He had met her a year ago in Boston, where she had lived with her widowed
mother. He had found Catherine homely and dull, on that first meeting, with
nothing to her credit but her lovely smile, not a sufficient reason ever to see
her again. He had telephoned her the next evening. Of the countless girls he had
known in his student years she was the only one with whom he had never
progressed beyond a few kisses.
He had had many violent loves, when he swore he
could not live without this girl or that; he forgot Catherine for weeks at a
time and she never reminded him. He had always come back to her, suddenly,
inexplicably, as he did tonight.
Her mother, a gentle little schoolteacher, had died last winter. Catherine had
gone to live with an uncle in New York. Keating had answered some of her letters
immediately, others–months later. She had always replied at once, and never
written during his long silences, waiting patiently. He had felt, when he
thought of her, that nothing would ever replace her. Then, in New York, within
reach of a bus or a telephone, he had forgotten her again for a month.
He never thought, as he hurried to her now, that he should have announced his
visit. He never wondered whether he would find her at home. He had always come
back like this and she had always been there. She was there again tonight.
She opened the door for him, on the top floor of a shabby, pretentious
brownstone house. “Hello, Peter,” she said, as if she had seen him yesterday.
“God, I’ve missed you!” he said, and knew that he had, every day since he’d seen
her last and most of all, perhaps, on the days when he had not thought of her.
“You haven’t changed much,” she said. “You look a little thinner. It’s becoming.
You’ll be very attractive when you’re fifty, Peter.”
“That’s not very complimentary–by implication.”
“Why? Oh, you mean I think you’re not attractive now? Oh, but you are.”
“You shouldn’t say that right out to me like that.”
“Why not? You know you are. But I’ve been thinking of what you’ll look like at
fifty. You’ll have gray temples and you’ll wear a gray suit–I saw one in a
window last week and I thought that would be the one–and you’ll be a very great
“You really think so?”
“Why, yes.” She was not flattering him. She did not seem to realize that it
could be flattery. She was merely stating a fact, too certain to need emphasis.
He waited for the inevitable questions. But instead, they were talking suddenly
of their old Stanton days together, and he was laughing, holding her across his
knees, her thin shoulders leaning against the circle of his arm, her eyes soft,
contented. He was speaking of their old bathing suits, of the runs in her
stockings, of their favorite ice-cream parlor in Stanton, where they had spent
so many summer evenings together–and he was thinking dimly that it made no
sense at all; he had more pertinent things to tell and to ask her; people did
not talk like that when they hadn’t seen each other for months. But it seemed
quite normal to her; she did not appear to know that they had been parted.
He was first to ask finally:
“Did you get my wire?”
“Oh, yes. Thanks.”
“Don’t you want to know how I’m getting along in the city?”
“Sure. How are you getting along in the city?”
“Look here, you’re not terribly interested.”
“Oh, but I am! I want to know everything about you.”
“Why don’t you ask?”
“You’ll tell me when you want to.”
“It doesn’t matter much to you, does it?”
“What I’ve been doing.”
“Oh…Yes, it does, Peter. No, not too much.”
“That’s sweet of you!”
“But, you see, it’s not what you do that matters really. It’s only you.”
“Just you here. Or you in the city. Or you somewhere in the world. I don’t know.
“You know, you’re a fool, Katie. Your technique is something awful.”
“Your technique. You can’t tell a man so shamelessly, like that, that you’re
practically crazy about him.”
“But I am.”
“But you can’t say so. Men won’t care for you.”
“But I don’t want men to care for me.”
“You want me to, don’t you?”
“But you do, don’t you?”
“I do,” he said, his arms tightening about her. “Damnably. I’m a bigger fool
than you are.”
“Well, then it’s perfectly all right,” she said, her fingers in his hair, “isn’t
He left her two hours later, and he walked away feeling light, clean, happy, his
fears forgotten. He thought only that he had promised to come again tomorrow and that it was an unbearably long time to wait.She stood at the door, after he had gone, her hand on the knob he had touched,and she thought that he might come tomorrow–or three months later.
– An excerpt from The Fountain Head – By Ayn Rand