A Different Blue Page 90

“Maybe more like your dad?”

“Yes! Like John Wilson. Driven, hard, serious. And Bert Wheatley was anything but serious or driven. He said he was a copper because he loved his neighborhood. He liked being with people, and when he was a boy he'd always wanted to drive a car with lights and a siren.” Wilson laughed and shook his head. “That's what he said! I remember thinking what a nutter he was.” Wilson looked over at me as if I was going to scold him for his opinion. I just stayed quiet.

“But I noticed other things. Bert seemed very content. And he was very fun to be with.” Wilson laughed again, but his laughter was pained. “In those ways, he was very different from my dad, too. John Wilson was never satisfied – rarely happy – and he wasn't exactly a pleasure to be around most of the time.” Wilson shook his head and abruptly changed the subject.

“My birth mother's name is Jenny. She never married Bert, obviously. She married a plumber named Gunnar Woodrow. Gunnar the plumber.” Wilson said it like Gunna the Plumma, and I tried not to snicker. I'd gotten to the point where I didn't even notice his accent . . . most of the time.

“She and Gunnar have five kids, and their house is like a zoo. I stayed for an hour or two, until Gunnar got home from work, and then Jenny and I slipped out and had tea around the corner where we could talk without the monkeys interrupting.”

“Did you like her?”

“Very much. She's lovely. Loves books and history, loves to quote poetry.”

“Sounds like you.”

Wilson nodded. “We have a great deal in common, which thrilled me, I must say. We talked about everything. She asked me all the things mothers are interested in: what my hopes and dreams were and whether I had a girlfriend. I told her I didn't have time for girls. I told her that history and books were the only loves in my life so far. We talked about school, and she asked me what my plans were for my future. I rambled off my ten year plan, involving grad school, medical school, and working with my father. She seemed a little surprised by my career goals and said, 'But what about the loves in your life?'”

“She was worried about your love life? You were only eighteen,” I protested, ridiculously grateful he didn't have a past like mine.

“No. She wasn't worried about my love life. She was worried about the 'loves in my life,'” Wilson repeated. “History and books.”

“Oh!” I responded, understanding.

“Meeting my parents had me questioning myself for the first time ever. I suddenly wondered if I really wanted to be a doctor. I found myself thinking about what would make me happy. I thought about lights and sirens.” Wilson's lips quirked, a hint of a smile. “I thought about how I wanted to share everything I learned with anyone who would listen. In fact, I drove my parents and my sisters crazy, constantly reciting this or that historical fact.”

“St. Patrick?”

“St. Patrick, Alexander the Great, Leonidas, King Arthur, Napolean Bonaparte, and so many others.”

“So being a doctor lost some of its luster.”

“It had never held any luster, and once I realized that, I told my dad I wasn't going to medical school. I had kept my mouth shut until graduation, quietly making different plans while my dad continued to map out my future. I told him I wanted to teach, hopefully at a university someday. I told him I wanted to write and lecture and eventually get my doctorate in history. He found out that I had contacted my birth parents and blamed my change of heart on my trip. He was furious with me and my mother. We fought, we yelled, I left the house, my father was called to the hospital, and I never saw him alive again. You've heard that part of the story.” Wilson sighed heavily and pulled his hand through his hair.

“Is that what you meant when you said meeting your birth parents was dreadful . . . because it set so many other things in motion?”

“No. Although, I guess it could be construed that way. It was dreadful because I was so unbelievably confused and lost. Two feelings I'd never felt before, ever. I know, I lived a sheltered life, didn't I?” Wilson shrugged. “I met two people who were very different from the people who raised me. Not better, not worse. Just different. And that's not a slight against my mum and dad. They were good parents, and they loved me. But my world was rocked. On the one hand, I was very confused about why Jenny and Bert couldn't have made it work for my sake. Had I meant so little to them that they passed me along to a rich doctor and his wife and went their merry way, washing their hands of me?”

I winced, knowing intellectually that this wasn't about me. But there was guilt all the same. I wondered if Melody would ask me the same question someday. Wilson continued.

“On the other hand, I suddenly came to realize that I didn't want the things I always thought I wanted. I wanted to pursue things that made me happy, and I wanted a certain amount of freedom that I had never experienced. And I knew that meant taking a very different road from the one I'd been on.”

“I can understand that,” I whispered.

“Yes. I know.” Wilson's eyes met mine, and there was a heat there that had my heart doing a slow slide inside my chest. How was it that he could look at me that way yet manage to hold me all night long without a single kiss?

“The last week in England, I left Manchester and took a coach to London. Alice is a lot less protective of me than the rest of my family. She kind of shrugged and said, 'Have fun, don't get killed, and make sure you're back here in a week to catch your flight home.' I met up with some mates from school, and I spent the week completely sloshed doing things I'm rather embarrassed to talk about.”

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