The Gears Turn

Adam had been out Saturday afternoon. For the first time he had had no intention of doing any work over the weekend. He was behind, but he couldn't bring himself to care. He had other things on his mind. Stories, actually. After Kat's last message, writing Friday, then watching the movie, he suddenly had all these ideas in his head. It had been so long since he had felt inspired to do anything, especially write.

He'd decided to go sit in a coffee shop. His apartment was starting to feel suffocating. Before, he'd thought he'd have a house by now. He could have had. He just never got around to looking. He'd been just along for the ride in his own life, something he was just starting to realize. What he was going to do about that, however, was still up for debate.

It had been late afternoon by the time he had gotten home. Writing had felt like stretching long-unused muscles. It was awkward and uncomfortable, but at the same time it felt good. He remembered what it had felt like; vestiges of that were left as he struggled through the writing. When his hands started to cramp and wrists started to ache he had a good chunk of another new story. It was rough still, but he had a feeling it was going to be good once he finished it and polished it up. It might even be as good as his old stuff, although he was not sure. He had never been good at judging his own work. Kat had always filled that role.

Stepping inside his apartment, he set down his messenger bag, closed the door, and hung up his coat. Shoes next, then he padded to the phone. He found himself checking it more often now, whenever he got home. Just in case.

The light flashed. There was a message waiting for him! His heart started to speed as excitement burned through his veins. He tried to play it cool. It was ridiculous, of course. If the message was from Kat, and he reminded himself it could be his parents, then she couldn't see if he lept at the phone like a kid going for candy. But he still tried to play it cool.

He picked up the phone and got to his voice mail. One new message. The quick press of buttons, then he held his breath until the message started.

"Hi Adam, it's me again. I'm in the next stop, I found this lovely store. I bought some clothes there, a denim dress, it feels so, well wonderful. Several other nice clothes as well, I feel, well just like everyone else again!"

His knees almost went out as he heard her voice. It made him smile as she started telling him about the clothes. They sounded great. Kinda small-town, girl-next-door clothes. The girl Kat had been before. He laughed out loud at the idea of her being just like everyone else, though. She could never be just like everyone else. Not Kat. She always stood out.

"I also found a silver necklace with a gear on it. Looks like it may have been from a clock, remember when you nearly got your story published? The main character gave his love interest a polished gear from his first invention? So part of him will always be with her. Well I got part of you with me now, I just hope you are getting these, I.." her voice stammered.

He remembered the story. Remembered that necklace. He'd meant to get her one when it was published, have it custom-made, but then that had fallen through. Then he'd gotten the PR job and everything had fallen apart. The fact that she'd found a necklace like that, that she'd gotten it, it was a little surreal. Like fate or something. She'd chosen it to have a piece of him with her. Hope flared inside him. Until that moment he hadn't been quite sure why she was coming back. He'd thought about it, wondered, but he hadn't quite allowed himself to hope. Now, though....

"I'll be catching the next bus in a few hours. Adam-I-" and she broke off, then he heard the click of her hanging up. There was a stunned look on his face, not that anyone could see it. Had she really been about to say... well, what he thought she'd been about to say? It scared him. At the same time it felt a little like he just started to live.

He hung up the phone and spent the evening watching old movies, stuff he and Kat had loved. Or she had loved and he had tolerated. Then he had fallen into bed to dream of her, of the way things had been between them. Before he had tried to make her give up her dream. Before she had tried to make him go with her.

When he woke up the day seemed just a little bit brighter. Even the fact that it was Sunday and he was supposed to have lunch with his parents couldn't dim his excitement. It wasn't that he didn't love them, that they didn't support him. They had wanted all the best for him. He understood that. He had agreed with them, at the time.

They had been the ones to encourage him to take the PR job. Sure, he was a talented writer. Of course he shouldn't give up his dream. At the same time, he needed to think about now, about the future. What if he didn't make it, didn't become a bestseller? He needed to be able to support himself, have something to fall back on.

As he got ready to go out to the home he had grown up in, he thought about all that. Thought about the past, not only the role Kat had played in it, but the role his parents had played. And the role he had played. He did not try to fool himself that it had been his parents' fault that he had ended up in the job he had taken. They hadn't forced him. He had chosen it. It had made sense at the time.

It didn't anymore. It had taken Kat calling to make him realize that his job didn't make him happy. Not only that, it was killing him. Not literally, but he was hardly living either. It was time to stop being afraid of what if. He knew he could make it work. There was enough money in his account to hold him for a while. More than enough. He'd been careful long enough.

Now it was time to take a chance.

When his mother opened the door she looked at him with her head tilted, considering. "You look different. What's happened?" Just like his mother to notice.

He just laughed and hugged her. "Just wait for Dad. Easier to talk to the both of you. It's good to see you."

That simple phrase made his mother's eyes widen. It had been a long time since her son had said that to her. Hearing those words from him gave her the need to hold back tears. It was silly, of course, but they had always accused her of being overly emotional.

As they both stepped inside, Adam looked at his mother. She was getting older. Her hair was grey, although she kept it cropped short enough that it did not look silver. She was still active, still bright and alive. But she was worn around the edges too. Not in a bad way, but he could see the lines around her eyes and her mouth from smiling. And from worry.

Walking into the kitchen he saw his father seated at the table, his place-setting pushed aside to give him space to set a wood-working catalogue on the table in front of him. His head lifted as he heard Adam approach and he smiled. He too was looking worn, lines carved in his face, most of his hair gone.

Seeing him, Adam winced a bit, thinking that he was going to lose his hair too. Not something he looked forward to. He also noticed that his father was no longer the superhero he had always thought the man to be. He was a man who had worked hard to support his family, to give his son a chance for something different.

Smiling, Adam walked around the table and squeezed his dad's shoulder as he tugged open the fridge, pulling out the juice to fulfill the usual rituals.

His mother busied herself gathering the food. It was always ready when he arrived, always waiting. It was sad, really, how it had become a ritual of quickness. Quickly in, quickly out. Yet another sign that he had stopped living.

As she set the food on the table, Adam helped rearrange the dishes and platters. Pork chops, rice, peas. All things he liked well enough, the kind of comfortable food his mother was known for. Kat had always liked it, the fact that it didn't come in microwavable containers, wasn't pizza or french fries. His mom had even tried to teach Kat how to cook. Nothing fancy, but enough to survive. It had resulted in some incredibly amusing incidents with the smoke alarm.

Adam's father pushed his catalogue out of the way, straightening his plate and utensils before digging into the food. For a few moments there was simply the sound of utensils against plates, the sounds of eating filling the space.

After a couple bites, Adam set down his fork and looked at his mom, then his dad. Taking a deep breath, he readied himself. "I'm quitting my job."

That hadn't been what he'd meant to say. He had intended to lead into it slowly, work his way up to it. Well, it was done now. He felt better. He even smiled.

His dad blinked at him, trying to comprehend just what was going on. His mother's eyes had widened and her lips parted, about to say something. Then she closed her mouth again and looked at him. Really looked at him.

"This is a good thing, isn't it? I didn't know it was so bad. Why didn't you say something? What are you going to do instead? Do you already have another job?" The barrage of questions was not quite what Adam had expected. It was not the horror he had been sure he'd hear.

"I have to say, it's about time. I didn't want to stick my nose in, but you hated that job. You just seemed to be working so hard at it," his father said.

Adam just stared at his parents, open-mouthed. "I... really? You aren't going to yell at me? Or tell me this is stupid? What do you mean, 'it's about time' Dad? You... you knew?" 

Adam's father laughed. "Of course. I'm not blind, even if you are. But you were determined. It's your life. So..." there was a pause, then his dad rubbed a hand over his bald head, "are you going back to writing? Those stories you used to write. They were good. I always thought you should have kept up with them. But after..." his father broke off, glancing at Adam's mother and wincing.

She quickly jumped in, trying to cover up the slip her husband had made. "If that's what you want, son, then you should do it."

"Well." It was all Adam could think of to say.

Lunch proceeded, better than he had expected. He actually talked with his parents about what he could do, how long he could go feasibly without a job, what else he could do to help pay the bills in the meantime. Ideas about his writing, about publishing. It was pretty amazing, really.

As he was driving home, Adam couldn't believe how good it had felt to actually be part of the family again.

He owed it all to Kat. He just wished he could tell her.

The End

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