Two days after my little talk with Julie, Tim was sitting with his Uncle William on the deck behind the beach house. He was watching William intently, or trying to. It was difficult, because he was facing into the sun, and because William had his nose buried in the Wall Street Journal.
He took another bite of his eggs, another sip of juice, squinted at the top of his uncle's head over the paper, and finally gathered the nerve to speak.
"So, how's business—lately?"
William did not respond.
This posed a problem. If he had heard him, but did not want to be disturbed, it would be suicide to try again. On the other hand, if he really hadn't heard him, then he needed not only to try again, but to raise his voice.
Tim took another sip of his juice, watching the motionless Journal over the rim of the glass.
The paper stirred.
William looked up.
"What did you say?"
Tim swallowed his juice a little too fast. It made a painful lump all the way down.
"I was just asking, 'how's business?'"
"Fine," he said. "Fine."
He gave a perfunctory smile and returned to his reading.
Tim put his juice glass down.
He contemplated the wall of newsprint between them.
How did he get into these things?
He took a deep breath.
"I've been seeing a lot of Julie."
William's voice came from the other side of the paper.
"What happened to that other girl—Chris, was it?"
Tim swallowed a little more carefully this time.
"She went off to Europe. You know Julie's mother's restaurant?"
"Yeah. It's really a great place, kind of funky. But she doesn't have the money to keep it going."
A long pause.
"It can be a difficult business."
"I was kind of wondering, actually—she's looking for a partner."
William's eye's appeared over the top of the Journal. He folded the paper up methodically, placed it beside his coffee, then turned his full attention to his nephew.
"I thought—maybe—you might be interested?"