Cathy Hildebrant and Sam Markham sat in silence outside her East Side condo-the intermittent sound of the windshield wipers swiping in time to the dull tick-tick of the Trailblazer’s idling motor. Since his return from Quantico, they had been in this position many times-sitting like teenagers in the car outside the Polks’ in what Cathy had come to think of as their stereotypical “awkward end of the date scene.”
Unlike the afternoon two weeks earlier when she had kissed him on the cheek, Cathy had yet to make such a bold move again. Upon his return from Quantico, Markham seemed distant-much more professional and much less apt to reveal anything personal. Even on the handful of occasions when they had been alone in his tiny office in downtown Providence, working on his computer and studying the printouts from Boston late into the evening, Special Agent Sam Markham always made sure that he was occupied away from her, always made sure that he did not get physically too close to his new partner. And on the one occasion when he accidentally brushed up against her-the only time their eyes met and their faces were so close that Cathy was sure he’d kiss her-instead, Markham only smiled and turned his flushed cheeks away from her.
But worse than anything, Cathy thought, was that in all their interviews, in all their trips around New England in the Trailblazer to question this person or that, Special Agent Sam Markham had yet to reach for her hand again.
Something was wrong; something was holding him back.
Deep down Cathy understood this-could feel it in a way that she had never felt before-but her conscious, rational side simply could not sort it out, did not know what to do with this knowledge, this newfound perception into a man’s heart-a man who seemed at once so close but yet still so distant from her.
“You’re going to be all right staying alone now?” Markham asked finally.
“Yes. Janet and Dan are leaving for the beach tomorrow. They want me to go with them, of course-and I will visit this summer-but I need to cut the cord and get back on my own. I’ll call them once I get inside and let them know I’ll be staying here tonight. After all, this is my home now.”
“I don’t want you to be afraid of anything, Cathy. We’ll still have people watching you around the clock. I’ll make sure they know you’re back here. And you know you can always call me, too.”
The awkward silence again.
“What is it, Sam?” The question had fallen from Cathy’s lips before she realized she was speaking, and Markham looked taken aback.
“What do you mean?”
“It’s just that, well, I thought-” As she met his gaze, when she saw behind his eyes what she knew to be his feelings for her retreating once again, suddenly Cathy felt foolish-felt like she wanted to cry, like she had to get out of there.
“I’m sorry,” she said, gathering her things. “It’s just me being stupid. Just give me a call when you need me again.”
“Cathy,” Markham said, “Cathy, wait.”
But she had already slammed the door-her heels clicking noisily on the cement walkway as she made her way to the porch. Markham sat frozen, helpless behind the wheel. Then, in a flash of impulse, he was out-caught up to her just as she stepped inside. The bundle of mail fell to the floor; and when Cathy turned to him, when Markham saw the tears in her eyes, he finally gave over to his heart and kissed her.
There, into the evening, they made love amidst a sea of cardboard boxes-all the while oblivious to the muted phone calls that went on F"ur Elise-ing in Cathy’s handbag.