FROM CHAPTER TWENTY-EIGHT, Kathryn at her therapist’s office:

Kathryn told her, calmly and in a very detached voice, about Eric leaving. She told Heidi everything she knew about his assignment, which wasn’t much, but was more than she’d told anyone else.

Heidi went silent after Kath stopped talking for a minute or two. She looked grim, sat tapping the eraser end of her pencil on her desk, her mouth set.

“Well. So. But it sounds like you’re wondering if you are being betrayed by this man, or if he’s telling the truth when he says the government has ordered him to go. That he had no choice. Do you think that’s happening? Are you afraid he may have lied, told you a half-truth,to bring the relationship to a stop? Is that what you’re afraid of, Kath?”

“No. Absolutely not. Eric would never do that. If he wanted that, he’d find a kind and supportive way to tell me. It’s his way. He’s not mean, Heidi, he’s not like so many men. I’m not being all Pollyanna here, I mean it. He hasn’t got that kind of nature.

“No, it’s just that. Well, whether he lied or not. It’s just that, fact is, I can’t take it. Heidi, I can’t take it, I can’t. He could die. They could already have killed him. “

She could feel the watertight hinges on her heart’s doors being slowly loosened, could almost hear the creak and groan as they let go, and the dam broke.

She burst out, “Oh, Heidi, I love him so much, what was I thinking, I should have told him. Why am I such a coward. I’ve been pretending I wasn’t sure. I let him go out there thinking I don’t care. But if anything has happened to him, I’m going to die.”

It was the first time she’d ever said the words, out loud, or even to herself.

Heidi, leaning back, relaxed, her hands up behind her head, gazed at her friend and client with interest. “I’m sorry you have to endure this, Kathryn. But it’s significant, the way it’s working out. Here’s The White House, of all things, getting involved in your life. How likely is that? Can you see the hand of a compassionate universe in this?”

“What?” Kath responded, looking confused.

“It sounds as though you’ve been bending your grasp of your own reality into kinks for some time, now, in order to protect yourself from making a mistake and letting this man in. Forgive me, Kath, my dear, but I’m going to lecture you for a minute here. Now, it’s not my job to lecture people, but now and then, we break the rules.

“You know, it’s fine to push back at people, people need to be pushed back at. Or they think you are an overcooked stand of spaghetti.

“But you seem to be pushing back at someone who only wants a chance to get you to fall for him. Trouble with that is, it sounds as though you’ve already fallen and you’re unwilling to get up with the morning sun and reach out for what life is offering you. I’m not saying he’s right for you, Kathryn. I’m saying, you’re pretending, so you don’t have to take a chance.

“Well, not everyone gets damaged the way you were damaged, we can all understand that. But there comes a point, a line you do cross, as time rolls on, and after that point, you are just another person with human needs and longings.

“Are you ever going to open to life? Or when the most perfect person DOES come along, will you also push them back, always, because you are afraid? Afraid because that door has no peephole built into it?

“This is one of those doors you have no choice about. You either open it, without knowing who is out there really, or you don’t ever open it. There’s no peephole in this thing, Kathryn.

“I know you’ve always blamed yourself for opening the door of your home to those men, instead of pausing to look through the viewer your parents had provided for safety.

“But most people, you know, do just throw open their door when someone knocks. It’s automatic, it’s human. You just did the ordinary, human thing when you opened that door that day. You did nothing wrong, although it may be you’ll never accept that.

“But when it comes to romance, unfortunately, nobody, and I mean, nobody, gets to peek and see what’s out there. If you are in love, you’re in love. Face it. He’s obviously in love with you. Even if he’s not The One, he’s certainly no burglar, trying to steal your heart and throw it away.

“You won’t even give him a chance, because you can’t see what’s inside his heart and mind. And if you keep doing that, keep demanding to see what no on on earth gets to see, before you throw your hat into the ring, then you’ll turn away the most wonderful person as though he was just another burglar.

“Again, I’m not saying he’s the right one. I’m saying, if you keep handling things this way, when he does come along, you’ll ignore the doorbell and lose a chance at one of the great experiences of life.”

“So. Lecture over. Where are we at right now? You know certain things, know them in a depth of your own soul.

“Apparently, you do know for sure he’s no liar. He’s one of the truth-tellers. So how about we lay that fear to one side, just for practice? So what else? We know he works where he works, we know he’s been working where he said he’s been working. That one thing, you have gotten to see with your own eyes, on the TV screen. So you have that sound knowledge of the man.

“So we know he’s a hero type, a superman type of guy. One of those. Is that so bad? He’s a powerful person in his own right. If an employer like WNN or the government relies on him to bring home the goods, then he’s very special. That doesn’t mean he is Mr. Right for you, but it’s a lot of information to have about someone. Normally, when we start a relationship, we don’t have anywhere near that much info about the other person.

“So you can proceed into a solid experience with this man and he won’t intentionally hurt you. It is possible you may be hurt. We’d all like to protect you from hurt, Kath, with what you went through. But we can’t protect each other. Not possible. Our friends and loved ones walk out their door every morning into God-Knows-What. We hope for the best for ourselves and others and we use our common sense. It’s not a fair world or a safe one.

“So yes, you may get hurt, much as we all love you, and it’s obvious this guy loves you even more than the rest of us.

“But it won’t be the end of the world if you get hurt. It won’t kill you, Kath, even if he did lie to you. You’d be angry and hurt and so on, but we all get that sometimes, and we all recover. You’d recover better than most, I’d be willing to bet.

“So let’s say that you reach this one goal. You make a decision that you will, or you won’t, proceed with experience of this man. Just make a decision. Don’t be looking over the wall at some possible outcome. There is no viewer built into this door. But it IS a door, and if you don’t open some doors and go through them, you will never have lived your life.

“You’ve hidden in a safe place for many years, surrounded by safe people. But you’re not a hospital patient, Kath. You’re a warrior out there in a big scary world, and you know how to use a sword as well as the next person.

“In a way, you’ve become institutionalized. In my professional opinion, it’s time for you to leave the caregiving behind and thrust yourself into life’s hands and say, Let Me Live.

“I love you dearly, Kathryn Bond, and I know you better than most. And because I care, I have to tell you, you must take that leap. Before he comes back, you must decide. The universe has reached out to you, and has removed Eric Emerson from you. You can’t get your hands on him, you can’t phone him, you can’t email him, you can’t run downtown to the newspaper office and go find him.

“He’s gone. Perhaps to his death, or perhaps to just another successful adventure. You don’t know and no one can tell you. So what is your own part in this aspect of his story?

“Your part is this: You accept the challenge the universe has offered you here. God knows, it had to bring the White House itself into the picture to help you move forward. So somebody up there cares, Kathryn, really cares, about you and your life.

“You simply acknowledge where you are in this. You are in love, and you respond to his love accordingly, without fear or holding back. Sweetie, you have a super-hero here begging you for a chance. If you don’t trust him, tell me, please, who exactly would be good enough for you to trust?”


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