"I'm sorry." Apparently he wanted to be polite. "I still don't see the problem. She's my mother. I'm her son. I'm willing to take care of her. How can the law object? How can you, Dr Avery? I don't understand why she and I haven't already left."
She turned away for a moment to look out the window. It gave her an unilluminating view of the parking lot, where her worn old car crouched over its rust, waiting for the day when its welds would fail and it could finally slump into scrap. She had kept it only because it had carried her to her first encounters with Thomas Covenant.
If Roger would not leave, surely she could simply drive away? Go out to her car, coax its engine to life, and return to Jeremiah?
No. If she had wanted to be a woman who fled whenever her job became difficult, she should have bought herself a more reliable vehicle.
Old habit lifted her hand to press the hard circle of Covenant's ring through her blouse. Sighing, she faced his son again.
"Let me try to be plain. Whether or not you understand is beside the point. The point is this. Unless and until you bring me a court order signed by a judge instructing me to release Joan Covenant to your custody, she stays where she is. End of discussion." She gazed at him expectantly. When he failed to take the hint, she added, "That's your cue to leave, Mr Covenant."
Don't you understand that you're not the only person here who cares about her?
However, she doubted that Roger Covenant cared at all for his mute mother. His oblivious manner, and the incipient madness or prophecy in his eyes, conveyed an entirely different impression.
He had explained that he had not come for Joan earlier because he had not been old enough. But he had passed his twenty-first birthday yesterday. Now he was ready. Yet Linden believed intuitively that he had some hidden purpose which outweighed love or concern.
In his unwavering insistence, he reminded her of some of the more plausible psychotics she had known in her tenure as Chief Medical Officer for the Berenford Memorial Psychiatric Hospital. But perhaps he suffered from nothing more treatable than terminal narcissism, in which case he was telling her the simple truth. He could not "see the problem."
This time, however, something in her tone--or in the conflicted fire mounting behind her eyes--must have penetrated his strange unction. Before she could offer to call Security, he rose to his feet as if he comprehended her at last.
Immediately she stood as well. She saw now that he was an inch or two shorter than his father, and broader in the torso. For that reason, among others, he would never evince the particular gauntness, the cut and flagrant sense of purpose--all compromise and capacity for surrender flensed away--which had made Thomas Covenant irrefusable to her.
He would never be the man his father was. He had too much of his mother in him. His carriage exposed him: the slight looseness in his shoulders; the tension which compensated for his poor balance. His arms seemed full of truncated gestures, expressions of honesty or appeal cut off prematurely. Behind his insistence, Linden heard hints of Joan's weakness, forlorn and fundamentally betrayed.
Perhaps his real desires had nothing to do with his mother. Perhaps he simply wanted to prove himself his father's equal. Or to supplant him--
When Roger had gained his feet, however, he did not admit defeat. Instead he asked, "Can I see her? It's been years." He offered Linden an affectless smile. "And there's something I want to show you."
In spite of her impatience, she nodded. "Of course. You can visit her right now." Strangely, his apparent emptiness saddened her: she grieved on his behalf. Thomas Covenant had taught her that ignorance--like innocence--had no power to ward itself against harm. Because Roger did not understand, he could not be saved from suffering.
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