I met Richard at his townhouse this time around. It was late at night by the time we both found a few minutes to talk that day. He opened the door and greeted me with a smile and a nod. He was in faded jeans, a plain white T-shirt, and equally white athletic socks with no shoes. He looked good doing the casual thing.
He leaned against the open door, and I could tell he was happy to see me, not the least bit nervous of what I might ask. He’d given this interview more consideration than the last one. Now he had me all figured out.
Or so he thought.
As I made my way inside, I mentally tossed out the questions I’d prepared, trying to come up with new ones that he wouldn’t have anticipated.
I sat in a chair in the living room, and he chose the couch across from me. I crossed my legs and opened my notepad, clicked my pen so I was ready. He rested one ankle on the opposite knee, his left arm draped over the back of the open space on the couch beside him. He looked at home in that pose. Or maybe it was the room we were in. Maybe it was just him and where he was in his life.
Or maybe I was wrong about all that.
The living room wasn’t as neat as I’d expected based on my first visit to the same house. Although, nothing much was out of order. The only signs of disarray were a haphazard stack of magazines on the coffee table between us and loose office papers on the far end of the couch.
The room just seemed to project a sense of unease, like his carefully ordered life had been altered slightly by something—or someone.
I gave the papers on the couch a quick glance, trying not to let him see my attempt at determining if the unexpected clutter was his, Matthew’s, or Luke’s.
“You’re awfully quiet this time,” he said. “Is everything okay?”
I was taken aback by his words, and even more by the concern in his voice.
I hadn’t expected him to give me much thought. I always figured he spent our time together thinking about the reason I was there—to learn more about him and the men in his life.
I should’ve known better. This was Richard.
I was touched that he considered me at all, and even more that he genuinely cared if I was okay.
His relaxed demeanor had slipped away. He was intensely scrutinizing me. “Are you a happy person, Sloan?”
I watched him in return. I wanted to remind him he wasn’t writing a book about me, but I didn’t want to give him any ideas. “I just get focused when I’m writing.” I probably came across as too serious, too internally preoccupied. “Yes, I’m happy. More than I’ve ever been. You?”
The surprised, almost angered look that flashed across his face wasn’t something I’d seen from him before. He unfolded his leg, leaned forward, elbows on his knees as he kept those serious green eyes focused on me. The empty space between us seemed to shrink in an instant, and he hadn’t left the couch.
“No matter what is going on with me or my business, I have them. That’s what matters to me. That’s all I need to be happy.” He’d pointed toward the stairs in the hall on the word them.
“Just because you want something to be true doesn’t—”
The tone of his voice convinced me to move on.
I indicated the staircase with a tilt of my head. “Are they in bed?”
“And you’re stuck here talking to me?”
He nodded, then eased back against the couch again, his voice returning to the more casual tone he’d started our conversation with. “You like to do that sometimes, try to throw me off my usual routine, shake me up a bit.”
Apparently he did have me all figured out. He really needed to stop giving me that much thought.
I said, “You know, I was thinking about Luke the other day.”
“Yeah?” He glanced into the hall, and a grin hit his lips. “I do that a lot too.”
“That I do know about you.”
We both laughed.
“Is he happy?” I asked when the laughter died off.
I could hear the hesitation in that last word.
When I didn’t ask anything more, he looked my way and added, “He has a few things to work out.”
“About his dad?”
He didn’t say anything to that. Instead he asked, “Is that why you were thinking about him? Wondering if he got his happy ending?”
“Actually, no. I was thinking about how very different the two of you are. Despite how closed off he was, Luke just jumped into my skin and started typing, telling his story, the words flowing as if he’d been dying to get them out, whether he wanted to admit that in the beginning or not. But you… You’re a conundrum. You rely on communication like it’s the air you breathe, yet you hold a lot inside. You have no trouble telling me the details of events. Sometimes you even share what you’re feeling, and then sometimes you don’t. Why is that?”
He hesitated again. Or maybe he was trying to find the right words. “What I’m feeling, my emotions… Those are things people will use against me if given the chance?”
“What people? Luke and Matthew?”
He laughed again at that. “If it were just you, I might be compelled to share more, but you’ll just end up telling everyone else.”
“That’s what a writer does.”
He gave an amused snort and nodded. “Touché.”
“So I’ve got most of your story figured out, but there are just a couple of holes I need to fill in.”
“And you would like me to make that easier for you?”
“I would, yes.”
“All right.” He was back to his signature knowing grin that slightly curled the corners of his lips. His arm was lounging over the top of the couch again. “You went into this thinking it would be Luke who’d pushed me to see things more clearly. You forget that ultimately change comes from within. That certain spark, that characteristic that I need in order to overcome my greatest conflicts, is already a part of me. I just have to push aside my own obstacles—the ones I’ve been pretending don’t exist.” He stopped, and I knew he wouldn’t admit what those obstacles were. Not out loud. Not yet.
Then he spoke again. “You also forget how smart Matthew is about these things. He knows what he wants now, and in the end, he won’t settle for less.”
“The end of this book or the next?”
He raised an eyebrow. “Now that’s a good question for the writer.”
And with those words, I knew that was all I was going to get from him right then. We’d get a chance to talk more when we got back to working on the story.
As we said our good-byes, I was left pondering what exactly it was that Matthew wanted.