“No. Well, practically, yes; but morally, no. The essential difference is that Hector was innocent and Jesse was not.”
“You still can’t see it my way?”
Surprisingly, Bill laughed. The sound seemed to sweep away the gloom that had gathered around them. He said, “You’re young, and the young have to fight a few battles to know when to fight and when to step aside. There are some students you should go out on a limb for, and some students you can’t save. Ten years from now, Jesse Herrera may come back and thank me for sending a clear message that he can’t get away with murder. Or not. Who knows? We just do the best we can.”
Bill came around the desk and led Neil out with an arm on his shoulder. He said, “You struck out this time. But you can never make a home run unless you swing at the ball. Don’t give up.”
# # #
During the months of winter, the Central Valley of California fills up with fog. It is a time of grey mornings and coldly steaming nights. While mid-western schools are closing because of snow, California schools are delaying their mornings until the fog clears enough for busses to safely run.
Here, at the change of the seasons, daytime belonged to spring and the nights still belonged to winter. Fog came rolling in from the orchards to curl its ghostly hands about Neil’s knees as he walked to his car. He started the engine and slid out onto Kiernan, driving automatically. When he reached Carmen’s apartment, he was a little surprised to see where his unconscious mind had brought him.
She met him at the door with a kiss and asked, “How badly did it go?”
Neil told her the whole story. She sat very close, holding his hand in hers with her hip against his. When he had finished, she said, “I was worried for you.”
Then she was in his arms, her mouth was on his, and for a long striving time they forgot everything but the urgency of the moment. When the first passion had spent itself, they leaned hard against the back of the couch, so tangled together that there was only the space of a hand’s thickness between their faces.
She moved her hand to brush back his hair and her fingers lingered on his cheek. There was a fire in his loins and she could not be unaware of the urgent hardness pressing against her, but she did not move away. Then she kissed him again. He drew her deeper into his arms until he must have hurt her, but her groans were not of pain. They fell back on the couch and he moved above her, settled his weight upon her, settled his mouth on hers again, and slid his hand up to cup her breast. Their tongues touched and wrapped about one another. She locked her arms hard about him, and all outer realities slid away into unimportance.
Finally he raised his head to catch his breath. Carmen’s eyes were shining and she was breathing hard. He leaned above her, memorizing the lines of her face, and feeling a warmth of love as great as his passion. It was a moment to be treasured, and a moment to be repeated. A lifetime would not be time enough to exhaust its joy.
Then a shadow crossed her face. It crept in from the edges of her eyes, crept between them, and shut him out. more tomorrow