She heard it all, At 94, Mildred Panflick felt younger than springtime. She was able to tolerate wakefulness with consummate grace. There was no rise in her steady heartbeat when, from down the hall, came the pleasant sounds of love-making. The ringing phone surprised her. She could hear every word. Adam sounded cold, as if he was avoiding something. More words. Then the front door opened. Then Adam returned. There was a welcome change in tone. Then she fell softly to sleep.
Adam sat in the chair by the phone in his underwear. He did not exactly look at Ellie. She watched him.
Abba whose home in heaven is
Hallowed and holy is your name
Let your realm come your will be done
Till earth and heaven are the same
He sang to himself, knowing, enjoying an inner exaltation.
Give us this day our daily bread
Forgive the wrongs that we have done
As we forgive those who do wrong
Lead us not into temptation
There! He exhaled audibly, then smiled. He looked at Ellie. “Whew,” he said involuntarily.
When Ellie was fourteen, Terwilliger tried to rape her. He walked in the back door. She was taking a shower. He crossed the floor and stood there. The house was empty. It was spring. He had been following her forever. He had never seen anyone so beautiful. He had come close to trying before, but held back. He was scared. He was heavy-set, almost chubby. He had a wife and kids. He could not speak. At first she did not notice. Then she did. When they finally struggled, she instinctively reached for his finger, the one with the big gold ring, and yanked it back as hard as she could. She felt it break. He was still yelling at her as she ran into the kitchen and called the cops.
Terwilliger got off with a light reprimand from the chief. The incident served to turn what had been an obsession into a calculated rectitude which served him well as he rose to succeed the chief and eventually retired with a measure of honor. The Inn hired him to supervise their security. He watched TV accounts of rapists and abusers of women and girls and thanked the Lord he was not as they.
Ellie watched Adam and noted the change.
"What's happening?" she said. "What were you doing?"
"Mm mm," Adam chuckled. "Getting forgiven. Forgiving. It's reciprocal."
Ellie's green eyes opened wider. "What?"
"Terwilliger spooked me. I forgot myself. I needed to sit."
"Would you care to answer my question. What were you doing?"
Adam wanted nothing more than to answer her but it was not something he could say in ten seconds or perhaps even in an hour and he was hardly settled on whether he wanted to carry this on.
"Can you just say one word to explain what you mean by reciprocal?" Ellie said.