AN ACCOMPLISHED WOMAN
From Chapter 13:
“We could marry each other,” Catherine says. “You’re younger than Jack. People like us get married all the time. We could wait until I’m twenty.”
She stops a luna moth as it drifts near; it balances on her palm. “But you don’t get married just because of this,” she says after a little while. “How long does it last?” The luna flies from her outstretched hand.
“I have to go to France.”
“Do you want to start, and then leave when it’s not over?”
“I don’t know,” he says.
“Then I’ve got to think about it,” Catherine says. “Not go flying off like I’ve been doing.”
Thorn tries to smile a little, tries to meet her eyes. “That’s the idea, I suppose. Feeling better?” His eyes are almost blue-black.
“No.” Catherine shrinks against the doorway. “You’re still talking to me with your hands…even your clothes! Why?” Her voice goes up, exasperated.
“Maybe that’s what Jack and Shirley were after, leaning and rubbing and smiling. Wanting us to feel like that.”
“But what would they do with us if they got us? They’re not the kind of people we—“
“Maybe they don’t think that far ahead. What would Shirley do with me—“ Then he cries, “Sorry!”
She’s already out of sight down the hall. “I didn’t think!” he calls after her, but the only answer is the sound of her bare feet on the stairs.
Thorn walks through the garden to the darkening barn. In a moment there’s a slender shadow in the doorway, hands spread to the splintered wood.
“I’ve been thinking,” Catherine says to the dark, dusty air of the barn. All she can see is the blur of Thorn’s white shirt. “I want to go on. In case we can get through to the other side.” He says nothing. “In case we want to marry when it’s all over and we can tell. We could, you know.”
“How long does this last?”
She can see him a little better now; he raises two big hands, palms up, in a gesture that seems French. He waits, letting her think in this dim place, saying as little as he can. “You’ll have to hide what you’re doing.”
“I know. And I’ll have to go to college, and you’ll have to go to France.”
“We agreed that would be the best thing.”
“There’s something…” Catherine’s voice is softer as she turns away; it strengthens as she turns back “…in the air. Can you feel it? All the time we’re been talking, ever since this morning, colors are different, and everything feels like it’s touching me…it almost seems to hurt.”
“It gets worse,” Thorn says from the depths of the barn. “Take it slowly. Don’t start at all unless you’re sure it’s what you want.”
He takes a step in the twilight. Night wind off the lake bends sumac outside the barn door, then releases it in a rustle of leaves.
“I want to begin,” Catherine says. She is quiet then, thinking, and might be alone in the barn; there’s no sound but the night wind in the leaves.
He feels her hands on his shoulders. “I’m not afraid,” she says.
“No,” he says in the second before all that will scare them both explodes when she kisses him.
It’s worse than he thought it would be—the dark, the spring dark—this voice, this mouth.
Whatever they’re saying makes no sense, but he won’t grab, or take. He thinks of nothing at all, and will not touch her, fighting not to be there.