William sighed then. It was very touching.
"I'll miss your bizarre point of view. I have a gift for you. Sort of a combination going away present and thank you. If it weren't for you these last few months…"
A gift. I could see it coming.
"I'd rather you didn't give me anything, William."
"I expect to do quite well-actually very well—on this pipeline, and I'd like to put a little bit in, in your name, so when the profit comes in…
"That pipeline, William—it's not such a good idea."
"There you go again, with that-that intolerable moral squint. I'm trying to do you a favor."
"If you really want to do something for me, just remember to trust me if things get a little bumpy."
Talk about timing.
At just that moment, Nick came bustling in with Tim and Julie in tow. And I have to admit, for a moment I completely forgot about William's project.
I have never been able to resist the charm of little girls at that awkward age, somewhere between seven and eleven, when they are all elbows and knees—usually scabbed knees—and have that strange look in their eyes, that combination of wildness and distance and composure and trust that simply lowers your defenses and steals your heart.
Well, at that moment, in spite of the fact that Julie was eighteen years old, and only attractive in a quiet, unrealized way; and in spite of the fact that she was clearly timid, and frightened, and very much out of her element in William's kitchen, I saw that very same look in her eyes.
I found myself wishing that she could be my granddaughter.
William was still reacting to my last remark.
"A little bumpy? What do you mean?"
Tim came right to the point.
"Sorry we're late, Uncle William."
This got William's attention. He sputtered, then narrowed his eyes.
"The guests are already arriving. What time is it, anyway?"
His question was directed at me, and I consulted my watch. It was about twelve minutes after eight. They were screwed.
Then I consulted the panic in Julie's eyes.
"It's seven fifty-five." I said.
Julie looked at me, puzzled.
William growled at the young couple. "You two just made it under the wire. Go on, don't push your luck, get in there and start greeting people."