a strong resemblance to his father, handsome in that square-jawed, steely-blue-eyed quintessential American Cowboy way, all of it accentuated by blue jeans that had obviously seen their fair share of hard days’ work and a crisp, clean khaki shirt open at the neck and sung about muscular biceps. There was the scent of fresh hewn cedar about him, enticingly masculine.

He introduced himself again and I invited him in. We exchanged pleasantries and he commented on all the boxes still stacked in the kitchen and the hallway.

“Moving out?”

?In, actually. I’ve been in Colorado for several months- I only returned two weeks ago. Everything was in storage so I’ve been sorting out what I need and what can go. I just made a pitcher of iced tea, would you care for some?”

“Yes, thank-you,” he smiled then, put at ease by the nicety of domestic hospitality. Just as I had intended. It was a dance, each carefully feeling the other out in a game both ancient and tantalizing. I poured a tall glass over fresh ice cubes and handed it to him. He took it in his left hand and I deliberately noted the lack of a wedding band, allowing my index finger to trace the length of his ring finger. I produced a bowl of sliced lemons and sugar and we fixed our refreshments to taste then took our leave to my living room. There we sat, and an uncomfortable pause stretched out for several seconds.

“I hope your father was not terribly put out by my behavior the other day. I’m not normally so easily flustered.” That drained a great deal of the tension from his face and I began to hope just very, very slightly, that this might turn out well after all.

“My father…” he began, and then hesitated before starting again, “It’s been a very tough year for him. For all of us. Four months ago my mother passed away- she’d been sick for nearly a year, bone cancer.”

Oh! I’m terribly sorry.” I did not have to feign sympathy- mortality always strikes a chord within me and I let it show clearly. I have seen so many times where death has wreaked havoc in otherwise normal, happy lives that it always leaves me feeling at least a little compassion towards those left behind. It is odd, but it is innate. Furthermore, I had suspected this was the case. “You all must miss her very much.”

“Yes, especially my father. They were inseparable…” he caught himself then, unwilling to offer any more to this stranger than he had to. “When he showed up at my place last week he was so badly shaken I thought he was sick. He wouldn’t talk to anyone about it, he just said he couldn’t be home alone.”

“He did seem very distraught.”

He ignored me and went on. “That night, he told me about Claire. Mind you he’d never mentioned her before, I don’t even think my mother knew about her. It’s not like it’s some giant scandal in the family or anything like that. Hell, it’s just something he never, ever mentioned… ?til he ran in to you.”

I could see everything coursing through him: concern over his father’s reaction to me, relief that I was so obviously not some youthful-looking sixty-something, an uncomfortable and titillating awareness of how thin my dress was and how neatly I curled in to my chair. I drew him out with a dangerous and carefully applied mix of genuine concern for the words he spoke, inviting sexuality, and open friendliness. It was an elixir he was ill prepared to resist, assuming he had cared to. Men cannot be badgered in to opening up, instead they must be invited, seduced.

“He had a photo album, pictures from his racing days I’d never seen before because all of them showed your mother. You really do look exactly like her, you know.” I nodded and he went on. “I can see how he might mistake you for her at first glance, from a distance… but after he introduced himself? What happened?”

I recounted the meeting in full factual detail, only prevaricating where my own internal reactions were concerned. Roger nodded and I knew he had already spoken to others about it, ticking off facts in his head as I replayed the scene for him. I could sense his concern deepening and once again I had to review my own impressions, but I saw nothing beyond what I had originally surmised.

“Damn,” he sighed, “I don’t know what to think. I thought he’d bounced back as well as anyone could expect after ma passed away.”

“He still thinks I’m Claire?” That thought disturbed me immensely, not so much for its implications for me, but rather for William.

“No… at least he understands that it’s not possible that you’re her, but…”

“He knows it up here,” I whispered, touching my head.

“But not here,” he finished, touching his chest, “exactly. I’m not sure what to do. Hell, I’m not even sure why I’m here, telling you this. I have to wonder if there’s something wrong, something psychological…”

He said psychological, but he was thinking Alzheimer’s. It was a possible out for me except that it was absolutely untrue, and I knew that for a certainty. I could have let Roger continue thinking that, perhaps go and convince his father that something was wrong… and curse him as fully as were I some ancient shaman of myth and lore. Such doubts could become self-fulfilling prophecy. No matter how much I desired to see this episode filed away as something innocuous I simply could not purchase my security at such a price.

“You said yourself that your father has been through a lot. What if he actually was sick that day?”

“What do you mean?” he asked, his eyes looking directly in to mine, piercing, searching. It was all well and fine for him to privately consider his father’s mental state, but he would brook no disrespect from me on that topic.

“You said he looked ill when he got to your place. What if he was? Has he been sleeping well? Has anyone been looking in on him to make sure he’s taking care of himself? What if it was just a long day and he was coming down with something? He saw me and got one shock, then was told something he certainly didn’t want to hear, that had to be another blow, and then I got all defensive when he wanted to meet again. So for a moment he thought he saw something that he knows he couldn’t have seen, and now it’s something that he can’t let go of because it upset him so much.”

Roger was nodding because it had a certain consistency about it, and because I was prodding him as hard as I possibly could with body language. No man truly wants to be in disagreement with an attractive woman, particularly when she is telling him something he desperately wants to hear. He mulled it over for all of thirty seconds.

“I have a favor to ask…”

“Of course. I would be happy to meet with your father again.”

“Thank-you,” he said, smiling. I felt myself blushing. This was growing more complicated by the second, but I did not let that stop me from returning his smile.

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