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But in the future he will come here so that we can use the piano for the exercises. “

Lillian nodded too, albeit a little stiffly. “Yes. How lucky you’re home, Rachel, ”she said, pouring some more Shaman tea.

The next day, after his house calls, he took the Long Walk and saw Rachel coming, although he had no appointment with her.

“You helped with the autumn house cleaning and missed your afternoon nap, so now I’ve sent her to bed.”

He turned and walked beside her. The forest was full of birds, and in a nearby tree he spotted a cardinal trilling defiantly but inaudibly to him.

“I quarreled with my mother. She wanted us to go to Peoria for the holidays, but I’m not willing to run the gauntlet of bachelors and widowers willing to marry. So we’re going to spend the holidays at home. “

“Good,” he said, and she smiled. There was another argument, she said, because Joe Regensberg’s cousin was marrying another woman and made the offer to buy the Regensberg Tin Company after he was unable to get it through marriage. That, she confided in Shaman, was also the reason for her trip to Chicago: she would sell the company. “Your mother will calm down again. She loves You.”

This time he felt a slight tremor as she held his fingers in hers. Perhaps the house cleaning had been so stressful for her or the argument. But he dared hope there was more to it, and suddenly there was an intimacy in her touch that made him slide his hand completely into hers.

They were working on the breath control needed to manage the little explosions of the letter P, and he was just repeating a nonsensical sentence with a straight face about the postman Peter who was constantly packing parcels when she shook her head. “No. Feel how I do it! ”She put his fingers to her larynx.

But all he felt was Rachel’s warm, soft skin. He hadn’t planned it. If he had thought about it, he would not have done it. He let his hand wander upward, placed it on her cheek, and leaned over to kiss Rachel. The kiss was infinitely sweet, the kiss often dreamed and longed for between a fifteen-year-old boy and the girl he was hopelessly in love with.

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