Part 4 by Brother Guile
Hawkeye just stared at Margaret blankly for a moment. In the course of the last thirty seconds Margaret had done it yet again. One step forward and two steps back. Why does she do this? Does she enjoy this? Maybe she still has an appetite for pulling strings and yanking chains? Hawk realized that if he believed that she did enjoy it he would have pushed her out of his mind long before this. So this left him ... where?
"Yes. You live there. Remember?" Margaret smiled. She felt like she did the time she had crossed a chasm on one of those swaying rope bridges. Solid earth after a moment's dangling over the abyss.
"Oh yeah. Right." Hawk nodded. "The great thing about Crabapple Cove is that nothing there really changes. That is a very good thing about ... places."
"Only places, Hawk? I like things in general to be the same. Everything in its place. Much simpler, cleaner, clearer."
"Interesting coming from someone who keeps moving on." Hawk's voice had that edge to it that indicated that he had had about enough.
"And what is that supposed to mean?" Margaret crushed the cocktail napkin in her fist. In her head she heard herself say, over and over, "Don't you dare!"
"That means 'come off it Margaret!' You tell me that it is 'not clear at all' that you wanted me to stay away. Then you make some cryptic remark that would do the Sphinx proud when I ask you why you keep me at arm's length. And all of a sudden you find nothing more fascinating than a nickel tour of my hometown. That's just swell." Hawk swallowed his martini in a single gulp.
"And another thing..." he pointed a finger at her and tried to catch his breath and stop trembling, both without much success.
"Listen, Mister! I am not here for you, of all people, to lecture me as to what I am supposed to do. If I do not let you or anyone else close to me, that's my own damn business. It has worked fine for me and you have no right to question it or interfere with it. If I end up the loser for it, and believe me, from what I have seen that is one hell of a big if, then it is *my* loss. Not yours. Mine. And I am entitled to it. I get precious little else, don't you dare take that." Margaret tossed back her drink.
Hawkeye looked as though he had been struck. What the hell am I doing? She's got me absolutely dead to rights. Why am I pushing? If that is how she wants to live, who am I to say different?
They both looked down into their empty glasses. Almost simultaneously they thought that this would be a good moment to get up and go. Nothing odd, just a couple of drinks with an old war buddy. Then farewell and see you around. Then go. Neither did.
"You never did get over it, did you?" Margaret asked quietly.
"Parts." Hawkeye murmured it so softly that Margaret would have missed it had she not held her breath.
"You didn't get over parts of Korea, or only parts of you made it? I don't understand." Margaret looked over at Hawk. He ran his index finger around the smooth circle of his glass, again and again.
Margaret wondered the same thing. In her calmer moments what seemed to matter was to be professional, meaning impersonal. Nothing touched Margaret Houlihan. Anything that might endanger that cardinal rule was put in remote storage or discarded. Margaret had carefully streamlined herself so that no friction could burn her.
The words 'hollow victory' teased at a corner of her mind somewhere. Nothing burns, but where am I going?
"I don't know why, but it seems to matter very much." Margaret rubbed Hawk's shoulder gently.
He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. Part of himself had to laugh. Like I know why?
"Crabapple Cove is quiet. Dad's okay. Bit of arthritis now, but he's a proud old man. Things are nice. Logical. Make sense. Which I guess means I don't fit there as well as I used to. People who wake up screaming in the middle of the night generally don't make the cover of the Saturday Evening Post."