Something touched Farah's hand as she lay sleeping. She woke at once, remembering. Opening her eyes, she looked into the beseeching brown eyes of the dog Rex. She muffled a giggle. Wasn't the beautiful princess supposed to be awakened by a kiss from the handsome prince after her first night of love? Surely not by the wet nose of a dog needing to relieve himself!
Noel still slept. Farah slipped from the bed and went through the house to let the dog out. Returning to bed, she snuggled up to Noel's back and kissed his bare shoulder. Should she rouse him? They had been awake most of the night, talking, making plans, making love. She decided to let him sleep. It was only seven o'clock and he didn't plan to go to his office until after lunch.
For Farah, sleep was now out of the question. She rose and pattered to Jason's bathroom, feeling in the mood for a tub bath -- a long, sensuous bath in that sunken tub. Maybe even a bubble bath.
In a state of euphoria, she soaked in the warm water and admired the flowers through the plate glass wall. Everything was so beautiful: the weather, her life, Noel. His love had purged her of the deep loneliness that had grown in her until she had sought to end her life. Dear Jason, he had saved her from that. He had saved her for Noel.
Dressing quickly in casual clothes, she went outside. The rain clouds of yesterday had given way to fleecy white cumuli against a bright blue sky, and the sun was beginning to chase away the chill.
After gathering a bouquet of Jason's prize-winning roses, she was starting back to the house when Noel appeared in the open doorway wearing a pair of Jason's pajamas, much too big for him around the middle and a little short in the legs and sleeves.
"You weren't there when I woke up. I came to find you," he said, like a child who feared it had been abandoned.
Farah dropped the flowers on a bench and ran to his arms. He gathered her in and kissed her hungrily, and she went with him into the house, forgetting the flowers.
Later, as they lingered over brunch, Noel said he had better be going. "I'll be back as soon as I can," he said as he left.
On Monday morning they went back to their respective apartments. Vacation over, Farah returned to her studies and Noel started work on a new project that demanded much of his time. Their meetings had to be snatched when Noel could get away, usually late at night. It was difficult to recapture the intimacy they had shared that first weekend at the house, because even though it was never mentioned they both felt the need for secrecy.
Judy was still holding Noel to his promise. Farah tried not to feel resentful, not always successfully. Her relationship with Noel had been based on his being free to marry her soon, and she was not entirely comfortable in their present situation.
Weekends when they were together at the house were the happiest. But even this time was not entirely free. Noel spent part of almost every Saturday with Judy, usually in the forenoon, but occasionally he took her to lunch, for a drive, or some entertainment, leaving Farah alone at the house.
One Saturday morning in April, Monica called. "Farah," she asked, "have you ever been to Disneyland?"
"Once with friends." This was true; she had gone only once as Farah. "Why?"
"My cousin from the East is here for the weekend with his kids and they're dying to see Disneyland. Are you free to go with us today and help me entertain them?"
Noel was seeing Judy early in order to have the rest of the day with Farah. In a spirit of perversity she told Monica, "I'd love to. What time? What's sauce for the goose can be sauce for the gander, she thought, surprised to find herself feeling spiteful.
"They want to see everything," Monica answered, "so we plan to get an early start. About ten?"
"That's fine with me."
"We'll pick you up at ten, then," Monica said.
Noel's first remark when she told him over the phone was, "How old are these kids?"
"Monica didn't say. Does it matter?"
"It does if they're boys your age."
"You're jealous," she said, rather pleased. "Don't you trust me?"
"I don't trust any man around you. Especially young boys."
"The boys I can handle," she said. "It's the fascinating older men who turn me on."
"All of them?"
The "kids" turned out to be a young man of twenty named Ken and a girl of fourteen named Sharon. It was obvious that Ken was bowled over at first glance. He was a rather diffident young man with intelligent brown eyes behind hornrimmed glasses, and a tendency to blush when spoken to. As the day wore on and the three of them screamed and clutched each other during the more adventurous rides, his manner relaxed and Farah found herself liking him very much.
She and Sharon took to each other at once. The younger girl hung on to Farah's every word, and by midafternoon so obviously adored her that it became something of an embarrassment.
Ken and Sharon wanted to see Hollywood, and Monica suggested dinner there. Since they all took it for granted that Farah would go along, she found a phone booth and called Noel's apartment.
"Do you mind?" Farah asked him after explaining the situation.
"Of course I mind." He sounded a little peevish. "The whole weekend's shot."
"You know I'd rather be with you, Noel. But I owe Monica. She was the one that brought us together."
"There are other ways you could repay her."
"I wish you wouldn't take that attitude. I wait around for you plenty of Saturdays."
There was a long silence. Then he said in a penitent voice, "I'm sorry, Farah. I was out of line."
Her irritation vanished. "It's okay, darling. Why don't you go out to the house? I'll get there as soon as I can after dinner."
It was around ten when she got home. Noel met her at the door, looking upset. "Where've you been all this time?" he asked.
"I came as soon as I could. It takes time to get around in California." I'm not going to quarrel with him, she thought.
"Or maybe you were having too good a time. How old did these "kids" turn out to be?"
"Sharon's fourteen and Ken's twenty."
"So that's why you couldn't tear yourself away. I suppose Monica was trying her hand at matchmaking."
"Don't be ridiculous, it was nothing like that. Anyway, she doesn't know about us." All of a sudden she was very angry. "Did you expect me to tell her? She knows you're still married."
He got very red in the face. "Don't throw that up to me, Farah. Nobody forced you."
"Dammit, Noel," she began, but suddenly all the anger drained from her and she ran and put her arms around him. "I'm sorry, darling, I shouldn't have gone."
He stood within her grasp stiff and unyielding. At her words he relaxed and put his arms around her. "I'm a fool, Farah," he said, "a jealous middle-aged fool. I'm sorry." He held her off and looked at her. "You must be tired."
"Not really. Aside from being weary of all that adoration from a teenage girl."
"Not from little Kenny?" He managed to make it sound like a joke.
Relief flooded her. "Him, too, if you must know."
"Don't you like to be adored?"
"Well, there's adoration, and then there's Adoration. I don't mind if you adore me." She kissed his chin.
"You know what that kind of talk leads to, don't you?"
"You chasing me around the furniture?"
"Can you postpone the chase until I've had a shower?"
"Okay, but I'm a very impatient man."
"I'll hurry." She was laughing as she started for the shower. But she felt uneasy. A small serpent had invaded Paradise.
Noel lay awake a long time, disturbed by his jealousy and the angry words he and Farah had exchanged. I've been living in a fool's paradise, he told himself, expecting a girl like Farah to be satisfied indefinitely with our present arrangement.
If only he could make her understand about Judy. Maybe he hadn't tried hard enough. He hadn't told her much of anything about his family. She hadn't seemed to want to know. Now he felt he would have to try to explain or run the risk of losing her. This decision relaxed him and he finally fell into a deep slumber.
As they sat drinking their coffee on the patio the next morning, he broached the subject. "Look, Farah," he said. "I know you think I've spoiled Judy, that I shouldn't let her run my life. And you're right. But I'd like to explain something."
"I'm listening," she said.
"The fact is, I've been on a guilt trip about Judy ever since she was born. She was a blue baby, and right away had to have as operation. For days it was touch and go. I knew it was my fault."
"How could it possibly been your fault?"
"Because when I found out Barbara was pregnant with Judy, I wanted her to have an abortion. We already had two small children and I didn't see how we could handle another. I was just getting started in my career and I owed Barbara's father a lot of money."
"Was she an only child?"
"She was all he had. A widower, no other children. Lots of money," he said. "Barbara was shocked that I wanted her to have an abortion, and he thought I was a monster for even suggesting it. Of course I backed down, but it put an awful strain on our marriage, especially when Judy was born a blue baby."
"Has she always been sickly?"
"No, she came out of it after the operation and was fine. Until she was twelve. Then she became very ill and none of the doctors we consulted could find out what was wrong. They tried every treatment available, but nothing helped. About two years ago they tried a new drug on her which brought her out of it."
Farah looked at him sharply. "Did you then feel cleansed of your guilt? Did you think she got well because you had done something to atone for your crime of not wanting her in the first place?"
"What do you mean by that?" He felt somehow vaguely threatened.
"Well, did you?" she insisted.
"Of course not. What are you getting at?"
"If it had been your fault in the first place, wouldn't you have had to make atonement in order to bring about a recovery?"
"I see what you mean. I don't know that I buy it."
"You poor darling, don't you see that none of it could possibly have been your fault? Have you ever talked to anyone else about how you feel?"
"Judy's doctor. And, well, Barbara."
"Do they think it's your fault?"
"The doctor, no." He shrugged. "Barbara, only when she's mad at me."
Farah wasn't through with her questions. "Did you and Barbara quarrel a lot?"
"Toward the end, I guess we did."
"Did any of these quarrels send Judy into a relapse?"
He thought about it. "I don't recall that they did. Maybe once or twice. I'm not sure."
"When she's well does Judy go out much or take part in school activities? Does she have a boyfriend?"
He wondered why she was asking all these questions, but he said in a light tone, "No to all of the above."
"Noel," there was urgency in Farah's voice, "I think you should get Judy to a psychiatrist at once. She needs help. Not just to get you off the hook. For Her sake. Before it's too late."
He looked amused. "You're not suggesting she's losing her marbles!"
"Of course not. She just needs help in coping. You don't know what it's like for kids nowadays. Everything's changing. Lots of kids are intimidated by the new freedom, the new morality, by other kids who are into drugs and sex and violence. Judy sees all this on TV. She probably thinks that's the way most kids her age are now. She clings to you as her buffer against getting involved in all that."
"You really think that? If you're right, I'd better talk to Judy. I'll see what Barbara thinks and we can both talk to her."
Her vehemence had startled him and made him uneasy. Maybe Farah is using me as a buffer against all that, he thought.