Toward the end of May, Farah suggested to Noel that they start making plans for a summer vacation together. Noel was busy on a new project and thought he might not be able to get away until late in the season. Even on Saturdays he usually went to the office, often for only a few hours, but it didn't leave much time for them to be together.
"How long is this job going to last?" she asked.
"I'm rushing to get things ready for a conference in the East in a few weeks. After that things should slow down."
"The summer will probably be over before that happens. Why can't I go East with you?" She knew he was going to say No.
"I'll be tied up day and night. It wouldn't be any fun for you"
"But we'd be together."
He ran his hand across his eyes with a weary gesture, and she noticed how tired he looked. I mustn't nag him, she thought. "Anyway." she said as if he had spoken, "I shouldn't leave, either. I have to keep my nose to the grindstone, too." She wondered if he realized how relieved he looked.
Their relationship seemed to be slowly eroding. They quarreled over small things, because neither wanted to mantion the real issue -- Judy's hold over him. Farah told herself in secret that he should be man enough to be in command of the situation. Noel, in turn, thought it unreasonable of Farah to be unwilling to wait a year.
The real reason for Farah's uneasiness stemmed from Noel's reluctance to be seen with her in public. She hated this lurking around. She had given up seeing just about everyone else, even Suzi, because she didn't want to have to explain anything.
But she couldn't let things get spoiled this time. She would have to try to understand Noel's situation. His work would suffer if she didn't. She knew the knowledge of her wealth had already unsettled him. She remembered belately that most of his problems with Barbara had stemmed from his having to play second fiddle to her father's money.
After this little talking-to Farah gave herself, she became so considerate of Noel that he finally rebelled.
"You're treating me like an invalid," he complained peevishly. "What the hell is going on? Have you learned I'm dying or something?"
Farah laughed. "I suddenly realized what a prize I have and I'm trying to protect my investment."
"Come here," he said, and drew her down into his arms. "Don't ever leave me, Farah. I couldn't live withoutyou."
"You know I could never leave you. I love you too much."
He was showering her with kisses. "I'm an idiot, darling. I've been neglecting you. No job is worth running the risk of losing you for."
"You can't neglect your work for me, Noel."
"Well, for tonight I can. I'm going to forget all about work," he said. "Why don't we go out for dinner? Any place you say."
"You mean it?" He nodded. "Let's just ride and ride until we find a romantic place."
She sat close to him as they rode, her arm around his shoulder. I've been wrong about him, she told herself. He hasn't willfully avoided taking me out. He just hasn't wanted to go out. Most men his age with a demanding job prefer to stay home. What did I expect, dates and flowers and candy? We're beyond that. Still, even comfortable old married people maintained a social life and this had been missing in their relationship. She was pleased to be going out with Noel.
"This place looks nice," Noel said finally. "Are you getting as hungry as I am?"
"Golly," Farah looked at her watch. "It's nine o'clock. Let's try it."
Under low-hanging eaves the restaurant was dimly lighted, but floodlights pointed up attractive shrubbery and small palm trees. Only a smattering of cars dotted the parking lot as Noel pulled in. A hostess showed them to their table and summoned a waiter, who took their bar order.
As they sipped their drinks, a woman with a beautiful figure and a face which showed signs of having been around passed their table on her way out, followed by a man about Noel's age. He stopped when he saw them, looking disconcerted.
Noel looked up. "Why, hello, Walter." His face registered ambarrassment. "Just leaving?"
"Oh, hi, Noel." Walter was nervous. "How've you been?"
"Very busy, as usual." There was caution in Noel's voice. He turned awkwardly to Farah, and said, "This is Miss Fuller, a distant cousin. I'm showing her the sights."
"Nice to meet you, Miss Fuller." Walter didn't offer to introduce his companion. "Got to get going," he said abruptly. "Late for an appointment." He took the woman's arm and scurried off.
Farah was staring at Noel. "I don't believe you," she said.
Noel, very red if the face, was flustered. "I tried to handle it tactfully. I guess I acted like a fool."
"You certainly did!" She was rigid with anger. "You made me feel cheap and dirty."
He stiffened. "He took me by surprise. I didn't know what to say."
"You could have tried, 'This is the girl I'm going to marry'. Or maybe that isn't what you have in mind at all."
"Farah ..." he began furiously. But before he could continue, the waiter came to take their order.
"We're not staying," Farah told him, pushing back her chair. "My Father has to get home to his other family." She jumped to her feet and stalked out.
Noel paid for the drinks and followed Farah outside. She was sitting in the car, fury showing in every line of her body.
"Well, that was just beautiful," he said through clenched teeth. He jammed the key in the lock. "You made me look like a fool."
"That wasn't hard to do."
"What the hell's the matter with you?"
"Don't speak to me. Just take me home." She huddled close to the door.
Noel started the engine and went blasting out of the parking lot, tires screaming.
"Dammit, Noel, slow down. Do you want to get us killed?" She fastened the seat belt which she usually ignored.
He didn't answer but moderated the speed somewhat. Neither of them spoke during the long ride home. When Noel drove into the underground garage of her apartment building, Farah sprang out and darted up the stairs without waiting for the elevator. She was fumbling at the lock when Noel caught up with her. Wrenching the door open, she ran inside and headed for the bedroom. He followed.
"What was so terrible about what I said?" He was almost shouting.
Farah was now in a cold rage. "Why do we have to keep sneaking around?" she asked. "You're not living with Barbara. Or are you? Maybe there's something I don't know."
"You know damn well I'm not living with Barbara."
"You didn't answer my question."
"What question?" He was standing with one arm out of his jacket, his intention forgotten.
"What question, he says," she sneered.
"I wasn't aware we were sneaking around." Some of the steam had gone out of his anger.
"Well, of course, from your point of view we haven't been sneaking around. We were merely skulking at home. You've been afraid someone would see us together."
"That's not true!" But he was now on the defensive.
"Are you going to answere my question?" She knew the answer. She wanted to hear Him say it.
"I thought I had."
She moved in close, her fists clenched. "WHY?" she demanded between her teeth.
"You know why. Judy...." His voice trailed off.
"Judy, Judy, Judy," she mimicked in imitation of the imitators of Cary Grant.
"Well, I made her a promise. Do you really want me to break my word?"
"You promised Judy you'd never look at another woman? That you'd introduce her as your cousin or mother or something if you got caught out in public with a girl?"
All his defenses crumbled. "I'm sorry, Farah. What I did was stupid."
"It certainly was."
"Walter's wife knows Barbara. I just reacted mindlessly."
"You thought that was his wife?"
"That floozie? He was more embarrassed than you were. You notice he didn't introduce her. He didn't want you to know he's been fooling around." She pounded him on the chest. "You didn't want him to know You've been fooling around. That's what it amounts to, isn't it? You've just been fooling around." In her anger she almost believed it herself.
"Dammit, Farah," he shouted, his face white, "if that's how you feel I'll call Judy right now and tell her I'm going to get a divorce and marry you."
"At this time of night?"
"I don't care if it's three o'clock in the morning." He grabbed the phone and started to dial. She tried to stop him but he shoved her away with his elbow.
Someone answered at the other end. "I want to talk to Judy," Noel said loudly. He listened. His expression changed. "Oh, dear God," he groaned. "I'll go at once."
"What is it, Noel?" At the look on his face Farah forgot her anger.
"Judy's in the hospital. They're getting her ready for surgery."
"What's the matter with her?"
"They're not sure. I've got to go."
She helped him back into his jacket. "I'm sorry, darling," she said. "She'll be all right. She has to be."
"Yes," he said, and walked through the apartment to the door, Farah following.
"Call me when you know?"
He didn't seem to hear. "If anything happens to Judy...." He couldn't finish. He opened the door and went out. He didn't kiss her, he didn't say goodbye