Ray only smiled. "Well, I've got what you might call a broader point of view now. I want you happy, Phil. I'm not going to move on until I'm sure the people who matter to me are happy. I'm ready to move on," he said quietly. "To be with your mother."
"Have you—did you… How is she?"
"She's waiting for me." The glow slipped over Ray's face and into his eyes. "And she's never been what you could call the waiting type."
"I miss her, so much."
"I know. So do I. She'd be flattered, and annoyed, too, that under it all you've never been willing to settle for less than the kind of woman she was."
Staggered, because it was true, and a secret that he'd kept carefully locked up, Phillip stared. "It's not that, not altogether that."
"Part of that, then." Ray nodded. "You have to find your own, Phil. And make your own. You're getting there. You did a fine job with Seth today. So did she," he said, glancing up at the light shining through Sybill's bedroom window. "You make a fine team, even when you're pulling in different directions. That's because you both care, more than you might understand."
"Did you know he was your grandson?"
"No. Not at first." He sighed now. "When Gloria found me she hit me with all of it at once. I never knew about her, and there she was, shouting, swearing, accusing, demanding. Couldn't calm her down or make sense of it. Next thing I knew she'd gone to the dean with that story about how I'd molested her. She's a troubled young woman."
"She's a bitch."
Ray only moved his shoulders. "If I'd known about her sooner… well, that's done. I couldn't save Gloria, but I could save Seth. One look at him and I knew. So I paid her. Maybe that was wrong, but the boy needed me. It took me weeks to track down Barbara. All I wanted from her was confirmation. I wrote to her, three times. Even called Paris, but she wouldn't speak to me. I was still working on that when I had the accident. Stupid," he admitted. "I let Gloria upset me. I was angry with her, myself, everything, worried about Seth, about how the three of you would take it when I explained it all. Driving too fast, not paying attention. Well."
"We would have stood with you."
"I know that. I let myself forget it, and that was stupid, too. Stella was gone, the three of you had your own lives, and I let myself brood, and forget. You're standing with Seth now, and that's more important."
"We're nearly there. With Sybill adding her voice, the permanent guardianship's a given."
"She's adding more than her voice, and she'll add more yet. She's stronger than she gives herself credit for. Than anyone gives her credit for."
In a swift change of mood, Ray clucked his tongue, shook his head. "I guess you're going up there."
"That's the plan."
"Never quite lost that unfortunate skill. Maybe this time that's a good thing. That girl could use some surprises in her life." Ray winked again. "Watch your step."
"You're not going to come up, are you?"
"No." Ray slapped Phillip's shoulder and let out a hearty laugh. "Some things a father just doesn't need to see."
"Good. But since you're here, make it easier for me. Give me a boost up to that first balcony."
"Sure. They can't arrest me, can they?"
Ray cupped his hands, giving Phillip's foot a helpful push, then stood back to watch him make the climb. He watched, and he smiled. "I'm going to miss you," he said quietly and faded into shadows.
in the parlor, sybill concentrated fiercely on her work. She didn't give a damn if it had been petty, unreasonable behavior to ignore Phillip's knock. She'd had enough emotional upheaval for one weekend. And besides, he'd given up quickly enough, hadn't he? She listened to the wind rattle against her windows, set her teeth, and pounded the keyboard.
The import of internal news appears to outweigh that of the external. While television, newspapers, and other information sources are as readily available in the small community as they are in large urban areas, the actions and involvements of one's neighbors take precedent when the population is limited.
Information is passed on, with varying degrees of accuracy, through word of mouth. Gossip is an accepted form of communication. The network is admirably quick and efficient.
Disattending—the pretense of not hearing a private conversation in a public place—is not as prevalent in the small community as in the large city. However, in transient areas such as hotels, disattending is still a consistent and acceptable behavioral pattern. I would conclude that the reason for this is the regular comings and goings of outsiders in this type of area. Overt attention is paid, however, in other areas such as
Her fingers froze, her mouth dropped open, as she watched Phillip slide her terrace door open and step inside. "What—"
"The locks on these things are pathetic," he said. He walked to the front door, opened it, and picked up the basket and vase of flowers he'd left there. "I figured I could risk these. We don't get a lot of thievery around here. You might want to add that to your notes." He set the vase of roses on her desk.
"You climbed up the building?" She could only stare at him, amazed.
"The wind's a bitch, too." He opened the basket, took out the first bottle. "I could use a drink. How about you?"
"You climbed up the building?"
"We've already established that." He opened the wine with an expert and muffled pop.
"You can't…" She gestured wildly. "Just break in here, open champagne."
"I just did." He poured two glasses and discovered it didn't do his ego any harm to have her gaping at him. "I'm sorry about this morning, Sybill." Smiling, he offered her a glass of champagne. "I was feeling pretty rough, and I took it out on you."
"So you apologize by breaking into my room."
"I didn't break anything. Besides, you weren't going to open the door, and the flowers wanted to be in here. So did I. Truce?" he said and waited.
He'd climbed up the building. She still couldn't get over it. No one had ever committed such a bold and foolish act for her. She stared at him, into those golden angel eyes, and felt herself softening. "I have work."
He grinned because he saw the yielding. "I have beluga."
She tapped her fingers on the wrist rest of her keyboard. "Flowers, champagne, caviar. Do you usually come so well equipped when you break and enter?"
"Only when I want to apologize and throw myself on the mercy of a beautiful woman. Got any mercy to spare, Sybill?"
"I suppose I might. I wasn't keeping Gloria's phone call from you, Phillip."
"I know you weren't. Believe me, if I hadn'
t figured that out myself, Cam would have beaten it into my head this morning."
"Cam." She blinked in shock. "He doesn't like me."
"You're wrong. He was worried about you. Can I persuade you to take a break from work?"
"All right." She saved her file, shut down the machine. "I'm glad we're not angry with each other. It only complicates things. I saw Seth this afternoon."
"So I hear."
She accepted the wine, sipped. "Did you and your brothers clean up the house?"
He gave her a pained and pitiful look. "I don't want to talk about it. I'm going to have nightmares as it is." He took her hand, drew her over to the sofa. "Let's talk about something less frightening. Seth showed me the charcoal sketch of his boat that you helped him with."
"He's really good. He catches on so quickly. Really listens, pays attention. He's got a fine eye for detail and perspective."
"I saw the one you did of the house, too." Casually, Phillip leaned forward for the bottle and topped off her wine. "You're really good, too. I'm surprised you didn't pursue art as a profession."
"I had lessons as a girl. Art, music, dance. I took a few courses in college." Desperately relieved that they were no longer at odds, she settled back and enjoyed her wine. "It wasn't anything serious. I'd always known I'd go into psychology."
"More or less. The arts aren't for people like me."
The question confused her, put her on guard. "It wasn't practical. Did you say you had beluga in there?"
There, he thought, the first step back. He'd simply have to go around her. "Mmm-hmm." He took out the container and the toast points, refilled her glass. "What instrument do you play?"
"Yeah? Me, too." He shot her an easy smile. "We'll have to work up a duet. My parents loved music. All of us play something."
"It's important that a child learn to appreciate music."
"Sure, it's fun." He spread a toast point, offered it. "Sometimes the five of us would kill a Saturday night playing together."
"You all played together? That was nice. I always hated playing in front of anyone. It's so easy to make a mistake."
"So what if you did? Nobody's going to cut off your fingers for hitting a sour note."
"My mother would be mortified, and that would be worse than—" She caught herself, frowned into her wine, started to set it aside. He moved smoothly, adding more to her glass.
"My mother really loved to play the piano. That's why I picked it up at first. I wanted to share something with her specifically. I was so in love with her. We all were, but for me she was everything strong and right and kind about women. I wanted her to be proud of me. Whenever I saw that she was, whenever she