Wednesday morning, the two new friends shared an hour’s walk along the Willamette. Ross said he hoped she wouldn’t feel too tired at the end of her shift. She said she’d be okay, and anyway, getting to be with him was worth feeling tired later. He said he hoped she’d feel the same in ten days; she said she hoped he would. They parted with a passionate hug and an almost-chaste kiss.
Ross returned the car at the airport and flew to Sacramento, where he rented a van and returned to the airport to pick up the rest of the band before heading to Placerville and the El Dorado County Fair. After performing, they shared the driving to Red Bluff, where they spent the night before continuing to the Shasta District Fair in Anderson. Fortunately, that show ended early enough so they could make the run down I-5 and I-680 to Pleasanton and still get enough sleep to be fresh for their Saturday gig at the Alameda County Fair. By then, Ross had become aware that he was singing all his love songs to Rosanna, which seemed to lend them an extra intensity.
Sunday found them at the Saddle Rack in Fremont before three days off, which Ross used for visiting in the Bay Area and Santa Cruz. Thursday brought a successful gig at the Rodeo Club in San Jose. The next evening they played the Sonoma-Marin County Fair in Petaluma, Saturday the Placer County Fair in Roseville.
Ross delivered the band to the airport on Monday morning and then visited an old friend in Coloma. He tactfully declined her suggestions that they renew their torrid affair from a quarter century ago and spent the night alone in her guest bedroom. The next afternoon, he returned the van, spent two hours polishing a song he’d started writing, and later caught the midnight train north. Glad that he’d booked a roomette, he climbed into bed and fell asleep almost immediately. He woke up at about ten, ate breakfast, and worked on another song the remaining two hours into Portland.
A taxi brought Ross and his gear to the Park Lane Hotel. He showered, changed, and walked to the King Albert Hall. Rosanna greeted him with a hug, then lifted her face for a gentle kiss, as they stood in a long and silent embrace. She had set her table for a mid-day dinner, and the aroma of home cooking filled the room despite the open windows. “Are you hungry?” she asked.
“Only for you, for your company. I could use a glass of water.”
“Tell me about your trip,” Rosanna said, as she set a glass of water on the table and sat down at a right angle to him.
“Good gigs, good pay, visited six friends, no hanky-panky.”
She looked at him and smiled but said nothing.
Ross was about to speak, when Rosanna said, “I’ll bet you had offers.”
Rosanna looked startled but only said, “And?”
“I told them I’m in a committed relationship.”
Rosanna sat, pensive and silent, a faint smile curling the corners of her mouth.
“With you,” Ross said, “though I didn’t mention you by name, of course.”
She stood, swivelled, sat on Ross’ lap, and put her arms around his neck. “Y’know what’s scary? I believe you.”
“What’s scary about that?”
“Well…I’ve never been in a relationship, where it really mattered to me that it lasted long-term.”
“I have,” Ross said, “but never as intensely as this.”
As she gave him a long, lingering, and passionate kiss, Ross felt a little embarrassed by the swelling in his crotch. He worried that she might be offended but felt surprised and delighted when she wiggled on his lap and said, “Mmmm . . . nice.”
He didn’t know what to say, but she saved him the trouble by saying, “I think we’ve danced around that part of what we both want long enough, don’t you?” She stood and led him by the hand to her bed.
They proved as compatible in bed as out. They finally fell asleep five hours later, but woke up to make love once at night and then early Wednesday morning. They ate Rosanna’s lavish dinner for breakfast and enjoyed it but abandoned it halfway through to jump back into bed. She had worked Monday in exchange for Wednesday off, so she didn’t have to call in sick until Thursday. The other regular maitre d’ wanted more hours, so Rosanna negotiated a week off on Friday, a week in which the lovers rarely left Rosanna’s room. They made a concerted effort to hike together, driving to Silver Falls State Park and walking the loop to visit ten waterfalls, but they snuck off the trail and made love in the forest twice.
On Thursday, July 10th, Rosanna rode to the Marion County Fair in Salem with Ross and a bass player. Ross enjoyed having her in the audience, and the fellows said he gave his best performance ever. Rosanna overheard them and whispered in Ross’ ear, “They have no idea. Your best performance ever was last night.”
Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, Rosanna returned to work, where Ross nursed a salad and a couple of ales each evening and walked her home under the full moon that was visible despite the street lights. Ross stocked her larder at Wholefoods on Sunday afternoon, so they never left her room on Monday or Tuesday. Wednesday, Ross had to leave mid-morning to rent a van, pick up his regular bass player at the airport, meet his two other bandmates, and drive to Enumclaw, Washington. They drove back to Portland after the show, so Ross and Rosanna made love once in the middle of the night, when he arrived, and three more times in the morning, before she had to go to work.
Rosanna was “sick” again on Saturday, so she could accompany Ross to the Linn County Fair in Albany, and the following Wednesday for the Lane County Fair, after they returned from Eugene. Rosanna was careful to use her diaphragm. She told Ross the next few days were “dangerous” times. The next two days, Ross repeated the previous week’s moves for a show at the Lewis County Fair in Chehalis, arriving back at Rosanna’s before two o’clock on Saturday morning. She’d arranged Sunday and Wednesday off, so they enjoyed uninterrupted lovemaking Sunday and Monday, and she accompanied him to the Clatsop and Yamhill county fairs Tuesday and Wednesday.
Between their bouts of lovemaking, Ross and Rosanna continued to talk about everything except the elephant in the room—Ross’ impending departure. He mentioned his upcoming gigs at the Nippon Convention Center in Chiba City and the Osaka-jō Hall, but they didn’t pursue the implications. With tactful wheedling, Rosanna got Thursday, Friday, and Saturday off. Apart from one hurried shopping expedition, the lovers never left the room.
Ross showered late Sunday morning but couldn’t resist Rosanna’s invitation to return to bed. As he lay with his arms around her, enjoying the afterglow, she said, “You really are going to just leave me here.”
“I’m not leaving you. I’m going off to play some gigs, just like I’ve done for the past two months.”
“Except that you’re not coming back,” she said with a catch in her voice.
“I am if you want me to.”
“But you live across the ocean.”
“You could, too. I’d like that. Or, if you don’t want to, I guess I’ll have to move back to Oregon.”
“You don’t want to do that.”
“No, but I want to be with you,” Ross said. Rosanna said nothing, and Ross could see that she was upset, so he continued, “You could come to New Zealand and see if you like it. If you don’t, I’ll move back to Oregon—though I hope we don’t have to live in Portland.”
“Would you really do that?”
After several more minutes in that vein, Ross changed the discussion by climbing out of bed, kneeling, and formally proposing to her. Rosanna laughed at the vision of Ross kneeling naked on her hardwood floor, then apologised for laughing. She explained the reason and said, “My heart says ‘Yes’. My head says, ‘Wait and see if you can find a way to live together.’”
“Follow your heart.”
“I expect to.”
Ross then offered to pay for her travel to New Zealand. She declined. “I have enough saved to buy the ticket, I think.”
“But then you’d be broke?”
With persuasion, Ross convinced Rosanna to let him reimburse her for her travel costs, if she returned to Oregon without him. With more persuasion, he convinced her to let him pay for an upgrade to Business Class – she refused First Class – “so you won’t be too tired to enjoy my company, when you arrive.” With little persuasion, Rosanna enticed Ross back into bed, which left him hurrying to get to Union Station in time for the 2:50 train to Vancouver.
The rest of the band met Ross in Tokyo on Tuesday. They played Osaka on Wednesday, Tokyo on Thursday, and Brisbane on Saturday night, followed by a combined concert and dance at Sydney’s Enmore Theatre on Sunday. Monday night, the 11th of August, Ross slept in his own bed, six miles southwest of Kerikeri. But for his daily calls to Rosanna, the past two months would’ve seemed a dream.
Five days later, Rosanna followed Ross’ urging and route and spent the night in the Listel Hotel Vancouver. Because of the upgrade to Business Class, she rejected his suggestion to spend a night in Hong Kong. Rosanna spent most of the two-hour layover collecting her baggage and getting it and herself checked in for her flight to Auckland. Despite having slept during most of the first flight and despite waking up for breakfast, she slept eight of the eleven hours. At 10:40 on Monday morning, Rosanna walked out of the restricted area and into Ross’ arms.
Eventually, he picked up her bags, carried them to the parking lot, and put them in the back of his dual-cab ute, a ten-year-old legacy from his broken marriage and the children he’d wanted but never got.
“Kiwi for ‘pickup’,” he explained, “short for ‘utility’.”
They paused for another embrace and kiss before climbing in and fastening their seatbelts.
“How was your flight?”
“I slept most of both flights. Business Class was great. Thank you. Japan?”
“Lucrative. The shows were good. They tell me I’m dai neenki.”
Ross grinned and reached across to squeeze her hand. “They translated it as ‘super popular’ and paid me accordingly.”
“This is weird,” Rosanna said.
“Being popular in Japan or being in New Zealand?”
“No, sitting on the driver’s side with no steering wheel.” They both laughed, and Rosanna asked, “Are we going to your place?”
“Our place, if I have my way, and yes, but not today. That’s a solid four-hour drive, and you’ve been cooped up in a metal can long enough.”
Rosanna nodded vigorously and said, “So?”
“To the Park Lane, where I usually stay when I’m in Auckland.”
As they crossed the bridge linking Mangere and Onehunga, Rosanna said, “Didn’t you say Auckland’s the same size as Portland? I would have thought there’d be more ships.”
“This is only the little harbour serving the Western side. The other harbour’s enormous—I’ll show you later.”
“Except for sitting on the wrong side and the weather being cooler, Auckland isn’t that different from Portland.”
“It is the middle of winter.”
“Oh, yeah. Pretty warm for winter. It’s just that it was so hot, when I left.”
As Queenstown Road became Pah Road, Ross asked if she would like a proper meal. Rosanna asked, “Remember what you said, when you came back from California?”
Ross chuckled and said, “I do, and I feel the same way now. I just want to make sure I take good care of you.”
“You’ve taken good care of me ever since I met you.”
He asked if she needed to walk a little, since she’d been sitting so long, and she said, “I really want to go for a walk with you, but that will have to wait. I want something else more.”
They emerged from their lair Tuesday afternoon to visit Huckleberry Farms natural food store just down the block. On Thursday, they walked over most of Cornwall Park and One Tree Hill, with two urgent returns to the motel to make love. On Monday, the 25th, after both expressing misgivings about their inability to keep their hands off each other for four hours, they bid farewell to the Park Lane. They did some major shopping at Huckleberry Farms, then Ross drove through the city and across the Harbour Bridge.
“Holy cow!” Rosanna said. “That’s a huge harbour.”
“That’s the thing about an island nation—nothing comes in by rail, and no interstates.”
They talked about anything and everything, as they always had, while they rolled through Orewa, Warkworth, and Wellsford. As Ross drove down the long hill into Kaiwaka, Rosanna trailed her fingers down his side and along his thigh and asked, “Do you feel like taking a break?” He crossed the bridge, pulled into the Gateway North Motor Lodge, and booked a room for the night. He thought they’d probably only use it for a couple of hours, but they got so involved with each other that they didn’t leave until full light Tuesday morning.
Rosanna admired the view from the top of the Brynderwyns and again from Lookout Hill, as they entered Whangarei. North of Hikurangi, she said, “Not all that different from Western Oregon.”
An hour later, Ross drove the ute into the carport he’d built for it, then ran to the house and unlocked the door.
“What was that about—hey!” Rosanna said, when he returned to the car, swept her up into his arms, and carried her over the threshold.
Three hours later, Ross walked outside, nude, and carried her luggage and then his instruments into the house. “That’s the second time in my life I’ve done that,” he remarked.
“What, carried your instruments into the house in the nude?”
“No, left them outside.”
“Who caused it the first time?”
“Exhaustion after a late gig. You’re the undisputed champion at making me forget everything else.”
“Good,” Rosanna said, as she grabbed his arm and pulled him on top of her.
Early the next evening, Rosanna said, “Ohmigosh! I’ve been gone ten days and haven’t even told my parents I was going.”
“Still mad at them?”
“Maybe partly that, but mostly I just forgot.”
“D’you want to call your folks? We can call the US for free.”
“Cool!” She paused and then asked, “How many hours ahead are they?”
“Five. Probably too late tonight. You can ring ‘em in the morning.”
She did. Ross asked if she’d like him to go outside to give her privacy for her call, but she said, “Absolutely not! I want to share everything with you. No secrets.”’
Rosanna’s reply delighted Ross, but he still avoided listening to her conversations—one each with her mother and father in the same call. The only part he heard clearly was, “I don’t know. I’m not sure I will,” and he worried that she might be talking about whether she would marry him. Had she even told her parents about his proposal?
After Rosanna’s call, the lovers returned to bed, and later enjoyed a walk through their friendly neighbours’ paddocks and across to the Waimate North mission station. “New Zealand’s history isn’t all that long,” Ross said, “but this is one of the older European sites, from 1830.”
“That isn’t so old.”
“No, but it’s thirteen years older than Portland.”
They walked and talked for three hours, then jumped back into bed. Ross asked if she’d told her mom about him proposing and mentioned he had overheard her saying, “I’m not sure I will.” She said she hadn’t mentioned his proposal before she left Portland but had told both her mom and her dad in the phone call. He revealed that he felt scared she had told her mom she wasn’t sure she’d accept his proposal. She said, “Oh, Ross! Don’t worry. My answer, if your offer is still open, is ‘Yes, yes, yes!’”
He hugged her, and they made love again. Afterward, she told him, “She asked when I would be coming back to Oregon, and that’s when I told her I’m not sure I will.”
By Monday, they were living on love, water, muesli, reconstituted powdered milk, and some Vitamin C tablets Ross had on hand. They decided to drive to Kerikeri to buy provisions. On the way, Rosanna said, “My mom said since I’d travelled halfway around the world I should at least send her a postcard.”
“Fair enough…and easy.”
They bought a postcard, and Rosanna wrote a simple message—“Love you, mom and dad. More soon”. Ross glanced at the card, as he dropped it in the slot at the post office, and a high voltage shock nearly brought him to his knees: the card was addressed to “Lonnie Richardson”.
As he drove back to his valley hideaway, he asked Rosanna, “Where’s your mom from?”
“Her family came from the Midwest, but she grew up outside Central Point.”
“Did she live there until she married your dad?”
“No, she lived with another guy outside Grants Pass for a few years.”
Ross didn’t know what to say, but he did know two things: he didn’t want to lose Rosanna to some weird historical fluke, and he didn’t want to keep any secrets from her. As he turned off the dusty Waimate North road onto Te Ahu Ahu, he asked, “Was the guy’s name Ben?”
“Who, I’m not sure. That sounds right, but he wasn’t—holy shit!”
“Mom talked – several times – about a musician named Ross who left and broke her heart.”
“You were my mom’s boyfriend!”
“Not really. I wanted to be, but I wasn’t.” Ross struggled to focus on driving, as he turned off the main road. “Look, Rosanna,” he said, “I’m in love with you. Whatever was between me and your mom has nothing to do with you and me. Please don’t let it hurt our relationship.”
Rosanna squeezed his hand, as he pulled the ute into the carport, and said, “No, our relationship is ours and has nothing to do with anybody else. Whatever you had with my mom is between you two—as long as I’m not your daughter.”
“No, I was ready to jump in bed with her. I wanted to, but then she said something about praying to God, and I backed off.”
“She loved you.”
“I loved her—but not nearly as much as I love you.”
They sat in the car for several minutes, not talking much but holding hands, and then hugging and kissing. After they hurried into the house and made love, they came back out and brought in the groceries, before jumping back into bed.
Much later, Rosanna said, “I guess I’d better talk to my mom about us.”
“Are we getting married, or aren’t we?”
“I sure hope so.”
“Well, then, she’s going to want to be there.”
“Even without prayers.”
“I think so.”
“In the morning?” Ross asked.
“Yes,” Rosanna replied, as she slid her arms around his neck and pulled him to her.
Tuesday morning, which was Monday afternoon in Oregon, Rosanna phoned her mom again. They talked for two hours. Afterward, seeing Ross’ questioning glance, Rosanna said, “She wants us to get married in Oregon but says they’ll come here if we decide to get married in New Zealand.”
“Yes, it is,” Rosanna said, looking pensive.
Worried, Ross asked, “Is something wrong?”
“No,” Rosanna said. “It’s just that Mom said the strangest thing.”
“She said, ‘You have Ross, and I have Jesus. I’m not sure which one of us is better off.’”