Coming Home

March 7, 2009
By Michael Gielczyk BRONZE, Mundelein, Illinois
Michael Gielczyk BRONZE, Mundelein, Illinois
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

Lieutenant Paul McGregor, United States Navy, rang the bell of his high school friend?s apartment in Northbrook, a town just north of Chicago.
?Hey, there,? McGregor said when she opened the door. ?You look amazing.? She was wearing a very flattering midnight blue evening dress. His friend, a young woman named Lee Davidson, had been two years behind him in school. She had short, dark hair and a pleasant face and bright, energetic hazel eyes that reflected the liveliness of her personality. Lee beamed.

?Thanks,? she said. ?You look quite dapper yourself.? McGregor smiled; he was decked out in his dress whites.

?Thank you,? he said. ?I hope that I?m not overdressed.?

?Oh, not at all,? Lee told him. ?It?s black tie; the whites will be fine.? She beckoned him inside her fashionable apartment. ?I?m almost ready; I?ll jut be a few more minutes.? McGregor nodded.

Lee had gone to Chicago from her and McGregor?s home town, located about an hour and a half north of the city to pursue a career in music. Through a series of somewhat odd circumstances, however, she ended up working as a producer for a theatre company in Chicago. Tonight Lee was taking McGregor to a symphony premiere downtown with her; her company provided her with box seats at Symphony Center.

Lee and McGregor had only recently reconnected after he received orders to Naval Station Great Lakes. After he graduated college, McGregor left home to become a Naval Officer. At the time, he had wanted nothing more than to get away from so very much: his parents, ex-friends and painful memories. Yet, despite his efforts, McGregor found himself back in northern Illinois.

McGregor crossed Lee?s living room and looked at some of the pictures that she had displayed on one of her shelves. He found the cast and crew photo from the musical of his senior year in high school. He had his arm around his then girlfriend, a stunning redhead named Caitlin Taylor. McGregor smiled ruefully at the bittersweet memories of Caitlin and of his entire senior year of high school. McGregor heard something behind him and turned to find Lee coming out into the living room.

?All set?? he asked her.

?Yep,? Lee said. ?Let?s go.?

?Could you excuse me for a moment, Paul?? Lee said to McGregor. McGregor waved an unconcerned hand.

?Sure,? he said to her as she walked off with a colleague of hers. It was intermission at the symphony. McGregor was enjoying the concert immensely; the young conductor for that night?s performance directed with incredible energy and was a thrill to watch. McGregor had to admit, though, that he felt rather uncomfortable as he stood alone, drinking a Pepsi and playing with his dress gloves.

?Leave it to you to show up looking like Jay Gatsby,? a very familiar voice came from behind him. McGregor turned and found himself face to face for the first time in eight years with Caitlin Taylor. He had to exercise an astonishing amount of self control to keep his jaw from dropping, and not simply from the surprise of seeing her after such a long time. She looked absolutely gorgeous. She was dressed in a sleeveless black dress that seemed to shimmer just a little bit as she moved, hugged her slender form, and accented her curves beautifully. Her mahogany red hair was done up in an elegant bun and the sharp milk chocolate brown eyes that he remembered were still full of energy and passion. She was looking at him innocently enough, but McGregor knew her too well to believe that. She was waiting for him to answer her challenge.

?Gatsby was an Army major,? McGregor promptly corrected her.

?You haven?t changed one damn bit, have you?? Caitlin asked him, seeming to be resisting the impulse to roll her eyes at him.

?You have,? McGregor said.

?How do you figure??

?You look even more beautiful than ever,? McGregor told her. The smile that she had been fighting finally broke through and warmth flooded Caitlin?s eyes.

?Nope, not one damn bit, Paul,? she said, laughing. And, much to McGregor?s surprise, she stepped forward and hugged him. McGregor hugged her back. He felt like a decade younger, and it just felt so right to hold her again; she had the same scent that he remembered in his dreams and her hair was still cashmere soft. After a few moments, they pulled away from each other.

?So, why are you here in the city?? Caitlin asked him. ?Hell, why are you even back in Illinois??

?I?m stationed up at Great Lakes,? McGregor told her. ?Lee Davidson asked me to come with her tonight. Remember her?? Caitlin nodded.

?Yeah, we work together a lot,? Caitlin said.

?She didn?t tell you I was home and you work toggether?? he asked.

?Sometimes; she?s a producer, I do a lot of promotional work for shows,? she said. ?I see her every now and again.?

?Oh,? McGregor said. They fell silent and stood uncomfortably for a few minutes. ?How?ve you been?? McGregor finally asked, making a brave stab at conversation.

?I?ve been good, Paul,? she said. McGregor was about to say something more when she cut across him. ?Listen, I?ve got to get up really early tomorrow; I was actually about to head home when I saw you.? McGregor nodded.

?Can I walk you out to your car?? he asked.

?Sure,? Caitlin said smiling at him. They walked together to coat check. While Caitlin was waiting for her coat, McGregor pulled out one of his business cards and a pen out of his pocket and scribbled something on the back of it. With coat in hand, Caitlin walked with McGregor downstairs and out to the street and waited for the valet to bring Caitlin?s car around. Caitlin turned to McGregor.

?It was good seeing you again,? she said. McGregor smiled.

?Yeah,? he said. And for several minutes, they looked at each other, lost in each others? eyes, the depths that were once clear to each other now murky and sullied by nearly a decade of pain and longing and lost love. But even as they stood there and the valet pulled up in Caitlin?s car, they seemed to be opening back up to each other, just through that look.

?I have to go, Paul,? she said, though she made no move to actually leave.

?I know.? They stood there for a couple more minutes. Caitlin sighed and put her arms around him again.

?Goodnight,? she said.

?Goodnight,? he said. She stood on tiptoe and kissed his cheek before getting in the car and driving away. McGregor stood on the curb watching her taillights disappear around a corner.

?Hey,? Lee?s voice came from behind him.

?Hey,? McGregor said softly, not turning to face her.

?Intermission?s almost over,? Lee told him. McGregor nodded absently before turning away and going back inside with Lee.

As the lights dimmed and the performance resumed, McGregor had a feeling in the pit of his stomach that, somewhere along the line, he had gone down the wrong path.

Three days later, Lieutenant Paul McGregor dropped his briefcase into a chair in his office and tossed his cover onto the desk before flopping down into the chair behind his desk, terribly worn out, despite the fact that it was only eleven o?clock in the morning. He and five other officers had just spent an excruciating hour and a half in a meeting with the base Commanding Officer being chewed out about rising failure rates at many of the ?A? schools on base.

McGregor?s phone rang and, reluctantly, he answered it, fearing that it would be anther lecture by any one of his superiors.

?Good morning, Lt. McGregor speaking,? he said into the mouthpiece. ?Yes?Yes, I?ll send somebody down to escort her on base. Thank you.? McGregor hung up and pressed the call button on his intercom. ?Petty Officer Johnson??

?Yes, sir?? came the reply.

?There is a woman at the gate who is here to see me,? McGregor said. ?Go down and escort her back here to my office.?

?Aye, sir,? Johnson said. McGregor clicked off the intercom and quickly tidies up his office. Twenty minutes later, there was a knock at the door.

?Come in!? McGregor called. The door opened and Caitlin Taylor stood in the doorway, leaning against the frame.

?Hey, sailor,? she said, a faint smile playing across her lips.

?Hey,? said McGregor. ?Fancy running into you here,? he joked.

?Well,? Caitlin said, entering the office, ?just imagine my surprise when I found Lt. McGregor?s business card in my purse and discovered his little note written on the back.? Caitlin pulled the card out of her pocket and read: ?Dear C?any time you want, I?ll be here. Love, P.? She looked up at him. ?Is now okay?? she asked.

?Absolutely,? McGregor told her. He gestured to one the chairs in front of his desk. ?Please, sit down.?

?Thanks,? she said, taking a seat. She looked around his office, at the various plaques and memorabilia. ?Looks like your dad?s office at your old house.? McGregor smirked.
?It?s not really my old house anymore,? he said. Caitlin looked at him.

?What do you mean?? she asked.

?I live in that house again,? McGregor told her. Caitlin stared.

?You?re thirty and you live with your parents?? she said, astounded.

?Of course not,? McGregor said. ?My parents moved to California a while ago. I rent the house from them.?

?Oh,? Caitlin said. ?To tell you the truth, actually, I live pretty close to there. Maybe three blocks away.?

?Is that right?? McGregor asked.

?Yeah,? Caitlin said. They were silent for a few minutes, victims to the same awkwardness that they had felt at the concert a few nights previous. There was so much that McGregor wanted to say to her, but was having trouble finding the courage to actually do so. ?Paul, I??
?Do want to grab some lunch?? McGregor burst out. ?Sorry, I didn?t mean to interrupt you. What were you going to say?? Caitlin shook her head.

?Never mind,? she said. ?Yeah, lunch would be great.? She stood up. ?Where at??

?Just over at the Officer?s Club,? McGregor said, picking up his cover and leading her out of his office. A little over a half hour later, the two of them had forgotten all about any awkwardness between them and were relaxing back into familiar patterns and habits.

?Oh, God, I?ve missed you,? McGregor said, laughing and taking a sip of his Pepsi.

?I?ve missed you, too,? Caitlin said. ?A lot of people have.?

?Yeah?? McGregor asked. ?You still see people from school??

?Yeah,? Caitlin said. ?You were pretty much the only one who left.? The accusatory tone of her voice did not escape McGregor.

?Hmm,? he said. ?Well, you might recall that I wasn?t particularly thrilled about leaving.?

?Yeah,? Caitlin said. The two of them were skirting the edge of a subject that McGregor knew had to be broached, but wasn?t sure he wanted to so soon. McGregor watched her face for a few moments.

?So, really, how have you been?? McGregor asked her.

?I?ve been fine,? Caitlin said. McGregor cocked an eyebrow.

?Just fine?? he asked.

?Yeah,? said Caitlin. ?Just fine.? She took a deep breath. ?Things weren?t the same after you left, Paul. I don?t know what it was, but it just didn?t feel right.? McGregor nodded.

?Yeah.? He felt the same way.

?I heard you got married to Kathryn O?Reilly, though,? Caitlin said, almost reproachfully.

?I did,? McGregor said, nodding

?How?d that happen?? Caitlin asked.

?Well, she got tired of waiting around for George. Remember him?? Caitlin nodded. ?So, she and I got hitched.?

?Does she mind living at your parents? house?? Caitlin asked, trying and failing to sound offhand. McGregor smiled ruefully.

?Kate and I don?t live together anymore,? he said delicately. He lifted his left hand and wiggled his ring finger to show her that it was bare. ?One of the caveats to divorce.?

?Oh,? said Caitlin. ?I?m sorry.? McGregor shook it off. ?What happened??

?Well,? said McGregor, ?her problem was that she was still in love with George.?

?So, what was your problem?? Caitlin asked. McGregor laughed, though it was mostly to mask the heavy sadness that he was feeling.

?I was in love with someone else, too,? he said.

An hour later found McGregor driving Caitlin to the main gate where her car was parked next to the security station. They got out of his car and walked together to hers. Caitlin turned to McGregor.

?Well, now that we?re practically neighbors, I guess I?ll see you around,? Caitlin said.

?Yeah,? said McGregor, opening the car door for her. He hesitated for a moment. ?I want to take you out to dinner.?

?What?? Caitlin said.

?I want to take you out to dinner,? McGregor repeated.

?You mean a date,? said Caitlin.

?Yeah, a date,? McGregor said. ?Is that all right??

?Yeah,? Caitlin said, smiling. ?Yeah, I?d like that.? McGregor smiled back.

?Good,? he said. ?Friday work for you? We can go back to our old stomping grounds.?

?Oh, Paul, we?re way too old to be making out in the high school parking lot? she joked. The two of them laughed. She pulled out her own business card from her purse and handed it to him. ?Give me a call later, okay??

?Definitely,? McGregor said. Caitlin kissed his cheek before getting into her car and McGregor turned back to his own car.

McGregor awoke Saturday morning on the couch in his living room to find that he and Caitlin had fallen asleep together at some point in the predawn hours of the morning. He blinked and looked around; there were two empty wine glasses on the coffee table and the fire in the grate had burned down to glowing embers. She was laying on top of him, her head on his shoulder and her arms wrapped around his chest. McGregor had his arms around her waist. He watched her sleep for a few minutes and then looked out the window across his backyard. He stared out across the dewy lawn for quite some time, his mind adrift and unfocused.

After a time, Caitlin stirred and looked up at him. She blinked a few time and propped herself up on her elbows to look at him.

?Good morning,? McGregor said. She leaned forward and kissed him.

?Good morning,? she said to him. She tossed the blanket covering them to the floor and stood up. ?I?m going to make some coffee,? she said, crossing out of the living room and into the kitchen. McGregor watched her?clad in a pair of his running shorts and a hoodie from his alma mater?as she went. He sat up and stretched and then followed her to the kitchen.

He caught her at the sink as she was filling up the coffee pot with. McGregor walked up behind her and slipped his arms around her waist, kissing her neck.

?Paul,? she said, laughing a little.

?Hmm?? he said, muffled against her skin. Caitlin wriggled away from him and finished getting the coffee maker ready. McGregor leaned against the counter and watched her for a few more moments. Caitlin caught him watching her and walked over to put her arms around him. They held each other for a while longer before McGregor spoke again.

?You hungry?? he asked. Caitlin looked up at him.

?Oh, come on, Paul,? she said, ?I haven?t changed that much. Of course I am.? McGregor nodded

?I?ll make breakfast,? he said.

?Please,? Caitlin said. A half hour later, as the two of them were sitting down at the kitchen table, McGregor looked over the table at Caitlin.

?What?? she asked. McGregor shook his head with a small smile.

?Nothing,? he told her.

?No, I know that look,? Caitlin told him. ?You really haven?t changed, either, Paul. Remember??

?Okay, then,? McGregor said, ?if you think you know me so well, then you tell me what that look meant.? There was a glint in Caitlin?s eye as she straightened up in her chair to accept his challenge.

?Fine,? she said, meeting his gaze. ?That?s the look that you give me when you get a sort of exploding feeling in the pit of your stomach and in your chest and you can barely contain yourself and you want nothing more than to take me into your arms and kiss me and tell me that you love me.? They stared each other down for quite some time. ?Well??

?Well what?? McGregor asked.

?Am I right?? Caitlin asked. McGregor grinned.

?Word for word,? he said, taking a bite of hash brown.

?Really?? Caitlin asked him.

?Really,? McGregor told her. Caitlin looked at him, her brow furrowed in a somewhat perplexed manner.

?What?? McGregor asked her when he saw that she was looking at him. Caitlin took a deep breath before she started speaking.

?Look, Paul,? she started, ?We?ve sort of skimmed the top of this, but now I think that we need to talk seriously about it.?

?About what?? McGregor said. ?What the hell we?re doing here??

?Well, yeah,? Caitlin said. ?What do you want??

?What I want hasn?t changed for eight years,? McGregor said. ?What about you??

?I?d like to think that it would work this time,? Caitlin said. McGregor nodded.

?All right, then,? McGregor said. ?Are you willing to give it a try?? Their eyes locked again.

?Yes,? Caitlin said, smiling at him. McGregor?s face split into a wide smile to mirror hers.

?Good,? he said. Caitlin leaned forward and pulled McGregor close by the collar of his t-shirt and kissed him.

That afternoon, as McGregor drove Caitlin home, he couldn?t help but feel that exploding feeling in his chest that Caitlin had described earlier. He glanced over at Caitlin. She was looking out the window of his Jeep Wrangler.

?I miss your old Jeep,? Caitlin said abruptly. McGregor glanced over at her again.

?Why?? McGregor asked her. He was genuinely confused; he?d always gotten the impression from her that she didn?t care about any of the cars he had driven.

?Well, not so much the whole Jeep as the back seat,? Caitlin admitted with a mischievous twinkle in her eye. McGregor gave a snort of laughter as he turned onto Caitlin?s street and pulled into her driveway. She looked over at him. ?You doing anything tonight?? she asked. McGregor smirked.

?Well, I?ll have to check my schedule,? he said. Caitlin slapped playfully at his arm. ?Of course I?m not doing anything,? McGregor smiled.

?Come over tonight, then,? Caitlin said. ?I?ll make you dinner.? McGregor laughed a little.

?All right,? he said.

?What are you laughing at?? Caitlin asked.

?Nothing,? McGregor said. ?It?s just that it?s sort of a switch, isn?t it? I used to do the cooking.?

?Well, I?ve had to learn during the last eight years,? she said.

?I suppose,? McGregor said. He leaned over and kissed her. ?I?ll see you tonight.?

That evening, after McGregor pulled into Caitlin?s driveway again, he looked in the rear view mirror of his Jeep and ran his hand through his hair and took a deep breath. He picked up the flowers that were lying across the passenger seat and got out of the Jeep and walked to the front door. He rang the bell and waited. Caitlin opened the door, a bright smile already on her face.

?Hey, you,? she said, opening the screen door for him. McGregor stepped over the threshold and kissed Caitlin hello.

?Hey,? he said. Caitlin glanced down and saw the flowers in his hands.

?How did I know you were going to bring me flowers?? she asked him. McGregor shrugged.
?I dunno,? he said. ?I haven?t brought you flowers for about a decade now, so I hardly think that you can blame me for wanting to again.?

?No, I guess I can?t,? Caitlin said. She led McGregor through to the living room. ?Have a seat,? she told him. ?Do you want anything to drink?? she asked him as she went into the kitchen to put the roses in a vase.

?What have you got?? McGregor asked sitting down on the couch.

?Well, since we decided that you haven?t changed,? Caitlin said, ?I?ve got something that I think I should break the seal on for you. I remember that it?s one of your favorites.?

?What have you got?? McGregor said again, laughing a little. ?Johnnie Walker Blue Label?? Caitlin stuck her head through the doorway and grinned at him. McGregor?s own smile faltered a little. ?Oh, sweetheart, please tell me that you didn?t go out and drop two hundred dollars on a bottle of liquor just because I was coming over.? Caitlin scoffed, coming back into the living room with the scotch and two rocks glasses.

?Of course I didn?t,? she said, pouring them each a glass of the amber liquid and sitting on the couch next to him. ?One of my exes left it here when he moved out. Dinner will be ready in about ten minutes,? she added.

?Wait a minute,? McGregor said, his brow furrowing for a moment. ?You were living with someone here??

?Yeah,? Caitlin said casually. ?It was a while ago.?

?How long ago?? McGregor asked. He couldn?t even explain to himself what difference it made, but the thought of her with someone else was?well, it hurt him to think about it. Caitlin?s eyes narrowed slightly and she watched McGregor as though studying him.

?Almost two years ago,? she told him shortly. She stood up. ?I?ve got to check on something.? Caitlin went back into the kitchen, leaving McGregor on the couch.

?Sh**,? he muttered to himself, getting up and following Caitlin into the kitchen. McGregor stood in the door way watching her for a moment. She had her back to him, busying herself at the stove with something. ?Hey,? he said.

?Hey,? she said in a clipped voice, not turning to face him.

?I?m sorry,? McGregor said.

?Is that right?? Caitlin asked. ?Well, it?s a good thing I?ve never heard that one before, or I might think that it was just something you said automatically when you realized you were in trouble.?

?I know that I?ve said that a lot,? McGregor admitted. ?But I really am. I shouldn?t have acted like it was a big deal.?

?You?re damn right, you shouldn?t have!? Caitlin cried, rounding on him and brandishing a spoon, splattering the cabinets with vodka sauce. ?So what if I had a boyfriend living with me? You got married for Christ?s sake!?

?I told you that was a mistake,? McGregor said defensively. ?And I told you why!?

?Well, it was a mistake for me to have been living with this guy, too!?

?And why was it?? McGregor demanded.

?For the same reason you shouldn?t have married Kathryn!? Caitlin shouted at him, tears springing to her eyes. ?I was still in love with you! And I knew it and I knew that I shouldn?t have been with anyone else and I knew that when I woke up in the morning I didn?t want to see anyone sleeping next to me but you!? Her words were followed by one of the loudest silences that McGregor had ever heard.

?Caitlin, I?m sorry, I?? McGregor trailed off and tried again. ?I didn?t mean that??

?Shut up,? Caitlin said, crossing the kitchen and putting her arms around him, hugging him tightly. McGregor hugged her back.

?I still love you,? McGregor said.

?I still love you,? said Caitlin.

It was a little past two-thirty the next morning when McGregor awoke, alone in Caitlin?s bed. McGregor sat up and squinted around for a moment in the moonlit room. He groped for his glasses on the nightstand and put them on his nose. He looked around the room again for Caitlin and saw her sitting in the window seat that overlooked her property. McGregor swung his legs over the side of the bed and put his trousers on before crossing the room to her. She must have heard him as he was moving around, but she didn?t look at him, not even when he sat down next to her.

?Hey,? he said softly.

?Hey,? she said to him, still looking out the window. McGregor watched her quietly for a moment.

?You okay?? he asked her. She nodded, although McGregor knew perfectly well that something was dogging her. ?What?s the matter?? he asked. Caitlin took a deep breath as though she were searching for the words to tell him.

?You know how we said we were going to try again?? she asked.

?Yeah,? McGregor said, nodding.

?Well, last night?when we were together,? Caitlin said. She took a breath and continued. ?When we were in bed?it felt like we were just picking up right where we left off.? She did look at him now. McGregor nodded again.
?Do you want to put the brakes on a little?? he asked.

?No,? Caitlin said quickly. ?No, it?s not that.?

?What is it, then?? McGregor asked.

?Well,? said Caitlin, ?if we pick up right where we left off, then we?re going to run into a lot of the same problems that we did before.?

?Yeah, we?re going to have some stuff to work on,? McGregor conceded. He paused for a moment, thinking. ?Do you really want to start from where we left off? I mean, really.? Caitlin didn?t answer right away. ?Caitlin?? She looked out the window again.

?I don?t know, Paul,? Caitlin said. ?It?s just?it?s only been a week, and here we are, sitting up talking to each other before dawn after spending the night together, like it?s high school again. Have we changed at all? Can we?? McGregor didn?t have anything to say to this. He really hadn?t, if he was honest. He had left Illinois for a lot of reasons, but the main one was that he was running away from his problems, and he had never stopped. He didn?t know if he could.

?Do you remember the night you told me to leave?? he asked.

?Yes,? Caitlin said in a somewhat constricted voice.

?Do you know what I did that day, before I came over to your house?? McGregor asked. Caitlin shook her head. ?I went shopping,? he said. ?And after dinner that night, there was something that I was going to talk to you about.? McGregor reached into his pocket and pulled out a small box that he?d been carrying with him since the day after he had seen her at the cast party. ?And I was going to give you this.? He opened the box for her to see.

Inside, set against the black velvet, was a ring.

Caitlin looked up at him, surprised. She looked back down and took the box from him, studying the ring. ?You were going to???

?Yeah,? McGregor said.


?Yeah.? McGregor took a deep breath and got down on his knees in front of her. He took her hands in his. ?Caitlin, I had a really sh***y few years back in high school. And then I found you, and we had an amazing time together, and something amazing happened: I fell in love with you.? The two of them looked at each other, their eyes shining. ?And then?and then we weren?t together for a long time. And I?ve got to tell you, the last eight years have sucked.? Caitlin laughed and gave him a watery smile.

?Yeah, they have,? Caitlin agreed. McGregor laughed, too.

?Caitlin, I don?t know what I want,? McGregor told her, ?except that I want to be with you. What I?m asking you?? Caitlin pulled him close and kissed him before he could finish. She pulled away from him and held her fingers over his lips.

?Don?t,? she said. ?I want you to stay, but don?t. Don?t ask me that yet.? McGregor nodded. Caitlin kissed his forehead and took him by the hand. ?Come on,? she said, leading him back to bed.

On Tuesday, Lieutenant Paul McGregor was sitting behind his desk, making corrections in a report that he was supposed to submit to his boss by the end of business that day. His intercom buzzed.

?Lieutenant McGregor?? Petty Officer Johnson?s voice came.

?Yes, what is it?? McGregor asked.

?There?s a woman here to see you, sir,? Johnson said.

?Go down to the gate and escort her back here, would you?? McGregor said absently, crossing out a sentence and making a note in the margin.

?She?s already here,? a voice said from his open office door. McGregor looked up to see Lee Davidson standing in the doorway.

?Never mind, Petty Officer,? McGregor said into the intercom. ?What are you doing here?? he asked Lee.

?I ran into Caitlin downtown today,? she said to McGregor. He closed the report he was reading and tossed his pen onto his desk top.
?Oh?? McGregor said.

?Yeah,? Lee said. ?She told me about what happened Saturday night.? McGregor snorted. He swiveled in his chair and looked out the window at the cloudy, steel gray sky outside.

?And?? he said.

?What do you mean?? Lee asked. ?Are you going to stay with her or what?? McGregor looked at her sharply, surprised at her abruptness.

?Yes,? he said. ?But I?m not going to rush into anything. I?m going to take it slow so we don?t run into any decisions that were made hastily.?

?Okay,? Lee nodded. ?That is the biggest load of crap I have ever heard you say.?

?What are you talking about?? McGregor said.

?Oh, for Christ?s sake, Paul!? said Lee. ?Do you love her??

?Of course I do,? he said.

?Then stop running,? Lee said. McGregor was silent. Lee stood up and made to leave. ?I?ll see you later.? McGregor waved goodbye in a halfhearted sort of way. He leaned back in his chair, scratching his chin. McGregor picked up the phone and dialed Caitlin?s number. Her voice mail picked up.

?Hi, Caitlin, it?s me,? Lieutenant Paul McGregor said after the beep. ?Can I take you out to dinner tonight? There?s something I want to ask you.?

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