The House On Teacher's LaneThe House on Teacher's Lane
by Rachel Simon

Chapter Excerpt - House

            Finally, we get married.  After nineteen years of one of the most ridiculous courtships in the history of love, I move back in with Hal, and five days later, on a sunny May afternoon, I put on my wedding gown, he dons a suit, and we walk hand-in-hand through the city streets until we reach the justice of the peace.  Hal is forty-nine, I am forty-one.  Having survived every phase of dating, cohabiting, breaking up, and renewing, we are more in love when we say “I do” than I've ever believed possible.  For the next three years we savor laugher and relief, conversation and contentment.  This is it, I think, I finally understand love, and I want this to last forever. 
            But then one January afternoon, the next phase of our journey suddenly begins.
            I do not know this when I step onto the front porch of our row house that day and pull the wooden door shut behind me.  The sun is bright as it reflects off the snowdrifts on either side of our quiet, tree-lined street, so I keep my gaze down as I cross the single lane to my car, my thoughts on the flight I'm about to catch.  This is why I will never know if I am alone on the block that afternoon, or if, as I unlock my car, I am being watched.
            But when I look back on this moment, I realize that eyes must have been hiding in the shadows of one of the slender alleys on our street, listening to the beep beep beep of our house's security system, following my actions as I lower my suitcases into my trunk.  Maybe they even scoped out my routine over the last many months, so they're aware that I'm a writer about to fly across the country for a speaking engagement.  Of course, it's possible they've only canvassed our street since this morning, but still saw Hal leave for work, blueprints in his bag.  However long they've spied, some premeditation must have been necessary.  After all, ours isn't just a neighborhood of nine-to-fivers, but also in-the-home artists, blue collars sleeping off the night shift, and retirees watching TV.  And although I find our house unbearably snug, its two-and-a-half stories, with basement, bath, and seven tiny rooms, have lodged large families over its hundred-year life.  There's no way of assuming that once we've departed, the house will be empty.
            Yet my spy remains a puzzle.  Hal and I live on a lightly traveled block of row houses in the small city of Wilmington, Delaware.  Pedestrians and vehicles pass only occasionally, except for rush hour, when the thirteen households come and go, and the banking and credit card professionals who work in the nearby skyscrapers deposit or retrieve their cars at the unmetered curb.  But there is a delay of an hour after I drive off.  Is the wait because the little boy across the street is making a snowman on the sidewalk?  Are the many neighborhood dog walkers enjoying impromptu chats at the corner?  Or does the course of our lives get rerouted not by design, but whim?
            All we know is that at 2:30, while my bags are being screened by airport security, he—and I will take the liberty of assigning a gender and a solitary status—leaps out of his life and lands on our sidewalk.  Immediately he rejects a hustle up our seven steps to the wooden front door with its beveled glass window, sure it'll be deadbolted.  He dismisses a dash down the alley along the western side of the house, rightly knowing the rickety back door is locked, too. Why bother, when there's a ragged basement door in the front?
            He darts down the three steps from the sidewalk.  The door is splintered, peeling, wiggly in its frame.  He gives a hard shove.  The rotted casing gives way, and he's in.
            Beep beep beep.  The security system starts counting: forty-five seconds until the alarm. 
            He tears past basement storage and a dank laundry room, up steep angled steps, into the kitchen.  He takes in the decrepit stove, caramel-sticky cabinets, floor the color of tooth decay. 
            He scrambles through a doorway into the dining room.  Nothing but a table piled with newspapers, walls lined with Ikea cabinets, the kind of organ found in old chapels.   
            He scurries ahead to the living room.  A motley assemblage of used furniture, bricked-up fireplace, massive collection of CDs, library of books, a sitar, a turntable, a bulky TV.  Models of buses on the mantel.  Figurines from the Wizard of Oz.  Would this junk even sell on eBay?
            Up the stairs he flies.  To the left is a pitiful-looking bathroom tiled in hazard-sign black and yellow.  He barrels through the hall, throwing open a door halfway down.  The room's crammed with more books, records—records!—exercise machines, laundry.  What a mess.  The door for the back bedroom opens to an unmade bed, two cats quivering beneath.  Hand-me-down cabinets.  No jewelry box, no fur, no designer labels, no flashy knickknacks.  Of all the houses he could've hit, why'd he pick this loser?   One more possibility on this floor.  Feet sprinting over the crappy green carpet back down the hall, he throws himself into the front bedroom.  Only—it's a home office.  Jammed to the ceiling with shelves, file cabinets, storage units, desks, copier—and a laptop! 
            The sound comes up: ear-splitting, heart-wrenching, security-company alerting.  Out, get out.  No: take a peek at the third floor.  He whips around the corner, up the stairs.  It's one room, bright with windows, crammed with electric guitars, bass guitars, weirdo guitar-like instruments, computers, amplifiers, homemade electric drum set, microphones.  Way too much to unplug. 
            Laptop in hand, he tears down two flights of stairs, hurls through the living room, dining room, kitchen, dives into the basement, laughs with victory as he reaches the open door—
            And sees a workshop.  Table saw, power drill, plywood.  Lookie here: a new router.
            Router in one hand, laptop the other, he rockets outside.  Down the alley, into the backyard, over the fence, onto the street.  The alarm shrieking in vain behind him.

            I'm not thinking of alarms as I race toward my connecting flight.  I'm only congratulating myself on how much easier this layover is than usual.  For the past year, I've lugged my laptop on my trips, only to find that it grew heavier with each airport.  This time I finally left it home. 
            Even so, I'm sweating when I take my seat.  My layover was tight, and now, overhead bins slamming shut above me, I have only a few minutes to check my voicemail.  There's one message.  Expecting nothing important, I shuck off my coat while I press the code to listen.  “It's me,” Hal says, his voice serious.  He never sounds like this, and I freeze as he continues   “Call me as soon as you get this.” The message ends so quickly, it barely seems to exist.
            I dial him with shaking hands.  It's already nighttime back in Delaware—anything could have happened.  Has someone I love been in a car accident?  Had a heart attack?  Please, not my sister Beth.  Not my father.  Friends.  Even my mother.  Please, please, please—it can't be Hal.
            Immediately upon answering, Hal says, “Did you take your laptop to San Diego?”
            My confusion at his question overwhelms my relief that he's alive.  “What?”
            “Your laptop.  Where is it?”
            “In my study at home.”
            “No it's not.”  He sighs, and explains what happened. “I'm sorry, Baboo,” he says.
            I try to speak, but the shake that was in my hands is radiating through my body.  Though hardly as catastrophic as a flatlining monitor in an intensive care unit, losing a laptop means losing months of living.  I do have copies of my recent writing, but when I backed up last week, I once again neglected my address book.  I add names so often that I keep postponing this chore. 
            My hand reflexively covers my mouth.  How could I have been so reckless?  I, of all people, who measures my wealth by those I care about and those who care about me?  Who, having endured a supernova of a childhood, grieves every loss, and has pursued the most impossible revivals?  Yet my procrastination has lost me enough people to fill ten airplanes, and unlike Hal, and Beth, and my mother—each gone from my life for many years, then returned —I'll never get those lost friends back.
            “Rae?” Hal says.
            “What did the police say?” I croak.
            “They didn't get any fingerprints.”
            “So that's it?”
            “They said they'd investigate.  But I think we can kiss that laptop goodbye.”
            Now we both sigh, and, again, I can't find words.  But this time it's for a reason other than shock, and Hal knows exactly what it is.  No two people can live entwined for years and not come to read whole Rosetta Stones in the silences, glances, and head-tilts that outsiders wouldn't even register.  Hal and I generally delight in this phenomenon, and have even jokingly given it names—Friendship Wi-Fi, The Collective Consciousness of Kin, Marriage Mind Meld.  But neither of us is amused now.  Our relationship clairvoyance has moved on from the burglary to our one huge problem.  A seventeen hundred square foot problem that isn't going away.
            Finally Hal says, “I'm going out tonight to get a replacement for the basement door.  It'll be secure by the time you get home.”
            “Thanks.  But—” Don't say it, I tell myself, as the flight attendants check that the passengers' seat belts are buckled.  Hold your tongue.  But the shake in my body is now coursing so mightily in the opposite direction that my mouth just won't stop.  “I mean, there are so many other things I haven't liked,” I say.  “Now I won't even feel safe in that house.”
            Then I lock my lips, and without a word we go through it all over again.  The house.  The one quarrel we've had since he carried me over its threshold.  It's ironic, because the house—or, really, any house—is such an unlikely dispute for us.  When we met, I was twenty-three, he thirty, and neither of us thought about owning a house.  An aspiring writer with low-paying jobs that meant little to me, I was content scribbling stories in libraries.  Hal, in the apprenticeship of his architectural career, and at his own low-paying jobs, spent his off-hours at home, practicing guitar.  Homeownership was as absurd as time travel—and not only because of our callings or income. 
            The truth was that I couldn't commit to him.  I loved him, he loved me, we were utterly compatible, but something I had yet to understand kept me from saying that he was The One.  Nonetheless, we so enjoyed being together that after a year of spending every night in his or my dumpy Philadelphia apartment, we moved into our own dumpy Philadelphia apartment together.  Five years later, after savoring everything from our vegetarianism to our fondness for offbeat films and modern art, we rented a modest house in the suburbs.  But I felt no closer to what I wanted to feel.  I groped toward advice, but each friend contradicted the last, and therapists mostly said, “Tell me more about your family.”  Hal grew aloof, sometimes patronizing; I burrowed into writing and friends.  Eventually the highlight of our time together was zoning out before the TV, numbing ourselves with pizza.  When I was alone, thoughts assaulted me: I have to leave!  But he's so funny and caring and smart.  I have to find The One!  But how can I hurt him?  My head felt caught between two crashing cymbals. I developed rashes. I ground my teeth in my sleep. And finally, after thirteen years—I know, thirteen years—we called it quits.  For the next six years, I lived in rented rooms, over garages, in basements.  I dated a little, but mostly I was alone.  Hal was so convinced he'd failed at love that he didn't even try to date .  He took up Buddhism and environmental sustainability and eventually became a first-time homeowner—of the very house we're not talking about now.
            He says, “We'll deal with the house when you get back.”
            “Right,” I say, as my brain sends him an instant message: This is the final strike. 
            “We'll work it out.”
            “I know.”  The time to move has come. 
            “Turn off all electronic devices,” I hear overhead. 
            I don't want to end our call like this: stunned about the burglary, agitated about the loss, angry about the house, longing to comfort each other.  In the moment we have left, Hal and I hold one another's gaze through the phone.  “Love you,” he whispers.  “Me too,” I say.  And, remembering how much easier it is for him to say those words—and how accepting he is of why I find love so hard to express—I feel tears come.  That's when we hang up. 
            Then the plane is accelerating down the runway, and I suddenly realize that this moment has launched me into a new leg of my life's journey.  I don't want it to.  I don't want to have anything to do with whatever awaits: expenditures of time and money to replace the laptop, the return of our debate about moving, and, heaven help us, if we decide to stay and finally renovate, possibly even our hard-won solidarity going up in smoke.  I cannot guess that in the end all this will indeed happen, and some of it will be a great trial, though not in any of the ways that I fear, and not only with him.  In fact, it will blow open the tight seal around everything I think I know about myself, about family, about the misunderstandings and resilience of love; and all my memories and aspirations and regrets and joys will come bursting out, some old beliefs disintegrating, others surviving transformed.  But it's only a house, people will tell me, and, with Hal demystifying for me how construction proceeds, step by step, I will not refute that it is.  Yet the lessons I get in the physical world of building will, at the same time, deliver so much more: locked rooms leading to the depths of myself, forgotten closets brimming with wrinkled relationships, falling walls exposing conflicts of the past, sudden calamities enlightening my spirit, newborn windows opening their eyes and looking out into the future.
            But of course I do not know any of this as the plane tilts up into the sky.  I simply feel stiff with anxiety, and envision quarrels stirring beyond the horizon.  How differently I might feel if I could see past the dust, and glimpse the many gems that this journey will reveal.

            Two days later, I drive home from the airport, determined to press my case to move.
            It's not that I don't appreciate Hal's affection for the house.  That's been clear to me since we reconnected after the breakup.  I think about that time now, as I grip the steering wheel, dreading the dispute that awaits.  Soon after Hal bought the house, we re-established a friendship, one that neither of us thought would blossom into a romance.  For a while after that we visited through casual phone calls and the occasional meal out, and that's where I expected things to stay.  But then Hal began waging a gentle campaign to win me over.
            First he invited me to the wedding of a friend, where I was reminded of traits I'd forgotten, such as Hal's sense of humor and easy affection toward his friends.  Then our calls began growing longer and more frequent, often occurring while we lay in our separate beds in our separate homes, late into a weekend morning.  Our dinners out became more relaxed, too, and went from monthly to weekly to twice a week.  Slowly I saw that I was no longer focusing on all that he was not, but was letting myself see what he actually was: a man with a rare combination of dependability and playfulness, likeability and intelligence, humility and confidence, vulnerability and strength.  Still, I didn't think that anything more would happen until he invited me along on a business trip and suggested we share a room—“as friends,” he clarified when I asked.  Yet it was there, in a nondescript hotel along a highway in Pennsylvania, that our friendship turned into romance, and by the time the weekend was over, I realized that he was a man cuter than I'd ever acknowledged, with angular cheekbones and hazel-green eyes and hair so fine that the gray he'd acquired now simply shimmered in the blond.  Such a contrast to me, with my dark curls and brown eyes.  Yet we were both slim and short-statured, and we both smiled easily, he playing the court jester, me laughing merrily at his silliness.  We do fit, I thought, numb with amazement.  After nineteen years, we actually fit.
            A few days after our transformation in the hotel, he invited me to dinner at his house.  I'd been there a few times before, but this time, I realized, I'd be seeing it with different eyes, just as I was now seeing him.
            On the appointed day I drove from my apartment in Pennsylvania to Wilmington, Delaware.  There, after turning off the main road into a grid of one-way streets, I made my way down a slope of hundred-year-old row houses, which were sandwiched between the downtown office towers at the hill's peak and a genteel park at the hill's bottom.  Although the neighborhood bumped up against a major hospital and was close to an interstate, when I parked I enjoyed an uncommon quiet, one I hadn't noticed before.
            Hal ran down the street from his house and hugged me hello. Then we proceeded to walk down his block, a tucked away haven one lane wide and one block long.  I was struck, as I'd previously been, by the majestic sycamores, then by the surreal way that several of the trees displayed the remnants of NO PARKING ANY TIME signs—rectangles of metal that had been affixed to the trunks so long ago, the bark had grown over all four edges, swallowing most of the words, leaving nothing but TIME on one sign, the Biblical fragment ARK on another.  I laughed at how appropriately symbolic the signs were for us, and Hal said they were one of several things he loved about living here.  There was also the sociable atmosphere in the neighborhood, which I witnessed moments later, when he exchanged warm words with a little boy and his mother who were sitting on a porch across the street from Hal's house.  Hal reminded me also that the block was informally known as Teacher's Lane, because once upon a time it lodged several prominent educators, one of whom, Eldridge Waters, had sold Hal his house.  Then Hal and I turned toward his house.  He ushered me up the steps, and we crossed the terra cotta porch, and he opened the heavy oak door, and we were in.
            Instantly, the pleasure he took in the hardwood floors, deep baseboards, plaster walls, and operating transoms—and the promise he saw in the rundown kitchen and bathroom, the cramped bedrooms, the paucity of closets, even the miniscule backyard—endeared him to me even more.  I already knew what everything looked like, yet now every detail seemed important and interesting.  I felt different, too: as we emerged from the stairs into his third floor music studio, where sycamore leaves were draping one set of windows and sunlight was streaming through the other, and he tentatively reached out to hold my hand, it seemed as if we were in a glass ship sailing down a river of row houses and trees, embarking on a voyage that transcended our failed past.  As we stood with the sun pouring in from the south, it occurred to me that if this man could see so much that was worthy in such an unexceptional dwelling—and make me see it, too—then his heart was more generous than I'd realized.  If, with all of its imperfections, he could say “I love this and want to stay forever,” he could say the same to me.  A few months later, he did.
            But soon after we walked home from the justice of the peace, I learned that the third floor was also bone-chilling in winter and suffocating in summer.  It lacked insulation, as did the entire house, which also sported no central air.  The kitchen cabinets were laminated with a sticky veneer that no amount of scrubbing would clean.  The kitchen window looked out to a decrepit aluminum porch.  The bathroom was tiled in bumblebee black-and-yellow, its pipes clogging so frequently we had them replaced, leaving a gaping hole in the ceiling below.  Without funds to repair the hole, we then had a porthole between the bathroom and the dining room.  It leaked, too: when we showered, water dripped onto the first floor.  Electrical outlets were meager in number, and the wiring was knob and tube.  The furnace was old, the stove ancient, the windows, with aged, wavy, panes, failed to stop drafts. Transom glass was missing.  Hardwood floors bore the blemishes of decades of rotting carpets.  The banister was an ugly metal railing.  In heavy rain, puddles speckled the basement.
            I tactfully admitted to Hal that I lacked his enthusiasm for the house.  But I hardly commanded the resources to move to a place more to my liking, like a sunny, ample-sized, detached house, preferably in a suburb with generous yards and garages.  You mean, Hal would respond, a place with the kind of muscular mortgage that would kick sand in the face of our scrawny payments?  He'd go on.  Small, attached houses are more energy-efficient, we can walk to do most errands, and we enjoy long strolls along the Brandywine Creek in the park.  I still protested.  “Okay then,” he'd say, “where and what would your dream house be?”
            Up until now, this was where my thoughts—and our quarrels—stopped.  I'd lived in all kinds of places as a kid: apartments and houses, cities, rural areas, and suburbs.  But perhaps because I was more concerned with the crumbling foundation of my parents' marriage, and then, after my father left, with my mother's ability to function, and then, after she went off the deep end and disappeared from the face of the earth, with the resumption of my life with my father as well as living at a boarding school, I came to feel no attachment to any kind of housing.  So I like historic homes for their curbside appeal and idiosyncratic crannies, but I like youthful town houses for their brawny plumbing and vigorous heating and windows distinguishable from rice paper.  I like the urban ease of being able to walk to the dry cleaner, but I like the elbow room of the suburbs.  I like the way a small footprint permits me to blast through whatever housework I care to do, but I like spacious rooms and multiple baths and broad views.  It seemed that I was just as commitment-phobic about my housing preferences as I'd been about marriage.
            It became even more difficult to focus on the house after a book I wrote, about my sister Beth, came out a year after we married.  Beth has developmental disabilities, and it turned out that my account of our lives together struck a chord among many people who had family members with disabilities.  She also has an unusual passion—she rides city buses all day, every day, and I joined her in this lifestyle for a year—and this caught the eye of celebrities who started talking about making a movie.  By the time I celebrated my second anniversary with Hal (known in that book as Sam), I was being deluged by calls from all over the country, as people in the disability field and public transit industry invited me to give talks at conferences, fund-raising dinners, award ceremonies.  I found it exhilarating to advocate for the rights of people with disabilities and their families, so I seldom declined.  But my trips had become so ceaseless, it was all I could do to keep up with my marriage and a part-time job teaching writing.  I had no spare moments in which to make up my mind about where to move, much less convince Hal.
            Now, as I park before our house for the first time since a burglar brought matters to a head, Hal runs out to greet me, and our hug is far longer and closer than any I thought possible during the six years apart.  Then he kisses me, and his body makes abundantly clear what his voice has yet to speak: yes, we can at last leave this woeful house behind, without any more argument from him.  “Well, that was easy,” I say, giggling inside our kiss.  “Marriage mind meld's awfully efficient,” he says.  

            “Okay,” I say the next night, as we sit in front of my new laptop.  “Let's see what houses are selling for around here.”
            We click on some sites.  Recent sales are in the ballpark of $175,000, which would give us a huge profit on the $95,000 that Hal paid.  “That's terrific,” he says.
            Then we remind ourselves that we can't approach a real estate agent without remodeling the kitchen and bathroom, which would reduce our profit to—
            “What do you think those projects would cost?” I ask.
            “Some architects have a better handle on costs.  I'm among those who don't.”
            “So how can we figure out what we'd have left over for another house?”
            “We just have to estimate.”
            “But certainty would be much more to my liking.”
            “One order of certainty, hold the mayo,” he says in the phony voice of a short-order cook.  “Aw, you're outta luck, Lady.  Certainty ain't on the menu.”
            “Fine.  Let's just look at what houses are going for.”  So we tool around online, checking out towns between the college where Hal manages construction projects and the college where I teach.  Then we plug in three bedrooms and one bath.  I want to add proximity to the airport, plus an accessible entrance, since I'm friends with many wheelchair users. Aside from being green, Hal must have a design that's not so gauche that it would call into question his architectural creds.  But the search lacks these parameters.  So we click on “No maximum price.”
            Sixty-three options appear, but only on the final screen do we find affordable possibilities—and every one is hideous, ramshackle, adjacent to sewage treatment plants, on four-lane commercial strips, in areas oft-cited in the Police Reports, or too snug for our sofa. 
            Hal lifts a bottle of water off my desk and holds it to his mouth like a microphone.  “Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it's true,” he intones in a radio announcer's stentorian voice.  “There is no hope for our two heroes.”
            “Other people find ways to move,” I say, slumping in my chair.  “We could too, if only we'd started saving in our twenties, instead of being artists.”
            “For our two pauper heroes,” he amends.  “For them, there is only doom.”

            January eases into February.  We debate our house all the time. I'm adamant about moving and Hal's completely cooperative, but real estate prices remain uncooperative.  We do get an unexpected shot of hope when we learn that my book is going to be adapted for a television movie, but then realize that the funds won't be nearly enough, to rescue us from the final screen on the real estate sites.  To make matters worse, at one of our many neighborhood parties, when I'm sounding off about our burglary, a former resident who's back to see old friends says, “I moved away because I wanted to be in the suburbs.  The day after we moved, we were robbed.  Everyone in our neighborhood has been robbed.  It can happen anywhere.” 
            “Yes,” say other people at the party.  “My pocket was picked in Princeton.”  “Our car was broken into in Cherry Hill.”
            “Nowhere is safe,” I say to Hal as we walk home from the party.
            “We could stay,” he suggests.
            We reach the house.  The local planning office says it's “of a vernacular Second Empire style.”  I prefer to think of it as Forgettable Flawed.
            “We could,” he repeats.
            “You hate mansard roofs.  This has a mansard roof.”
            “A Victorian one, so that makes it more bearable.”
            “And the downspout doesn't work,” I say.

            Spring advances.  Buds dot the sycamores outside our windows, then open like the relaxing of fists.  Neighbors sweep winter off their steps, let their children ride tricycles without coats, hang Japanese lanterns on porches.  The park fills with daffodils and ducklings. 
            So it is that on a glorious April day, we're out for a stroll in the park.  We've just cracked jokes with a dog-walker we know from neighborhood parties, and as we resume our loop around the Brandywine Creek, I mention how much I like the friends we've made in our neighborhood. 
            “You know, we like a lot of people here,” Hal says.  He directs my gaze.  Nearby is a picnic table where a red-haired mother draws pictures with her red-haired daughter.  He gestures toward a man collecting seed pods along the cobblestone road, Monkey Hill, that slopes up from the park zoo.  He nods toward a couple jogging past the fountain with classical statues.  We know all their names.  We have spoken with them in shorts and bad hair, down coats and good news, with groceries in our hands and worries on their minds, in front of the mural a resident artist painted on his wall and beside the toy truck the little boy plays with across the street.  Newcomers or old-timers, black or white, gay or straight, corporate or Bohemian, they are talkative and open.  “We live in a great place,” Hal adds.
            As we cross the nineteenth century stucco bridge over the Brandywine, then continue beside the river until the small dam at the bottom of the steep street that leads to our neighborhood, I think, for the first time, about how our house, boring and decayed though it is, is right in the middle of the very characteristic that everyone seeks but that's never a parameter on real estate websites: an actual community.  I've never even thought about community when I've conjured up my fantasy smorgasbord of housing possibilities, but I sure am glad we have it. 
            Is it possible that I'm beginning to see less of what isn't and more of what is?
            We turn toward the river.  There, in the shallow water beneath the dam, stands a great blue heron, the same one we saw last summer, and the summer before. We've even named him.
            “Look,” Hal says.  “It's Edward, back for the season.”
            “Hi, Edward,” we call out, as we always do.
            Hal turns to me.  “Please.  Let's fix it up and stay.”
            “No, no, no, no.  It'll be hugely expensive.”
             “We can get a home equity loan, add in the money from the movie, and make up the difference with our savings.”
            “But you're fifty-three!  Our savings are already nowhere near what we'll need if you're ever going to retire!”
            “So we'll just use some savings, and if we need to, refinance the house when we're done.”
            “But it'll be so much work!”
            “This is what I do for a living.”
            “What if things go wrong?  I hear all the time about the terrible things that can happen.  What if they happen to us?”
            He shrugs.  “They just did.”
            I laugh.  “I guess so.”
            “And we lived to tell the tale.”
            “We did.”
            I can resist.  I can spend the next year hoping to stumble upon a just-listed suburban charmer that miraculously pleases us both.  But frankly, I don't want to take the time—and the petals are opening, and Edward is here again, and Hal is looking at me with his big, green eyes. 
            “I ask you, Professor Simon,” he says. “Aren't we already on Teacher's Lane?”
            Yes, somehow, by a twisting route that took me from love to doubt to anguish to loneliness to regret to searching to reconnection to standing here with my husband as he waits for my answer by this river, I am a teacher, and I have come to live on Teacher's Lane.  And somehow, like the parking signs and their trees—and like Hal and me—I have come to be part of this neighborhood, and it a part of me.  Maybe our destinies are already growing together. 
            “All…right,” I say.
            “Ow-wow-wow-owf!” Hal calls out, and he lifts me up and twirls me around.  Then he takes my hand, and we wave at Edward, and head up the hill toward home.

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