On Sunday night, I hugged my family and boarded the train back to Louisville. Mary Kate and George planned to stay a few more days, and of course Duncan would be there until he and Phoebe got a place of their own, so I wasn’t too worried about Dad being on his own. Zachary had not made another appearance. I knew I should find that a relief — in the daylight hours, I felt far less like I was going mad — but I still found myself wishing that he would, maybe to explain to me what he’d meant by warning me of fire and some mysterious “him” needing me.
I was selfish enough to wish he meant Oliver. I didn’t wish his wife ill except when I did; and on the train ride home I imagined their house burning down, Oliver tragically widowed, and once I had comforted him through his grief he would finally be brave enough to bring me home and tell his children I would be their second father.
He wouldn’t, of course. Oliver Davenport’s first marriage had ended due to his infidelities with the current Mrs. Davenport, and that was as scandalous as he would admit to being. That he had other affairs was common knowledge in Louisville society; that some of them were with men was not.
I had met Oliver Davenport two years previously, at a parent-teacher function at Goodwin Academy. Alan and the next oldest boy, Jason, were the students at that time; his two older sons had already aged out of the school. Oliver had been everything I wanted in a lover then: handsome, charming, and not looking for anything permanent. At the time I thought he would be nothing more than an amusing pastime while I got on with my life, but as the months passed and we continued to see each other, I came to think of him more and more as someone meaningful. Maybe even someone I could love.
No matter what Henry Forrester thought, I had not had a regular lover since coming home from the war. Before, I had never sought one out — I rarely even gave my name to the men I fucked — and during, of course, most of us were too preoccupied with staying alive to think about sex.
So many G.I.s started families as soon as they came home, perhaps to prove that they had survived horrific circumstances and could go back to their normal lives — as if life would ever be normal again. I didn’t join them, and while I knew my family accepted me as I was I also knew they wished I could find something stable to help me put the war behind me.
Instead, I avoided it assiduously, keeping my liaisons to one night or to men who would never be available to me otherwise. The war had changed me — as surely as Daniel’s death had changed me — and I didn’t want to make anyone any promises. And I certainly wanted none made to me.
I didn’t want that anymore.