Unfortunately, her life had taken another unexpected and unpleasant turn, and she had begun to question her judgment as well as her gullibility. Once again, she was experiencing disappointment and self-esteem issues—perhaps not as precipitously as with Robert, yet she was disturbed enough to have started seriously to consider returning to Southern California. As she expected, her mother and sister were absolutely thrilled with the possibility when she'd called them that evening to broach the subject, even though both had immediately questioned what seemed like a sudden change of heart. Only a month earlier in a similar phone call Kera had impressed them with how deliriously happy she was living in the Big Apple. Unprepared to share any details, she merely carried on about having come to the realization of how important close family connections were to her. She felt a twinge of guilt at not having been forthright, but the truth was that she hadn't completely made up her mind. There was still a vestige of hope that things might improve, although the chances weren't good.
Kera turned off the shower after making sure all the soap and shampoo had been completely rinsed. With her bath towel in hand, she stepped from the tub. Bending at the waist, she rapidly towel-dried her thick, moderately long hair, which she considered the only contribution her emotionally unavailable father had provided her. As she straightened, she subconsciously glanced at her profile in the full- length mirror attached to the back of the bathroom door. When it occurred to her what she was doing, she laughed at herself. It was far too early to see any change.
Finished with drying herself, she was about to hang up her bath towel when her buzzer sounded in the other room, announcing that someone was downstairs at the building's front door. The sudden raucous sound cut through the quiet apartment like a hot knife through butter, shattering the peacefulness Kera had been experiencing. Tossing her towel over the edge of the bathtub and grabbing her robe from the clothes hook, she dashed out to the tiny kitchen where the ancient intercom was mounted on the wall. As she pressed the talk button and asked who was there, she noticed the time on the microwave oven. It was 10:23. Since she hadn't ordered any takeout and there was only one person who would possibly ring her bell at such an hour, although never without a text or call and rarely on weekends, she was reasonably sure who it was. The possibility didn't thrill her. She'd been trying to calm herself prior to getting into bed.
"It's me," the expected masculine voice said.
"What are you doing?" Kera questioned. She leaned close to the speaker. She had to press the vintage device's talk button each time she spoke and then let go to listen.
"I'm sorry about the hour, but I need to talk with you."
"I'm just getting out of the shower. How about tomorrow around lunchtime?"
"I need to talk with you tonight. I've had a change of mind, and I want to share it with you. I need to share it with you."
Kera paused even as her pulse quickened. After everything that had happened and everything that had been said over the previous month, there was no way she could be at all certain what he meant by "a change of mind." She could guess. But was it wishful thinking? After all, he had been painfully and consistently clear over a period of weeks. Still, if he meant what she thought he might, it would change everything.
"What kind of change of mind?" she asked finally, lowering her guard. She didn't want to get her hopes up only to have them dashed on the proverbial rocks all over again.
"I've realized you were right all along, and I was wrong. It just took me some time to figure it out. We need to celebrate!"
"Celebrate?" Kera questioned, to be sure she'd heard correctly.
"Yes, celebrate. And I've brought the makings."
Trying to contain her excitement, she hit the door-open button. Then she fled back to the bathroom, pulling on her robe in the process. She had been standing naked, clutching the robe to her chest the whole time she'd been on the intercom. Once in the bathroom she grabbed her hairbrush and tried to tame the wet mop on top of her head. It wasn't working. She felt she looked dreadful, but there was no time to do anything about it. Cinching the tie on her robe, and with a final desperate pat to her hair, she was back out to the door to begin disengaging the panoply of locks and chains the renter of record had installed. Just as she'd finished, there was a furtive knock.