The question was not a new one for Gray. He and his father had never had a good relationship; only lately had bridges started to build. And then there were other issues, worrisome concerns. Like Piotr's jigsaw puzzle, what had Gray inherited from his father? He certainly could not deny his fear of Alzheimer's, a real genetic possibility, but it went deeper than that, back to their hardscrabble relationship.

What type of father would he be?

Despite being late, the question stopped Gray cold on the iron bridge.

In that one question, reality shifted for him. He remembered Monk challenging him on the plane ride to Germany, about Rachel, about their relationship. His words returned to Gray on the bridge.

I mention Kat's pregnant and you should've seen your face. Scared the crap out of you. And it's my kid.

Here was the root of his panic.

What type of father would he be?

Would he be his father all over again?

Gray found his answer in the most unlikely place. A girl strode past him on the bridge, tucked into a hooded sweater against the river's breeze. He flashed upon Fiona. He remembered the days of terror, her hand gripping his, needing him, but forever fighting him. He recalled how that felt.

He gripped the rails of the bridge, hard.

It had felt wonderful.

And he wanted more.

A short laugh escaped him at the realization, just a madman on a bridge. He didn't have to be his father. While the potential was there to follow in his father's footsteps, he also had free will, a consciousness that could collapse potential in either direction.

Freed at last, he headed again across the bridge, slowly allowing this one reality to collapse other potentials, falling like a chain of dominoes, one after the other, leading to one last teetering unresolved potential.

Rachel.

He stepped off the bridge and headed toward their rendezvous.

When he reached the coffeehouse, she was already waiting on the patio. She must have just arrived herself. She had not spotted him. He paused, shocked at how beautiful she was. It hit him anew every time. Tall, long-limbed, an inviting curve of hip, bosom, and neck. She turned, finding him staring. A smile bloomed. Her eyes, caramel colored, glimmered warmly. She combed a hand through her ebony hair, almost shyly.

Who wouldn't want to spend the rest of their life with her?

He crossed, closing the gap, reaching a hand out for her fingers.

In that moment, Monk's challenge again returned to him. It seemed so long ago. A challenge about where Gray and Rachel were headed. A challenge raised on three fingers.

Wife, mortgage, kids.

In other words, reality.

A relationship couldn't be suspended forever as pure potential. Both loving and not loving. Evolution would not stand for it. Reality must eventually measure it.

And so it did now for Gray.

Wife, mortgage, kids.

Gray had his answer. He was ready for the challenge of all three. And with this realization, that last domino toppled inside his heart.

To love or not.

The wave or particle.

Gray took Rachel's fingers. He saw it with clarity, yet the result still surprised him. He pulled her toward the small table, noting that a plate of scones rested atop it, along with two dark steaming mugs of caffe latte, already waiting for them.

Rachel's usual thoughtfulness.

He drew her down to one seat. He took the other.

He stared into her eyes. He could not keep the sorrow and apology out of his voice, but he allowed his firm resolution to ring forth, too.

"Rachel, we need to talk."

Gray then saw it in her eyes, too. Reality. Two careers, two continents, two people with separate paths from here.

She squeezed his fingers. "I know."

*

Father Piotr had watched the young man cross the bridge. He stood at the open coal door that led back into the rectory's wine cellar. He had waited for his recent visitor to vanish down the far street, then sighed.

A nice young man, but shadows cloaked him.

Poor boy had much grief ahead of him.

But such is life's journey.

A soft mewling drew his attention back down. A scrawny tabby brushed against his ankles, tail high, eyes looking up at him expectant. One of Father Varick's strays. Now his charges. Piotr knelt down and balanced a tiny plate of scraps on a rock. The river cat gave him one last rub, then minced at the food.

Father Piotr crouched and stared out at the river, ablaze with the last rays of the sun. He noted a bit of feathered fluff near his heel. A brown sparrow, its neck broken. One of the many gifts his orphans left on his doorstep.

He shook his head, collected the limp bird between his palms, and raised it to his lips. He blew upon its feathers, dancing them up, raising a wing, which caught air with a surprised flutter. From his palm, the sparrow took flight, darting and dancing back up into the sky.

Piotr watched it for a breath, trying to read something in the winged path scribed through the air. Then he brushed his hands and stood with a stretch.

Life forever remained a wondrous mystery.

Even for him.

Source: www.StudyNovels.com
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