The following is the thirty-first of a series of excerpts from The Rowan Tree: A Novel by Robert W. Fuller. The complete novel is available in paperback, in various ebook formats including Kindle, and as an audiobook at Amazon, iTunes, and audible.com. If you enjoy The Rowan Tree, please write a review on Amazon, Goodreads, or your own blog! The author also welcomes your comments.
Adam dreaded telling his mother what had happened. He called her Washington number, got no answer, then tried her at Rowan’s.
“She’s on the campaign trail with Clinton till tomorrow,” Rowan said. “What’s up?”
The urge to tell someone had grown so insistent that Adam decided to confide in Rowan.
“Could I stay over with you tonight?”
“Of course. Are you okay?”
“I’m done at Princeton.”
“What happened?” Rowan asked evenly, which Adam appreciated.
“I’ll tell you the full story when I get there.”
“Does this have to do with the Somalia demonstration? I recognized your photos in the TV coverage.”
“It has everything to do with the demonstration. I should be there by eight.”
As he hauled two suitcases and a trunk onto the Dinky, Charlie took the smaller suitcase from him and carried it to the top of the steps. When Adam retrieved it, Charlie said, “Leaving’s what you make of it.” Before Adam could respond, Charlie was back on the platform ushering others aboard.
What would he make of his leaving? Adam wondered. He could blame the University. He could blame its officials. He could blame students like Bludman. He could blame himself. Or, he could interpret his unexpected departure as an opportunity to do exactly what he wanted.
Had Easter read the sports pages en route to New York that Saturday morning, she’d have learned that sportswriters were shocked that Princeton’s lock on the Ivy League championship had been thrown into doubt by the sudden loss of star forward Ben Steinsaltz, and point guard Adam Blue—and not through injury, but a disciplinary issue.
Rowan met her at the door and, before she’d even taken off her coat, filled her in on the news. Adam, hearing their voices, joined them in the living room.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” Easter bore down on him. “I know Princeton’s president. I could have given him a call. A college degree is indispensable in this brutal world.”
“But, Mom, I don’t want your help on this. It’s my problem.”
“I’m proud of what you did,” Rowan weighed in, “but your mother is right about the degree.”
“Thanks,” Adam said, his confidence building; with each passing minute his departure was feeling more like an escape than a suspension. But from Easter’s expression, he knew she wasn’t finished arguing her point.
“I’m sure they’d take you at Columbia or New York University,” she continued, unfazed. She wasn’t going down without a fight.
“Look, Mom, I’m okay with this,” Adam said firmly. “After the election, I’m going to go to Paris to see Dad.”
“I know he’ll feel as I do about your finishing college. Promise me you’ll get that degree.”
“I’m making no promises to anyone until I’ve had time to think things over,” Adam said, his voice rising. Then, the words spilled out before he had consciously formed the thought: “What makes you and Dad think you can tell me how to live? For most of my life, you fed me a lie.”
Easter was speechless; Rowan came to her rescue.
“Adam, that’s not fair. Your mother has always put your interests first. If I can live with that, so can you.”
Adam wished he could take back his words, but he was in no mood to apologize. He got up as if to leave.
Again, Rowan interceded. “It’s understandable that you’re upset, Adam. When you’ve had some time, I’m sure you’ll see that we’re on your side.”
Easter turned to her son. “Please stay, Adam.”
Rowan looked at the two of them, then exhaled. “All right, good. I’ll put some supper on the table.”
After the meal, Easter tapped her glass with a knife and looked at Adam.
“Given everything that’s happened,” she said, “I’m afraid this isn’t the best time for more news, but we think you should be the first to know our plans: Rowan has asked me to marry him, and I’ve accepted.”
“Better late than never,” Rowan said with a smile, reaching for Easter’s hand.
“When?” Adam asked. Suddenly he felt that the family he’d been part of since birth was disintegrating, but the one he’d been part of even longer was taking its place.
“Sometime before the inauguration.”
“So, you think Clinton’s going to win?”
As Adam stood up to go to his room, he said, “I’m happy for you, Mom. And you too, Rowan.”