The Complete Stories (Page 211)
"Even to Georgette."
"I wasn’t giving two thoughts to Georgette. You don’t believe me, I suppose."
"Maybe I do." She looked up at him. "I’ve been silly, Norman. Let’s- let’s live our real life. Let’s not play with all the things that just might have been."
But he caught her hands. "No, Liwy. One last time. Let’s see what we would have been doing right now, Liwy! This very minute! If I had married Georgette."
Liwy was a little frightened. "Let’s not, Norman." She was thinking of his eyes, smiling hungrily at her as he held the shaker, while Georgette stood beside her, unregarded. She didn’t want to know what happened afterward. She just wanted this life now, this good life.
New Haven came and went.
Norman said again, "I want to try, Liwy."
She said, "If you want to, Norman." She decided fiercely that it wouldn’t matter. Nothing would matter. Her hands reached out and encircled his arm. She held it tightly, and while she held it she thought: "Nothing in the make-believe can take him from me."
Norman said to the little man, "Set ’em up again."
In the yellow light the process seemed to be slower. Gently the frosted slab cleared, like clouds being torn apart and dispersed by an unfelt wind.
Norman was saying, "There’s something wrong. That’s just the two of us, exactly as we are now."
He was right. Two little figures were sitting in a train on the seats which were farthest toward the front. The field was enlarging now-they were merging into it. Norman’s voice was distant and fading.
"It’s the same train," he was saying. "The window in back is cracked just as-"
Liwy was blindingly happy. She said, "I wish we were in New York."
He said, "It will be less than an hour, darling." Then he said, "I’m going to kiss you." He made a movement, as though he were about to begin.
"Not here! Oh, Norman, people are looking."
Norman drew back. He said, "We should have taken a taxi."
"From Boston to New York?"
"Sure. The privacy would have been worth it."
She laughed. "You’re funny when you try to act ardent."
"It isn’t an act." His voice was suddenly a little somber. "It’s not just an hour, you know. I feel as though I’ve been waiting five years."
"I do, too."
"Why couldn’t I have met you first? It was such a waste."
"Poor Georgette," Liwy sighed.
Norman moved impatiently. "Don’t be sorry for her, Liwy. We never really made a go of it. She was glad to get rid of me."
"I know that. That’s why I say ‘Poor Georgette.’ I’m just sorry for her for not being able to appreciate what she had."
"Well, see to it that you do," he said. "See to it that you’re immensely appreciative, infinitely appreciative-or more than that, see that you’re at least half as appreciative as I am of what I’ve got."
"Or else you’ll divorce me, too?"
"Over my dead body," said Norman.
Liwy said, "It’s all so strange. I keep thinking; ‘What if you hadn’t spilt the cocktails on me that time at the party?’ You wouldn’t have followed me out; you wouldn’t have told me; I wouldn’t have known. It would have been so different . . . everything."
"Nonsense. It would have been just the same. It would have all happened another time."
"I wonder," said Liwy softly.
Train noises merged into train noises. City lights flickered outside, and the atmosphere of New York was about them. The coach was astir with travelers dividing the baggage among themselves.
Liwy was an island in the turmoil until Norman shook her.
She looked at him and said, "The jigsaw pieces fit after all."
He said, "Yes."
She put a hand on his. "But it wasn’t good, just the same. I was very wrong. I thought that because we had each other, we should have all the possible each others. But all the possibles are none of our business. The real is enough. Do you know what I mean?"
She said, "There are millions of other what ifs. I don’t want to know what happened in any of them. I’ll never say ‘What if again."
Norman said, "Relax, dear. Here’s your coat." And he reached for the suitcases.
Liwy said with sudden sharpness, "Where’s Mr. If?"
Norman turned slowly to the empty seat that faced them. Together they scanned the rest of the coach.
"Maybe," Norman said, "he went into the next coach."
"But why? Besides, he wouldn’t leave his hat." And she bent to pick it up.
Norman said, "What hat?"
And Liwy stopped her fingers hovering over nothingness. She said, "It was here-I almost touched it." She straightened and said, "Oh, Norman, what if-"
Norman put a finger on her mouth. "Darling . . ."
She said, "I’m sorry. Here, let me help you with the suitcases."
The train dived into the tunnel beneath Park Avenue, and the noise of the wheels rose to a roar.
Sally was coming down the lake road, so I waved to her and called her by name. I always liked to see Sally. I liked all of them, you understand, but Sally’s the prettiest one of the lot. There just isn’t any question about it.
She moved a little faster when I waved to her. Nothing undignified. She was never that. She moved just enough faster to show that she was glad to see me, too.
I turned to the man standing beside me. "That’s Sally," I said.
He smiled at me and nodded.
Mrs. Hester had brought him in. She said, "This is Mr. Gellhorn, Jake. You remember he sent you the letter asking for an appointment."