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The Same Woman (Luisa)

Over and over again in the course of his life, Andrew meets a woman he recognizes as someone he has known before. He met her in elementary school in 1955, fell in love with her briefly in 1962, had a relationship with her in 1966, and lived with her in British Columbia from 1970 to 1973. The last time was in 1978 when they became pen pals for six years until she broke off all communication with him.

1986. Andrew is thirty-eight and his wife Kiki is forty. They celebrate their sixth wedding anniversary, their four-year-old son Owen begins attending pre-school, both Kiki and Andrew get their first personal computers, and Andrew becomes Owen’s sole parent for long stretches of days and weeks so Kiki can pursue her burgeoning career as a modern dance choreographer.

Owen and Andrew are unhappy about Kiki spending so much time away from their home on the outskirts of Vancouver, and Andrew wishes Kiki was content to work with dance companies nearer at hand, but she is not and has signed contracts to create dances for companies in Montreal, London, New York, and Los Angeles over the next two years.

They had hoped Andrew’s success with his writing would continue and they could afford for Andrew and Owen to accompany Kiki on her various choreography adventures, but when a giant corporation took over the publishing house that had done so well with Andrew’s first two collections of short stories, his run of good fortune ended. His third collection was taken out-of-print a few days after the book was published, and then the corporation cancelled the publication of his fourth collection, after which his sales figures branded him an author who doesn’t sell.

Having spent the considerable profits from his earlier successes on doubling the size of their kitchen and building a spectacular dance studio for Kiki adjacent to their house, Andrew has taken up carpentry work again to pay the bills.

Kiki is unhappy about the situation, too, but creating dances for the best modern dance companies in the world has long been her dream and she doesn’t want to miss her chance. Knowing how quickly Andrew’s fortunes changed, Kiki is determined to strike while her iron is hot.

Andrew’s best friend Cal and Cal’s wife Terry and their children Felicia and Scott live a mile away from Andrew and Kiki and Owen. Felicia is ten and Scott is five and they are Owen’s best friends and idols. Their daily presence in Owen’s life, along with Terry as a willing mother substitute, makes Kiki’s long absences easier for the little boy to handle.

On a rainy Wednesday afternoon in April—Kiki in New York after a brief stint at home following seven weeks in Los Angeles—Andrew is sitting at the counter in the magnificent kitchen he built especially for Kiki, overseeing Owen and Scott and Felicia making oatmeal raisin cookies, when the phone rings.

Before he picks up the phone, Andrew prays the caller is his literary agent Penelope Goldstein calling from Montreal with good news, though he hasn’t heard a peep from Penelope in three years.

“Hello,” he says, imagining Penelope sitting at her desk piled high with manuscripts, her glasses perched on the tip of her nose.

“Hi,” says a woman with a musical voice. “May I speak to Andrew Ross, please?”

For a flickering, Andrew thinks the caller is Carol Savard, his great friend and correspondent who two years ago severed all ties with him because, as she wrote in her final letter to him, “The intensity of my desire to be in a relationship with you makes it impossible for me to sustain a relationship with anyone else.”

“This is Andrew.”

“My name is Luisa Morningstar. My daughter Lily is at the Montessori school with your son Owen, and she asked me to make a play date with him. Is that something we might arrange?”

“Probably,” says Andrew, struck by how much she reminds him of Carol Savard, though she sounds nothing like Carol. “Can you hold on a sec?”

“Happy to. Or you can call me back.”

“Good idea,” says Andrew, flustered by the feelings arising in him. “He’s currently baking cookies.”

“So O,” says Andrew, speaking to his son at bedtime, “I got a call from Lily’s mother today wondering if you’d like to have a play date with Lily.”

“I’m playing with Scott and Felicia after school tomorrow,” says Owen, pursing his lips and shaking his head exactly as his mother does. “We already planned it.”

“Right, but there are lots of days when you don’t play with Scott and Felicia. Maybe you’d like to play with Lily on one of those days?”

“Would you be with me?” asks Owen with a touch of worry in his voice.

“If it’s at our house, of course I’ll be with you,” says Andrew, knowing Owen doesn’t like going new places without Mama or Papa or Terry or Cal. “And if it’s at Lily’s house I will definitely be with you the whole time for the first few times you go there.”

“Okay,” says Owen, nodding.

“You don’t have to have a play date with her. Only if you like her.”

“I love her,” says Owen, gazing at his father. “She’s so nice and she’s the best dancer you’ve ever seen.”

“Better than your mother?”

“Maybe a little,” says Owen, pouting. “When’s Mama coming home?”

“In two weeks,” says Andrew, fighting his tears. “And this time she’ll be home for a good long while.”

“How long is a good long while?”

“Lots of days,” says Andrew, his heart breaking. “Lots and lots of days.”

The next morning on his way to the beach house he’s building with two other carpenters, Andrew drives Owen to the Montessori kindergarten that occupies a former Methodist church four miles from their house. Owen puts his knapsack and jacket in his cubbyhole and he and Andrew wave to the head teacher Mrs. Chandler who is on the phone in her office.

A sturdy middle-aged woman with short gray hair and rosy cheeks, Mrs. Chandler waves back to them and mouths the words, “Good morning Owen. Welcome to school.”

“Want to introduce me to Lily?” asks Andrew as he accompanies Owen out the back door of the schoolhouse and through the children’s vegetable garden to the large playground.

“Okay,” says Owen, who is usually among the first children to arrive at school in the morning. “She’s always on the swings when I get here. Unless it’s raining.”

And sure enough, on the middle swing of three, the two other swings not yet taken, is a beautiful four-year-old girl with dark olive skin and big brown eyes, her long black hair done in four intricately woven braids, swinging higher than most children dare to go and singing Frère Jacques.

On the following Saturday at ten in the morning, the sky full of dark gray clouds, Luisa brings Lily to Andrew and Owen’s house for a play date.

Luisa’s exquisite face and her dark olive skin remind Andrew of the famous bust of Nefertiti. She is exactly Andrew’s height, five-eleven, and exactly his age, thirty-eight, and she wears her glossy black hair in a ponytail—her movements and gestures full of grace.

Following a quick tour of the house, during which Owen and Lily stay in Owen’s room to look at his stuffed animals and books, Andrew and Luisa sit at the kitchen counter and share a pot of tea.

“You have my dream kitchen,” she says, gazing around the splendid room. “This is bigger than the kitchen at the restaurant where I cook.”

“Which restaurant?” asks Andrew, mystified by how much she reminds him of his former friend Carol Savard, though she looks nothing like Carol and sounds nothing like Carol, and yet…

The Crossroads,” she says, looking at her watch. “I’ve been the breakfast and lunch chef there for nine years now. I drop Lily off at Montessori at 6:15 and pick her up at 3:30. I have a special arrangement with Mrs. Chandler.”

“I’ve eaten your delicious food many times,” says Andrew, who usually drops Owen at school a few minutes after seven, which is officially the earliest a child is supposed to arrive. “Do you pay Mrs. Chandler?

“Yes,” she says, nodding. “Only way I can manage.” She looks at her watch again. “Speaking of which, would it be okay with you if I left now and came back at two? I know I said I’d stick around for the first date, but I am so far behind on so many things at home, a few hours alone would be a godsend.”

“Sure,” says Andrew, disappointed not to have a longer visit with her. “If Lily’s okay being here without you.”

“Oh she’s used to me leaving her with people she hardly knows,” says Luisa, getting up. “But I’ll check with her to make sure.”

Andrew accompanies Luisa to Owen’s room where they find Lily and Owen sitting side-by-side on Owen’s bed looking through a big picture book of Australian marsupials.

“I’m going now, honey,” says Luisa, smiling at the sight of her daughter with Owen. “I’ll be back at two.”

“Okay,” says Lily, looking up from the picture of a mother koala and her two babies. “See you later.”

“Good luck with your catching up,” says Andrew, escorting Luisa to her little old Toyota station wagon. “We’ll see you at two. Or thereabouts.”

“You’re a prince,” she says, beaming at him as she gets into her car.

At three-thirty, while Owen and Lily are giving each other impromptu concerts on the piano in the living room, Andrew calls Luisa and gets her answering machine. He is more than a little peeved she took thereabouts to mean an hour and a half late, but when he hears her answering machine message, he’s glad he felt the need to call her.

She sings in her gorgeous voice, “Don’t know why there’s no sun up in the sky, stormy weather,” and follows those words by saying, “but I do know I want to talk to you, so please leave a message and I’ll call you back.”

Andrew saunters into the living room, waits for Owen to finish his improvised piano piece, joins Lily in applauding and asks, “Is your mom a singer, Lily?”

“Yeah,” she says, taking Owen’s place at the piano. “I am, too.”

When Luisa finally shows up at 4:15, Andrew is too angry to accept her apology and she bursts into tears as she leaves with Lily.

“Papa?” asks Owen, watching the little station wagon drive away. “Why was Lily’s mother crying?”

“I don’t know,” says Andrew, still seething.

“Can we go to Cookie’s for pizza?” asks Owen, smiling hopefully at his father. “With Lily and her mother?”

“I think you’ve seen enough of Lily for one day,” says Andrew, fixing himself against the idea of asking Lily and Luisa to join them for pizza.

“What do you mean?” says Owen, frowning. “We weren’t tired of each other.”

Andrew closes his eyes and breathes deeply to calm himself.

“Please Papa?” says Owen, taking Andrew’s hand. “Can we ask them to come with us?”

“Okay,” says Andrew, opening his eyes. “I’ll call and see.”

He leaves a message on Luisa’s machine and she calls back fifteen minutes later. “We’d love to meet you at Cookie’s,” she says breathlessly. “At six?”

“Six,” he says, resisting his impulse to add and don’t be late.

Andrew and Owen arrive at Cookie’s at ten minutes past six, the place jammed as always on a Saturday night, the din fantastic. Luisa and Lily are already there, Lily wearing a pretty white dress with red polka dots, Luisa wearing a beautiful turquoise shirt and a long black skirt and looking fabulous.

“We’re under-dressed,” says Andrew, sitting beside Luisa in the booth—Owen and Lily on booster seats across from them.

“You look fine,” says Luisa, watching his face. “Are you still mad at me?”

“About what?” says Andrew, studying the menu.

“Oh good,” she says, smiling. “I’m dying for a beer. Want to split a pitcher?”

Along with their extra large deluxe vegetable pizza with extra mushrooms, the children have lemonade and the grownups enjoy their beer.

 “So tell me how you came to be the renowned chef of The Crossroads,” says Andrew, enjoying Luisa’s company. “Spare no details.”

“I thought you might ask me something like that,” says Luisa, smiling shyly. “So I rehearsed my answer. The first part of it anyway.”

“How prescient of you,” he says, giving her his full attention after confirming that Owen is happily devouring his third piece of pizza.

“I was born in Toronto,” she says, exchanging smiles with her daughter. “My mother, who died seven years ago, was part-Chippewa, part-French Quebecois, and she was a fantastic cook. She worked in a hotel kitchen and had a brief liaison with a man from Cuba. He was an engineer working on a dam north of the city and was staying in the hotel where my mother worked. He was unaware he had conceived a child with her until she wrote to him in Cuba, and once he knew, he sent her money every few months for as long as I lived at home, which was until I was sixteen.”

“Papa?” says Owen, politely interrupting. “Can we go look at the fish?”

“Can we, Mama?” asks Lily, nodding hopefully.

When the children are safely stationed at the big aquarium and gazing in wonder at the neon tetras and swordtails and goldfish, Luisa continues her story.

“I started working in restaurants when I was thirteen,” she says, nodding in thanks as Andrew pours her a second glass of beer, “and I’d been playing piano and singing since I was a little kid, so… to make a very long story short, my life until I had Lily was always some combination of singing and working in restaurants. And now my life is entirely restaurant work and taking care of Lily, though we do sing together and I’m teaching her to play the piano.”

“And Lily’s father? Where is he?”

“He was a guitarist I used to perform with,” she says softly. “And after a few years of successfully resisting his advances, one night I didn’t resist and Lily was made, though I didn’t want to believe I was pregnant until I was almost three months along, and by then her father had moved to Seattle.”

“Did you tell him you were pregnant?”

“No, because I was planning to get an abortion. But then I had a vivid dream in which my mother came to me and begged me to keep the child, so I did and named her Lily after my mother. And then when Lily was two, I decided to contact her father and tell him, partly because I needed money and partly because I thought he should know, and that’s when I found out he had committed suicide after a lifelong struggle with depression.”

The children return from watching the fish, ice cream is ordered, and Luisa asks Andrew, “So your wife is a choreographer and you are a carpenter. How did you meet?”

“At a party in Montreal,” says Andrew, remembering the moment he met Kiki—love at first sight—at the height of his success.

“Were you living in Montreal?”

“No, but Kiki was. She grew up there.”

“So what were you doing there?”

“Oh… visiting friends,” he says, in no mood to rehash the rise and fall of his writing career.

She arches her eyebrow. “Why don’t I believe you?”

“I don’t know,” he says, caught off guard. “Why don’t you?”

“Because you looked away when you answered. As if you were ashamed to tell me.”

“Ashamed,” says Andrew, considering that as he finishes his third glass of beer. “Yeah maybe I am a little, though not about why I was in Montreal.” He makes a disparaging face. “It’s a long boring story.”

“I’m sure it’s not boring,” she says, splitting the last of the beer with him. “Maybe next time you’ll tell me.”

“Next play date?” he says, liking her very much.

“Yeah,” she says, liking him very much, too. “Next play date.”

That night, after Owen falls asleep during the bedtime story, Andrew sits at the kitchen table with the intention of writing a letter to Jason Moreau, the director of the Montreal production of Extremely Silly Ariel Gets Wise, a play based on two of Andrew’s short stories that was a resounding success nine years ago and helped launch Andrew’s writing career.

But instead of a letter to Jason, out comes a story about a man and his young son who spend a week at the beach one summer in an old falling down house, and the fascinating people and animals and birds and curious conundrums they encounter there.

He writes for five hours without stopping, uses up two Bic pens and most of the ink in a third, and finishes the seventy-page opus at one in the morning barely aware of what he has written.

After breakfast the next day, Andrew walks with Owen to Scott and Felicia’s house, and while Owen and Scott build towers of wooden blocks in the living room, Andrew has coffee with Cal and Terry in the kitchen—Cal a strapping fellow with curly black hair who has known Andrew since they were in high school together in California, Terry a pretty redhead who fell in love with Cal the day after he got to Canada seventeen years ago.

“What news of Kiki?” asks Cal, who is a professor of Philosophy at Simon Fraser University, his specialties Ethics, Skepticism, and Socrates.

“She’ll be home in a couple weeks,” says Andrew, weary from his long night of writing. “We spoke a few days ago and she said everything was going gangbusters and she loves New York and misses us, but she’s glad she’s doing this, and… like that.”

“How long will she be home for?” asks Terry, a fine art photographer who makes most of her money shooting weddings.

“Little less than three weeks,” says Andrew, smiling bravely. “And then she’s off to LA for seven weeks.”

“You gonna take some time off while she’s home?” asks Cal, who dearly loves Andrew and worries about him.

“No. She’ll be working seven days a week on the new dances for LA, so there’s no point in my taking time off.” He bounces his eyebrows. “But guess what?”

“You started writing again,” says Terry, nodding excitedly.

“How did you know?” asks Andrew, laughing.

“I can hear it in your voice,” she says, getting up to make a fresh pot of coffee. “What are you writing? A play?”

“A story,” says Andrew, having yet to read what he wrote last night. “First thing I’ve written in… God… three years.” He frowns at Terry. “What about my voice is so different?”

“You seem calmer,” says Cal, nodding assuredly. “Happier.”

“You sound like you again,” says Terry, smiling fondly at him. “The old sweet you.”

Leaving Owen to play with Scott for the day, Andrew returns home and sits on the living room sofa reading the seventy pages he wrote last night.

When he finishes, he takes a deep breath and reads the whole thing again.

Now he gets up and goes out into the garden and lifts his arms to the sky and says, “Thank you. Thank you for coming back to me.”

That night Andrew writes for another four hours and produces another fifty pages. Again he has only a vague notion of what he’s writing, but he is filled with joy to be the conduit for whatever so urgently wants to come through.

Monday night, after a long day of roofing the beach house, Andrew reads the pages he wrote last night, and is again filled with gratitude for the story he has wrought.

Now he takes up his pen and writes for another three hours.

Tuesday night, pleased with the previous night’s creation, he finds the flow of words has ceased, so he takes up his guitar and plays a lovely pattern of chords he has never played before, and after playing the pattern a dozen times, he sets down his guitar and writes a chorus and four verses as if copying them from a page hanging in the air before him.

Now he plays the pattern of chords and sings the words, and loves the song more than any song he’s ever written.

Wednesday night, no words come, nor music, so he wanders into the kitchen to put a kettle on for tea and thinks I should call Luisa and set up a play date for Saturday or Sunday and the phone rings and it’s Luisa.

“I was just thinking of calling you,” he says, sitting down at the counter.

“Really?” she says, smiling into the phone. “Why were you thinking of calling me?”

“Well… to set up a play date for Owen and Lily.”

“Saturday or Sunday?” she says, her voice a salve for his lonely heart. “Either or both work for us.”

“Then Saturday,” he says, picking up a pen and writing on the notepad he keeps by the phone they called each other simultaneously and each got a busy signal. “You want to come here again or…”

“Yeah we like your place much better than ours. And this time I’ll stick around and we can have a visit.”

“Oh good, and I can tell you what I was doing in Montreal when I met my wife.”

“And I can tell you my Montreal story,” she says, her kettle whistling in the background. “When I was singing with a band from hell. Shall we do ten o’clock again?”

“Perfect,” he says, his kettle whistling, too.

The date made, Andrew brews a cup of chamomile tea, fetches his notebook, takes up his pen, and writes like a madman until well after midnight.

Saturday is a marvelous and scary day for Andrew, his five hours with Luisa confirming what he already knew but dared not admit: she is undoubtedly the inspiration for the best stories he’s ever written and the best song he’s ever composed, and most terrifying of all, he’s in love with her and she with him.

Yet neither of them makes the slightest attempt to seduce the other, and at visit’s end they both honestly express how happy they are to have found a new friend.

By the time Kiki arrives home from New York in early May, Andrew has completed and rewritten eleven long short stories, composed four new songs, and written two drafts of a play based on the longest of the new stories entitled Their Summer Holiday.

After a weekend of family fun, Kiki gets to work on her new dances, Andrew resumes his carpentry gig, Owen goes to preschool for six hours every day, and everything seems to be fine.

A Saturday play date is arranged for Lily and Owen, Luisa brings Lily over for the day, and Kiki and Luisa immediately hit it off, though a few minutes into the play date Kiki has to take a call from her producer in Los Angeles and Luisa has to hurry away to The Crossroads to fill in for the weekend lunch chef, and Andrew is left to supervise the children.

Walking with Owen and Lily in the nearby woods, Andrew thinks about Kiki leaving again in two weeks, and he is overcome with sorrow.

On a Saturday night two days before Kiki departs for Los Angeles, Andrew and Kiki throw a small party. Cal and Terry bring Felicia and Scott, and Luisa comes with Lily. The five dancers Kiki has been employing to help refine her new dances come with their partners, and Andrew’s old pal Joe Ganz and his wife Melinda come—Joe the editor and Melinda the art director of the free weekly The Weekly Blitz in which Andrew first published the seventeen short stories that eventually became his first and most successful book The Draft Dodger and other fables.

After much eating and drinking, the party goers move en masse to Kiki’s studio where Kiki and her five dancers perform several minutes of the two dances destined for the stage in Los Angeles—a thrilling display of strong limber people doing amazing things with their bodies in time to thunderous polyrhythmic music.

Following the dance show, everyone returns to the house where Joe Ganz requests Andrew read one of his new stories. Andrew is reluctant to comply until Kiki nods encouragingly, and Andrew says to the assembled host, “Well… the new stories I’ve been writing are all quite long, but I think the first ten pages of one of them makes a good little story within the larger story, so… I’ll fetch those pages.”

Everyone finds a seat and Andrew stands on the hearth and says, “So this is the first part of a story I’m calling Their Summer Holiday.”

Now for the first time since the collapse of his writing career, he reads to an audience and feels again the thrill of deeply connecting with others through his words, his final sentence eliciting loud applause and shouts of Bravo and Joe Ganz saying, “Oh please let me run that, Andrew. It’s so fucking good.”

Two days later, Kiki flies to Los Angeles, and this time her going barely disturbs Owen, perhaps because he has adjusted to the new reality of her coming and going, and no longer fears she might never return.

But for Andrew this is the hardest time yet because he knows that after seven long weeks without her, she will return for a scant few days before flying to London where she will stay for two months before returning for a few weeks before going to Montreal for seven weeks, and then to Los Angeles again, and New York again… on and on for another year and a half.

With her every success—and Kiki’s dances are most successful—more offers come, and when Kiki returns in mid-September after her two months in London she proposes they expand the two-year plan to a four-year plan.

“Are you serious?” says Andrew, aghast at what she’s suggesting. “What about Owen? What about me? We’re in the prime of our lives. Our child is about to turn five. Is this what you want? To live apart from us for another three years?”

“What I want,” she says, taking a deep breath, “is a divorce. And for you to have custody of Owen.”

They are standing in the kitchen when she says this to him—Owen and Scott in the driveway racing around on scooters.

“Divorce?” he says, stunned. “What are you talking about?”

“I met someone, Andrew,” she says, trying not to cry. “I never in a million years thought something like this would happen. I never ever wanted to hurt you. But it happened. And now I need to go this other way. I’m so sorry.”

“You need to go this other way,” he says, sitting down to keep from falling over. “Is that what you’re gonna say to Owen?”

“I will explain it to him,” she says, her eyes brimming with tears.

“Oh good for you, Kiki,” he says bitterly. “And of course he’ll understand because he’s four-years-old and a four-year-old can easily understand why his mother would abandon him because she needs to go this other way.”

Kiki leaves the kitchen.

Andrew bows his head and closes his eyes and hopes to wake from this terrible dream.

At the end of September, two weeks after Kiki asked for a divorce, she oversees the loading of her belongings into a moving truck to be driven to her new partner’s house in Los Angeles while she flies to Montreal. Her new partner, a composer of music for movies and television, is in his early sixties and has five grown children from his three previous marriages.

In the wake of Kiki’s going, Andrew takes a month off from carpentry work to be available to Owen all day every day, and during this break from work he has the idea to convert Kiki’s dance studio into a two-bedroom rental unit.

To pay for the conversion, he takes out a fifty-thousand-dollar loan on his house and hires two excellent carpenters to help him do the work, which involves adding a kitchen, expanding the bathroom, and putting up internal walls to make two bedrooms and a living room out of the big open space.

A month into the transformation of the dance studio, a few days after Thanksgiving, Andrew comes within a tiny fraction of an inch of cutting off his thumb with a circular saw, and this terrifying brush with disaster makes him realize he needs to take time off from carpentry and get some therapy.

In order to afford this, he does something he has never done before. He calls his parents and asks them for a loan of five thousand dollars. They are happy to oblige and do him one better by volunteering to drive up from California and stay with him and Owen for a month or two.

“Makes sense to me,” says his father Zeke, seventy-four and recently retired after fifty years of landscaping. “Why else did I stop working?”

On a rainy afternoon, two days before Christmas, his parents having arrived in early December, Andrew gets home from a revelation-filled three-hour session with his psychotherapist and finds his mother Gloria in the kitchen making supper with Luisa: spaghetti with a seafood sauce, sautéed vegetables, and a big green salad.

“Who knew she was a gourmet cook?” says Gloria, pointing at Luisa. “I invite her to stay for dinner and she turns out to be Julia Child.”

“Did we have a play date today?” says Andrew, sitting down at the counter and gazing at Luisa. “I completely forgot. I’m so sorry.”

“We didn’t have a play date,” says Luisa, filling a glass with cold beer and setting it before Andrew. “But your mother called and said Owen was pining for Lily, so we came over and… is this okay we’re here?”

“Of course,” says Andrew, downing the beer in a single gulp. “I’m delighted to see you. I never get to see you enough. And how did you know I was pining for a beer?”

“Maybe she’s clairvoyant,” says Gloria, stirring the noodles in a big bubbling pot. “And maybe you don’t see her enough because you don’t call her enough. Not that it’s any of my business.”

“I would have called her enough, Mom,” says Andrew, taking on his mother’s New York Jewish accent, “but I’ve been very busy having a nervous breakdown. So sue me.”

After supper, while Gloria and Zeke play Go Fish and Slap Jack with Owen and Lily in the living room, Andrew and Luisa do the dishes together, Andrew washing, Luisa drying.

“So how have you been?” asks Andrew, smiling at Luisa. “You never stay to visit anymore when you bring Lily for a play date, so now I’m hopelessly out of touch with you. Have you fallen in love with someone?”

“Yeah,” she says, drying a dish. “I fell in love with a married man.”

“Oh Luisa, don’t do that,” he says, wincing.

“Don’t do what?” she asks, stopping her drying.

“Have an affair with a married man. You’re fantastic. You’re beautiful and smart and talented and… there are thousands and millions of unmarried men who would love to be…”

“Who said I was having an affair with him? I said I’m in love with him. And until recently I have been studiously avoiding him because he was married and I didn’t want to… you know… be a home wrecker.”

“Oh,” he says, dropping the scrubber into the soapy water. “I see.”

“You do?” she asks, setting the plate down.

“I do,” he says, opening his arms to her. “Now I see.”

They make love for the first time in the early hours of New Year’s Day 1987, hoping not to wake anyone with their ecstatic communion.

But Gloria wakes and rejoices her son has found such a lovely partner.

Luisa and Lily move in with Andrew and Owen at the end of February just as Andrew completes his work on the rental unit and rents it to Chas and Betty Lowenstein, retired schoolteachers who become instant grandparents for Lily and Owen.

On a rainy Friday morning in early April, the kids at kindergarten, Luisa cooking at The Crossroads, Andrew is sitting at the kitchen table writing a new story when the phone rings.

Feeling certain this is Luisa calling to say she loves him, he picks up the phone and says, “I love you.”

“How sweet of you, Andrew,” says a familiar voice he doesn’t immediately recognize. “How did you know it was me?”

“Penelope?” he says, wondering if she still thinks of herself as his agent. “How nice to hear from you. I’ve been meaning to call you and see if you got the stories I sent. And the play.”

“I not only got them,” she says, pausing portentously, “we have an offer from Smith & Harte to publish the collection. And Jason has arranged for a staged reading of your play at the Ovid and possibly a production if the reading goes well.”

“We have an offer to publish my book?” says Andrew, trembling. “What about the data base that says I don’t sell?”

“Oh Smith & Harte don’t care about that,” she says, laughing. “They’re now the play thing of the wife of some incredibly rich computer person, and she’s desperate to publish your stories. They’re offering a ten-thousand-dollar advance, which is less than I’d hoped for, but that horrid database is a problem with most of the other houses so I think we should take their offer and hope for good reviews and a nice fat paperback sale. Yes?”

“Yes,” says Andrew, his tears flowing.

“She wants to fly you out here to meet you and introduce you to your editor, a young woman named Candace Wollitzer who looks like she’s not yet out of high school, but apparently she’s a huge fan of Draft Dodger and says Extremely Silly Ariel changed her life. You can stay with us or with Jason. He’s so looking forward to seeing you. He’s been terribly depressed since Freddie died, and your new play has revived him. Oh Andrew, I’m so glad you’re getting another chance. I think these new stories are your best yet.”

“I’ll be coming with my new partner Luisa and her daughter Lily and my son Owen,” says Andrew, looking out the window as the sun cracks the overlay of gray clouds and sends a heavenly beam to bathe the room in golden light.

fin

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