The girls shared a silent taxi west to the duplex they rented beside High Park. Jennifer, partly because she knew her roommate very well, decided that she wouldn’t be the first to bring up what had happened that night, what they both seemed to have heard under the surface of the old man’s words.
But she was dealing with complex emotions of her own, as they turned down Parkside Drive and she watched the dark shadows of the park slide past on their right. When they got out of the cab the late-night breeze seemed unseasonably chill. She looked across the road for a moment, at the softly rustling trees.
Inside they had a conversation about choices, about doing or not doing things, that either one of them could have predicted.
Dave Martyniuk refused Kim’s offer to share a cab and walked the mile west to his flat on Palmerston. He walked quickly, the athlete’s stride overlaid by anger and tension. You are too quick to renounce friendship, the old man had said. Dave scowled, moving faster. What did he know about it?
The telephone began ringing as he unlocked the door of his basement apartment.
“Yeah?” He caught it on the sixth ring.
“You are pleased with yourself, I am sure?”
“Jesus, Dad. What is it this time?”
“Don’t swear at me. It would kill you, wouldn’t it, to do something that would bring us pleasure.”
“I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.” “Such language. Such respect.” “Dad, I don’t have time for this any more.” “Yes, hide from me. You went tonight as Vincent’s guest to this lecture. And then you went off after with the man he most wanted to speak with. And you couldn’t even think of asking your brother?”
Dave took a careful breath. His reflexive anger giving way to the old sorrow. “Dad, please believe me—it didn’t happen that way. Marcus went with these people I know because he didn’t feel like talking to the academics like Vince. I just tagged along.”
“You just tagged along,” his father mimicked in his heavy Ukrainian accent. “You are a liar. Your jealousy is so much that you—”
Dave hung up. And unplugged the telephone. With a fierce and bitter pain he stared at it, watching how, over and over again, it didn’t ring.
They said good-night to the girls and watched Martyniuk stalk off into the darkness.
“Coffee time, amigo,” Kevin Laine said brightly. “Much to talk about we have, yes?”
Paul hesitated, and in the moment of that hesitation Kevin’s mood shattered like glass.
“Not tonight, I think. I’ve got some things to do, Kev.”
The hurt in Kevin Laine moved to the surface, threatened to break through. “Okay,” was all he said, though. “Good night. Maybe I’ll see you tomorrow.” And he turned abruptly and jogged across Bloor against the light to where he’d parked his car. He drove home, a little too fast, through the quiet streets.
It was after one o’clock when he pulled into the driveway, so he entered the house as silently as he could, sliding the bolt gently home.
“I am awake, Kevin. It is all right.”
“What are you doing up? It’s very late, Abba.” He used the Hebrew word for father, as he always did.
Sol Laine, in pajamas and robe at the kitchen table, raised a quizzical eyebrow as Kevin walked in. “I need permission from my son to stay up late?”
“Who else’s?” Kevin dropped into one of the other chairs.
“A good answer,” his father approved. “Would you like some tea?”
“How was this talk?” Sol asked as he attended to the boiling kettle.
“Fine. Very good, actually. We had a drink with the speaker afterwards.” Kevin briefly considered telling his father about what had happened, but only briefly. Father and son had a long habit of protecting each other, and Kevin knew that this was something Sol would be unable to handle. He wished it were otherwise; it would have been good, he thought, a little bitterly, to have someone to talk to.
“Jennifer is well? And her friend?”
Kevin’s bitterness broke in a wave of love for the old man who’d raised him alone. Sol had never been able to reconcile his orthodoxy with his son’s relationship with Catholic Jennifer—and had resented himself for not being able to. So through their short time together, and after, Kevin’s father had treated Jen like a jewel of great worth.
“She’s fine. Says hello. Kim’s fine, too.”
“But Paul isn’t?”
Kevin blinked. “Oh, Abba, you’re too sharp for me. Why do you say that?”
“Because if he was, you would have gone out with him afterwards. The way you always used to. You would still be out. I would be drinking my tea alone, all alone.” The twinkle in his eyes belied the lugubrious sentiments.
Kevin laughed aloud, then stopped when he heard the bitter note creeping in.
“No, he’s not all right. But I seem to be the only one who questions it. I think I’m becoming a pain in the ass to him. I hate it.”
“Sometimes,” his father said, filling the glass cups in their Russian-style metal holders, “a friend has to be that.”
“No one else seems to think there’s anything wrong, though. They just talk about how it takes time.” “It does take time, Kevin.” Kevin made an impatient gesture. “I know it does. I’m not that stupid. But I know him, too, I know him very well, and he’s… There’s something else here, and I don’t know what it is.”
His father didn’t speak for a moment. “How long is it now?” he asked, finally.
“Ten months,” Kevin replied flatly. “Last summer.”
“Ach!” Sol shook his heavy, still-handsome head. “Such a terrible thing.”
Kevin leaned forward. “Abba, he’s been closing himself off. To everyone. I don’t… I’m afraid for what might happen. And I can’t seem to get through.”
“Are you trying too hard?” Sol Laine asked gently.
His son slumped back in his chair. “Maybe,” he said, and the old man could see the effort the answer took. “But it hurts, Abba, he’s all twisted up.”
Sol Laine, who had married late, had lost his wife to cancer when Kevin, their only child, was five years old. He looked now at his handsome, fair son with a twisting in his own heart. “Kevin,” he said, “you will have to learn—and for you it will be hard—that sometimes you can’t do anything. Sometimes you simply can’t.”
Kevin finished his tea. He kissed his father on the forehead and went up to bed in the grip of a sadness that was new to him, and a sense of yearning that was not.
He woke once in the night, a few hours before Kimberly would. Reaching for a note pad he kept by the bed, he scribbled a line and fell back into sleep. We are the total of our longings, he had written. But Kevin was a song-writer, not a poet, and he never did use it.
Paul Schafer walked home as well that night, north up Avenue Road and two blocks over at Bernard. His pace was slower than Dave’s, though, and you could not have told his thoughts or mood from his movements. His hands were in his pockets, and two or three times, where the streetlights thinned, he looked up at the ragged pattern of cloud that now hid and now revealed the moon.
Only at his doorway did his face show an expression—and this was only a transitory irresolution, as of someone weighing sleep against a walk around the block, perhaps.
Schafer went in, though, and unlocked his ground-floor apartment. Turning on a lamp in the living room, he poured himself a drink and carried the glass to a deep armchair. Again the pale face under the dark shock of hair was expressionless. And again, when his mouth and eyes did move, a long time later, it was to register only a kind of indecision, wiped away quickly this tune by the tightening jaw.
He leaned sideways then to the stereo and tape deck, turned them on, and inserted a cassette. In part because it was very late, but only in part, he adjusted the machine and put on the headphones. Then he turned out the only light in the room.
It was a private tape, one he had made himself a year ago. On it, as he sat there motionless in the dark, sounds from the summer before took shape: a graduation recital in the Faculty of Music’s Edward Johnson Building, by a girl named Rachel Kincaid. A girl with dark hair like his own and dark eyes like no one else in this world.
And Paul Schafer, who believed one should be able to endure anything, and who believed this of himself most of all, listened as long as he could, and failed again. When the second movement began, he shuddered through an indrawn breath and stabbed the machine to silence.
It seemed that there were still things one could not do. So one did everything else as well as the one possibly could and found new things to try, to will oneself to master, and always one realized, at the kernel and heart of things, that the ends of the earth would not be far enough away.
Which was why, despite knowing very well that there were things they had not been told, Paul Schafer was glad, bleakly glad, to be going farther than the ends of the earth on the morrow. And the moon, moving then to shine unobstructed through the window, lit the room enough to reveal the serenity of his face.
And in the place beyond the ends of earth, in Fionavar, which lay waiting for them like a lover, like a dream, another moon, larger than our own, rose to light the changing of the wardstone guard in the palace of Paras Derval.
The priestess appointed came with the new guards, tended and banked the naal flame set before the stone, and withdrew, yawning, to her narrow bed.
And the stone, Ginserat’s stone, set in its high obsidian pillar carved with a relief of Conary before the Mountain, shone still, as it had a thousand years, radiantly blue.